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political clash 06 (4)Something has gone totally berserk with our collective psyche.

We are no longer the docile, polite society of bhodroloks anymore.

First there was the incident at ASA. A walk-in job interview session became a riotous situation that closed down Mirpur road only a few days ago.

Then there was the incident between the students of two universities in Banani over some remarks made. The angst of our students is nothing new. Once, that helped tremendously in reaching the goals of independence. The angst of yester years had purpose and a higher goal. The angst of today is about personal egos and pathetic lack of dignity and respect for one another. In the public universities, it has been reduced to occupying of halls and bringing in teachers, students, and administration alike to the cadres of the affiliated political parties. In the private universities, which have been immune to these vacillations of the definitions of a place of higher learning, the reasons are more to do with the former.

Road rage in Dhaka lately seems to have taken new dimensions where drivers are slapped and hit with impunity for fender benders caused by an impatient traffic flow caught in hours of gridlock. The other day, I was witness to an altercation between two CNG drivers and their passengers. Ironically one had the slogan painted on it, ‘One’s behaviour is the indication of one’s birth heritage’. If that is the case, I am sorry to say, we have descended into a nation of illegitimates.

2012-03-03-19-19-24-March-22-TMOur private behaviour is set by the examples set by our immediate family members. We follow their teachings, traditions, and heritage, and try our best to emulate it. Our families are taught to endeavour for the betterment of the next generation, building up layers upon layers of good behaviour and education, so that our next generation is not only more successful, but also more erudite, mannered and exposed to better surroundings.

That unfortunately begs the question of who leads and teaches the masses. When our top leaders are bickering about the past whilst our ecological security is under heavy scrutiny, I wonder what we, as a general public are learning from them. One thing for sure, respect for one another in not one of them.

The vitriolic war of words between the government in power and the one in opposition is tiring, feeding the opening minutes of the countless TV channels that proliferates our screen.  Bad behaviour has crept into the ‘natok’ scenes as well. We have lost patience, and joined the ‘right now’ generation. We want instant wealth, or at least all the trappings of wealth, and we are getting there. We see Cadillacs and stretched limos, two-seater sports cars, private helicopters, and fancy diners and we emulate and gawk at them in their materialistic trappings. Collectively we are acting like a nation of nouveau riche wannabes, crass, unsophisticated, too much bling, and not enough sophistication. The rich and the poor are getting away with this crassness with it while it is the class on the fringes of middledom, caught between the dirty rocks of daily life and the hard place of keeping their heads up, who had enough, and now are venting and bursting out.

Clearly the ASA incident was a case of too few jobs and too many applicants. Wait that did not sound right! Why would that cause a riot? Speculations ranged from favouritism to mismanagement of the process by ASA authorities. What we saw was people interpreting their situations to their own judgments and taking the law unto their own hands. Did the ensuing situation resulting in a closed major roadway and the compounded aggravation of commuters, broken glasses of passing cars and buildings and untold frustrations of the hundreds of others who did not make it to the interview solve anything?

news_image_2012-03-03_11979As far as the incident in Banani is concerned, the proximity of so many universities, instead of fuelling of competition in learning and culture, caused a riot over the sexist remark of one about a woman from the other institution. Could not the recipient of the remark point out the fallacy of that utterance and show his friend his own wrong perception of the opposite sex before it ended with the closure of these two institutions? Have we become intolerant to the point that proximity of large groups of people will these days act as a pool of instant riotous men to be summoned at one’s beck and call with an incendiary remark? The faces and comments of those students on the TV screen later afternoon betrayed the fact that somehow their education, their backgrounds, their surroundings, their families, and the society as a whole have failed to instil the basic norms of tolerance, restraint, and behaviour that was once expected from all of us. They may not have known any better, but we did, and we have failed miserably.

With just two more years remaining in the mandate of the results of the last election, we also have two years of vitriol coping up. We shall see our two leaders at the top belittling each other, in spite of the fact that both have been elected more than once to lead the nation. We shall see their minions, advisors and who’s who of their parties joining in on the chorus and I can only hope that this does not spill into more than words into bullets, grenades, shoes, lathis, and whatnot and rest of the political bile that we constantly find ourselves drenched in.

My request is that you two ladies be civil to each other and the rest of us will follow.

MK Aaref is an architect. He studied architecture and urban planning at the University of Houston. Later, he specialised in privatisation during his MBA from Aston University, UK. He currently resides and practices in Dhaka.

10 Responses to “Rage, riots, and the making of an unruly nation”

  1. Syed Imtiaz Ali

    Essentially and primarily we are TOO SHAMELESS, that’s why all this mayhem, unruliness, anger and all we know is to get revenge at any cost! We never look forward for gains, but backward only, wasting time. Nation has lost 40 years; as progress is very slow; EDUCATION is in RUINS; churning out half-baked, timid misfits!
    So, how will masses be sober and enlightened and acquire values? Instead they wield large machetes as show of power.
    All said will fall on deaf ears and blind vision!
    Current politics is the TRUE CULPRIT! Nation is hostage today to OLD forces. We need NEW FORCES for cleansing and marching ahead.
    EDUCATION, INFRASTRUCTURE and Population Control! Are now the Basics for the nation. Will any Brave Heart come forward to ensure them?
    Very good, sincere write-up. But any listeners around?

  2. Srabon

    No government has paid any heed to our declining educational standard and this is what has made us what we are today — a restless, angry and violent nation.

    • Ali

      Our politicians do not want an educated nation. It means a threat to their ‘shared business’!
      They thrive on our remaining stupids; as that’s how the nation is treated.
      Quoting Abraham Lincoln “you can fool all the people some of the time, some people all the time, but not all the people all the time”.
      Hello politicians! Please leave behind something for the nation and be remembered with respect when you are not around; PLEASE.

  3. Srabon

    Our politicians have ruined us and made us a riotous nation!

  4. Ahmed

    We are what our leaders have made us. See how autocratic and vindictive AL acted as regards BNP’ 12 March programme!! Shutting down transmission of different cable channels! We indeed are an unfortunate nation!

  5. Akhtar Shah

    Well meaning piece. Alas, this is going to “fall on profoundly deaf ears”.
    This violence cascades down right from the top.

    Bangladesh has better chance of landing man on the moon than walking away from violence. This is ingrained/woven/intertwined/meshed/imprinted in to each sinew of BD psyche.

    One must start and try to introduce alternative methods of “conflict resolution”, starting with educating the school kids. This is a long haul and bucket loads of patience will be required.

  6. pothik

    I am now about 50 years old. I am living in a western country. My wife and I left Bangldesh because we could not afford to live a decent life in Dhaka city with our income.

    I am very sorry to say that in my whole life in Bangladesh, I did not come across that many people (except for women, poor people in the village and city, some student leaders) who could be termed decent.

    It is very sad.

  7. Adeekins

    A very well thought article. I admire the way the writer portrayed the psyche of people belonging to different social classes.

  8. sajjad

    It is great to see the young mind speak out. But the plea for civility among the two leaders is unclear. We want both of them to let the civil space function with no interference and extractions. Once that civility is established, one expects further maturity in politics to oversee better governance of the civil space. That possibly remains a dream!

  9. Golam Arshad

    Carry on skipper! I quote you “My request is that you two ladies be civil to each other and the rest of us will follow”.Our wishful prayer! Will it ever happen?

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