It is a matter of some truth that we, when it comes to democracy, tend to view it with rose-tinted glasses. On paper, the idea of democracy is, in fact, ideal or, at least, idealistic. It makes sense, morally, ideologically, even from a humanist perspective.
Since it has the positively-connoted label of equality, it is almost beyond reproach. In theory, it is meant to treat the citizen with fairness and impartiality, it negates the differences forced by religion, it hurdles the idea of segregation and separation out the window, and provides us a world in which we are all “one.”
The government, additionally, is not the one with the power, but the people themselves, for government officials are but public servants, meant to represent the interests of the people. It creates a dreamlike state of governance which seems to cater to us as individuals while preserving our nation as a whole.
The democratic dream
The conviction of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia has put forward the question, once again (not that this question hasn’t been echoing at the back of our minds for quite some time), of whether Bangladesh’s democratic system is facing an existential threat.
With elections right around the corner, this question has never been more important. With what was the primary opposition in Bangladesh for the longest time, we have never been as close as we are now in cementing our future within the confines of a one-party government, where the opposition remains not much more than a concept that upholds the illusion of democracy.
One could potentially argue that democracy itself, the dream that it always has been, is just that, a dream. Democracies are inherently illusory, providing us with the opportunity for social and financial mobility, for so-called freedom, showing us the door, without actually leaving the door unlocked. Or having the key hidden in some bureaucratic servant’s pockets.
It is not safe from utilitarianism, and the efficiency with which it is meant to function, leading to the human cost of minorities and their “minor” problems. What happens when the majority does not want a democracy? Does democracy not end up cannibalizing itself?
Until a better alternative to BNP is provided, I am, unpopular as this opinion may be, okay with a pseudo-democracy that focuses on progress over politics
Nor is it free from the brutal dog-eat-dog nature of capitalism, which is great when you’re good, but when in need, reserves the right to treat you as a pariah who is not a product of his or her circumstances, but who has merely not taken advantage of the limitless opportunities the world has provided you with.
With these considerations, and taking stock of the fact that it is an ideology somewhat bastardized and imported by various key players along the course of history, would it be so terrible for Bangladesh to be functioning under a one-party system?
Zia International Airport
Nothing so symbolises the uselessness of democracy as much as Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. While in “better” countries (in this instance, I choose to define them by how well they have their priorities in order) this is not a problem, when the name of the airport was changed, costing the tax-payer crores, for the very purpose of not having the name of a key player of the opposition party in our national consciousness, one realises that this alternating back-and-forth between AL and BNP serves no one but the parties themselves.
We do not trust the government, no matter who is in power. We do not feel safe. We do not feel comfortable using the various services that is our democratic right. When I realised that having a National Identity Card was mandatory, I became anxious considering the bureaucratic nightmarish maze I would have to traverse to find myself at the other end with a card in my hand.
Considering the amount of work that has been conducted in Bangladesh in the last eight years (I would be the last person to deny the incompetence with which this has been carried out), I do not want another ex-Zia International Airport on our hands.
By the time the next elections come around, we will be in the beginning and mid-stages of various large-scale infrastructural projects, such as Padma Bridge and Metro Rail, crucial for continued development.
Is it selfish and near-sighted to think that the potential for a different party to take the throne is, especially at this point in time, unnecessary and unwanted?
To say nothing of the niqabi
elephant in the room which BNP will indubitably bring with it if it takes office.
That is not to say that the potential for disaster is not ripe. A single party that gets too comfortable on the chair is dangerous.
But, honestly, until a better alternative to BNP is provided, one that I would trust with not filibustering and destroying the work that is being done, I am, unpopular as this opinion may be, okay with a pseudo-democracy that focuses on progress over politics.
Let us, for once, go somewhere before false change is forced upon us. For true change, we do not need democracy, we need a revolution.
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant in the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.