When politicians need literary lessons
DAFFODIL International University misses no opportunity to express its thirst for knowledge and its urge for scholarly cultivations. Particularly, the Department of English of DIU has fame for its enthusiasm for and interest in co-curricular activities. Recently, the department in association with Star Campus, a weekly publication of The Daily Star, arranged an exclusively enlightening and entertaining event. Taking place at DIU auditorium on March 8, 2008, the occasion centred around an 'Intellectual Discourse' on “Should our politicians study literature?” A good number of scholars and intellectuals gathered to talk over the topic.
The purpose of the intellectual discourse was to create awareness of the need of the purification of our moribund politics and the correction of errant behaviour of our politicians. Literature is considered a powerful tool in this regard. The habit of reading literature poetry, fiction, prose and so can really help people to look at life in a positive way, highlighting the value of honesty, welfare and other human qualities.
Professor Dr. G. M. Shahidul Alam, Head of the Department of Media and Communication, Independent University of Bangladesh, delivered keynote speech. With Professor Dr. Aminul Islam, Vice Chancellor, Daffodil International University, in the chair, the conference was addressed, among others, by Professor Dr. Rezaur Rahman, DIU, Professor Shaheen Kabir, Department of English, Jahangirnagar University, Professor Dr. Sarker Ali Akkas, Head, Department of Law, DIU, Shahnoor Wahid, Star Campus Editor, Shakhawat Tipu, Assistant Editor, the Weekly Kagoj and Saikat Habib, Senior Subeditor, the daily Samakal.
Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Registrar of DIU, delivered the welcome speech. He said that the question “Should our politicians study literature?” arises from the persistent failure of our politicians in discharging their designated responsibilities.
Professor Alam graduated in Political Science, had an MA in Public Administration, a PhD in International Relations and now he is teaching Media & Communication. He does not limit literature within the arena of novel, story or poetry. He believes in studying liberal arts which include history, philosophy, psychology etc.
He emphasised the need to have a broader sense of the world which we can attain only by studying literature widely. In an argumentative way he threw a rhetorical question to thoughtful audience, as some of the politicians write poetry, are they better politicians? He maintained that the worst quality of our politicians is their lack of tolerance and to be tolerant they must read literature in the wider perspectives of liberal arts. Professor Alam mentioned how the works of Shakespeare are the microcosm of all the intricacies of life's philosophy.
Professor Aminul Islam pointed out that liberal arts should be widely read by not only politicians but also people in general.
The intellectual discourse that concentrated on the relationship between politics and literature should have important implications for the people of the country. He said that the habit of reading literature will benefit the readers in every way, making them worthy citizens. The role of literature in enhancing the quality of politics and politicians is widely acknowledged, he noted.
Professor Rezaur Rahman pointed out how literature generates love, mercy, humility, sympathy and moral values in us. Writings of Shakespeare and other great authors can be not only a source of great pleasure but a genuine source of moral courage and knowledge needed to be an enlightened man.
Professor Akkas felt the need for making the habit of reading literature from family level. To love literature is something that grows from within and family first. Literature is an inevitable part of our understanding of human nature. He added since corruption has grasped politics in our country, the politicians must get the lessons of literature for acquiring essential human values.
Professor Shaheen Kabir discussed how Sophocles's play Antigone teaches us not to cross the limit, how Dostoyevsky's Crime & Punishment and Rabindranath Tagore's Gora make us politically conscious and thoughtful. Besides, she mentioned how reading literature can enrich the language of the readers. As language plays a vital role in politics, politicians should read literature to strengthen their language. She also drew our attention to the fact that great literature offers the sense of justice, question of choice and its consequences.
Young journalist Shaikat Habib discussed how in some medical colleges learners have to pass a test of 20 marks in literature to become a doctor. Since they do a job related to humans, they need to be humanised by studying literature.
The other young journalist Shakhawat Tipu said that in a democratic country nobody is outside politics. He talked about the inter-relation between literature and politics and how they influence each other. He was of the view that in a discourse with politics the participation of some politicians was necessary.
The discussion was followed by an enlightening question-answer session. Shamsi Ara Huda, Lecturer, Dept of English, DIU, said that she is optimistic about the job of the politicians. DIU students also spontaneously participated in the session.
The programme was moderated by Dr. Binoy Barman, Head of the Department of English, DIU and conducted by senior faculty Umme Kulsum.
The initiative of the Star Campus/ The Daily Star to organise discourse is really praiseworthy. We hope to see such kind of programmes regularly.
(The writer is lecturer, Department of English, Daffodil International University)