As a nation once we could boast of moral uprightness, lofty thoughts and ideas, universal human feelings and apathy for others and respect for fairness and justice. But, the situation has changed by recent decades. Everything has turned upside down, gone haywire. Deception, corruption, adultery, cheating and moral turpitude of similar kinds have occupied our psyche, private and public life. We are putting on the façade of moral integrity by hiding our real character. We are masquerading as good and honest people. Our appearance is all that we boast of in public.Nowadays we cannot name a certain social class or section who sticks to moral behaviours in their own spheres. Teachers, doctors, engineers, business people, journalists and even those who are the custodians of law and moral values in society -none can claim to be upholding those values. Now, one will find some good people only amongst those who are on the periphery and are so poor and weak that their existence hardly matters to the powerful but immoral men. The situation is so dangerous that people have begun to think unethical conduct as normal. Freestyle bribery has become common in government offices. That is why, there is no grudge in showing the price of a book of medical science 85 thousand 5 hundred taka in voucher which actually cost five thousand taka. The cruellest tree-feller is on the list of the best tree-planters. Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is after the small fries keeping the big guns untouched.
Our condition as a nation has become conditioned to artificiality and simulation. We cannot find inspiration without artificial stimulators. If we the people want to deceive people, there are plenty of means to that end. The whole Bangladesh seems to be floating on Yaba because we need artificial stimulant to remove our biological impotence. We hire professional motivator speakers to motivate our young generations. Our humble school teachers who once were role model for us to emulate are no more found. We need teacher trainers from Malaysia, Sri Lanka to train our university teachers. But, only 30 years ago a huge number of Malaysian students came to Dhaka University for higher studies. Thousands of our doctors worked in Libya and Iran in the 1980s and 1990’s when I was an adolescent. Now, our first rate private hospitals are in a cat like race in hiring Indian doctors. Our patients cannot rely on our doctors; billions of taka are moving out of the country for treatment abroad. We jaywalk while our foot bridges are deserted.
Many of our public servants are not morally sound and professionally smart. The post of Deputy Commissioners (DC) is a conventionally prestigious position in the district level administrations where the posts of DC, Police Superintendent, District Judge are held in high respect and veneration by the local populace. The DCs in the district represent the Head of the Government. There is a hearsay that a DC can directly call the Prime Minister over the red phone to inform any matter of urgency in his jurisdiction.
But, recently the activities of some DCs have undermined the dignity of the post. The adultery, corruption of some DCs, for example, in Jamalpur and Hobiganj have become talk of the country. A couple of months ago, a DC in another district had to be withdrawn for allegation of indecent advances to a junior lady colleague. This sort of moral turpitude was once very rare among us. This malpractice could have been avoided if character check was done professionally while making the DC fit list. A national newspaper reported that though DC Ahmed Kabir was not on the fit list for DC, the then State Minister for Public Administration’s interference made him occupy the post.
The appointment of DCs and SPs should be made on the basis of quality, integrity and moral uprightness. But, recently the selection has become questionable. The situation is the reflection of our overall moral turpitude. If the state machineries are used for one machination, then they feel free to think that they are immune from all accountability. If political parties use them either to retain power or to muzzle the opposition, these state agencies think them above law and engage in malpractices. That is explicitly evident in the reckless and immoral activities of some personnel of the law-enforcing agencies and civil administration.
Do these immoral activities always bring any benefit for them? No, not in the long run. It actually weakens the foundations of good governance, paralyses the moral backbone of people and perverts the perception of decency. We can recall here one myth about constructive deception employed by one member of the ancient Indian academia that befitted our literary heritage. It is about the legendary Sanskrit poet Kalidas. The poet Kalidas was not only poor but also unintelligent. The king of Baranosi wanted to marry his scholar daughter off with the noted grammarian Borruchi. But, the princess rejected Borruchi on the ground of being not up to her level in knowledge. Being rejected Borruchi was determined to take revenge upon the princess. While returning home, he saw that the unintelligent Kalidas was cutting the branch of the tree he was sitting on. Borruchi thought that his objective would be fulfilled by this unintelligent boy. He engineered a plan. He would present Kalidas as an erudite person to the princess and the king so that the princess would agree to marry him. He taught Kalidas not to utter a single word whatever was asked to him. So, Kalidas did not give answer to any question of the princess. Borruchi was successful to convince the people including the princess present there that the boy was too erudite to give answer to any lady’s question. So, the princess was married off to Kalidas.Within a few days the learned princess could discover the ‘shallow erudition’ of Kalidas. As Kalidas could not pronounce the Sanskrit word ‘Ustro’, the angry princess ordered Kalidas to leave home instantly. The home-leaving husband started to worship Kali and acquired erudition in grammar, rhetoric and ethics. As he was blessed by Kali, he got the name Kalidas. Afterwards he returned home and concentrated in writing poetry. The illiterate Kalidas achieved miraculous poetic power with the blessings of Kali. What we have learned from this myth is that the deception employed by Borruchi gave us a great poet of ancient Sangskrit literature Kalidas. But, the fact is that all deceptions in the mundane world do not always yield benefit for the mankind and give birth to great creation.
Deception has different connotations to people. The perception of being deceived is the dodgiest one. Though your deception may on many occasions not be detected by the other person you are deceiving, your good intentions and deeds may also be perceived as act of deception by another. Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir’s case may be cited here. In 2013, the Bangladesh government honoured 69 foreign nationals for supporting Bangladesh during the War of Independence. Hamid's father Waris Mir and 12 other Pakistanis were among them. Late professor and journalist Waris Mir wrote a series of reports in Urdu newspaper 'Daily Jang' on the atrocities carried out by Pakistani soldiers on Bengalis in the then East Pakistan on the night of Mar 25, 1971. He had also visited Bangladesh with a group of students. The PM Hasina, conferred the Friend of Bangladesh Liberation War award on Waris posthumously in 2013. Mir had received the award on behalf of his father. Mir came to Dhaka to receive the award skipping a ceremony in Pakistan that conferred the highest civilian award on him for advocating freedom of press.
A few years later he claimed the award was actually a "deception" by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, who he blamed for straining ties with Pakistan. Mir made the announcement during one of his shows of Capital Talk . "She (Hasina) wants to cut off all ties with Pakistan which means that award was a deception. I believe we should say thanks and return this deception to Hasina and that's what I will do," said Mir. Now it seems that the awards given to us were a deception." But, the PM Hasina reiterated that she was not thinking of cutting off diplomatic ties with Pakistan though at that time a strained relationship was going on between Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Sometimes good people may also misconceive the good gesture of people. Mr. Mir should not be maligned on that single ground. A patriotic feeling might have been behind his changed attitude. May be Mr. Mir’s position was justified on that count. To him the interest of his mother land, Pakistan counts more than all other things. Even though his accusation of deception against the PM was not right, he is respected for his liberal stand on the independence of Bangladesh and regret for atrocities committed by the Pakistani forces. All of us should hold our heads high in defence of our motherland and her interest. A morally strong person should naturally do it. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that as all activities of a person should not be construed as benign job; similarly every intention of that person should not be read as an act of deception.
The writer is an Associate Professor & Chairman, Department of English, BGC Trust University, Chattogram. [email protected])