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  #1  
Old August 3, 2006, 01:27 AM
samircreep samircreep is offline
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Default A Culture of Convenient Ignorance

By now, a lot of you probably have read about the disruption/cancelling of Monica Ali's Brick Lane movie rendition. I also saw a post in the forum about it and was reading some of the comments. I'd like to share a small anecdote which I hope would elaborate my take on some of the attitudes that run in both Bangladeshis living at home and abroad.

This was four years ago when i first came back from abroad and started work at an NGO. One of my colleagues and I would share a ride back home to Gulshan. On evenings when it would get late, I would see prostitutes lurking around in most of the dark corners (these were pre-RAB days mind you) waiting for customers to come by. One day, I mentioned to my colleague how bad I felt about the harsh life these women had to face, getting stick from both their customers and cops. My colleague looked very surprised and asked me what I was talking about. Didn't I know that prostitution is banned in Bangladesh and Bengali women would never sell their bodies? It was my turn to get surprised. Surely he had to have noticed at least ten different women we see every day stanidng in the street corners. But he hadn't and chided me for being not in touch with our "Bengaliness": a Bengali woman would never do this kind of work.

So the next time we passed a sex worker, I stopped the car and called out to one of them. I asked her how many customers they get every night (around 12-15), how much they earned (between 2 to 4 thousand) and who their customers were (mostly Gulshan shahebs but also a lot of cops who never pay). All this in front of my colleague who dropped his jaw. Later on, to break the ominous silence in the car, i asked if how come he never noticed these women before. His reply:I thought they were just women standing and "waiting for the bus."This time it was my turn to be silent.

That was four years ago and during that time I have met way too many people like my colleague: selectively constructing their own cultural image of who we (Bengalis) are and what we stand for, a social construction that is at most times completely disconnected from reality.

But back to Monica Ali. The other day, I saw an interview of the protestors who had taken insult to the authors version of their beloved neighbourhood. To them, all was well and fine in Brick Lane, Islam was a beautiful religion and all Muslim men treat their women amazingly. Monica Ali's rendition was a horrible abheration of the truth and (ironically) their view was based on "facts" unlike the fiction created by Ms. Ali. I wasn't the least bit surprised to see that there wasn't single woman present in coterie of middle aged Bangladeshi men sitting with smug smiles on their faces.

My point is not that Bangladeshis don't selectively create their own identity at the cost of reality: which society doesn't? But these past four years living and working in Bangladesh have made me realize that not only is introspection and self-realization very rare amongst us, our identities are so frail and insecure that when we do face reality, not only do we not accept it, but we try our best to obfuscate and distort it.

Wake up Bangladesh.
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  #2  
Old August 3, 2006, 04:38 AM
Arnab Arnab is offline
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I have a feeling that the act of responding to your thread, too, might be convenienty ignored.
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  #3  
Old August 3, 2006, 11:06 AM
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This is just a general human trait, "if you don't look at it, its not there". Harsh realities are "subconciously" overlooked; and the result: "We live in happy happy word". Some are so deep into it that they have no idea how the world around them works.

Sad indeed, but I don't see any easy way change to this trait. May be one person at a time...


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  #4  
Old August 3, 2006, 11:30 AM
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"Honesty is the best policy." We all say it, very seldom we will find a person living by it. We are not honest to ourselves. That's why we have the cloak of deception around us and can't wake up.
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Old August 3, 2006, 01:35 PM
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True, thats one of the fact you pointed out. Now, who is responsible for that? You can easily find out the reasons if you put some thoughts in it. I wud say not the bengalis, but its our luck of weak leadership.

When we say "We" the Bengali , somehow its not right too. Take a global view and you will see what is important is education. Ajkal amader ek stupid netar pichone dosjon tosamodkari ghure, why? because they get paid and get some vibe from all around - which they dont get otherwise.

If these tosamodkaris were educated, he wud have thought again before becoming one of these tails of leaders....who is to blame? the fcuked up world system - blame to the misuse of power.

The sad thing is, Our nation is waiting for the right leader. Its a young country and we r so far unlucky in case of finding a leader to make this land of beautiful hearts organized.
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  #6  
Old August 3, 2006, 01:39 PM
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Yes, its very easy to identify and point out our limitations after having lived abroad. SC, perhaps your NGO can work towards (however challenging it might be) providing them with alternatives for a better life. After all, if it ain't the empowered folks such as yourself who work to make the difference, who can? And maybe that is also what you have been doing in the past 4 years.
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Old August 3, 2006, 02:04 PM
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The culture of Convenient Ignorance is only one of the many ills that ail our society. The more insidious ill that seems to permeate every strata is the Culture of Violent Intolerance.

