Our restless republic – Mohammad Badrul Ahsan

Our restless republic – Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
It has been said many times in many ways. We are a nation of fickle minds, which are as quick to remember as to forget. A few weeks ago there was uproar over the sending of our priceless artefacts to a private museum in France. Before that, we were wildly ecstatic over the demolition of a high-rise building. We are also a nation that was once terribly shocked by the scandalous appointment of a fake as High Court judge. But then something happened, and we forgot. We lose interest in the bygones as fast as boys grow tired of toys.

Could it be that the nation is suffering from the attention-deficit disorder? Why can’t we pay attention and follow through something to its end? We raise issues and we erase them. What we start falls apart. It’s like writing on the shifting sand, which lasts until the next wind blows.

So what happened to those artefacts which were already sent to France? What about the stolen pieces which were smashed? Why was there so much inordinate interest from certain quarters to send those artefacts abroad? What happened to our ambassador in France? Was his death an accident? Did he die under some kind of stress? How did the smugglers get their hands on those two pieces of artefacts? Who was responsible for their security? Why did the adviser resign? How much did he know?

Turn to the high-rise building next. It’s a sad case of how something could go from sublime to ridiculous. What happened to the decision to demolish the building? One deadline was end of last November. The government was supposed to scrap the top sixteen floors and then pay off the owner for the remaining six floors. Why was the demolition work of this building so badly managed? Who gave the demolition contract to a company of ship-breakers? Why nothing was done for several days to recover the dead bodies rotting away under the wreckage?

Here comes the case of the pretender, the man who went to the High Court with false credentials. Where is he now? Who gave him the false certificate? Is the government taking any actions against him? Has he confessed to his crime? Will he be punished if guilty? Will his name be cleared if innocent?

These are but few examples of how we never get to the bottom of anything. Not too long ago, we heard about mindless plundering by the politicians. Big numbers were quoted; hundreds and thousands of crores were funneled out of the country. But now the numbers don’t add up. How much money has been recovered? Where are some of the convicts who have been sentenced, but still are out on the run? Where are they hiding? Why most of those arrested are accused of extortion only? What about bribery, abuse of power or money laundering? Why can’t some of them be accused of violating code of conduct and oath of office?

In the early days of this caretaker government, we were told that the advisors were going to let us have their wealth statements. I don’t recall if anyone of them had done it, but now there is a complete lull. Now nobody talks about it, not even after five new advisors took office last week. Another example of the vagaries of our minds; we desire as passionately as we discard.

What does it tell of us as a nation? It tells that we are pretty erratic, that we are in two minds, swayed by craze, weighed by emotions, and that we are impulsive, reactive and restless. It tells that we are constantly instant, living for the moment, love and hate taking turns like two sides of a twirling coin.

It explains why we have allowed our history to be distorted, why governments have made amendments to textbooks as if history was made of fiction, not of facts. It explains why our leaders don’t keep their promises, because they know our secret. They know we don’t have much attention span. We turn the page and move on. Sooner or later, we are going to forget.

We treat history like recurring current. From time to time we remember that the war criminals of 1971 haven’t been tried. From time to time we realise that the killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are still at large. From time to time it occurs to us that democracy is threatened by our politicians. Every now and then we get upset because governments step out of line. Sometimes we enter the lucid moments. We are in the fog most other times.

While it’s healthy to forget, it’s unhealthy not to remember. We are all over the place, remembering when it’s necessary to forget and forgetting when it’s necessary to remember. Nietzsche once said: "To forget makes you free." The Americans are troubled by the memory of slavery. The Germans are troubled by their Nazi past. The British are troubled by their colonial atrocities. We are troubled by what? What makes us so antsy? Why are we captives of memories, and fugitives of oblivion? Or is it the other way around?

What happened to the pending lawsuits against an erstwhile dictator? Some were postponed, others were closed. After a while we lost count. We don’t know if he has been acquitted of all charges or managed to dodge some of them. It was done like a magician’s juggle, from left hand to right hand, from right hand to left, so fast that those who watch can’t tell which hand has what.

Likewise, facts are shuffled back and forth many ways and many times, which creates confusion in our minds. In that confusion the real and the unreal lump together and we lose sense of space and time. One year and one week since that fateful day of January last year, we are going back to square one. Old bottle and new wine! New bottle and old wine! No matter what, we aren’t changing much.

Mohammad Badrul Ahsan is a banker. | Article courtesy of DailyStar | Link posted by Baduzzaman Khan

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