Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reflections of a Dreamer

Ever since I wrote my previous post on the BBC Nirbachoni Sanglaps and my thoughts…I was wondering if something was wrong. It just wasn’t feeling right. It was not until one of my most admired mentors told me that I actually realized what it was. I had failed one of my core values – that of always being positive.

The deeply pessimistic tone of my write-up bothers me when I read it. And to be honest, I can’t say I am proud of it. But every mistake deserves a second chance; so this will be my attempt to see my observations in a new light – a much more positive light.

What I saw earlier is what everyone sees, on the surface. Everyone knows that our country’s democracy is premature, citizenry illiterate, and public representatives corrupt and unworthy. There is nothing to “observe” there. What there is to observe is the opportunity in each of these things, which I failed to do earlier when I was transcribing my thoughts.

So our democracy is premature. Let’s look at the major democracies of the world. USA has practiced democracy for 300 years, Britain much longer. Even our neighboring India, the largest democracy in the world, has been in that playing field for 60 years. Each of them have made mistakes (and outright blunders) in the past, and it is not as if they have yet reached perfection. Still, India comes back to the “royal” bloodline of Nehru whenever there is a dissent in the Congress. Still, USA elects a moron like George Bush as its supreme leader, even as Al Gore wins the popular vote. At just 37 years, we have given birth to mass revolutions for democracy as in 1990. We might need some more to achieve the democracy we want, and we will, in time.

So our citizenry is illiterate. How many of us know that Bangladesh is cited as a success story in education all over the world in development studies classes? Of course we have problems with education, but who can deny that we have universal enrollment in primary schools, higher enrollment of girls than boys in secondary level, and a rapidly growing tertiary education sector? Also, does “illiterate” necessarily mean “uninformed”? As one of my friends pointed out, these people do “live within politics”, and have to know about it just to survive. Even though they can’t read newspapers, or ask brilliantly analytical questions, they possess the political acumen to know who would serve their interests. The fact that they don’t often vote for the most educated or polished candidate is less a matter of blind faith for the corrupt party-nominee than a calculated choice based on risks and gains.

So our candidates are corrupt and unworthy. They are devoid of values and a vision, and incapable of running institutions. Let me remind you, the politics so far in this young country has been largely determined and directed by people who reached their political prime before or immediately after ’71. But who says that they will be the ones running this country forever? Nowadays, for every corrupt politician I hear of, I see many people, including myself, who dream of one day changing the way things “have been” to what they “should be”. I see bright and dynamic graduates of top international universities coming back home, and fighting against all odds to make their dream come true. It is a common dream of many people, and when so many people dream something together, as Paolo Coelho would say, “the universe conspires to help you achieve it.”

That brings me to the opportunity that I can now see very vividly. True, the once brilliant white canvas illuminated by the spirit of '71 has been rendered black by the evil of the past 37 years. But why can’t we use that black easel to draw a masterpiece in white ink? Or throw away that canvas, and start on a fresh one altogether? Indeed, isn’t that what the youth has done time and time again in the history of humankind?

Why can’t we?

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one..." - John Lennon