Daily examples abound:

- Anti-Ahmadiya bigotry
- Campus riots
- Street processions and car burning
- Mosque bombings
- Cultural funtions bombing
- JMB
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  #8  
Old August 3, 2006, 08:41 PM
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well, your colleague is an idiot...

i am sure bangladesh has a messed up society, as does every other nation. but again that is completely dependent on what you call messed up.

for example, your colleague denied the existance of prostitution because he wantd to believe that BD society was largely (or completely) pure. obviously, he viewed the existance of hookers as violating that pristine society.

but suppose one had a purely islamic society. one in which drug use was zero, alcohol was non-existant, women had equitable rights, men didn't didnt go crazy with regards to their women, education and literacy rates were 100%, poverty was alleviated, crime rate was 0, etc, etc. this would still be, to some ppl, a terrible place to live. i am sure pat robertson (my favorite example) would decry this society because it lacks the proper amount of jesus power.

so it really depends on who you ask. i am sure if every single person in banglades was a prostitute, it would be a great place for pimps.

with all that devils advocation, i really don't have many opinions on brick lane. do i like the book? no. do i appreaciate her stabs at islam? no. but at the end of the day...what does it matter?
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  #9  
Old August 3, 2006, 09:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zunaid
The culture of Convenient Ignorance is only one of the many ills that ail our society. The more insidious ill that seems to permeate every strata is the Culture of Violent Intolerance.

Daily examples abound:

- Anti-Ahmadiya bigotry
- Campus riots
- Street processions and car burning
- Mosque bombings
- Cultural funtions bombing
- JMB
you are wrong ahmadiya are the ones who are anti-Muslims ( not all ), there messiah believed that firingis are their sword !!! what kind of prophet relies more on human power than on ALLAH TA-ALA's power? ahmadiyas were created from the hatred of Muslims by some firingis and that is why they have anti-Muslim feelings, I for one say you have the right to believe in things that you want to believe in, so I do not care how many ahmadiyas are out there, it is the loss of ahmadiyas themselves if they want to spread lies about Muslims and choose dajjal's heaven over ALLAH TA-ALA's.

okay ... once again no offense to peaceful ahmadiyas, you can come to us with your books and evidence and vice versa, we help each other out.
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  #10  
Old August 6, 2006, 01:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhferdaus
you are wrong ahmadiya are the ones who are anti-Muslims ( not all ), there messiah believed that firingis are their sword !!!
I'm yet to meet any Ahmadiyya person, so all this talk of them "being anti-muslims and what not" really disturbs me. On what basis do you say this is their belief? I know you explained that firingis used them to create division, etc but is all this really substantiated?

Desmond Tutu explained very simply that extremism is when one person says my beliefs are better than yours. I dont know what Ahmadiyyas believe, but its distressing to see the harsh (re)action from us mainstream Muslims to enforce our views and opinions on all segments, and not just Ahmadiyyas by this "we speak the truth and all those who defy us must be annihilated" attitude.

Regarding the Brick Lane thingy and the NGO story, I sympathise with Samircreep's point of view and agree how conveniently blind our society chooses to be. I fully agree that we need criticism and differences of opinion to identify what is wrong with our communities and country and Act on that to better ourselves, rather than go on the backfoot and brandish our ideal image however untrue it is.

But its weird because when someone here in Canada tells me about all the ills of BD I feel naturally inclined to defend and point out all the other positives. It doesnt mean that I am ignorant of the ills, but that I just choose to put forward whats positive and all that good work that is done to improve things.
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Old August 7, 2006, 08:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ammark
I'm yet to meet any Ahmadiyya person, so all this talk of them "being anti-muslims and what not" really disturbs me. On what basis do you say this is their belief? I know you explained that firingis used them to create division, etc but is all this really substantiated?

Desmond Tutu explained very simply that extremism is when one person says my beliefs are better than yours. I dont know what Ahmadiyyas believe, but its distressing to see the harsh (re)action from us mainstream Muslims to enforce our views and opinions on all segments, and not just Ahmadiyyas by this "we speak the truth and all those who defy us must be annihilated" attitude.

Regarding the Brick Lane thingy and the NGO story, I sympathise with Samircreep's point of view and agree how conveniently blind our society chooses to be. I fully agree that we need criticism and differences of opinion to identify what is wrong with our communities and country and Act on that to better ourselves, rather than go on the backfoot and brandish our ideal image however untrue it is.

