The desperate move to constantly put up a façade of absurd virtue remains undiminished
Recently, there has been interminable tongue-lashing over leaked video footage reportedly showing a senior district-level government official in an intimate moment with a female colleague.
The video provided much needed fodder for a voyeuristic society. If the person whose intimate moments were caught on camera happens to be a government official, puritanical platitudes start coming in like a flood -- getting on high horses is something we pursue with a vengeance.
The incident can be looked at from several angles, though it seems that the moral transgression of the official in question is deliberately being made into the primary concern.
Whatever happened to the choice of two consenting adults?
Of course, I am not condoning “romantic” behaviour in the workplace, and when one is a government official, they have to act responsibly.
But expecting someone to be impeccable is a bit much because we are ultimately human, prone to making rash decisions.
Regardless of what the government official of Jamalpur has or hasn’t done, there seems to be a vociferous move to project our society as one which is prim, proper, and prudish. Such mistakes should be judged rationally and not with the vehement desire to forcefully impose strict moral values.
Taking a look at similar transgressions of top global leaders, Bill Clinton had an affair with a White House intern, lied about it on TV, and admitted to the indiscreet act when faced with mounting evidence. Interestingly, the whole of the US did not start sullying his image. On the contrary, Clinton’s transgression was deemed a peccadillo.
The countless trysts of JFK at the White House have reached a mythical status. History fondly recalls JFK as the philanderer par excellence. There is “wickedness” in him, though the connotation is hardly pejorative.
Current British PM Boris Johnson has such a reputation with the opposite sex that one of his female party members once commented: “He is a nice guy but certainly not a person from whom you would like to take a lift back home at the end of the evening.”
In short: It is absurd to expect people in powerful positions to be perfect all the time. Like most people, they are also prone to human frailties and follies.
Obviously, no one is saying that intimacy in professional spheres should be encouraged. However, this cannot stop people from getting close, at least not when the matter is consensual between both parties.
There is no logic in vilifying a person for developing a relationship with a colleague. Surveys have revealed that a majority of adult relationships happen in the workplace since people spend a large amount of time in close proximity.
The way in which the incident of the Jamalpur government official is being dealt makes him look like a person who has committed the gravest sin of his lifetime.
Once more, the hypocrisy in our social credo seems to stare back at us.
Although, in reality, social outlook has changed phenomenally about a lot of things, including pre-marital intimacy, the desperate move to constantly put up a façade of absurd virtue remains undiminished.
Why is no one asking who put up the video camera in the official’s private room, or how it came out in the open? Would it be wrong to assume that someone wanted to taint the image of the person or persons, and that the whole action could have been motivated by malice?
If a person in authority misuses their position and demands certain favours, then the issue needs to be dealt with as per existing rules. But in cases where intimacy has taken shape with the approval of both sides, the matter has to be dealt with some leniency.
Terminating, maligning, or even demoting someone for becoming close to a colleague is too harsh a punishment. Workplace romances will happen -- the recent revelation of the video tape will only make people more alert. Surely, no one will be using their private rooms for assignations anymore.
Towheed Feroze in a news editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.