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Armchair activists everywhere

  • Published at 09:03 pm August 18th, 2015
Armchair activists everywhere

Social media networks, especially Facebook, have had an unbelievable impact on the youth these days. No stone was left unturned when it came to heated debates online -- be they legalisation on gay marriage, politics, religion, or secularism -- with dedicated Facebook groups being made to tackle such heady subjects, such as the now defunct “Moja Losss?”

During the Shahbagh movement of 2013, I myself was present when Professor Muhammad Zafar Iqbal publicly apologised to the youth, saying how he had always been wrong in thinking that the current generation only knew how to raise their voices online, that they lacked the guts to bring the protests down to the streets. Though Shahbagh proved to be an exception for a short term, I honestly believe that Zafar Iqbal sir’s original thought still stands somewhat correct.

Leaving protesting outside, even in light of something as appalling as 13-year-old Rajon’s torture-murder last month, most of our young folk were content with the oft-made “suggestion” in their social network of choice, forgetting that there are other, more public, platforms, such as newspapers, in which they can have their voices heard more loudly.

Going by the fact that most choose to share their thoughts through social media almost exclusively, it’s hard not to get the impression that, not only do they post online for the convenience, but that it also requires less research and knowledge regarding the matter concerned, the depth of which the youth does not care enough to dig into.

Such shallowness not only makes the youth inconsistent with their stances regarding ongoing issues, but also provides them with a false feeling of righteousness. Even though most realise that their social media “messages” make no practical difference, another popular trend is to attack specific groups or persons for not standing up for a cause which is completely unrelated to the activism of that particular group or person.

For instance, there was the unwarranted online criticism of Gonojagoron Moncho for not organising something as big as the Shahbagh protests to rally against child abuse in Bangladesh, an issue which has been brought to light after the Rajon incident.

To Facebook posts in the vein of “where is Shahbagh now?” for every other unfortunate incident that occurs, I feel it is important to reply with: “Forget them, why aren’t you there?” The same Imran H Sarker, who the youth once thought as their leader, now has hundreds of such young men and women swearing at him in the most uncouth manner on his Facebook page (related or unrelated to his activism).

Things have taken a turn now, with the intolerance of the youth against secular or atheist writers and free-thinkers. The same youth now judge Imran Sarker for being an atheist (such judgments, unfortunately, have spill-over effects), and now they also blame him and his organisation for not taking into consideration matters which hardly concern them.

I am not trying to make it a point how inconsistent or hypocritical we, the youth, have become just over a short span of time, instead, I am emphasising the comfort of actually doing nothing, or blaming someone else for doing nothing, with regards to a particular issue, while posting entire paragraphs on social media, prioritising one matter above all. Irrespective of the statements Gonojagoron Moncho may make regarding many contemporary issues, there is no doubt when it comes to the organisation’s main motive.

Since I was very young, on every July 21, I have noticed candlelight walks and silent protests being held. Participants of the protests were not only the family members but also leaders and activists of JSD and the socialist followers of Bir Uttam Lieutenant Colonel Abu Taher, who was executed through a kangaroo trial. Such a trial was proven to have been illegal, and the protesters finally found some solace after their years of activism, upon the Supreme Court’s verdict in 2011.

On an even smaller scale, “Desh, We’re Concerned” is the only registered non-profit organisation to have consistently campaigned over the years for the proper trial of the BDR Pilkhana carnage, in which the nation lost 57 Bangladesh Army officers. I had initially founded the organisation as an advocacy group, since I thought of this matter to have been of prime importance and deserving of attention.

Just like the thousands of freedom fighters and their families, biranganas and commoners find it important to find justice for 1971. Members of Colonel Taher’s family and his comrades also find it relevant to stand against how he was wrongfully killed, and the family members of the 57 officers along with “Desh, We’re Concerned” shall continue its activism to unearth the truth behind the Pilkhana massacre -- and all of this is being carried out offline.

The youth must try and build a Shahbagh of their own, rather than wait for Gonojagoron Moncho to act. All activist groups have aims and objectives, and, provided the long paragraphs posted on Facebook actually aim to bear some fruit, the youth are required to be bothered enough to act in real life. Otherwise, not only does the nation miss out on the potential good that social media offers, but, over time, we will become a generation that practically has nothing to offer but lists of complaints.

We don’t truly care enough to stand by what we think is worth fighting for, but consciously or otherwise, we try our best to be articulate on social media, with the sole target of attracting followers, the increasing amount of which we falsely believe makes each of us more celebrated than the others. 

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