matter how much Bangladeshis complain about the state of our
people and country, reading an article about how corrupt we
are in TIME Magazine -- "Asia's most dysfunctional country"
the exact quote that the writer used -- is a jagged pill for
us to swallow. Being human, which implies being able to dish
out criticism, but not being able to take it, I started reading
the article with a completely closed mind, looking for loopholes
and arguments in my country's defense.
I was ecstatic
when I found my first bone of contention in the introductory
paragraph, in which the author writes, "Kawran Bazaar,
a sprawling complex of wholesale markets and retail shops near
the heart of the capital, is a hunting ground for gun-wielding
extortionists who don't hesitate to kill if they are refused
their protection money." How could the writer use a general
phenomenon as his first example? Since when are extortion and
Mafioso activities limited solely to Bangladesh -- to the extent
that we are being globally criticised as the worst of the lot?
claim that Bangladesh is a safe place for anyone. Violence rages
in all parts of the country and poverty seems like a never-ending
problem, while the privileged class seems only to get richer.
Minority groups such as Hindus, Ahmadiyyas and indigenous peoples
living in different parts of the country are either neglected
or subjected to violence and alienation. My question to the
writer is that while we know all of this is true, isn't the
same true for countries all over the world -- both developing
and developed? How many Muslims in America lost their jobs after
September 11th, or even worse, were victims of religious intolerance?
And what of countries where the consensus of the people made
no difference whatsoever, as is the case with Romania, where
a dictator reigned for over a decade, starving his people in
order to spend all the nation's finances on grandiose palaces
and his own needs and wants?
In the first
paragraph the writer hinted that the shop owners in Kawran Bazaar
as being afraid to talk about the problems they face. In the
same breath, he then quotes a man who claims that no matter
what he says or does, he is "dead anyway." In how
many so-called oppressive countries do you find that people
are able to speak out against injustice? Is this why people
have spoken out against all the social grievances that we encounter
every day? Is this why newspapers still have the freedom to
openly criticise the situation of the country?
happy I continued reading, not realising that in my indignation,
I showed the symptoms of someone being in complete denial. It
was towards the end of the article, when I read "how can
you have intellectual freedom when you don't know you will come
home safely in the evening," a quote by economist Abul
Barkat, in reference to the attack on Humayun Azad and similar
incidents happening around the country, that I stopped to think.
Slowly I turned back to the first page and started again --
this time, with what I hoped to be a more open mind. The result
was overall very unpleasant.
It is not
that the article gave me any new insight or information, of
which I had not been aware of before. It was more that on the
glossy paper of TIME Magazine it just seemed a whole lot worse
-- with its photographs of corruption and violence on every
social level and embarrassing quotes from political leaders
that either refuse to accept that the nation is in trouble,
or make trite statements about how sad it all is, never making
an active effort to change anything.
how much I disagree and come up with small comforts such as
the ones above to prove to myself that Bangladesh should not
be labeled as the world's most corrupt country, the truth is
that there is no fire without a spark. Whether or not we are
the worst, we are spiraling downwards. It is sad to think that
we are the same people that fought so hard for our freedom.
One oppressive force has been replaced by another, which ironically
happens to be our own people. The age-old story repeats itself.
At the end
of the day we are all aware of the problems that our country
face, denial or no denial. We do not claim that we are corruption
free and that our government provides us with a safe and stable
environment. However, one must also acknowledge that it is our
never-ending race to catch up to the world economy that further
intensifies the corruption, and the violence is both an aftermath
of our greed, as well as a reaction to the outside world. It
is unfair to claim that a country is corrupt and dysfunctional
without recognising that we are a young developing country,
in which imperialism, colonialism and globalisation have played
a huge role in the steps towards our so-called "state of