A synchronized slump of the rupee and the state-society bond

This article was published in The Friday Times. You can also read it here on the TFT website.

The events of the last few days have brought many images to our screens which showed the quickly crumbling state-society relationship: a soldier’s statue bent over at the knees, the gate of the military GHQ being shaken by protestors, and the corps commander’s house in Lahore being overrun. The relationship was in bad shape anyway, only the violence was previously enacted by the state on citizens. And though this continued this week, there was a visceral reaction by the public to the violent arrest of an undeniably popular national leader. In the same period, the rupee slid further against the dollar.

I want to impress two things upon the reader in this article. To that end, I will begin with something I wrote previously. In a previous article for The Friday Times, I took a leaf out of Keynes’s writing and reflected on the facts of our material conditions – social, political, economic – or what Keynes called outside facts. This is what I wrote:

“What’s more, our fragile social order with its eroding and crumbling institutions must contend with economic pressures. No social contract is going to survive hyperinflation undermining the rupee. As the value of the national currency erodes with increasing pace, at some point trust in the government’s guarantee of the value of currency, a guarantee stated on the front face of our SBP-issued banknotes, will start eroding with stunning pace. Thus money as a social relationship between society and state will come under strain. It is possible for the relationship to break down altogether. People are afraid of the country defaulting on its debts, and rightly so. But an irreparable rupture in the state-society relationship caused by the destruction of the rupee as a store of value (or even a means of exchange!) will be far more consequential and have implications entirely unimagined and unanticipated. So we are brought back both by force of argument and outside facts to square one: the urgency of committing to the democratic political process, to parliament, and to the constitution.”

Now, if you look at any rupee note issued by the State Bank of Pakistan, you will note that there is a promissory statement on it and a statement of guarantee. The SBP promises, with every note, to pay (something) to the bearer of the note, and that promise is guaranteed or underwritten by the authority of the government of Pakistan which owns the SBP and of which the SBP is an agent. Since we do not function on a gold standard, the promise is not to pay gold in exchange for the note, but as I understand it (and I’m happy to be corrected in case I’m wrong) the promise is to pay the bearer value equivalent to the denomination of the note in question. Hence the rupee is a claim on the government and hence an asset to you and I (though a devaluating asset with every passing day). The value of the rupee, in a sense, is as good as the rupee holder’s confidence in the government of Pakistan. I don’t have to remind the reader that the value of the rupee as an asset, or a store of wealth/value, has already been in decline. The danger, however, is that the acceleration of the price level will undermine the rupee’s function as a means of exchange. That is, the danger that the rupee might lose its utility as a means of payment. This danger is the first thing I wanted to bring to the reader’s attention.

The second thing is the extreme difficulty of finding our way out of a state of economic depression. Economists (a broader term in which I include economic commentators and analysts) often talk about the impact of political instability on the economy. They miss the flipside of this because they forget how close economics and politics are. And they forget that economic conflict is political because it is about power. People who want economic healing to begin with a new social contract are forgetting the reverse: that the economic conditions of political stability are simply not present, and in the end, the economic instability has been caused by competing claims on economic resources by warring parties – including the military, which recently “requested the Punjab government for one million acres of state land in the Cholistan area for corporate agricultural farming”– claims which have not been able to reach resolution in a way satisfactory to most if not all parties. And the economic preconditions of political peace will become increasingly elusive as hyperinflation erodes the medium of exchange function of the Pakistani rupee and undermines the state-society relationship to the point of irreparable rupture.

Economics and politics move hand in hand. Political repression will create the conditions for economic impoverishment, and economic impoverishment will bring about a political stranglehold. This is essentially Clara Mattei’s point when she writes in the Italian context that “… Austerity required Fascism — a strong, top-down government that could impose its nationalist will coercively and with political impunity — for its prompt success. Fascism, conversely, required austerity to solidify its rule.” With monetary austerity having been chosen at the policy level and as the rupee disintegrates (and the state-society relationship along with it), the country has felt the political stranglehold becoming stronger by the day. Protestors have been arrested, injured, and killed. Internet services remain disrupted and Twitter continues to be blocked. The government has done its utmost to keep the citizens of this country from exercising their political rights and agency, especially through elections. Ishaq Dar recently thundered in parliament, “what elections?!”. If the citizens of Pakistan have their say, and in the end they will, Dar might just find out.