But its weird because when someone here in Canada tells me about all the ills of BD I feel naturally inclined to defend and point out all the other positives. It doesnt mean that I am ignorant of the ills, but that I just choose to put forward whats positive and all that good work that is done to improve things.
Ahmadiya website ...

and I do not care about putting over my view on them, it is something they have to take responsibility on themselves, if they want we can have a violence free dialogue with them.

I am just saying most of BD people do not actually care about Ahmadiya/Kadiyani group, but some people do and it is overhyped, while they put up anti Muslim sentiment upon their websites, which I did not find healthy, perhaps they are reacting to anti-kadiyani websites ... I do not know about their thinking.
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  #12  
Old August 7, 2006, 10:34 PM
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No society is perfect, so it's not surprising if ignorance becomes convenient when we grow up in a society of a dominant culture, religion and traditions (let alone the law) where at its very core acts such as prostituition is strictly prohibited. That doesn't necessarily mean ignorance wouldn't exist if we lived in a more 'liberated' NON-Bangali/Muslim society, where the existence and extent of prostituition could be more widespread and even seen as an acceptable mean of livelihood regardless of its legality.

The question is whether 'we' as Bangali/Muslims find it difficult to accept such unpleasant reality because we want to protect our cultural purity, or are the vast majority of us just unaware and could care less? Is it not possible that many of us are simply guilty of no longer adhering to our culture and religion and all this Bangali/Muslim identity is only a facade?

Because I don't think it's entirely true that Bangladeshis always defend the harsh truth of our society, as I'm sure many of us are well aware and even victims of the political violence, crime, terrorism and corruption in our country.. How come no one didn't mentioned acid-throwing and rapes? Is it not a significant issue anymore? Sameercreep, since you worked in an NGO, I'm sure you know a lot about it.. Can you honestly clarify whether the subject of this thread is your concern about our frail, insecure and ignorant culture, or is it a wake up call to do something about those prostitutes?

I can safely assume some of those women have a choice in prostituition, but what about acid and rape victims? Aren't those 'un-Bangali, un-Islamic and inhumane' acts too? Well I don't see people denying those, in fact almost every day I watched/read the news back in BD (also nearly 4 years ago) I saw some tragic acid-victim. If I'm correct there has been many campaigns and laws established since then to bring those criminals to justice. If we were so ignorant or protective of our 'Bangali/Muslim-ness' there would be none of this.

You see big issues like these can easily cast shadow over minor or 'least expected' activities like prostituition, it's very likely they go unnoticed to majority of Bangladeshis 'living there' due to their lack of knowledge or care. Words of a co-worker who probably lives a sorted life in a middle or upper-class socierty does not equal to the average Bangladeshi who is aware and concerned about the situations there. This itself is also being selective of who is and isn't an ignorant Bangladeshi, therefore "ignorant". So to generalise "Bangladeshis" as a whole 'ignorant' of reality because they're "insecure" of their "frail identity" is an even bigger ignorance.
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Old August 7, 2006, 10:55 PM
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Interestingly this is what The Daily Star printed on the Brick Lane issue. Havent dissected it thoroughly but some things do resonate with me.

Quote:
The Brick Lane controversy
Sajid Chowdhury

MONICA Ali's Brick Lane was published and received international acclaim in 2003. It upset quite a few people, mostly Bangladeshi Sylhetis in the United Kingdom, who regard the story as an inaccurate and dim portrayal of their culture. And over the past few weeks, the filming of the upcoming movie based on the novel has faced problems due to a few angry Brick Lane residents who forced the production to move elsewhere.You wouldn't think such a small group of protesters could strike so great a blow to the freedom of expression. But it did, and received international media attention in the process. Meanwhile, two powerhouses of literatureGermaine Greer and Salman Rushdiehave been exchanging insults in The Guardian over the controversy, blowing it way out of proportion. So what could have been a quiet local matter eventually ballooned into a huge affair with a tragic conclusion.

Those protesters remind me of bigots in Dhaka marching against the Ahmadiyya community and a minister wanting to clamp down on our journalists' right to free speech. All attempts at restricting freedom. The irony in each case is that angry dissenters need to exercise their own right to free expression in order to curb someone else's. How hypocritical!

"Perhaps the Brick Lane residents have a right to be angry," I thought. After all, life on that road for the heroine of Ms. Ali's story wasn't portrayed very favourably, and a movie might just enhance negative stereotypes about the community. And Ms. Ali is only an outsider looking into a society which has existed for decades. She has never lived on or near Brick Lane and, unlike the overwhelming majority of its residents, is not Sylheti. OK, point taken.

