Industry standards dictate that a flaw in the mirror is acceptable if you can't see it from a distance of ten feet. What's that significant distance for our history? How far back should we stand so that we don't see those flaws, which have divided this nation? At what distance could we tell if the distortions we see in the mirror are nothing but deformities of our own? How many more years should it take before we know which to blame between history and our very own histrionics?
On this Victory Day, we stand defeated in many ways because we're now our worst enemies. Never before has division run so deep. Never before has hatred run so high. Never before has fear run in such full freshet. What do we celebrate on this special day? Do we celebrate the war that we won forty-five years ago? Or, do we celebrate the war that has been winning us over for as many years?
If the law of mirror prevails anywhere, it's in the dark recesses of our hypocritical minds. Every year we move further away from the mirror, and every year we become more flawed not to see the flaws that make us so flawed. Once a nation of freedom fighters, we're now worried about losing our freedom much like a family living on food ration.
We still celebrate the special days of our history comparable to the marriage anniversary of an unhappy couple. We still illuminate our streets and buildings, hold many events, make fiery speeches, and blast out patriotic songs. At the end of the day, we return to the lingering gloom in our hearts akin to carnivals after lights go out.
How victorious should we feel on this Victory Day? The answer depends. It depends on who's in power and who isn't. It depends on who has got second homes abroad and who doesn't have a roof over his head. It depends on who's driving fancy cars and who's standing in long queues every morning and evening waiting for a bus. It depends on who's raping the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of other men and who's seeking elusive justice for wrongs done to their women.
Anything that doesn't touch our lives runs the risk of either being erased from memory or etched as a myth. That three million ancestors once shed their blood can't be appreciated by future generations if victory rings hollow in their hearts. The Americans proudly remember their founding fathers because the Constitution framed by those men still protects rights, freedom and dignity of every American citizen. Marx and Lenin are forgotten since their ideology failed to transform lives in the Soviet Union, much less anywhere else.
So celebrating the day doesn't mean we're celebrating its dreams. We have an independent country. Its economy may be doing well. Hunger is gone. We are almost a middle-income country on the way to achieving all its sustainable development goals. All the indicators may be looking arguably good, yet this nation suffers from an inexplicable ailment that can't be diagnosed by a battery of tests.
The symptoms don't go away despite many assurances from the physicians. Education is failing. Politics is rotting. Morality is missing. Laws are lagging. Instead, greed is gaining and crime is reigning. Sycophancy thrives, intimidation works, prevarication rules, and money is god. Many small steps of defeat are subsumed within one giant leap of victory.
How long do we suppose the vigour of this victory will carry this nation crumbling from inside? How long can we ignore bank frauds, forget rapes, overlook murders, and disregard disappearances before their combined impact, sooner or later, runs us down? The signs are already there. Our minds are subservient. Our thoughts are convenient. Our beliefs are deficient, and our actions are inefficient.
In one sense, this country is stuck where it started like the proverbial boat rowed all night tied to a pier post. The notorious “twenty-two families” of Pakistan have multiplied in this country in forty-five years. Politics is still troubled. Economy is still lopsided. Inequalities institutionalised and discrimination universalised, the fate of people has undergone an existential inflation. The quantity has expanded, but the value is lost.
The martyrs must be turning over in their graves. What they died for remains unattained, if not gotten worse than before. Exploitation persists. Disparity exists. Deprivation perpetuates. The farce continues long after the faces have changed.
The People's Republic is a raucous spectacle in the name of the people. It's the same Armageddon chess where the black always wins. If this is any consolation, king, queen, rooks, bishops, knights and pawns for the first time speak the same language in this country. All the more reason why oppression hurts more: the oppressed understands every word that the oppressor means.
The writer is the Editor of weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.