One of the more prominent philosophers of the 20th century, Michel Foucault, noted that the body, when publicly visible, can become a focus of admiration and sympathy.
The body, of course, has the power of inducing many such emotions, but Foucault was arguing on the system of state punishment.
His argument was that, in the past, punishment was cruel, and more importantly, public. The hanged bodies in gallows were a sight for all to see, to take as examples, to fear the state’s power.
But these sights and unkind modes of punishment also gave way to the possibilities of mobilisation and rebellion.
Fast forward to today, bodies are no longer in the gallows but on the news. Perhaps not as public and gory as they were before, but they still possess a good amount of exposure.
Rebellion, while sometimes violent and chaotic, can be in forms of strikes.
An example of such could be the transport workers’ strike that swooped Bangladesh in the past week, in response to the life sentence given to bus driver Jamir, and a death sentence given to a truck driver.
A strike that has kept the citizens and business-owners agitated, for good measure, as travelling -- of people and products -- has become arduous.
Jamir was driving a bus, sleep-deprived and without a valid license, and ended up crashing the bus and killing five people, including two individuals well-known in the media industry in Bangladesh.
This scenario of unfit drivers and vehicles, while impetuous and dangerous, is not an uncommon one in our country. A driver who not only puts lives at risk but also manages to kill five people, absolutely deserves punishment.
After all, it is this sort of discipline that makes enough of an example to curb such incidents.
But that’s the thing: Every such reckless driver deserves punishment.
Not just the ones whose recklessness has affected people of prominent stature.
And, if we are to make examples out of those who commit crimes, what about the ones who own such transit lines, who own these buses unfit for the roads, who are employing these drivers without proper licenses? Why do we only make examples of the ones who can barely scrape out a living, instead of the ones who hire them?
And, if we are to make examples out of those who commit crimes, what about the ones who own such transit lines, who own these buses unfit for the roads, who are employing these drivers without proper licenses?
While the bus drivers are to blame for unkempt interiors of the vehicles and even the dented and broken exteriors, the overall maintenance of all buses, and especially the drivers’ paperwork and skills (or lack thereof) themselves, could easily be pointed to the owners of such lines.
Why are they not behind bars, when their interests clearly do not overlap with the safety of passengers? And what about the accidents that take place due to broken infrastructure; who can we arrest and imprison for life in those cases?
With even the remotest of dissection, all these questions will lead to the matter of class and the positions of power in our society. Those with authority and traction rarely -- if at all -- get sanctions for the misconduct on their part.
And if they have others working under them, others who have no traction in society, making a living on minimum wages, then rest assured that their superiors’ failings will fall upon them.
Should Jamir be sentenced for life in imprison? Absolutely. Should he be the only one held responsible for the deaths of the individuals in that crash? That’s the question that needs more attention.
When transport workers, agitated by the sentences presented by the courts to their fellow drivers, took to abstaining from working, citizens and business-owners were clearly affected.
Their demand of releasing these drivers, while clearly not the most reasonable of demands, has riled up many.
But isn’t protesting a citizen’s right, regardless of how many people oppose it or how irrational the demand is? We as a country have seen many such ridiculous demands in the past, mostly coming from some centric party with some kind of political stance.
How come when poor transport workers abstain from work, albeit it being something that affects all the citizens, we are this riled up? That is a question that might be hard to answer, but what’s harder to answer for is the question of intolerance we as a nation have towards the lowest echelon of our society, especially when they make up for the majority of our population.
Luba Khalili is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.