For Anum Nawaz

It has been over two months since the news of Anum’s passing, news which shook the ground beneath my feet. Even though she was one of my closest friends, there was grief but no grieving, sorrow but no mourning. There was no time. I had thrown myself into the service of my two week old marriage and one month old job, and there was no stopping. There is a now a pause in which I want to think and write about Anum.

I had first run into Anum in the elevator at International House NYC in the summer of 2017. I had just arrived there to begin my PhD at NSSR and she was already at the same school for her master’s in psychology. We quickly became good friends, talking about school, family, music, self-development, career aspirations, thought experiments, and consciousness (a favorite topic of hers on which she gave a talk only a few months ago). We spent time exploring the city together, going to the Met Cloisters, shopping together for winter gloves for me and gifts for her family, listening to jazz at Dizzy’s, trying out Shake Shack, talking about the politics (and dysfunction) of NSSR and The New School, and about her project My Voice Unheard about which she was so passionate.

After that semester, we still talked a lot and became better friends, but meetings were few and far in between. She moved back to Lahore and started working. I stayed on in NYC and pushed ahead with my own work and personal development. We met in Decembers of 2017 and 2018 when I visited Lahore. And then to the best of my recollection – the post-pandemic period is still something of a blur – only once after I had returned from NYC in March 2020. In hindsight, I met Anum too little in person.

Expressing herself was so important for Anum. At some point when she came back to Lahore she started to paint as if her life depended on it. Her room was full of painted and unpainted canvases. She also became interested in the relationship between art and psychology, ending up teaching a course on neuroaesthetics. But Anum wanted everyone’s voice to be heard and tried to use her own voice to that end. Now she has gone silent. Her memory will persist, yes, but her voice will never be heard again. The world is poorer for it; so am I.

The Tightening Noose of Pakistani Monetary Austerity

New post for the Monetary Policy Institute which you can read here. An excerpt:

“The SBP’s failure to check inflation is completely expected, not because they have been behind the curve, as Uzair Younus argues, but instead because interest rates are not the relevant policy tool for managing the present inflationary pressures. The Pakistani debate on inflation is drowning in monetarism and economic orthodoxy, completely divorced from debates elsewhere which are questioning interest rate hikes.”

The demonization of Ishaq Dar

This article was first published in the Friday Times.

A few months ago, I wrote an article trying to put praise for Miftah Ismail into perspective and context. The same crisis theater in which Miftah was christened Maximus now has a new figure at the center of a new act of the play, an act which might be called “The Demonization of Dar”. Now, I’m not a fan of Dar or the PML-N but even the devil needs an advocate now and then, and Dar may not be the demon that he’s being made out to be anyway. Regardless, he has been cast as Commodus opposite Miftah’s Maximus. We have now reached the counterpoint of the valorization of Miftah, which reflects very well the shallowness of the hype surrounding both men and in turn the state of affairs in the country: much ado about nothing, and silence and indifference when it comes to matters of the greatest significance.

Dar needed to be very careful in trying to follow Miftah’s seemingly selfless take on the role of Minister of Finance. He tried, with his hardened expressions and unbending public demeanor in face of the IMF and his critics, to be seen as standing with the public in his own way. It didn’t work. Whatever little chance he had against the likable Cocomo uncle was gone because of his policies (which have been analyzed well by Uzair Younus). But it wasn’t just about policies. Dar’s public face and presentation went against him and failed to endear him to… well, anyone. The contrast with Miftah was thrown into further relief by the fact that the “tough choices” mantra came from the soft looking man, while the man with the hardened face was busy selling hopium. His entourage didn’t help either: recall the video of one of his associates shouting obscenities at a person shouting at Dar upon his arrival in the United States. It was all too much for the fun loving tishun class obsessed with appearances and respectability, even as it appropriates more for itself and creates little of intellectual, political or aesthetic value in exchange. There was no way Dar the hard faced bean counter could hold a candle to the jolly, Wharton educated, intellectual businessman.

But how different are the two men really? Both were unelected, both were loyal to the party and hence both were at ease with being pro-establishment men. It was a minor consolation that at least Dar was not trotting out the country-over-party line like Miftah. But Dar has his religious rhetoric. Not too long ago he had announced that the State Bank of Pakistan and the National Bank of Pakistan would withdraw their appeals filed in the Supreme Court against the Federal Shariat Court’s “verdict directing the government for a complete transformation of the banking system into Shariah-compliant banking by December 2027”. His commitment to an Islamic financial system has recently been reiterated. This is all a red herring and is merely meant to shore up some credibility with the public. The hand waving continued in the form of the proposal for a commission to probe economic decline under PTI and more tiresome talk of an economic charter, which at this rate is going to turn into little more than a fig leaf for politicians to hide their insincerity. The real irony is that he is now justifying persisting with the IMF as prioritizing state over politics – a variation of Miftah’s country-over-party line – despite having lost his cool in an interview with Shahzeb Khanzada in which he said that Miftah was “a non-entity”, and that “I don’t care!” when pushed regarding the delays in progress with the IMF.

