It's time for fresh faces in mayoral politics
Greta. Malala. Joshua Wong. Kanhaiya Kumar.
The world faces unprecedented levels of climate crisis and income inequality, of rising intolerance and open violence towards minorities, and it’s the youth who have stood up to be counted. And how badly they’ve been needed.
This leadership is not play acting, as millions of people on the streets can attest. These children cut straight to the issue and ask hard questions.
Established leaders around the world appear unwilling to face the big challenges, or in some cases, even to acknowledge them, to the bafflement of ordinary people.
Sometimes it seems like the old guard are merely interested in maintaining their power, guarding the vast edifices of privilege built up over the years, too monolithic to understand that when the ground shifts beneath your feet, everything comes tumbling down anyway.
We are a moderate country with moderate hopes and dreams. No one is asking for the moon here. There is no dragon to overthrow, no mortal enemy to slaughter.
We live in a city which grows at 8% GDP and also grows in citizenry every day by some unthinkable number as climate change shifts more migrants inwards. Dhaka is home to 20 million odd people already, and God knows how many more we will have in the next five years.
We choke every day on air thick enough to eat with a spoon, we die under buses and trucks, we live our days in concrete pillars without ever feeling grass beneath our feet. Mosquitoes shred our skin every night, and we withdraw from the fight in humiliated defeat, electric rackets and coils in hand.
Forget about dragons, we can’t even slay mosquitoes.
Two or three times a day we consume adulterated food by the boat load, pickled in formaldehyde; when future scientists cut us open they will find our generation remarkably well preserved, if nothing else.
These are small problems compared to the Rohingya facing ethnic cleansing, to the Uighurs in camps, to the brave children fighting in campuses like Jawaharlal Nehru University for the rights of their fellows.
Yet it is our city, our home, and it behooves us to try and solve our own problems, to make it liveable for everyone, not just the rich. These problems are not insurmountable, nor is Dhaka unique. All big cities in the world face the same growing pains, the same issues of rapid urbanization.
Why can’t we buy enough larvaecide on time to prevent annual dengue outbreaks? Why are ill-trained murderer-drivers still driving unfit buses on our crowded roads? Why do we lack the will to tackle these issues?
Is the mayorship a symbolic post? Is it a beauty contest? Is it a reward for political clout? Or does it entail making some effort to improve the lives of citizens?
Perhaps we could give our own youth a shot, give them a chance to solve problems which their elders have given up on. In Tabith Awal we have a mayoral candidate who’s actually willing to discuss the issues.
We have an election coming. What do we have to lose?
Saad Z Hossain is the author of three books, and a writer of satire and science fiction.