Dickens might as well been writing about today’s Bangladesh when he said “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
We live in interesting times caught in dichotomy between optimism and pessimism about our nation’s prospect. Standing on the edge of greatness we are trying to look into the crystal ball and see what the future holds. We are waiting for Destiny to reveal her hand and tell us what is in store tomorrow. Is it the promise of greatness or the decay of despair?
These questions are most definitely in the minds of the Generation ’71. And to them I say, my fellow brothers and sisters, the future is now. We need to take charge of our nation’s path and pave it with honey and gold if we want to. We cannot wait and play out the hand that is dealt. We have to do the dealing. It is our calling and any failure can only be on our shoulders.
To Gen ’71 being a Bangladeshi is the only identity we know. We are too young (or not even born in most cases) to remember the War of Independence and its aftermath. Or for that matter the bloody days in mid 70s. Or the birth of BNP. Or the military rule of the 80s.
In most cases our political awakening happened in the last days of the Ershad era. When as students we spearheaded the movement for democracy. We dreamt of a new nation with the luring promise of participation in our own destiny. Oh how that dream collapsed. In just 15 years the mood went from one of anticipation to one of complete hopelessness. How could we have let slip between our fingers the pledge that we made? Rightly today the great philosopher of our times Hyder Hussyn sings “why are we still looking for democracy even after 30 years?” Recently a voice of our generation, Zafar Sobhan of the Daily Star, eloquently affirmed the demise of the Fourth Republic.
Welcome to the Fifth Republic. These are the early days. The days of optimism. The days of a new beginning. The days where the responsibility of framing the manifesto rests on the shoulders of Gen ‘71 as the constituent members of the new Republic. I hope my generation is up for this task.
Often I hear the argument that our generation has failed to live up to expectations. And as evidence number 1, Mr. Tarek Rahman / Zia and his motley crew are presented. Let us make it clear for once and for all; TR(Z) & co. do not represent us. They are, if conventional wisdom is to be believed, nothing but a bunch of self-serving, corruption-fuelled, misguided, uneducated good for nothings. They did not take on themselves the task of building a nation. They just hoodwinked you into believing so while they robbed us of our prosperity. By saying that they represent Gen ’71 is like saying that the trash from Dhaliwood represents the best of Bangla culture.
So who does represent us? I know many many fine Bangladeshi young men and women who are making great strides in the country and outside. You just need to look at the ever-growing buzz on various places on the Internet to feel the high calibre of debates. Just browse through any TV channel or read any newspaper to see the contribution this generation is already making in moulding our agenda. From IT to Life Science, from Sports to Journalism, from Business to Private Service, no aspect of Bangladeshi society or economy is without the influence of this generation. Well except one glaring field -politics.
Ah the dirty word! When I say I want to be one there is so much negativity from all around. Why, my family wonders would I want to get into such a dangerous world? Why do I want to wade into the filth and muck of a thankless profession? Have I gone mad? Or is it that I want to make my fortune overnight? Over the last 5 to 7 years whenever this topic came up I found myself in a lonely corner. Today I hope there will be many to join me. After all we make up more than 75% of the current electorate. We are the majority my friends. If we do not voice our desire now no one will do it for us again. We have been yet again given a unique opportunity. Let us not drop the ball on this one.
We have many tasks in hand that we need to address. To start with, we need to reform our Education system. It needs to have more focus on the needs of our industry and statehood. We need to address the reforms that are needed in the judiciary and bureaucracy. Checks and balances are essential to ensure that no one in the future can hijack the nation. We need to bring the nation into the global village. Trade, currency and commercial reforms are essential if we need to benefit from the power of our people. This list is long but the beginnings need to be made. The task now in hand is to move forward with a renewed vigour. New dreams need to be believed in. New adventures embarked upon.
To catch onto the idiom of the times, “the light at the end of the tunnel” is blindingly bright. We need to take out our sunglasses and get into the task of building a nation. A new beginning my friends; a new ray of hope; a new promise; a new republic; a new Bangladesh.
Published in the Daily Star Independence Day Special supplement of 26th March 2007 [http://www.thedailystar.net/suppliments/2007/march/26thmarch/generation.htm]