Is it even worth it to fight for a more equal life?
The reason why certain people opt to live abroad is because we all believe the grass is greener on the other side. Most of us have been raised while being fed that notion. It’s not a bad thing, certainly not when living in the country comes at a great cost: Your life.
Bangladesh is about to declare itself “developing” in a few years if all things go right (fingers crossed). While we take immense pride in this spectacular achievement at only 47 years young, you still have to admit (regardless in which corner of the country you live in) that it is absolutely necessary to be born rich or become rich to lead a good life here. A middle income status, or even an upper-middle income status will not cut it.
Let me rephrase -- you have to have the dough to rest assured that something trivial, like a basic right, will not be stripped away from you while at least a thousand sets of eyes in your proximity turn the other way and some media outlets vaguely talk about it on their platforms till the next big news item.
If you are lucky, there will be protests. But everything (the hype and the talk) dies down eventually.
That’s the thing about being poor -- you aren’t important enough to clear traffic for even when you are dying in a white van with a siren on top. But be a VIP, or someone rich, you will either have all the roads blocked for you or at least cleared, while the rest of Dhaka city groans in traffic agony -- and you don’t even have to be dying to bring the city to a standstill.
Privilege manifests in other ways too. For instance, your workplace will never crumble to dust during office hours. Your house will not be torched in broad daylight, not even in the middle of the night. You will not be forced to build houses on the hills that get completely destroyed in landslides during annual monsoon season. Also, you will never be a climate change refugee.
Your house or street will never get flooded. Pollution will never seem a “problem” from your air-conditioned car and office, and you can actually be at a position at work where you can make the call for national policies, etc.
And sometimes, when the going gets tough (just one too many “tragic” breaking news stories), we seek answers beyond numbers that pronounce people dead at extra-judicial killings or enforced disappearances. See, regardless of all the progress, flyovers, GDP uptick, and numerous plaudits -- we live in the same circumstances as any other in the world.
Our aspirations, life goals, and dreams are pre-determined based primarily on two things: a) What part of the world we live in, and b) our household income, ie bank balance. Then comes ethnicity, religion, etc. We are born with a price-tag, a value, which is a number based on location and our bank account balance.
We are not born equal as the scriptures would like us to believe, because, if you look around for five minutes, you would realize otherwise. We can certainly strive and work hard to be equal, to be treated equal to one another, but at birth, life standards are already set.
And in this class system, everyone can live happily and unbothered if only they choose to lead lives on the very straight lines set and sanctioned by the state.
For instance, if you are OK being oppressed, discriminated against, or marginalized, you will not be dragged to police stations (also sanctioned by the state) to be abused and tortured “on remand.”
You will lead a protected life, as long as you can let bygones be bygones. As long as you can let that once-in-a-while building collapse crush your bones to death, be homeless from time to time, let your basic human rights be stripped.
And as for the everyday things, let quotas and policies stay -- we have to understand our standing in this class system. There is a word for this kind of rule -- it’s not a flattering one.
And although it’s true that such life circumstances exist in almost every other part of the world to some degree, things are always worse for underdeveloped countries or even the “developing” ones.
I suppose there is no way to change things for the better, except to work tirelessly and step out of the barriers set by the state because of the price tag stamped on our lives at birth.
Thing is, if the process of stepping out physically and/or mentally scars you for life, or worse yet, kills you, is fighting for a more equal life worth it?
See, only if you were to have the dough and belong to the upper-most echelons of the society, you wouldn’t even need to think about such ridiculous questions to begin with, let alone confront the dark and twisted ground realities.
Nusmila Lohani is a freelance contributor.