Why is there so much disharmony between all of us?
As I walk through the busy streets of Dhaka, or even as I am stuck in its perpetual traffic, beyond the noise, the grime, and the chaos, perhaps nothing appears more strikingly prevalent than the palpable disharmony.
This isn’t a unique perspective by any means. There’s little doubt that, in recent times, intolerance, hate, bigotry, and discrimination have become commonplace in Bangladesh.
We see it dominate the news, whether on television, radio or in print. It’s the topic of discussion over family dinners, amongst friends during hangouts, and with random strangers, you meet when in a queue at the bank.
Old people, young people, professionals, students, the rich or the poor, the fortunate or the unfortunate -- disharmony is the great equalizer, shrouding everyone within its morbidity.
There are certain differences: The older generation reminiscing the “good old days” and putting the blame on the youth for their recklessness and abandonment of tradition while the younger generation bears a grudge against the older generation for not “keeping up with the times.”
However, despite the differences in generations, what remains consistent is the feeling of disharmony that threatens to overwhelm. Over time, it seems we’ve become accustomed to this disharmony and have, dare I say, accepted it as the norm.
Apathy is a word that is thrown about plenty when it comes to the denizens of our capital city in particular -- desensitized to the abysmal conditions, accepting of the ill fate that is part of living in Dhaka and going about our respective ways, battling a lost battle.
There is little doubt that Bangladesh is a rapidly growing economy.
Whether this is indeed due to effective policy-makers and not just a case of happenstance that occurs over a nation’s journey since its inception is a topic for latter days, but the numbers do not lie: Bangladesh is among the fastest-growing countries in the region, and if growth trends are anything to go by, this will continue for a bit.
However, what is the use of a country enjoying wonderful economic growth if its inhabitants continue to be knee-deep in a pool of disharmony, breeding animosity.
Some blame our programing, that we as Bangladeshis are naturally apathetic, callous, insensitive, and unempathetic.
That Bangladeshis conspire towards others’ failure instead of collaborating for success is also a common position.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
It is often said that prevention is better than cure and that maintenance is underrated -- these sayings hold particular weight in the context of our social sphere, where often enough, we turn a blind eye towards the issues that seem so obvious.
In a city, and by extension country, that is breeding animosity and disharmony, it’s obvious that peaceful dialogue -- spread across institutions, platforms, and the public sphere as a whole -- will serve as its antidote, to bring about the change that is desperately needed.
This will require massive effort, beyond just the realization of the problem and the desire to bring change.
But it remains crucial to acknowledge those shortcomings because it is tempting to become complacent. Human beings, by design, are prone to heuristics: They will expend minimum effort in order to find an adequate solution.
Bangladesh can not afford a heuristic approach for much longer. Bangladesh can not afford complacency. Bangladesh can not get by with merely adequate.
No, what is required is a concentrated, step by step, pro-active approach to addressing the disharmony that pervades our society, by creating public spaces and platforms where these issues can be discussed, where people from all walks of life are afforded a chance to share their voice and their opinions.
There also exist organizations making a conscious effort to address this need of course.
Just last week, I attended an event organized by UNDP Bangladesh called “Peace Talk Cafe” which was essentially less an event and more an open mic sit-in of sorts that allowed those in attendance to speak on issues of disharmony, particularly in the digital sphere.
While such events may seem like a drop in the ocean, they are integral to shift the conversation from bickering about negativity to finding positive solutions to, indeed, shift our society towards more positivity as a whole.
AHM Mustafizur Rahman is an Editorial Assistant at Dhaka Tribune.