Sunday, June 23, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

OP-ED: Everything and nothing

There will always be conflicting people and ideologies in the world

Update : 07 Mar 2021, 12:42 AM

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Let’s talk about nothing.

When it comes to language, the usage of said language can be broken down into two broad categories, the inside and the outside. Now, I’ll not be going into detail about what these distinctions mean. If you know, you know.

Just know that the inside is the thing that can be easily talked about. Even without training, we are connected to the inside through the most inescapable of mechanisms. The same can’t be said about the outside.

While it is true that we live in the outside -- in fact, most people deal with more things on the outside than on the inside -- most people can’t really fathom what goes on in the outside. Even if one can intercept all the signals that are coming from the outside, one might not necessarily possess the aptitude that is necessary to interpret what these signals mean. 

There are years and years of research in distilling the outside into a manageable state, of dissolving its many complex mechanisms into a solvable puzzle. Even then, many have failed. And things just get worse when you are living in an unfree world. 

You see, talking about the outside has always been taboo. Be it the inability to escape the neoliberal dominance that has taken over the 21st century, or the fear that your hands are going to get you into trouble, there have always been some obstacles when it comes to speaking about the outside. There have always been some roadblocks. 

But it still should be fine, right? While we talk about the right to be free, the truth of the matter is, absolute freedom just doesn’t exist. Whether you are living in the east or west, there are certain boundaries that you can’t cross no matter how tempting it can be. Through the trial-and-error process called life, one becomes habituated to the machine, and becomes just another cog inside the belly of the beast. 

When Roger Waters wrote, “Welcome my son. Welcome, to the machine,” he wasn’t just addressing the fat pigs of the music industry, in fact, he was addressing us all. And if one can’t become habituated, if one meets their final demise in order to escape, well, then that’s a story for another day. 

But who is the winner here? You’ve got two birds in a cage. One has everyone one could need to lead their life, but they live in a cage. The other attempts to leave the cage, but in order to leave, they have to die? Which is worse, to give oneself up to this horrible machine, or to try and escape it, and die in the process?

Matters are further complicated if one takes a finite view of one’s life. If this life is the only one we have, which is better? To try and make the worst of our surroundings, or to urn in defiance?

Should one, given the choice, imagine Sisyphus happy?

Truth is, no matter what one chooses, I think there is a certain inevitability that comes with making such a choice. There will always be conflict in the world, an endless battleground of conflicting people and ideologies where there are no victors. In this eternal battlefield, people can win, but they will also lose. 

No matter how much we want it to be, life will be nothing more than a zero-sum game. And in that battlefield, people, especially people like us who deal in language, they will always be the losers. 

They can always try to focus on the inside, and try to get as close as possible. But there will always be something missing. Like the legendary flute of Nero, this revelation regarding the inside will always be played for those lucky few on the balconies, and those caught in the crossfires of Rome will suffer forever. 

And if one chooses to skirt this and subvert expectations in a clever way, well, one would be talking about nothing. Still, there is hope to be found. Maybe I’m too optimistic for my own good, but I do think that there are some things to be done here. In this cruel world of ours, one needs to pick and choose their battles. Even if one loses a battle, that doesn’t mean that one has to lose the war. 

Even if someone has to wait an eternity to do something, one can always find their chance, and strike at the right moment. 

But even then, what if we can never get close to the truth? What if we wait all our lives, but find the cage we have escaped to is just that, a bigger cage? And what if we find the truth but it’s not the truth we wanted? What if, there is no absolute, and there is no way to reverse the nature of this universe? 

What if, this is all there is?

“Here it is now -- a shared flicker that no one but the two of us, I hope, can detect. You came, his look says. Look at what time has done to us, here I am before you, show me no mercy.”

Nafis Shahriar is a student of business and a freelance writer.

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