But after a quick hearing of the protesters on the street and on the Internet, you realize they have absolutely no idea of what they're talking about: They talk about hurtful passages from the book and film which don't exist. Why should anyone listen to a group whose only basis for protest are lies and ignorance?
The leader of the Campaign Against Monica Ali's Film Brick Lane, Abdus Salique, has said the protests have both ideological and economic motivations. He and his counterparts are worried that any negative portrayal of Brick Lane will have repercussions on businesses. But I doubt anyone will stop visiting their favourite curry house just because they read a fictional story about adultery and one woman's liberation.
Salique has been a rather animated character since the filming controversy began, quoted in the Guardian as saying: "If she has the right to freedom of speech, we have the right to burn books. We will do it to show our anger. We don't like Monica Ali." Isn't book-burning what Nazis did?

For Salique's group, the heart of the matter is Ms. Ali's background: She is only half-Bangladeshi, not Sylheti and not a Brick Lane resident. Salique believes, "she is not one of us." If by "us" he means"'insecure tyrants pushing conservative views on the rest of the community," he's right. If by "us" he means Sylhetis or residents, then he's speaking an irrelevant truth: travel writers are hardly ever citizens of the places they write about. And if by "us" he means Bangladeshis, he's wrong.

The approach of Ms. Ali's detractors defies logic. Scared that their community's image will suffer, they have taken action which publicly proves them to be bigots. They have warned of violence if any more filming takes place on Brick Lane, threatened to burn books, and flooded message boards on the Internet with hate-filled commentary. What better way tarnish your image?

All this over a work of fiction! Even Ms. Ali has hinted that research certainly did not play a tremendous role in her work. Her detractors should be thankful she didn't write about something absolutely factual, like the story of the maid who works in her house; married at age 12, a mother at 13, and now a single parent with an 8-year old daughter, etc. Far more damning than a bit of adultery, if you ask me.

How should Ms. Ali have portrayed Brick Lane's people? As a group of insecure old men threatening to burn the books of one of the few internationally successful women from their own home country? As a ragtag group of immigrants demanding that the rights given them by their host nation are denied to other people? Come to think of it, we are better off with reality left out of the picture.

I am amazed that this issue has been ignored here in Bangladesh, save for a couple of paragraphs on the middle pages of a Daily Star issue. Someone is making a film about the experience of a Bangladeshi immigrant, and other Bangladeshis have campaigned to prevent that from happening! That sounds almost as bad as Bangladesh rejecting Ms. Ali's visa application in 2003 (which the Foreign Ministry denies).
The Brick Lane protesters are certainly not the voice of the entire community. A lot of residents were in fact pleased with the prospect of a film being shot near their homes, and some even voiced hoped that they could play as extras. It would have generated good publicity and would have been excellent for local business. But a bunch of ultra-conservative morons who did not even read the book are now protesting against non-existent segments of the movie and have managed to deprive their neighbours of all benefits of any filming. What a way to shoot yourself and your peers in the foot!

It is also showing a complete lack of respect to the nation that accepted them. In England, freedom of expression tops the list of rights granted to all residents, and these protesters are trying to take it from the author. They have adopted some tribal mentality, warning the writer to stay off their turf unless she is ready to portray them all as loving individuals living on a golden street lined with roses. And because of their stupidity over the last few weeks, a lot more people are going to watch the movie.


Sajid Chowdhury is a freelance contributor to The Daily Star
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Old August 7, 2006, 11:57 PM
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The protesters in Brick Lane should have been tolerant and kept quiet about this. Even bad publicity is publicity. Now they're is getting more attention from international media.. Sooner or later everyone will be curious to find out what's this all about.
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Old August 8, 2006, 12:28 AM
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Man who cares about some boring-*** writer. I actually thought of picking up the book but before that i decided to read up few summaries and read the pages amazon offer for free... orre bap...eto boring jinish amar life e ami khub komi porchi...

er thika amader sameer bhaiyer prostitution golpo ta aro mojar chilo....Prostitute 4k pai per day.. damn.. that's the upper class income in Bangladesh. I think BD te giye ami pimping business shuru korbo....

Hatebreed send your resume NOW!!
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Old August 8, 2006, 12:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Orpheus
Man who cares about some boring-*** writer. I actually thought of picking up the book but before that i decided to read up few summaries and read the pages amazon offer for free... orre bap...eto boring jinish amar life e ami khub komi porchi...

er thika amader sameer bhaiyer prostitution golpo ta aro mojar chilo....Prostitute 4k pai per day.. damn.. that's the upper class income in Bangladesh. I think BD te giye ami pimping business shuru korbo....

