Elections are coming. Democracy is alive. That is the message from the pulpit, to satiate a rabid lust for ballot boxes that the populace supposedly has, which sees its leaders kill them and rob them of their livelihoods without a care in the name of that loathsome word.
Its resuscitation, or, depending on who is asked, continuance, means the respectable act of murder that has been committed in Bangladesh since the beginning of the year can cease and desist.
The cause of such jubilation that is supposed to make the citizenry forget all about the past three months, is the month-long campaign that will culminate in the capital’s mayoral elections -- plural, since the government, in its infinite wisdom, saw it fit to divide the Dhaka City Corporation into two unequal entities over three years ago.
That, too, is forgotten, along with the lack of mayors for the duration, in all the mirth brought about by the practice of democracy, the fact beyond reproach, the unanswered questions dismissed with prejudice. Having the memory of a goldfish is the highest blessing afforded to the commoners.
The ungoverned outpost that has miraculously been growing and overflowing in its usual unplanned manner is to have a new sheriff to oversee the remarkable chaos. Entering the hallowed gladiatorial ring are contestants drawn exclusively from the elite class, serving similar rhetoric promising change in line with the “good governance” and “accountability,” prescriptions of the democracy that is so vehemently protected by installing despots the world over.
This is one battle that will not replicate the gruesome entertainment provided by slaves in the Colosseum nearly two millennia ago. Nevertheless, the candidates must be commended for fortitude lacking in the scions of the two families who have never dared test their popularity by contesting elections.
When the crown of thorns is handed down by an institutional monarchy irremovably embedded in the psyche of the victims by vocations that is the population of Bangladesh, counting marks on pieces of paper is wholly unnecessary. The great leaders are friends of the environment.
There are already noises amidst the elite, amplified by the foghorns of social media, to preserve the sanctity of democracy -- one struggles to say that with a straight face -- and the divinity of the city corporations by making the polls exclusive, all in the name of free and fair elections.
The euphemisms of “taxpayers,” “legal citizens,” and “legitimate citizens” all mean the same thing: Discrimination against the poor. Those jumping on this bandwagon using their grandiose platforms are the same who celebrate the name Jose Mujica, one of the internet’s darlings.
What is good for a backward South American nation is not good enough for their precious Dhaka city. The poor, who clean their streets, serve their food, provide them with domestic services so that they can indulge in gluttony and debauchery, and make their clothes -- even those purchased abroad by the snobs amongst the elites, as the venerable Awami League candidate for Dhaka North will attest -- should not have a say in the future of the city in which they live.
One of the reasons put forward is that they cannot be trusted not to sell their votes. A cursory glance at the poisonous partisanship that is the refuge of the upper classes shows that prostitution is not limited solely to the poor.
Bigger cheques perhaps distinguish the rich as escorts from the prostitutes that are the poor. The elite class is comprised of flexible gymnasts, tying their fates to leaders they will ensure do not fail and simultaneously putting large sails up and going where the wind blows.
The elite and upper classes of Bangladesh, almost every member of which live in the citadel of Dhaka, mostly North, know that if they do not believe in the existence of poor people, they will cease to exist.
Therefore, they are oblivious to the fact that, even in the capital that is their hunting ground, they are vastly outnumbered by the middle and lower classes who cannot be trusted with having a voice in a real democracy.
Gorging themselves on champagne and caviar without sparing these untouchables a second glance, they overlook another demographic reality of the capital city: The youth.
Students returning from higher education pursuits or migrating to Dhaka in pursuit of the same, migrant workers who have completed their tours of duty and returned, emaciated, outside body bags, and the poor lured by the bright lights of the big city to enter into indentured servitude, are young.
The gladiators, designer suits, and expensive common man’s clothes glistening on their well-fed bodies, will do well to reach out to these, the majority, and the reality of not only the distant lands outside the halo of Dhaka, but also within it.
The noblemen provided by the ruling party, the jesters hailing from the current joke of an opposition and anyone the former opposition puts forward need to toe irreparably tainted party-lines.
The independent candidates are free to represent and serve these people, and should prefer it over repeating meaningless political jargon. In a contest where even the losers will continue to amass wealth and influence within the safety of the cocoon of the elite class, it is the least they can do. Perhaps then an election held in Bangladesh could be worth celebrating.