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Start with the man in the mirror

  • Published at 12:00 am December 15th, 2019
Compass
Could ours be broken? BIGSTOCK

Ask yourself if your actions reflect the values you claim to cherish

As I write this, it is Martyred Intellectuals Day, and a report tells me that a newspaper office has been vandalized for using the term “martyr” to describe a known war criminal.

So-called activists of a particular organization broke into the offices of this little-read newspaper, smashed computers, destroyed furniture, set fires to copies of the newspaper, and put a lock on the main entrance of the office.

The newspaper in question, as is commonly known, was nothing but a mouthpiece for a political organization that has famously supported and sheltered war criminals and espoused a fundamentalist ideology that goes against all the tolerant values that Bangladesh is supposed to have been built on.

And to print what they printed, just two days before Martyred Intellectuals Day at that, is offensive, disturbing, deeply disrespectful towards all true martyrs who gave their lives for this country.

But. Think about the retaliatory action for a second.

It wasn’t debate, it wasn’t constructive criticism. It wasn’t in the form of a convincingly written think piece, and it wasn’t in the form of grilling the editor about his choice of word, in the form of an interview.

As expected, this group resorted to the lowest common denominator of protest -- vandalism. To say this is common in Bangladesh is an understatement, it’s practically our default way of doing things. Our MO: This guy said something offensive? Round up your boys, get some hockey sticks and mess him up! 

It happens again and again. It’s exhausting, and it’s depressing. I agree 100% with the objection towards the newspaper’s stance, which is nothing if not abhorrent, but I disagree 100% with the method used to make that displeasure known.

We just can’t seem to evolve beyond street-level hooliganism, can we? Even when we’re being moralistic, when we’re being high and mighty, when we’re claiming to uphold the sanctity of our Liberation War, we resort to the exact same thing we claim to condemn in the enemy -- violence.

But the moment you react with physical aggression towards your enemy (except in cases of self-defense), you have lost the argument. You have lost your moral high-ground. 

What kind of action should be taken against the newspaper in question is a discussion worth having. It is up to the law courts to judge whether some kind of legal action should be taken against the editor, or the responsible parties. Certainly, hate speech and certain other types of damaging statements can be charged, but there is a proper way to do these things.

The way is known as due process, and it seems that never in the 48-year history of our nation have our general public grasped this concept.

If we’re so insistent on respecting the legacy of the true martyrs of this nation, let us imagine for a second that they are still with us, that they can speak. What do you think they would say about all this?

What do you think they would say about the trigger-happy hooliganism we descend into to resolve each and every conflict that comes our way? Do you think people like GC Dev, Jyotirmoy Guhathakurta, or Munier Chowdhury would have cheered on acts of destruction? Do you think they would have rounded up goons to muscle their way into someone else’s office and break things to make a point? 

How horrified would they be if they knew what was being done in the name of the secular, enlightened values that they lived for, wrote for, and died for? 

As a history-obsessed nation, we never fail to make a lot of noise about the memory of our martyrs on our national days.

But when it comes to taking a second to reflect on what our martyrs stood for, what they believed, and trying to look in the mirror and better ourselves, we are failing, failing.

Abak Hussain is Editor, Editorial and Op-Ed, Dhaka Tribune.