Hatebreed send your resume NOW!!
WTF..
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Old August 8, 2006, 01:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatebreed
WTF..
Which portion of the post didn't you understand? Might quoting that. If you didn't understand any, then here is a summary:

1) Brick Lane - boring
2) monica Ali - boring
3) Prostitutes - rich
4) Pimping - profitable business in bangladesh
5) Need workers - are you interested?
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Old August 8, 2006, 01:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orpheus
Which portion of the post didn't you understand? Might quoting that. If you didn't understand any, then here is a summary:

5) Need workers - are you interested?
I'm all for it if you need me to satisfy your gf!
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Old August 8, 2006, 02:40 AM
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I was actually thinking to hire you to satisfy my male clients. It's a nice little niche in Bangladesh.
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Old August 8, 2006, 02:45 AM
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Actually, this piece really doesn't have anything to do with prostitution or Ahmadiyas per se. When I wrote this piece, I guess it was very personal, almost as if I was thinking out loud.My time in Bangladesh is coming to an end and I was trying to piece together some unanswered questions that I've had regarding society and culture here.I guess as egotistical as it may sound, I should say a few things about myself to clarify.

I'm probably one of the least patriotic persons around and since I'm also an atheist, that immediately makes me very different from around 99% of the country's population. Another salient fact that added to the difference was that I spent 5 years abroad between the ages of 17-22 and hence when I did come back, most of the way I saw things and my belief system had already been shaped.

After coming back, I threw myself at work. I'm a development worker by profession (I always thought this was a self explanatory title,but then one day this guy asked me what programming I work with hehehe) meaning that I work with poverty issues. I've worked with some issues like AIDS, basic education and health care at the very micro level and hence spent a big chunk of my time in rural Bangladesh.This was perfect opportunity for me to understand the "real" Bangladeshis.

To say that my 4 years in this country has been a whirlwind is sort of an understatement and yet I know that I have still so much to learn about this culture, even though I grew up in Bangladesh and I thought I knew it all.

Anyways, since I'm leaving now and don't know when (if) I'll be back again, I needed to sound off on a platform and get some feedback. One point that I tried to make was to discern between plain old ignorance and wilfull convenient ignorance, the latter which afflicts so many around these parts. This has something to do with how Bangladeshis define themselves.

Usually national identity is formed due to exogenous and endogenous factors. An example of the former might be how our identities are formed by bideshis looking at us. An example of the latter might based on facts like 90% of Bangladeshis call themselves Muslims, eat bhaat and mach etc. As an "insider-outsider" ( a pretentious term I've picked up from my readings of Rushdie), it was a wonderful opportunity for me to see a group of people trying to draw harmony between these two sources of identity.

But what really bothered me was that at no point along these lines were people at all self refelctive and analytical. A perfect example of self refelction is found above by Anmark who finds himself defending his identity as a Bangladeshi when faced with comments from his friends in Canada. This self realization which comes when you understand that theres a certain degree of double standards that come into play when you're defending your culture from a foreigner's view even though you probably know the foreign dude is right is a very rare skill indeed. And this has nothing to do with education; I've found illiterate villagers way more self-refelcting and analytical than Gulshan kids who had gone to Harvard.

Ok, I've written way more than I wanted to but my basic question is this: self refelction and being analytical is absolutely vital for a society so what is the source of this?And how can we imbue Bangladeshis with a healthy dose of self reflection when all around me I see people being defensive at best and down righ indignant every time some Tom, Dick and Harry has something to say about this culture (whether good or bad)?

You don't necesasrily have to answer. Just refelct
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Old August 8, 2006, 03:37 AM
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Sameer, if you don't mind me asking.. When did you first leave BD and for how long until you returned? Also, how old are you now?

You made some good points, I totally agree with that self-reflection and realisation is essential for any healthy society/community. But how many 3rd worlds countries other than Bangladesh have you been to and spent so much time closely analysing its people? I know you brought this up because we are Bangladeshis/Muslims and hence this concerns us most, but do you not think the quality of being self-critical is a rare one amongst the vast majority in this world?

Anyway you sort of proved my point there-

"I've found illiterate villagers way more self-refelcting and analytical than Gulshan kids who had gone to Harvard."

Remember, those rich kids do not represent the entire Bangladesh, in fact they hardly represent our Bangali' culture or religion, so it's not a question of protecting our cultural or national identity. It's about maintaining their image in whichever the society they live in and you can be sure they'd do the same even if they lived in Detroit, USA.
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Old August 8, 2006, 03:41 AM
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Join Date: June 19, 2005
Location: Camden, London
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orpheus
I was actually thinking to hire you to satisfy my male clients. It's a nice little niche in Bangladesh.
I take it you're speaking from experience
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