Friday, August 11, 2006

The UnCivil Society

I am sure a lot of you are following BoI Chairman Mahamudur Rahman’s rant against the CPD and some of their trustees. I agree with the popular stance that Mr. Rahman has lost some of his marbles! (Oh if there is an arrest warrant against me, please start a donation drive to pay Rokkunuddin’s fees!)

But as the saying goes “where there is smoke…”. Okay now before you start your barrage against me; let me put a few riders in. I am not questioning CPD’s interpretation of Bangladesh’s economic or social indicators (that I save for another day!). Neither am I saying the self-confessed salesman is an economist guru! (His recent outburst has dropped him quite a few notches in my respect towards him) What I want to shout out is what gives our “civil society” the right to tell me how to lead my life!

A day hardly goes by without the newspaper being full of some “think tank” or the other, some member of the “susil shomaj” commenting on things that define my life –be it the economy, the society, health or wealth. And don’t even get me started with the diplomatic circle who has forgotten the basic tenants of their trade! And somehow we are all hunky dory with this.

Now of course there is nothing wrong with people expressing what is their point of view, but I have this distinct feeling that if I don’t agree with them then I am not intelligent enough or even worse patriotic enough. Democracy is not that! We are so busy shouting that we are not listening. We have lost our basic civility!

Coming back to CPD and its ilk. Some how I cannot recollect something positive out of them recently. Of course the politics doesn’t work, nor does the economy! But what are they doing about it? Put your backside where your mouth is. Do something about it! And seminars in 5 star hotel don’t count. Foreign donors it seems has so much money to put in for talks and business class tickets that no solution will ever be found! Talking about what is wrong is the biggest business going.

Dr Yunus (another trustee) took a stand recently stating that we need “clean candidates” but how did he follow up? Are you running for elections dear Dr? Why not? Neither of the two political parties have our support. So whom do we vote for? Why don’t you have the balls to live up to your words? Being a tease isn’t right.

Maybe it is a good that they don’t get involved. Do we really want to hand over our economy to someone who single-handedly ruined it in the 70s through a program of nationalisation? Or to a finance minister who stood silently by while General Ershad plundered our coffers? Maybe communist economics has the key to our future!

I am no better. Like all of them, I sit in my Gulshan home taking my frustrations on the keyboard of my PowerMac. What have I done to change my reality? What have anyone of us done? Ask yourself. In the heart of our hearts we know we failed to live up to JFK’s famous statement “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

I don’t know Mahmudur Rahman personally. But I think he gives us some hope. To me he encapsulates the desire to turn to good the bad we have. “Make Lemonade with the Lemon the world gives you” said Charlie Brown (or some other cartoon character!) Our so called intelligentsia will never do for the country’s image what the this salesman is trying.

Dear Friends I don’t know the answers to our problems. But is it good enough to just sit back and criticise everything? Yes the Government isn’t working. But we have gotten the government we deserve. If you don’t like what you see do something to change it. Unfortunately I am scared that because it is easier to critic rather than do we will always be busy talking and wallowing in the lost potential of Bangladesh. I am terrified that I too don’t have what it takes to take a stand. Maybe I should apply for a CPD membership.

Isn’t it time we became truly civil?


Quazi M. Ahmed said...

Dear Farhan,

Enjoyed reading your piece, although I can't say I agree with you often.

But hey, why pick on Prof. Yunus? He is doing a great job selling Bangladesh (even Mahmudur Rahman talked about it at the meeting with Economic Reporters Forum) at what he does best: social innovations!

We need future leaders who are dyanmic, young and possibly educated abroad...seems to me that you fit the description and why not run for election this time? Or next time??!

Quazi M. Ahmed
Founder and CEO, FutureleaderS
Banani, Dhaka

Iru said...

You'r funny dude! I kinda like whats going on 'tween BOI & CPD; it makes an otherwise boring life more fun.

I pretty much believe we live in a democracy and we are just getting the crap we deserve. Nothing wrong with critic's and blaming everyone except oneself because its all part of the system we have so unitedly created and uphold.

Some of us in the society are trying to change it for the better. Bad news folks, y'all are still a minority.

Welcome back to the blog world matey!

Tasneem said...

You surely like people who tend to style themselves as 'salesmen'. However, Mahmudur Rahman was never a clean shit of paper himself, remember the Beximco fiasco? Now, where I agree with you is on the existence of a thought hegemony this country suffers, and think-tanks like CPD and NGOwallas disguised as 'sushil samaj' are definitely to blame. At times this really gets frustrating. Let's not forget also, 'image of the country' and 'patriotic salesmen' are not good signs, too.

Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...

Quazi : Doc Y and I have a love/hate relationship. The next post to explain it a bit more I hope. And as for running for elections - Vote Farhan fund has opened!

Iru: Thanks dude! Hope I am a more regular now!

Tasneem: Well being a salesman myself I have a soft corner for "my kind". Personally I don't think what BoI Chairman has done is right. He blown this thing up too much. CPD and other such think tank of course should have a say. Debate is always good. But then we should be able to take the side we want.

Incidentaly I just browsed to your site. I'll give it a proper look see. Folks check out

Anonymous said...

Your "Uncivil Society" is very well-written and argued -- congratulations! I know most of these economists of the so-called civil society (in fact, the evil one), who you have rightly pointed out, supported the utopian, half-hearted socialism of Awami Govt in the 1970s or obediently supported Ershad the Crook. Dr Yunus and his ilk are now kowtowing the IMF and Western donors running the so-called think tanks and rapacious evil NGOs like the Grameen Bank. Hell with them all.

Anonymous said...

What I find most amazing the way some Bangladeshi
media and intellectuals are re-acting to Mahbubur Rahman's filing a defamation case against certain eminent people. I don't know what these eminent people had said about Mr Rahman, but people should respect his right to feel aggrieved and taking legal action. No body is above the law. Let the law take its own course. Alas! the average bangladeshi intellectuals don't have any respect for law and each other.

Anonymous said...

Surely the following points are mutually exclusive, viz.

(1) Legal action by Mahmudur Rahman

(2) Negative reporting by CPD.

That's the whole point of the issue. The contemptible action of Mahmudur Rahman was to justify point number 1 using point number 2. The Rajakar part was a smokescreen.

I think you could have criticised CPD in a separate blog. Combining the two points clouded the big picture.