As a proud Bangladeshi of the 21st century, I embrace the role of the oppressed. I credit my therapist for this—“Look at the silver lining,” she says, “focus on the positives”. So I do.
I used to be a politically aware person, now I'm too smart to be. Thankfully, this has opened up brain space for other activities, some arguably life saving, like eating at Dhaka's ever-expanding choice of restaurants. I used to write scathing statuses on the state of the state. Fortunately, those thrill seeking days are behind me. Now my newsfeed boasts an impressive array of food photography to truly drive home my vacuous millennial status.
As a citizen, my biggest concern is now me, which is indeed just as it should be. Of the many failing banks, which bank has a relatively lower chance of collapsing so I can put my meagre salary in it? Of the many contaminated produce in the market, which one looks dull enough that I can reasonably suspect they forgot to spray cancerous chemicals on it? Of the many ways to die on the roads, is sitting in endless traffic having my life sucked out of me by pollution the least painful?
Being able to focus on myself has done wonders for my self-esteem, just as my therapist predicted. Previously, I would worry about journalists, academics, diplomats and even the common man simply disappearing off of the streets. “Where is security of life? Where is liberty?” I would fruitlessly post on Facebook, much to the birokti of my other common man friends. Most would be birokto because they had achieved the nirvana of blissful ignorance earlier than me, and so my pessimism messed with their aura. A few would question my grammatical choices—shouldn't there be a 'the' before security of life? Now that I focus on myself though, and post food photos on Facebook, the number of likes has improved dramatically. This has had a direct impact on my self-esteem, making me feel needed and valuable. I am a better me today because of oppression. Kudos to the powers-that-be.
This is why I don't understand the ever-dwindling number of people who protest against oppression. Why are you so negative? Why are you fighting against happiness? Yes, it may be true that there has been a discernable fall in your quality of life, but the state has told us there has been sustained economic growth for the past decade, and so, really, it's your own fault for not drowning in the jowar of unnoyon. If you'd just be more positive, and grateful to your master like those garments factory workers who work for nothing… Have you considered seeing my therapist? She's really good.
Undoubtedly, the state has also done an admirable job of cleaning these riffraff off of the streets. Some of the tools they have used—and I enumerate them here simply as a lesson for other countries so they can learn how to make their own citizens happy too—have been: fostering a climate of fear leading to self-censorship, Section 57 of the ICT Act, enforced disappearances etc. Indeed they have served up such a smorgasbord of oppression that the common man has genuine trouble figuring out which one to focus on. Genius, that.
Now that I am convinced of the good oppression brings to my personal life, I would humbly like to suggest a couple of further moves the state can embrace to truly complete this cycle of happiness.
The state can, I believe, more vigorously indoctrinate people with the truth. The unvarnished truth is that oppressing the citizenry is what's keeping the hordes of extremists at bay. Whilst the Dhaka-based elite already understand this, and thus form the bulk of the blissfully indifferent, the pesky proletariat appear to still be confused. Has communal harmony really improved, they whine, given we are now enacting laws, such as the Acquisition and Requisition of Immovable Property Ordinance 2017, that make it easier and legal to take over properties, including places of worship, owned by minorities? The government must deal firmly with these disbelievers who deny the truth. Despite the budgetary pressure this will create, for the sake of the nation the state must consider increasing oppression. It is heartening that wise policymakers have already begun taking steps in the right direction.
I also believe the state must manufacture the benefits of economic growth. Disney's abiding popularity is proof positive that people like fairy tales, and the fairy tale of bumper economic growth even as the common man's real household income has plunged in the past decade is a fantastic story which gets better with every telling. If the proletariat complain of shooting onion prices, shoot them with onion spray. Given Bangladesh now ranks lowest in food security amongst all of South Asia, shouldn't they just be grateful they could've bought onions if they had the money? If they are bewildered by the implosion of Farmer's and Basic banks, encourage them to choose banks with better names. We all know Cinderella wouldn't have sold as well if it was called Basicella. Have they considered Trust bank?
Overall though, I have nothing but gratitude for the powers-that-be who have made my life enviably uncomplicated and inward-focused. I don't get into political arguments on Facebook anymore, which means I can give more time to my husband. Is there any other state in the world that can boast of giving pahara in the bedroom with such sincerity?
The author of this Section 57 compliant article is a doctoral candidate, specialising in international development.