Dealing with a Pandora’s box!

by Arafat Mohammad Noman

019When someone corrects your mistake and you feel offended it means you have an ego problem. And as a nation we are almost being inundated with our ego. We feed our ego with intolerance, blame-game, grudge, underestimating others and always nurture a mood of defending (or glorifying?) self.
According to psychoanalyst Freud, human psyche is composed of three parts which actually drive our instinct. These are ‘id’, ‘ego’ and ‘super-ego’. ‘Id’ is the set of uncoordinated and unharnessed instincts which lacks morality, patience, feeling of guilt and tolerance. Super-ego is the moral part which tries to yoke the id and makes a balance which we call ‘ego’. In our case, the ‘id’ becomes our ego and there remains no moral balance from the ‘super-ego’.
Today we actually do not have any religion rather than one and that is ‘self opinion’. We choose not to hear to people and always want our opinion to prevail at the end of the day. We have allocated a major portion of our emotion for intolerance: be it religious, political, social, familial or others. However, there is a significant distinction between tolerating something and being intolerant. Tolerating something means a willing vibe to allow something or to put up with something; whereas being intolerant is more about unwilling to grant freedom of expression and that is what exactly happening with us.
Imagine our country has once again been exposed to a calamity and in this case it is a foreign aggression. Can we actually see a ray of hope? Will there be another crack platoon of freedom fighter who, shunning off their class consciousness and difference, actually put a fight against the attack? I may sound pretty pessimistic but I do not see a chance. Why? It’s because we have learnt to mess things up! Taking few examples from the recent past it can be shown that we always find a way towards bifurcation of ideology in times of national interest.
In 2013, people from every sphere of life gathered at Shahbagh, one of the hubs in Dhaka, demanding capital punishment for convicted war criminals of the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. The protest was, at first, made by the bloggers and online activists which soon influenced a huge number of mass people who gathered, voluntarily, in Shahbagh. The movement was non-violent and was much appreciated and attended by the youth. Everything was going smooth and out of nowhere things got messy. The single demand of seeking capital punishment for the war criminals somehow(!) changed into a debate between theist and atheist. The result is a distasteful one: four bloggers have been allegedly killed in 2015 by the extremists. It is our failure that as a nation we could not stick to our own stance for a greater benefit.
Then there is the incident of Pahela Baishakh. At least 20 women were sexually assaulted for over an hour, allegedly under the nose of police, by a group of rowdy youths for over an hour on the evening of April 14, 2015. The case is still dwindling. However, the incident also raised a meaningless debate of whether to veil a woman in public. It even raised question regarding the female dress code and many ‘educated’ persona in social media opinionated that women’s dress is a key factor in inviting sexual assault!
The most recent incident of the students of private universities pursuing protest against 7.5 per cent VAT on private universities’ tuition fees is an excellent example of a successful non-violent movement. There were no records of vandalism and wreckage of public wealth during the movement.
Such a harmless movement also seemed vulnerable to the ruthless dispute of public university versus private university. In social media (especially in Facebook) status and counter-status of public universities’ students and private universities’ students make me feel that the country is on the brink of a civil war. Gladly, the war could not gain ground but that does not mean the dispute is over. We actually cannot stand what is not ‘us’ or ‘me’.
Returning to Freud once again, our unharnessed instinct of intolerance actually derives from the social insecurity we are experiencing. Have we noticed how brutal we act when we start thrashing a mugger? This is because we are suppressing our rage, a rage that has been preserved for all the injustice we reckon in our daily life. The thirteen-year-old Samiul Alam Rajon, the helpless boy Rakib Hawlader and the unfortunate Rabiul Awal- all succumbed to death by the utmost cruelty by the perpetrators.
The institutionalised education proves to be a failure in making us accepting a different opinion. We cannot nourish our children by the old adage of ‘patience is virtue’. Wouldn’t it be great if we could advance another tread or two on the ladder of humanity, and abandon the intolerance that seems so widespread these days? Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to use our differences to jointly create new solutions? It’s high time we start to rethink our way of perceiving things.
The author is a lecturer at the Department of English of East West University

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