Sadly, it is us, not them

© Faheem Haider for AlalODulal.org

© Faheem Haider for AlalODulal.org

Sadly, it is us, not them

by Srabanti Datta for AlalODulal.org

“If we take a thorough look, we’ll see that across every regime, we the citizens actually instigate, motivate, take part in, and take benefits of all the system malfunctions, regulation maneuvers, corruptions, power-abuses, non-performances, in numerous ways at every level.

“This is a war! Does this not happen when there is a war? Don’t you see the Western powers are killing so many innocent civilians in the war in Afghanistan? Don’t you see children getting killed? Don’t you see women getting killed?” – opposition politician explains to BBC when asked about the recent blockade, violence, arson, killing, destabilization – activities that has plagued the country over the last few weeks. So, a senior politician justifies insensible protest-activities, vandalizing public properties and brutal violence against ‘innocent civilians’ as natural elements of a Civil War that they have raged aiming to reclaim power through “fair & spontaneous” mandate from those same ‘innocent civilians’? Sadly, no matter how unrealistic his justification may sound, he has learned his lesson aptly from his realistic experience with us – Bangladeshis. We simply deserve this – no security of life on street, no safety of cars or properties, no schools for children, no revenue for businesses, no income for day-earners, no cash in the ATMs, no produce in groceries, no fuel in the pumps, no peace in sight – I’m sure we are frustrated, weary and enraged, but, we Bangladeshis so much deserve it!

It is we who have repeatedly proven ourselves to be those revolution-crazy impulsive fools with no steady ideology, memory or vision; it is we who believe that opposition’s key responsibility is to blame and criticize the government, put up an effective protest and be in a continuous pursuit of dethroning the incumbent, and we have given them brownie points only if that pursuit is fiercely on; it is we who have never been principled or confident enough to socially reject or offend any of these wrongdoers; it is we who have repeatedly invoked this insensible violence upon us by voluntarily, sending the agitating opposition to power after every such intense episode. It is, basically, we who plot, ignite and fuel the fire that burns us.

When it is said that ‘a nation deserves its leaders’, we, the urban, educated, hardworking, sensible citizens, grumble by saying, “We are stuck in the loop of depraved politicians. Right or left, pro or anti, old or new, black or white or gray – they’re basically all the same! So, for the sake of democracy, we end up electing them. And, as we sow, so we reap.” But, honestly, it is not only about electing bad people, it also about what follows next.

If we take a thorough look, we’ll see that across every regime, we the citizens actually instigate, motivate, take part in, and take benefits of all the system malfunctions, regulation maneuvers, corruptions, power-abuses, non-performances, in numerous ways at every level. We consciously keep taking advantage of the general lawlessness and unethical practices to earn an extra easy mile for ourselves, totally overlooking how we are adding to the existing millions of ‘systemic miles’ that is pushing us backwards. But then, by the end of 5 years when there is a backlash, we become the biggest critics of bad governance – no fault, no wrong statement, no mischief that we don’t condemn. Then, when our fierce criticism, impatience & call-for-change instigate the opposition to go for an enthusiastic all-out demonstration against the incumbent government, we are not really ready to take the tolls on our personal comfort – we want ‘peaceful protest’. More interestingly, after that, despite being sieged, killed, burnt and bruised, we voluntarily choose to send these agitators to power with an unreal expectation for ‘change’, a renewed hope for new ‘advantages’, and the obvious ‘extra miles’. And then, REPEAT, all over again.

It is we who designed this pernicious loop, and preserve this pernicious loop. It is we who actively fuel and aid the greed, audacity, and insincerity of the politicians and bureaucracy to perpetuate this perniciousness. It is we who will never allow the loop to crack and contravene. And all that – only for that extra easy mile on our individual balance sheet. I see educated elites making and spending millions in undisclosed black money, and then agitatedly discussing in length about the government’s corruption and system inadequacies; I see class full of students and their guardians in constant search for easy, instant and sometimes dodgy means to score big on the mark sheet, and then complain about immorality, and lack of education in our lawmakers; I see people practicing nepotism and preferential treatment in every possible field of operation under their influence, and then critically blame the political parties, government and bureaucracy for favoritism; I see people choosing to bribe, wherever it is safe and recommended, to get something done fast and easy, and then condemn with shock when they read a news about some big bribery scam; I see people continuously violating traffic rules, civic laws, building codes, standardization codes and other various regulations in small ways every day, and then shoot out frantic slurs at violators and lawmakers when a tragedy results from similar violations.

But interestingly, I have never seen anyone offending these politicians/bureaucrats on their faces in social settings, or questioning their principles, actions and inadequacies. Despite their apparently disgraceful status in people’s minds, I have never seen any hint of shame, guilt or awkwardness amongst the family members of these abominable people. This is who we are! Look at yourself, look at your family and friends, look at your workplace, look around you – if you’re honest to yourself, you’ll know that these are us!

If we had been sensible, responsible, principled, law-abiding and steady citizens ourselves, these same politicians and bureaucrats would never have the guts, or the opportunity, confidence and comfort to wreak such havoc with impunity, which we critically keep complaining about. We are in a collective denial – we are never ready to admit that we not only choose to elect them, but we also gradually turn them into Frankensteins – eagerly and effectively. We are never ready to admit that by establishing a pattern of getting high on ‘revolutionary-whims’ and rewarding the boisterous protesters with power, we have gradually created the culture of ‘violent opposition’ a recurring reality. It is us who are responsible for where we are today, what we are today, what we have brought upon ourselves today. Not them.

If we don’t deserve this ‘war’ on ourselves, who does?

Srabanti Datta is a real estate-marketer based in Dhaka. This is her first article for AlalODulal.org

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