Clutching at straws is the national philosophy, so he has practically conceded that the country is a charity case by calling on philanthropists to raise dollars. But that makes him not so different from Imran Khan, who was trying to run the country like a charity case as well. Perhaps overseas Pakistanis should set up an investment firm willing to lend to the Pakistani government on exploitative terms, and in return end up with something like a slice of the country which could be run from abroad. The country is divided anyway and arguably being run from the IMF headquarters, so what’s another division or two? Buy the influence, as Blackrock has done in Ukraine. Who knows, the investment firm’s logo might even make it to the Pakistani flag.

This suggestion might have irked Dar not so long ago, considering that in 2021 he wrote against the amendment to the SBP Act 1956 which became law in January 2022. But now he finds himself, as Ammar Khan has written, blinking first in his staring contest with the IMF. Alas, not everyone can be a fallen hero like Miftah. While Miftah may no longer hold office, he is the one who holds influence and power, while Dar continues to take hit upon hit while remaining in office. Contrary to being the victim he is thought to be, Miftah is the real student of this theater of power and strategy. What distinguishes him is his ability to recognize a losing battle, to play the generous selfless hero briefly while welcoming the opposition from within his own party, knowing full well that the battle is lost and not worth fighting. He left the arena as the fallen hero rather than the oppressive villain, and then took the centrist mob on a Reimagining Pakistan tour to dupe it into a conservative, austere, pro-market vision of the economy according which Pakistan must give in to the deadly embrace of the benevolent profiteer if it is to prosper. Dar has been left poking his toy sword at ghosts in an empty amphitheater.

To employ a variation of Dierdre McCloskey’s description of the ideological range of American economics, the ideological distance between Miftah and Dar is all the way from meem to noon. They merely appeal to different faces of Pakistan’s establishment: Miftah to the military and the tishun class, and Ishaq Dar to religious sentiment. In traveling this stone’s throw distance from Miftah to the noon league’s family man, the governing coalition is very much the same and its relationship with the establishment is very much the same, as is the impotency of both the federal government and the military when they are required to offer the public anything more substantial than platitudes and an unimaginative word kachoomar. This amateurish theater of crisis, valorization and demonization will offer Pakistanis little opportunity for self-reflection, so the least these people could do is to entertain us. Yet they can’t even do that very well. Meanwhile it’s Imran Khan, Aitchison’s old-boy par excellence, the fool pretending to be a philosopher king, who offers some comic relief with his New Yorker interview and complaints of being subjected to the power of a super king. “Are you not entertained?!”, roared Maximus in Gladiator. Not really, because the ranting and scowling Dar makes for a terrible Commodus.

What good is an economic charter?

This article was first published in The Friday Times.

There is something pointless – though not entirely pointless, as I hope to argue here – about an economic charter. As commentators like Mosharraf Zaidi and Uzair Younus have rightly pointed out, Pakistan’s constitution and parliament are already there as binding constraints to bring warring political parties together into a process of political engagement. Why reinvent the wheel in the form of a charter when you already have a constitution, why not bring the charter issue to parliament as well, and why would the charter be respected when the constitution isn’t? The question should embarrass anyone doing their political engagement from behind a table at a press conference rather than on the floor of parliament with the constitution firmly in their grasp (literally and metaphorically). The absurdity and hollowness of the idea that an economic charter may be a silver bullet which splits Pakistan’s many gordian knots with cinematic style worthy of a Tom Cruise movie is to be found in Tahir Ashrafi’s nonsensical call for a “charter of Pakistan”. An economic charter is sitting like an imaginary treasure at the end of a slippery slope along which we’re moving, an appropriate reward for taking a smokescreen to its logical conclusion.

