One can't help being philosophical about the current state of affairs in our motherland. I thought the following is a wonderful piece (daily Star, June 1).
Measure of Man
Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
Emperor Elagabalus once asked his guards to bring him 1000 pounds of cobwebs and when they returned he boasted that it showed how big was Rome. When Marco Polo went to Dadu, which is modern-day Beijing, he counted 20,000 prostitutes and used that number to estimate the total population.
Different measures at different times, but what about the number of people who are being rounded up in Bangladesh for abuse of power and corruption? What does it say about the country and its people?
Protagoras said in 485 B.C. that man is the measure of everything. And, believe it or not, the converse is also true. Everything around man is a measure of him. It is said that master spies can build the profile of a man simply by going through his trash.
Adulterated food, toxic juice, formalin-laced fish, dubious bank accounts, false credentials, fictitious votes, pretentious politicians, and the list can be long. The bottom line is that everything in life is made in the image of man as everything in the world is made in the image of god.
The connection is therefore unequivocal and strong. Good man makes good life and the bad one does the bad. Fake man creates fake life where everything is spurious and false.
And if you expand it further, it begins to make sense. A culture that condones everything creates a condoning culture. Each day the number of people who are getting caught is only the tip of the iceberg. It tells that there is more.
Jean Paul Sartre called man a useless passion. He is the repository of smiles and tears, joy and sorrow, which are transient like their source. Man exists like a bubble within a bubble. If you look at the number of people who can commit crime in a country, you are also looking at the size of the bubble.
A former home minister agreed to protect a killer for a price. Politicians took monthly doles from businessmen to protect his business. It seems so vacuous that you almost wonder if there is a soul inside any of them.
So, if we want, we can boast that the number of criminals who are arrested on a single day shows how big is that bubble. And this is where everything gets murky. What can we do to fix this bubble? Which leads us to a more valid question: can we fix a circle without going to its centre? Can well kill an odor without going to its source?
That is the crux of the tangle. Can we clean up the mess before we clean up man? I mean he is the source, and life flows from him. We can try anything to bring the change. But inverse of inverse is upright again, while crooked of crooked is not always straight. Left of right is on the same side as right of left. Going in circles only repeats the same. Too many turnings don't necessarily make a change.
And nothing will change unless first we find a way to change man. But it is difficult when you listen to Charles Darwin. Man with all his noble qualities bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. Every time some people get picked up, that lowly origin becomes oddly obvious.
The rich and powerful men look frazzled, sweating and straddling in the milling crowd of curious onlookers, dragged up and down courthouse stairs flanked by policemen who appear like crutches on cripples. Last week, the chief conservator of forest took that lowliness one notch up. He was caught conserving bundles of currency notes and then had to be carried out of the house dangled weightless by his arms and legs.
In fact, these men tell us something. They tell us that they are hollow inside their bubble, that they are oblivious of their own dignity, that they don't know that they are the measure of all things.
After all, how can you measure these men against anything? And how can you measure anything against them? Anton Chekhov laments that everything in the world is beautiful except the thoughts and actions of men when they lose sight of the higher aims of existence and their dignity as human beings.
Each day brings us that bad news. We have so many notorious men who don't care for dignity. These people are arrested, and some of them become big news on television and newspapers. Then people talk about them for some time while they are hauled between courthouse and jailhouse like a pack of animals harried from cage to cage.
But say what we may, it is amazing that so many people are available to be rounded up in this country on any given day. And these are not petty thieves or pickpockets. These are men of power and position. They have ruled the country at various levels. It is amazing that the source doesn't get depleted and keeps on churning out more of them every day.
It may sound comical like taking out a spoonful of medicine and then drinking up rest of the bottle. But if need be we should consider putting a few good men in jail, leaving the country to others.
We should do what it takes, but time has come to separate good from bad. No more watching grotty men on TV to tell us how to love this country. No more patriotic shows on a television channel if its owners have got secrets in their closet (washing black money white). This is the time to do it. Man must be reconciled with his measure.
There are two ways to do it. Either we fix the man or we fix the measure. Reforms are necessary only if we can make the necessary reforms. And this is a good place to start. Either man should fit the measure, or the measure should fit the man. At the end of this reforming season, we should be able to diminish both if one falls short of another.
Mohammad Badrul Ahsan is a banker.