Cattle sacrifice in the age of apps
Eid is here, which means the sights of cattle being herded along the city, tied up in front of households with hay and leaves around them, as they release their excreta on to your streets, have inundated Dhaka.
While, personally, these sights have become less common, thanks to certain efforts by the government to ensure that there are specific places where citizens can carry out their sanctimonious duties, it has not been eradicated completely
But even the sights of cows and goats hanging around in front of buildings is reminiscent of a nation that has yet to remove itself from its past, still finding value in the materialistic existence of an animal that they have bought with a fair bit of money that they will now “sacrifice.”
Digitization, on the other hand, is an inevitable by-product of progress. In the information age, faster internet speeds, more efficient methods of payment and transactions, are aspects of a modern nation, whether or not a government specifically and explicitly wishes to take the nation in that direction.
This would imply that the more digitized a nation becomes, the more modern, more developed it becomes simultaneously. The question then remains as to why, then, the process of the sacrificial cattle, too, has not been digitized, and progressed to the point where their existence in the urban landscape has not been eradicated.
Why is cattle excrement and blood and guts still a part of the Eid-ul-Azha celebrations, when it could very well take place somewhere remotely, and would not require normal day-to-day traffic to be interrupted by herded cows and goats?
This is because while Bangladesh, the nation, has progressed towards digitization, the mentality of digitization is something that the people of this country have yet to learn.
This is most evident in ride-sharing apps, for example, where digital payments have become the latest controversy among a long list of other points of conflict between consumer and service provider.
Thanks to further advancements in technology, ride-sharing apps now allow for digital payments, be it through credit cards or services like bKash and Rocket, which, in theory, should be a most convenient method of payment, negating the necessity of carrying hard cash in your wallet.
But thanks to the retrograde mentality with which many drivers have armed themselves, payment through digital methods results in a most unsatisfactory response, with many drivers failing to understand that the algorithm within the app will ensure that they are provided with the money at the end of the month, the money adjusted into their accounts.
The reason digitization is indicative of progress is because it hinges on the idea that a people of a nation understands that the value of anything is derived from our perception of it, and not necessarily through its existence in material form.
When, for example, a service is provided, such as a ride given to a customer, what matters more is how much money is in your name after the ride has ended, and not what amount of cash you have in your hand once the bargain is done.
Similarly, why is it not possible to provide money to an organization which caters to Eid-ul-Azha sacrifices, which takes care of all the hassle and merely provides you with your portion of the meat once the work is done? The organization could potentially also donate one-third as required by religion to the poor to the charity of your choice, or through their own means.
Why is it necessary to put in all that effort to actually witness a cow or a goat or even a camel in its flesh and then walk it all the way back to your home and then have it slaughtered at your own doorstep?
This is messy, and in poor taste. It is unbecoming of a nation that is striving to become, as it were, a nation on par with the best in the world.
If sacrifice is the name of the game, and since the sacrifice has evolved to mean how much money you are spending as a percentage of your income, especially in this capitalistic environment, then there should be no requirement to actually befriend the piece of cattle in question so that we may feel some false sense of religiosity.
It is, in fact, hubris which drives us to witness our great sacrifice in person, and to see it be killed in front of our eyes so that its blood may spill into the gutter.
While, in such a scenario, there might be reservations regarding the organization in question, and whether they can be trusted to carry out such a service (how does one know, for example, that he or she is getting the amount of meat they have actually paid for?), that is a different argument, and speaks to the inherently corrupt nature of services provided in this country of ours.
But, the point being, while digitization has given us the potential to improve our lives, and to a great extent we have, to be truly digitized we must first change the way we think. It is the only way to be truly efficient in the age of information.
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.