Big chunks of rubbish float at the top
US president-elect Joe Biden's meticulous selection of office-bearers for various portfolios should make one realise the importance of competence. Contenders are rife with relevant education. Those lacking in institutional training make the field with vast work experience. And all are reputed as cogs in a working team. Yet, each nominee is open to public scrutiny and criticism, and at the butt of political rivalry. Furthermore, the multi-party Senate will have a final voice in several of the key positions, meaning national interest comes first. That's a lot different from Donald Trump's America First.
A self-inflicted ill-fated country, Bangladesh included, may allow circumstances to go beyond its control; by choice, would you believe? Some persons therein may reach the pinnacle of an office without having adequate aptitude, pertinent education, or meaningful work experience. How the dozokh do they manage that? Well, they have favour-mongering dulabhais at the right places, often for an exact price.
Some appointing authorities are tickled when their profile is blown out of proportion. Several heads of institutions are gullible to the extent that they can be preyed upon by the underqualified manipulators. And, yes, some are indeed conniving relatives, within and outside wedlock. The phrase "more than brother" could have its origin in these halls of injustice.
By all means a politician should head a ministry to safeguard national interest, but he must groom himself for the responsibility. Some indeed do. The problem lies with the bureaucrats, who are supposed to steady the various ministries. If both are depending on "general" general knowledge, then we the people could be in trouble.
Fortified in his acquired citadel, today's financial expert is tomorrow's authority on fisheries, and the day after tomorrow, a transformed connoisseur of music and movies. No, he will not be manning the cultural ministry. That is for the one who knows not the difference between prose and poetry.
Why should anybody accept any position? Reasons of being thrust to power in the absence of a suitable candidate, or "I am my uncle's nephew", are not acceptable.
The first question any respectable person should ask is, "Can I deliver?" Donald could not "Make America Great Again" in the line of his partisan thinking due to contradictory philosophies of selective inclusion and exclusion. More often than not, all that a country needs is unity on its central themes instead of discord.
I have given this matter some thought, and may I cajole you to do likewise, since anybody could be appointed to anywhere. If I were to be offered a ministerial position, I would have to refuse the portfolio of "health" because checking my blood sugar does not make me an authority on diabetes. Although I have visited 50 countries, I would hardly be able to manage Biman's fleet and so I would have to pass "civil aviation" too. Although the ongoing pandemic has afforded me time to enrich our roof garden, "agriculture" is still not my vegetable soup.
We have seen larger-than-life "specialists". During the reign of one long-disserving despot, design competitions were staged to select the consultant for different government buildings. Architectural works were then few and far between. Almost the entire fraternity of architects thereby sweated to produce schemes, drawings and 3D cardboard models. As a rule, they were victims of state-sponsored scams.
Reportedly, the day before the design proposals were submitted and the make-believe competition got under way, the firm that was able to create an unholy rapport, would clandestinely show the model to the "chief executive". During the actual evaluation, since it was an important project, the "boss" would be invited to shed his opinion. After a hint of drama, he would single out the model he had earlier seen from amongst 30 others as the "winner".
What took weeks to conceive, develop, and render was decided in half a minute. The laboured evaluation of the jurists was ridiculed. The hard work of the architects was futile. Professionalism took a backseat. But, above all, the country was being fed to the dogs. A dictator cares naught for the values that make a great nation. It took a mass movement to remove him and his cohorts. The head that wears the crown by force is a man disrespected.
Such misdemeanour trickles down. Last week the Health Directorate conducted a written examination among 24,000 candidates to select Medical Technologists. Held after 12 years, many of the examinees were aided by mobile calls, the Internet, and copying. Proxy was common (jagonews24.com, December 12, 2020).
There are no further crosschecks. Never wonder again why SSC dropouts run our hospitals, how diagnostic laboratories are hostage to fraudsters, how a businessman can conduct radiography, why radiotherapy can run alongside a mobile outlet, how physiotherapy can be executed by a dental technician. Ouch!
Yet, we are not alone in shunning professional excellence. British virologist Dr David Matthews, who has studied coronaviruses for 30 years, lamented that he was not contacted by the government when the pandemic began. He was part of the only UK team working on human coronaviruses when Covid-19 first surfaced in China (Sky News).
By definition, a professional engages in works that call for intellectual effort, rather than mere mechanical dexterity. Penned perhaps by an architect, an engineer, a medical doctor or a lawyer, by that count, Leonardo Messi would be an amateur. Diego Maradona too was an artist without any proven talent with paint and brush.
It is the service provided with integrity and the attitude that defines a professional. Thereby, a degree-dharee may turn out to be the most non-professional entity that there ever was. Isn't that more often than not?
Nizamuddin Ahmed is a practising Architect, a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.