By Anjum Altaf
— Does God love everybody?
— Are you sure?
— Of course.
— Then why do YOU hate so many? Are you bigger that God (NB)? Has God (NB) created some just so you can indulge your passion for hating? Has God (NB) told you there are some you can hate even though He loves them? Is your God (NB) the head of a political party?
I haven’t come up with this. It’s how I read Mr. Bloom in the chapter identified as Cyclops in Ulysses.
Look at it yourself (lines 1480-1520 here) if you don’t believe me:
“God loves everybody” and aren’t we told to “love your neighbours”? And if I listened to God and loved my neighbour and my neighbour loved his/her neighbour wouldn’t we end with “universal love” which is “the opposite of hatred,” of “insult and hatred” which is “not life for men and women”?
— So, tell me, why are you going around disobeying God spreading insult and hatred?
“What about sanctimonious Cromwell and his ironsides that put the women and children of Drogheda to the sword with the bible text God is love pasted round the mouth of his cannon?”
There is your God loving everybody and telling you to love your neighbour and there you are asking around about your neighbour’s zaat and going into paroxysms of hate if it turns out different from yours.
— Did God (NB) tell you to ask your neighbour’s zaat when He told you to love your neighbour? Or God didn’t tell you that but you know better what He (NB) really wanted to tell you?
— Is this line of argument making any sense to you?
Fastforward from Bloomsday (June 16, 1904 – the one day on which all the action in Ulysses takes place in Dublin) to LUMSday (anyoneday, 2014, in Lahore).
What do I find?
Students going about their business. What’s going on inside their hearts who’s to say — wallahu’alam bissawab. I don’t see them hating anyone overtly but they are not loving anybody either. They are not acting on the commandment love thy neighbour. No one is reading Bulleh Shah. There is no circle of love or even of understanding spreading outwards.
At best they are indifferent to each other within the campus. I suppose that is the most one can expect in Lahore in 2014.
But they are also indifferent to the hatred seething outside the campus that is threatening to bring down the protective walls within which they carry on being indifferent.
There is no wave of love pushing outwards. There is a wave of hatred pushing inwards meeting little resistance.
How long can the walls hold?
Anjum Altaf is dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.