These days, one has to keep all the “right” answers ready for questions one has no answers to. After all, this is not the United States of America, where the head of the state follows the “Bring your daughter to work day” rules and shows up with his little girl at G20 summit and divorces the Paris Accord. After all, we are not the citizens of the leading democracy in the world, which has elected a man who is an unending inspiration for late night comedy shows. After all, we don't have leaders who have their children guarding their parent and turning an administration into a badly-run family business. In all honesty, I wonder what would happen to our leaders if they even slightly came close to what Trump feels, tweets, does or defends. Would we ever forgive them? I quite don't think so.
In the political history of faux pas, apart from the routine Trumpian ones, the closest that the United States has ever come to was with Sarah Palin in what may be the most damaging interview any candidate on a presidential ticket had ever given, in which Palin made one idiotic statement after another while responding to CBS's Katie Couric. In an instant, all over the globe, Palin was mocked for her failure to remember any Supreme Court decisions other than Roe v. Wade along with her inability to name a single newspaper or magazine she had read other than “all of 'em, any of 'em,” and finally for claiming her foreign policy experience having stemmed from Alaska's proximity to Russia. In times like this, do people resent these leaders? Yes, they do. Remember the time when an Iraqi journalist hurled his size-9 Hush Puppies shoes at President Bush during a news conference in Baghdad, which prompted amusing internet mock-ups of Bush ducking pies and snowballs?
Truth is, at a time when many try and use laws to suit their own conveniences, many of us end up suing or being sued for different issues. So, one has to watch words carefully before spitting them out. Even utterances in social media don't go unnoticed. But in case of our finance minister, most of us will have the heart not to critique him when he says “rubbish” and speaks the truth the next minute. For instance, after having read out the long list of 100 topmost defaulters in front of the members of parliament, he, after just a day, blurted out the truth of the “real” defaulters having escaped the list. While many of us laugh every time he says “rubbish,” deep down inside many know that most of the time his utterances correspond to the truth that cannot be shared out in the open, as “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
There are many actors at play. Some take advantage of the political system, some reap benefits of “chamcha-hood” and some simply stay naïve and sound infantile. In the meantime, we threaten the very fabric of democracy and embarrass our topmost leaders.
After all, what did anyone gain by inventing a new label for the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) as “Rahmat of Allah” (mercy of Allah) for Bangladesh? Seriously? I am quite certain that neither RAB nor the MP's party appreciated the stretch of his exaltation. Or what did even hurling eggs at Imran and Ullash of Gonojagoron Mancha achieve? Did we think that flung rotten eggs would make Imran or Ullash change their minds about how they perceive the administration? Right when the country is faring well, and at a time when the government can legitimately claim success for all that it has achieved, callous sycophancy can endanger the election landscape. Don't we know that already?
And what exactly did the Mayor of Dhaka North achieve by hurriedly stating that he wasn't responsible for the indoor mosquitoes? The statement could have been an instant response to a tricky question from a reporter, but as an elected representative, isn't he supposed to hold his ground and explain himself better? In his defence, one could also say that he is undertaking a Herculean task of transforming a city that is a prey to the greed of the land grabbers who pay no heed to the law. In his defence, one could always say that his response was an instant reaction to people expecting him to shoulder most of the problems that were not created from his end. But I will refrain from using his defence and rather urge him to act as a responsible elected representative who will not only give us a patient hearing (when we face troubled times) but also ensure that we clearly know his intentions and his roadmap to solve problems that this city has had for a long time. Whoever said, politics was easy? None.
On that note of caution, I too will hold my tongue and not speak my mind about why we have had our export figures falling and why I think, targets should be set according to the realities on the ground. After all, if readymade garment export has grown only by .20 percent in a year and if we have fallen 5 percent short of our total projected growth target, there must be a serious warning somewhere. If automation is fast taking over the industry, where and how will we accommodate our workers who will lose their jobs? Are we ready for an inward looking economy? Ouch. Truth hurts. More later.
Rubana Huq is the Managing Director of Mohammadi Group.