Quazi Mosiur Rahman
LET us start by describing two pertinent issues. First, a politically cognisant teacher frequently asks a question to a new group of students to know how many of them would like to be politically conscious beings. Most often the all pervading silence conveys a big ‘NO’ to politics. The second issue, couple of days ago we witnessed a tragic launch accident. Even the ‘submerged mass coffin’, Pinak-6, could not be traced out. Sadly, people became sympathetically silent with no drive to challenge this mass murder. In this way, every day many nerve-wrecking incidents occur, but people remain in psychopathological paralysis. Is this phenomenon of silence natural or politically induced? In fact, one of the prominent social scientists Fredric Jameson claims, “political perspective is the absolute horizon of all reading and interpretation.” Edward Said, the great intellectual, activist and think-tank of Palestinian liberation movement, senses the same, no knowledge is apolitical. Therefore, digging deeper in to the prevalent politics of silence is in order.
First of all, a bourgeois state does not want its citizens to be critically disposed. That is why it tries to stifle the intellectual and humane growth of its citizenry. It was historically perceived by Buddha and Confucius. According to their understanding, the true purpose of the state machineries is to make people intellectually inadequate so that they become servile and never dare to face up to the authority.
To add, the modern state, in collaboration with corporate capitalism manufactures ‘disimagination machine’, the term used by Georges Didi-Huberman, to castigate critical and intellectually vibrant human beings. At this moment, mainstream politics and collective consciousness devalue reason. People are blindly following, without any sensible and rational question, those beliefs, custom and lifestyles that they are structured to follow.
In that society collective memory is under severe grip of amnesia. People are constructed to possess, if not blank slate, only fragmented dots of history. It becomes possible mainly through a mechanism that presents history to young people as a boring subject with only clusters of some dry dates and events. That does not mean it gets itself detached from history, rather this mechanism emotionally markets historical events via advertisements. In this regard, in Bangladesh the advertisement of mobile phone companies, banks and insurance companies are of relevance. Consequently, people remain apathetic towards in-depth understanding of historical achievements. For example, throughout the world, mass movements barely carry any legacy of golden historical events. Rather they are to follow fresh starts without organized leadership and vivid vision. People are kept aloof because in history there lie dormant some potential antidotes of all kinds of oppression and exploitation.
Not only this, critical thinking which gives impetus to look deeper into any phenomenon has been brutally exiled from academic institutions. Also, studying in other than ones mother tongue, as many seminal researches have proved, reinforces the intellectual sterilization of students. The gradual sterilization leads to commoditization of education which is now so pervasive in Bangladesh. It is because this country unquestionably tries to follow the prescription of international financial institutions which work as the public relation officers of mercantile capitalism, which grounds on skilled labourer and not on freedom loving human beings. Hence, a faulty semester system and purely a GPA driven generation tends to prevail in the leadership of this country. At present, students are allured to study market motivated subjects which are sceptic about greater humane qualities like love, kindness, care, prudence, patience, selflessness etc. Likewise, teachers are encouraged to become mere facilitators or instructors, in other words, corporate executives and not ‘Gurus’ in terms of being philosopher-guides. These trends in education can be identified as an insidious ‘war against thought’.
In addition, there are also endeavours of capitalist culture to depoliticize people. Here is a widely propagated idea — ‘nasty’ politics is for ‘nasty’ people. This is why ‘good’ students should refrain from politics. Regrettably, people barely understand that politics does not refrain from entangling their lives any way. This depoliticizing appears to be dominant when ubiquitous consumer culture designs and preaches a very standardized archetype of a good citizen, to differently put, a naive consumer. Herbart Marcuse substantiates this idea by introducing necessary features of ‘One dimensional man’ of consumer society whose aptitude and ability for critical thinking withers away. Thus, an over encompassing passivity prevails. Pleasure through consumption exists to be the ultimate destination behind all initiatives.
As a consequence, political and corporate disorder perpetuates. Exploitation of the common man goes unchallenged. Equitability and justice are denied. People, for psychological relief, take refuge in fanatic belief and practices. Fatalistic outlook of life tends to determine collective consciousness. As a whole, dehumanization appears to cripple common lives.
In turn, a new Rana Plaza will collapse, hundreds of wage earners will return to the motherland in coffins, public leaders will be burnt alive, law enforcing agencies will slaughter another seven, ‘minorities’ will suffer, and so on. Accordingly, news agencies will publish stories, authorities will torrentially pour commitments for ‘justice’, a few organizations will form human chains, and the people will wait for a more traumatic event to forget the previous one.
Quazi Mosiur Rahman teaches English at Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Dhaka.
- The article initially appeared in the Daily Star on September 2, 2014