Bridging the gap between preaching and practicing
Scientists have claimed that in next five to ten years they are going to invent the cloak of invisibility. Eighty nanometers in thickness, an object can be wrapped with it and poof it will be made to disappear just like that! A skin-like thing made of microscopic rectangular gold blocks, the cloak can be used for military applications to hide vehicles, aircrafts, and even individual soldiers. That stunning news also underscores the need for a reverse technology. If the visible can be made invisible, the invisible needs to become visible as well.
In other words, we need to see what can't be seen and for that we need a cloak of visibility. This cloak may render visible ghosts and spirits, which have vanished into thin air. It may recover people and events sucked into the layers of time. Genghis Khan's lost tomb or the Holy Grail can be found, solving many more unsolved mysteries by throwing a cloak over anything that comes to mind. It will give us the power to uncover mischief with the precision of drones hitting targets.
The contraption will be more useful on people than anything else, because individuals have this terrible capacity to hide behind their faces. What we see when we look at a person is the tip of the iceberg, ninety percent of identity lying below the surface. People hide behind their looks, while hypocrisy fills that existential gap. Intentions eclipsed by initiatives, the human mind can make the universe disappear in its depth.
Nothing so far has been able to change this phenomenon. Religion was meant to instill the fear of God in our hearts so that we thought twice before shortchanging truth. The lie detector is a modern device, which can extricate truth only if we have a suspect in hand. But most of the crimes are committed in the twilight zone where it is even difficult to suspect the suspects.
That brings us to the crux of the problem. There are many examples when we know the criminals, but can't accuse them due to fear of reprisals or manipulations. One most common example is ill-gotten wealth. It changes the net worth of people overnight and their ostentatious lifestyle pokes us in the eye. Yet allegations of corruption brought against these criminals can't be proven for the reason that they have mastered the art of keeping the fire separate from the smoke.
Then, there are many people with fake credentials who can't be confronted. Extra-judicial killings are regularly justified with the same clichéd statement. Questionable elections are upheld as people's mandate. Political killings or abductions are shrouded in silence. One can talk all day about how dubious things cannot be doubted despite being open secrets.
The common thread running through all of these contradictions is lack of visibility created by fogs of doubts, fears and twisted facts. That means an unofficial cloak of invisibility exists already in our sphere of things where objects embody facts and facts embellish objects. If one is altered, the other ceases to exist. These two millstones of mendacity crush conscience and evaporate truth.
Between the chest and the back, the human body does its own vanishing acts. It hides much more than it shows, strutting and fretting with secrets of the universe buried in flesh and bones. Mankind has scoured the bottoms of oceans, and unravelled many secrets of the space, but it hasn't been able to conquer the body and explore the unfathomable depths of its microscopic cells.
So we need something to rescue man from this hidebound hideout. His ignorance of himself and others' ignorance of him make every man a riddle inside a riddle. In advanced societies, these two riddles are unglued as public persona is intensely scrutinized and private life is spared the torment. Lately, Edward Snowden has exposed that intelligence surveillance is flouting even that golden rule.
While surveillance of private life isn't acceptable, suppression of public life isn't desirable. If anybody does or says anything that affects the society as a whole, that individual should be investigated for all the right reasons. Democracy and the rule of law provide the tools to compel an individual in the public domain to disclose himself.
Short of these tools, a cloak of visibility is our only choice. When we can't question the questionable ones, or convict criminals whose crimes unleash a reign of terror, it adds insult to injury if they also thump their chests as being respectable people. Respect is the highest marker of human recognition that has been reduced to a ludicrous sleight of hand.
Faces hiding behind masks, life is full of peekaboo moments. And these moments arise amongst us every time known faces prove unknown. The conflict between preaching and practicing pops out of this compulsive crisis of credentials.
The writer is the editor of weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
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