Mustafa Bajwa’s point that an economic charter is a “truck ki batti” or a red herring is well taken. Nevertheless, the possibilities for an economic charter (how it may be created, what its substance would be, and what we would do with it) are many and varied. That is exactly why it has become a persistent part of economic and policy discourse in Pakistan and refuses to go away, despite having made no real contribution towards Pakistan’s intellectual or policy landscape. Do useless or irrelevant ideas persist? Of course. But it does warrant some investigation as to whether this particular idea is serving some function. I suspect that it persists as a blank screen or catch-all term on which people can project their imagination of a better Pakistan or at least a different Pakistan, and that can be a powerful instrument of discourse if not political settlement and economic policy making. As a vehicle in speculative imagination, it may very well be useful.

So there may be not one economic charter, but a plurality of charters. Some of them might indeed be red herrings or even completely delusional. Others might serve as vehicles for discussion and debate – and that can’t be a bad thing for a social order in need of remaking itself. And It really does need to remake itself because it is not prospering. In fact, besides the blank screen offered by politicians for people to project their visions on, at least three different publicly articulated and shared versions of an economic charter exist: the Pakistan Business Council’s, Dr. Hafiz Pasha’s, and the one most recently put forward by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. In a country with a democracy deficit, the existence of three different versions of a charter coming from three very different sources – a private sector business group, a public sector think tank, and one published by a German non-profit organization – is most welcome.

My own view is that as we think about cooperating with each other, we should not just think of arriving at an agreement, but of long run processes. As the work of sociologist and philosopher Prof. Richard Sennett suggests, cooperation is a skill and a craft which can be practiced and improved (Sennett 2012). We must commit to processes which helps us practice and improve our cooperation over long time horizons. Individuals may be dead in the long run, but societies and economies as a whole can continue to live in pain. And the larger ambition ought not to be to only thrive as individuals (the prosperity and liberty of the individual is key), but also to thrive as a collective. And to that end, we might want to consider taking a page out of Keynes’s The End of Laissez Faire. Published in 1926 as a pamphlet, it articulatedKeynes’s views at the end of an age of liberalism and how the world might move forward from that point. We might once again be at a similar juncture, hoping to give birth to something better after having witnessed the terrible failings and strains of neoliberalism. In the conclusion to the essay, Keynes wrote:

“For my part, I think that Capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself it is in many ways extremely objectionable. Our problem is to work out a social organisation which shall be as efficient as possible without offending our notions of a satisfactory way of life. … We need by an effort of the mind to elucidate our own feelings. At present our sympathy and our judgement are liable to be on different sides, which is a painful and paralysing state of mind. … We need a new set of convictions which spring naturally from a candid examination of our own inner feelings in relation to the outside facts.”

Now, our conditions in Pakistan are those of material poverty and a vulnerable political economy exposed to war, disease and environmental catastrophe. The state preys on the weak and the country’s sovereignty lies in tatters, the power of the government of Pakistan to issue the national currency having been surrendered in exchange for IMF money. And while those are our outside facts, our inner feelings are of fear and hurt and anger and grief and insecurity. The question then is, what new set of convictions will arise from a candid self-examination and how? Let us leave aside the “what” for now and focus on the “how”. Remember: long run processes. Do we possess the means of candid self-examination? A big problem Pakistan faces is that the means through which we could conduct any candid examination as a society – our institutions of cultural self-expression and reflection – are all eroded. Parliament and the constitution are major casualties but certainly not the only ones. What is the state of our public universities and public libraries? What is the state of our music? Is Coke Studio to be the artistic means of our self-reflection and self-examination? What is the state of cinema? What candid examination of ourselves do we hope to achieve while a commercial hit like Maula Jatt plays freely while a creative hit like Joyland remains banned in Punjab? This state of affairs partly explains why we have latched onto the idea of an economic charter; we have done so out of desperate hope that it might be a vehicle of self-examination and reflection for us. (This point about institutions of reflection arose in a conversation with my teacher Prof. Khalid Mir, to whom I am grateful for his friendship and everything he has taught me.)

What’s more, our fragile social order with its eroding and crumbling institutions must contend with economic pressures. No social contract is going to survive hyperinflation undermining the rupee. As the value of the national currency erodes with increasing pace, at some point trust in the government’s guarantee of the value of currency, a guarantee stated on the front face of our SBP-issued banknotes, will start eroding with stunning pace. Thus money as a social relationship between society and state will come under strain. It is possible for the relationship to break down altogether. People are afraid of the country defaulting on its debts, and rightly so. But an irreparable rupture in the state-society relationship caused by the destruction of the rupee as a store of value (or even a means of exchange!) will be far more consequential and have implications entirely unimagined and unanticipated. So we are brought back both by force of argument and outside facts to square one: the urgency of committing to the democratic political process, to parliament, and to the constitution.

