Freedom is an inalienable right of humankind. Ever since man came on earth, the most insufferable crime man can commit against man is the subjugation of one tribe by another, the subjugation a country's citizens by kings, the forced slavery of people of subject countries, the colonizing of countries by the armed forces of powerful empires. Hannibal crossed the Alps to move against the Roman oppressors of Carthage, Spartacus, the Thracian slave, rose against Rome. In England King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta by the nobles subservient to him. In this continuing quest for freedom from oppression, the seeking of liberty, Robert Bruce went to war for the independence of Scotland from England, France demolished its monarchy, the United States fought a war with the British to remove them from their soil. Bolivia won the war against Spain to gain independence, and this thirst for freedom has inspired people of all races and lands to break the shackles of slavery through the ages.
In the subcontinent, the leader for the first nation to defeat colonialism in the twentieth century spoke thus: "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time has come when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of nation long suppressed finds utterance....
And less than twenty-five years after that speech, the leader of the Bangali nation spumed the position of Prime Minister of a country, and became the father of the nation with the words "Ebarer Shangram Muktir Shangram, Ebarer Shangram Shadhinatar Shangra." The soul of our nation... found utterance with these words, and then we were at war with our colonisers, ending with victory on 16th December 1971.
Since 16th December 1971, Bangladesh has been in somewhat of ferment. From a period of reconstruction after the ravages of war, 1973 elections, floods and famine, a political system change, assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, military rule, transition to democracy, assassination of Shaheed Ziaur Rahman, military rule again, deposing of an autocrat, and return to parliamentary democracy, and now to poverty, violence and terrorism, within the framework of a democracy. The saga of independence has been that of turbulent times, of an unquiet society.
No day passes without reflective comment-by the press, on radio or television, in articles or books, in compelled and sometimes compelling oratory of political and social leaders, on what is wrong in our society. This is also, if in much lesser measure, a preoccupation in the advanced industrial nations with cunctioning democracies- USA, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, elsewhere in Europe and in Japan. No one can deplore this exercise, far better and far more informative such a search than the assumption that all is well. Before knowing what is right, one must know what is wrong.
There is however, another, less traveled course of thought. That is to explore and define what, very specifically, would be right. Just what should be the steps to transform our unquiet society to the good and humane society? At what stated as clearly as may be possible, should we aim? The tragic gap between the fortunate and the needy having been recognized, how, in a practical way, can it be closed? How can economic policy contribute to this end? What of the public services of the state; how can they be made more equitably and more efficiently available? What of good governance and elimination of corruption? What of the military power, often perceived as autonomous? How can be environmental, present and future be protected? What is responsibility and course of action as regards our development and trading partners and our neighbours in an increasingly internationalised world? It is clear at the outset, that in an essay such as this, it is difficult to do so, for a distinction must be made, a line draw, between what might be perfect and what is achievable society may well be a minority effort, but better than none at all. Any useful idenfification of the good society must therefore take into consideration the institutional structure and the human characteristics that are fixed, immutable. They make the difference between the utopian and the achievable, between the agreeably irrelevant and the ultimately possible. To define the achievable is the most difficult problem with which an essay such as this contends. It is also the most controversial.
If put in sufficiently general terms, the essence of the good and humane society can be easily stated. It is that every member of such a society can be easily stated. It is that every member of such a society, regardless of gender, race or ethnic origin, should have access to a rewarding life. Allowance there must be for undoubted differences in aspiration and qualification. Individuals differ in physical and mental facility, commitment and purpose, and from these differences in achievement and in economic reward. However, achievement may not be limited by factors that are remediable. And in preparation for life, the young must have the physical care the discipline, and especially the education that will also them to seize and exploit that opportunity. No one, from accident of birth or economic circumstances, may be denied these things; if they are not available from parent or family, society must provide effective forms of care and guidance.
So long as there is opportunity, there is also social tranquility; economic stagnation and privation bring with them adverse and widespread social consequences. When people are unemployed, economically deprived and without hope, the most readily available recourse is escape from harsh reality by way of drugs or violence. The practical manifestation is crime and revolt met by futile efforts at control.
The first step for the future in our country is to achieve the good economy and poverty eradication, and to achieve this we have to consider the concomitant factors of inflation, budget deficits and the distribution of income and power.
Furthermore any and all analysis of the competitive position of our economy among the developing countries focuses on the importance of well-educated, occupationally qualified labour force. The position is further emphasised in the frequent references to expenditure for education as human investment. But there are two further and vital services of education. One is to allow people to govern themselves intelligently, and the other is to allow them to enjoy life to the fullest. To develop a truly functioning democracy with a strong institutional framework needs and educated population. Other steps for the future include establishment of good governance, all-party inclusive elections, and elimination of corruption, confrontation with and elimination of violence and terrorism, recognizing the increasing role to the internationalised economy and polity, the protection of the environment.
The specifications for the good society are rather evident, even commonplace, and with some notable exceptions, acceptable, especially in the oratory of time. It is the actions necessary to achieve these ends that are more controversial. The solution now lies in the hands of vigilant leadership in the executive and legislative branches of the government of the day, and solution is essential if the good society is to work effectively, and we can look to the future with hope for all of us.
The author is Executive Editor, News Today.