An incredibly shrinking nation
More or less our problem is more of less. Our leaders are more of less than leaders, our ministers are more of less than ministers, our judges are more of less than judges, and more so of the less goes on. Our governments have been more of less than governments, people more of less than people, and the state more of less than a state. We have increasingly diminished as a nation, contracting in expansion.
It may sound absurd, but nevertheless it's a fact. And if you accept it, then the rest of the story becomes as clear as daylight. What is eating us is the reverse trend. Things have got worse in the course of time. There has been a loss of quality in everything, a general decline in dimensions. We are moving on the backfire, walking on the back foot.
The result of which is obvious. We have lost height as a nation, turning hollow in the thick of things, hope into despair, dream into nightmare. So the food is more of less nutritious, light is more of less bright, minds more of less sound, and thoughts more of less round.
We have moved backward in forward creating many contradictions. A smuggler was made the minister of home affairs. A pretender with fake credentials was appointed the judge of the High Court. And then we elected many loan defaulters to the parliament, expecting those who violated law will enact laws for us.
Well, endless erosion leads to the barebones when the clatter of the empty sounds like the fury of the full. Then these mores of lesses create their own distortions. The doctors behave like patients, teachers like students, professionals like novice, and old leaders walk behind their young Prince Charming.
There is abundance of depletion. Starting from politics to culture to education to moral integrity, the loss of quality is immense. There are many pockets of bankruptcy, where this nation went dry and spent like summer pools, where institutions, families and individuals have shrunk and diminished from giants to midgets, where pride is lost in prejudice, truth in lies, attention in pretension and devotion in delusion. We are an incredibly shrinking nation where growth is decay, strength is weakness, and power is incapacity.
For Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world was a troika, which included the triumph of obscurantism over reason, the atrophy of education and critical thinking, and the integration of fanaticism, the state and the apparatus of torture. The resulting outcome was the economic and political marginalisation of culture, which eventually led to the fall of civilisation.
More of less is the dynamics of that marginalisation. It is the expression of accelerated deceleration, when something increasingly decreases like a piece of wood coming under running shave. And the marginalisation of this nation is no secret. It's amongst the world's poorest countries, one of the most corrupt nations in the world, and I deplore it when I say that in most parts of the world our beloved country is seen as a den of extremists where quarreling factions are aggravating an already precarious condition.
In fact, to paraphrase the late US comedian Rodney Dangerfield: we don't get no respect. That is why cub secretaries from another country come to meet our head of state. Foreign diplomats busy themselves meddling in our business.
All of these are unmistakable signs of shrinking. No, the country is not losing its geographic territory. No, the population hasn't stopped growing. The economy was growing until the recent slowdown. The real estate is booming. Number of universities is growing. More students are winning GP5 in SSC and HSC year by year. The country has more rich people than ever before.
Yet, like a stricken body losing weight despite proper diet, this nation has emaciated in thirty-six years. It has lost its weight in the eyes of others. It has lost hope in the eyes of its own people. After all these years foreign experts are coming to teach us how to build our democracy after the US model. After all these years we don't have a national airline that can fly across all continents. After all these years we don't find leaders who can lead us into the future.
The irony is that the entire nation has gone ahead into the past. We have folded as a nation, trapped in the motion of inertia. If we are going anywhere, we are going nowhere. If too much is happening, nothing is happening. It's much ado about nothing. It's like growing silence in the midst of clamour.
So this nation has been crammed with void, its space filled to be empty which looks puckered like a deflated ball. How does a ball deflate? It deflates when its bladder is squeezed or punctured to release air. Likewise a nation can also deflate if people, who are its bladder, the inflatable lining where the energy of a nation is stored, are suppressed or squeezed.
"Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage," proclaimed Immanuel Kant. He explained that true freedom of man was to "make use of his understanding without direction from another." Then he claimed that the motto of enlightenment is to give courage to every man so that he can use his own reason.
It is the hulk in people that also makes the hulk in a nation. The people have to have more power than casting votes, torching vehicles, and killing each other. These passions come from their hunger for freedom. Rising above the clutter of corruption and narrow interests, they should be allowed to have the taste of freedom. Enlightened country needs enlightened people.
Putting two plus two, a nation is pumped up when its people are pumped up. In our political life we have miserably failed to see that equation. We have squeezed the people for so many years, leaving them flat and thin, that it is now taking its toll. The land of shrinking people is shrinking itself.
Mohammad Badrul Ahsan is a banker.