”A healthy obsession, we could say, interrogates its own driving convictions” (Sennett 2008, pg. 261) In this article I have tried to interrogate some of the driving convictions behind the obsession with an economic charter, which might be available to us as an aid to our self-reflection and self-examination as a society and country. But it is not a silver bullet. It cannot replace the constitution of Pakistan, the laws by which this country is governed (or ought to be governed) or our institutional architecture. We must be careful not to slide into a place where we obsessively linger on an economic charter and chain our expectations to it to distract ourselves from the real work, to use Prof. Sennett’s phrase, of making a life in common (Sennett 2008, 6).


Sennett, Richard. 2008. The Craftsman. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

Sennett, Richard. 2012. Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

The government of Pakistan can’t issue the rupee at will. This is a problem.

The State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Act, 2022 (Act No. VI of 2022) is a good case study to illustrate how the intersection of law, politics and institutions is of interest for anyone concerned about the governance of Pakistan. It illustrates how through legislation passed by elected political representatives of the people of Pakistan, the institutional architecture of policy is changed in the country, and how that in turn has an impact on the country’s governance. Section 9C of the SBP Act 1956 (as amended up to 28-01-2022) prohibits the Pakistani government from borrowing from the SBP. Since the government owns the SBP and hence its debts to the SBP are really debts to itself, it means that the government can no longer issue the rupee at will. The 2021 brief prepared by the Ministry of Finance and the SBP about misconceptions regarding the amendment acknowledges that SBP lending is the means through which the federal government may create money (“When the government borrows from the central bank, it is equivalent to printing money.”).

The Pakistani central bank is a public interest institution meant to “contribute to the stability of the financial system of Pakistan and supporting the general economic policies of the Federal Government to foster development and fuller utilization of the country’s productive resources;”.  The government of Pakistan and the people whom it represents are now stuck in an awkward position. The government which is entrusted with the governance of the country is unable to issue the national currency through a bank which is its own agent and which it fully owns and has fully owned since the SBP’s nationalization in 1974. When the SBP was formed, it served in part as an expression and symbol of the financial and monetary sovereignty of the country (Husain 1992, 56). In that sense, it served a nation building purpose, much like the First and Second Banks of the US following the US war of independence from the British (Knodell 2013). Today, the government of Pakistan has practically lost the ability to issue the Pakistani rupee at will. If this isn’t an issue of monetary and policy sovereignty, I don’t know what is.

The SBP’s position on this in the brief is the mainstream position: if the federal government continues to hold money creation power, it might exercise them imprudently, thereby leading to too much money which in turn will lead to inflation. This tells us that monetarist thinking is alive and well at the SBP. Whatever the demerits of monetarism, the issue is political, and politically the argument is as problematic as the view that the government should not be able to pass legislation because it might pass legislation with detrimental consequences. The government as the representative of the public must be able to exercise legislative powers as well as money creation powers. If there are negative consequences, let the people of Pakistan hold the government to account – through the exercise of free speech and criticism of the government’s policies, through the opposition in parliament, and at the ballot box. Holding the federal government accountable for its economic policy is not the proper social purpose of the SBP, much like holding the government accountable for defense and foreign policy is not the purpose of the military. That role belongs to the public, which could legitimately see this legislation as an encroachment on its role in the governance of the country. At present, the situation is akin to legislative powers being outsourced to a political consulting firm which is owned by the government and acts as an agent of the government. This needs to be changed.

What does the SBP stand for and what is the proper social purpose of the SBP? Dr Hafiz Pasha has written about SBP reform in his version of an economic charter. Dr. Pasha’s recommendations concern the improved distribution of credit across sectors, away from state owned enterprises, towards the “small borrower”, and a generally increased access to financial services. (I do not however, for the reasons outlined above, agree with him implied position that it is the job of the SBP to hold the ministry of finance accountable for its domestic bank borrowing.) This is all good and in the right direction, given what Dr. Pasha has already written about the distribution of credit in the UN Human Development report of 2020. But is this possible given the relationship between the SBP and the ministry of finance as established by the 2022 amendment?

