How responsible is our civil society?

Shahabuddin Mahtab

For quite some time now, the whole nation is deeply concerned regarding the law and order situation in the country. The man in the street is worried, whether he can go to attend to his business with complete safety. The present situation may perhaps be analysed in a wider canvas, so that it can be placed in the right perspective.

The year of our independence (1971) was the most glorious chapter in the nation's history. The best of our youth made their supreme sacrifice for a prosperous and peaceful country. But within a few months of our liberation, the youth were disappointed and angered, when they found that the wealth and properties of the country went to the hands of a privileged few. These people did not acquire their wealth by way of hard work or their creative entreprenearship but through questionable means. The political leadership did not inspire the confidence of the people, by their way of functioning. We conveniently forgot that political activism enables us to be of service to our fellow beings. It was not a profession for earning money or accumulating wealth. A single example of unselfishness or sacrifice would have far out weighed a hundred sermon or exhortations, but the leadership did not follow their own advice.

The kickback and commission culture had started from the very beginning of the seventies, and it has cascaded to its present form of a Franknestein. The Bangladesh society has to work through the various social groups and sub-groups to bring in the required attitudinal changes in our present value system. The goodness in man can overcome his evilness, and that truth, honesty and integrity are the value that can bring peace, and social and economic development in the society.

The family is the most durable form of all human relationships, and also the oldest one. The individual from birth to adulthood lives with his/her parents and imbibes their social values. In the turmoils of the early seventies, with the violence of the liberation war in the background, the expectations of the youth had risen, and they looked forward to an egalitarian society keeping in view socialism as one of the four pillars of our constitution.

The times were such that the children grew away from their parents. The family is the place where the child and the youth learn the fundamental values of life namely discipline, duty, truth, understanding et al. The experiences of the last three decades have shown that parents gave very little thought and time to their children. The resultant outcome has been the non-communication between the two groups. Over the years there has been continuous erosion of human, social and moral values. The family was unable to check and turn the tide.

If we want to make any headway from the present downward path, the restoration of family ties and values is an essential ingredient. This is the responsibility of the families, and that of the nation. Without hardwork and sacrifices on the part of the parents, we cannot aspire to be a disciplined nation. The ages of five to fifteen are a crucial stage in the life of the child, and what is learn at this stage, sets the course for his/her future life. The present unrest has not gripped the nation suddenly, but has now blown up because of our gradual decadence. What can be expected from parents who hardly give company to their children, or their time? The best investment of time that we could make is often not done. Of the twenty-four hours in a day, the parents-get more than sixteen hours, to spend with their children.

The indiscipline and restlessness in the society has led us to destructive activities, in all spheres of our life. And because of our non-productivity, there is less purchasing power in the hands of the people in real terms, with the consequent wants that follow. The general, deterioration of the country is a tale of more that three decades, and not that of the last few years. The great divide between the few thousand of lucky families and the rest of the people started many years ago.

The prosperous and profit earning enterprises left by the non-Bengalees were nationalised, and overnight all these became losing concerns. Those who were given the charge of the concerns were only interested in being rich themselves within the shortest possible time. The downward trend could not be rectified, when the government reversed its policy and went for privatisation. The existing SOEs are a severe drain on the slender government resources.

For quite along time, the culture of middlemen, 'briefcase' business and 'indenting' have taken a deep root. A class of people, who grew with rich overnight with political patronage, and the 'right' links, displayed their wealth in a crude and vulgar fashion. This had an evil consequence for the society. This led to the development of the thought, that wealth can be 'earned' without doing any hard work, and without any entrepreneurial quality. This image dealt a mortal blow to the future of the nation, from which we have to extricate ourselves the hard way, if we want to survive as a dignified nation. Our failures, follies and weaknesses are known to the donors and the aid giving agencies; that it why foreign direct investments move to Vietnam, not Bangladesh. It is only through our own efforts that we can bridge the credibility gap.

The schools, colleges and the universities, the maktabs and the madrashas are important organisations from which we can draw our moral strength, provided the political parties are willing to keep these places free from their spheres of influence.

In the eighties, nineties and now in the year two thousand one we are witnessing the loss of valuable lives in our cities, towns and even in the villages. In India and Pakistan, violence has erupted at many places from time to time but the educational institutions have been singularly violence free. It is only our political parties, which can free the campuses from bloodshed. Or shall we go the way of Somalia or Congo? The North is not going to bail us out for our own follies. The bureaucracy in Bangladesh have been generously treated by the nation. It is now for them to set an example of dedicated work, and a life of simplicity and austerity. The political and social leaders and can set a noble example to the nation by their-simplicity of living, and a dedicated life in the service of the people. Our Prophet (SA) and all our four Caliphs led a very simple life.

Of serious concern is the unbridled consumerism which has enveloped the whole nation. The expenditure for it has to come from 'black' money in many cases.

In almost every month we see the opening of expensive shopping malls/plazas, luxurious eating houses et al. The glaring neon signs beckon us to as hopping spree. These islands of wealth in a sea of poverty cannot last very long. The super-consumerism that we witness now is an ill omen for the country.

Our basic economic policies have to be geared to the generation of employment opportunities, so that the people in general can meet their essential needs at affordable prices. The terminologies that we have used in all our FYPs, such as employment generation, poverty alleviation and an egalitarian society have mostly remained inside the covers of the books. We are already late in the day in meeting the aspirations of the people, but let us not be too late

Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka, 13 December 2001