In Unwanted Bangladesh Syndrome: Part I, it was argued that today’s Bangladesh is not what we wanted specifically in light of the Mukti Juddher Chetona (MJC). The MJC is an idealism that captures the desired values of Bangladesh as a state, but it was never conceived to encompass all desired values of the society. Below we take a more comprehensive view of a covetable Bangladesh society with a focus on morality and humanity, i.e., on ethos (appeal to ethics) and pathos (appeal to emotion), and find an even more grievous UBS.
“Moral values are the standards of good and evil, which govern an individual’s behavior and choices”. Inescapably what is considered moral could vary depending on the prism, especially that of religion and culture. But truthfulness, honesty, fairness, law abidance, etc., are universally viewed as moral/ethical, and fraud/deception, corruption, exploitation, etc., are ubiquitously immoral/unethical.
While it is difficult to quantitatively measure the moral status of a nation, it is nonetheless possible to make some rather irrefutable general observations in this regard. First, Bangladesh has seen a number of large scale banking and multilevel marketing scams in recent times, in addition to repeated share market scams since the 1990s. The fact that there is no known precedence of such mass frauds in Bangladesh prior to the 1990s and before liberation clearly constitutes an omen of a moral breakdown.
Second, the stark disintegration of the Bangladesh society in terms of truthfulness, honesty and fairness is nowhere more visible and consequential than in politics. The history of Bangladesh is being continually written and rewritten to suit political interest, the culture of politically motivated frivolous lawsuits is regrettably the most prosperous one, denial of well-evidenced acts, facts and statements by political and law enforcement figures has reached an obscene level, and sycophancy has flourished to a repugnant level.
Third, the practical way of law abidance in Bangladesh is to violate it and/or take it into own hands. Otherwise almost nothing will get done. For example, obtaining a gas connection will take forever, disclosure of asset and income truthfully will trap one in tax wrangles, and seeking protection from law enforcement could be tantamount to walking into the den of the lion. This situation is amply shown by Graph 1 on the percent of 215 countries below [higher percentile is better] in terms of rule of law, based on the World Bank’s Governance Indicator data. Bangladesh is way behind both India and Sri Lanka and no consistent or tangible improvement is in sight.
Lastly, there is little doubt that widespread corruption and governance failure is eating away the moral/ethical fabric of Bangladesh. According to Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), a whopping 84.20% of the households surveyed in 2010 experienced bribery, negligence of duty, nepotism, embezzlement, deception, money/wealth appropriation by force and other irregularities.
Graph 2, from Trading Economics (and TIB) shows the corruption rank of a country among 175 countries [higher rank: more corrupt, Bangladesh: LHS vertical scale, India: RHS vertical scale]. Bangladesh’s rank deteriorated precipitously from about the 50th most corrupt in 1996 to about the 140th by 2015. India is consistently way less corrupt than Bangladesh although India’s situation has gotten worse too.
Graph 3 provides further evidence from the World Bank on the percent of 215 countries below [higher percentile is better] in terms of control of corruption. Bangladesh is now miserably below both India and Sri Lanka and its own record in 1998, despite some signs of improvement in the new millennium.
According to international reports, the human rights record of Bangladesh has much to desire. But the focus here is not on human rights per say, it is rather on the humanity of the Bangladesh society, namely, compassion, sympathy, valuing human life and helping others, especially victims, and the like traits that are supposed to make us humane.
While there is likely good correlation between the human rights record and humanity of a society, the agony and the perils of an increasingly inhumane society are more than a matter of governance, laws, politics and statistics. The wounded wife holding the bloodied body of a blogger hacked to death on the very campus of historic national revolutions and failing to draw the humanity and help from hundreds of fellow Bangladeshis around, if this is not chilling, then what is? A little boy gasping for last breath as his killers punish him for alleged theft by pumping air into his rectum to the amusement of an audience, and the body of another child drops lifeless, tied up and repeatedly beaten by rods by the murderers in an open arena, if these are not insanely satanic acts, then what are? Children kidnapped for ransom or political vengeance and then murdered, in some cases with the involvement or tacit compliance of law enforcement and/or political figures, if this is not the lowest of low in humanity, then what is? A young girl deliberately murdering her Police father for drug money and a nondescript passerby tailor hacked to death by political activists in broad daylight surrounded by gazers and law enforcement, hundreds of innocent passengers burnt alive by fire bombs of the political activists or their hired agents, extremists rampantly terminating their campus or area rivals by guns and machetes, people disappearing without a trace and the tearful supplications of the mothers, spouses and children rarely moving the needle of administration or the sympathy of fellow citizens at large, .., and the pitiful list of cruelty, insensitivity, inaction and insanity goes on.
This rampage of the loss of humanity is rather incomprehensible, considering the not so distant (1971 and before) glorious past of the peaceful, benevolent and warm persona of Bangalis, and in view of the much admired historic trial of the 1971 crimes against humanity.
We definitely did not want today’s immoral and inhumane Bangladesh described above. But why did it happen? One hypothesis is that the overall economic riches came too fast too soon. This created individual expectation of and desire for more riches and better standards of living at a clip unattainable in a fair manner. This ended up breeding unchecked financial greed and more injuriously a typhoon of impatience for ascendency in other spheres as well like political, professional and social hierarchy. In the vacuum of revolutionary leadership to reverse this sweeping tide, the supporting state organs crumbled and never developed into viable institutions and in turn fed the implosion of the society.
Some may argue that a post-independence China style purification movement would have been helpful in cultivating a common and greater sense of purpose. The nation, however, has to be mindful of the pitfalls in treading such authoritarian pathways that are in direct conflict with the Mukti Juddher Chetona. Morality and humanity need not be won at the cost of freedoms earned through the bloody Liberation War. The country can perhaps use inspirational, not merely partisan, political leadership to once again lead the nation for the common good, namely, breaking out of the vicious Unwanted Bangladesh Syndrome (UBS).