Dr. Pasha’s suggestions presuppose institutional relations and intellectual approach very different from those presently in place. Credit planning and distribution are concerns of a politically and socially attentive approach to central banking, monetary policy and regulation of the financial system. That is not the economics which prevails at the SBP at the present moment. The SBP is independent but its governing legislation lacks a necessary mechanism to override its decisions, as required by Fischer (1994). Can Pakistan’s central bank once again accountable to the Pakistani public? It can, but that is conditional on parliament. Will the next elected government of Pakistan have the ability and political will to amend the SBP Act again, and in doing so, have an impact on how they as the representatives of the people of Pakistan hold the SBP accountable? All political parties should commit to amending the SBP Act in the lead up to the next elections to amend Section 9C. If we do end up with an economic charter, this commitment should be a part of the charter. This will, of course, not go down well with the IMF, or with any policy makers hoping to ease financial pressures by borrowing from the IMF again. From the public point of view, a reminder that international financial institutions have helped kick away the ladder for the now developing countries (Chang 2002) should help. We ought not to miss the IMF’s kiss of death too much.


Chang, Ha-Joon. 2002. Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective. Anthem Press: London.

Fischer, Stanley. 1994. “Modern central banking.” In Capie, Forrest, Charles Goodhart, Stanley Fisher, and Norbert Schnadt (Editors). The Future of Central Banking: The Tercentenary Symposium of the Bank of England, p. 262–308. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Husain, Aijaz. History of the State Bank of Pakistan: 1948–1960. State Bank of Pakistan Press: Karachi, 1992.

Knodell, Jane. 2013. “The nation-building purposes of early US central banks.” Review of Keynesian Economics 1, no. 3, Autumn, pp. 288-299.

Sifting through Pandora’s Pakistani policy casket

Here’s an excerpt from my new blogpost for the Monetary Policy Institute, which you can read here:

The man-made political culture and institutional architecture of policy in Pakistan are fraught with difficulties. In this blogpost, I try to shed light on some of these difficulties. Earlier this year, the State Bank of Pakistan Act 1956 was amended to grant the Pakistani central bank (henceforth the SBP) near absolute independence. I consider this change in the institutional framework through the lens of my previous post for the Monetary Policy Institute, in which I argued that central banking needs a capitalist manifesto.

A state of dread

Here’s an excerpt from today’s op-ed in The News:

“Since the contest is taking place without ground rules, we should not be surprised or caught off guard if it brings the country to its knees. We are stuck in a crisis equilibrium since at least the start of the calendar year, if not longer. People who have little will consume what they can and what they must. But those who have much, the leisure class, continue to spend and consume in order to amuse themselves to the point of numbness as they watch the brawl. Investors hold on to their capital dearly and move around the brawl to avoid getting knocked over in the process. If they can find an escape route out of the room, even better.”

For Ryan Karazija (1982 – 2022)

At some point in the summer this year, I stumbled upon Gene Park’s article on Hideo Kojima, creator of Metal Gear Solid. It brought his game Death Stranding to my attention, which I started playing soon after. What I thought would be another cool and entertaining game turned out to be something else entirely: an aid, a journey, and a balm. Ryan Karazija’s music was – and will remain – central to it all. Ryan has passed away at the age of 40 according to his project Low Roar’s social media (see this video posted on Low Roar’s YouTube channel).

The game has been crucial in helping me process the grief of my brother’s disappearance and death. I have written already about my mental health journey. I am finding that grief is a continuous process which so far has not left me. As Mario Andretti has said, “there is no setback with the magnitude of a fatality.” (Will Buxton’s My Greatest Defeat p. 244) The game presented itself as an instrument to access feelings of loss which had begun to fall beneath the surface of my emotional life.

The beginning of the game, in which Sam Porter Bridges undertakes the first of many journeys to fulfil an order, makes such stunning and moving use of Ryan’s music (see the link to the track Bones below) that it had me hooked to the game as well as the music. The music combined with the vast, sweeping landscapes offered moments of beauty and refuge throughout the story. Moments of understanding and empathy. Of comfort, and a sense of movement rather than of dead ends.

The game’s philosophical bent and its Lovercraftian horror elements would also have endeared it to my brother, who was a student of philosophy. I desperately wish to share it with him every day, along with Low Roar’s music. For me, the game is very much a reminder about the importance of connection, helping strangers, accepting mortality as well as help. A reminder that even when the world seems to have fallen apart, as mine did with my brother’s death, we can put one foot in front of the other and “keep on keepin’ on”.

Rest easy, Ryan Karazija. I hope you run into my brother somewhere, wherever you two might be.