Thoughts on “Generation Bangladesh” article in the Daily Star

Incidental Blogger

Incidental Blogger

[The post is written in first person as an open letter to the article author.]

Dear Salahuddin,

I have recently read this Daily Star article of yours with interest. Otherwise an intriguing piece, I am somewhat at a loss on some of the points. I would only discuss three of them:

1.

You wrote about Generation-B enthusiastically but you never told us about the values they actually stand for, or the kind of principles they actually adhere to. You see, “ideologies” or their “baggages” are not necessarily bad things. Nations moved, nations shaked, nations aspired–not always with mobile phones or laptops. For examples do please look at the emerging economies of the last few decades or you may want to go a bit further back in the history. On the contrary, just because someone carries a mobile phone and a laptop does not mean that you have a world leader in the making. I am really wary of people these days who are quick to suggest–often on over-simplified premises—how shiny buildings, flashy cars, plush restaurants, shopping malls, mobile phones, laptops and micro-credits have become the greatest gifts of our time ! You see Obamas of our time were not made out of mobile phones or internet connections or micro-credits or social businesses. The promise of greatness we see in leaders like Obama (or Martin Luther King or Bangabandhu) are just manifestations of their ideologies or values or commitments. Without a great ideology you cannot have a great leader.  

So, please could you elaborate–what you think is going to be the defining ideology or value of “your” future Obamas of Generation B? At least give us a wish list. Because I think the readers like me would be more interested in the specifics rather than in some wide and vague rhetoric. And please stop bashing everything that is ideological, because I am particularly concerned to see the way you have described our fathers’ generation as an “ideological baggage” carrying generation. For the record, I am grateful that they had “some” ideologies to fight and die for, which I hardly can say about most of my own generation. I am grateful that they bothered to “carry” those ideologies–when they were young–when they took up arms to free the country–and when they sacrificed their lives. They did that happily to ensure that we do not have to. They did that so that the legacy can be passed to our generation. They did that for us, Faisal, for you and me. Let’s not forget that.  

Please do not get me wrong. I do not underestimate the role communication technologies can play in development discourses. But we must not lose sight that these technologies can only assist and catalyse changes. At most they could be the tools/gadgets in the hands of the movers. I sincerely doubt they can achieve anything more than that. At the end of the day, it is what goes on inside our minds and hearts (our values, ideologies and principles etc) that define us, which hopefully one day would be embodied in the figure of a great leader.    

2.  

These days I often come across articles such as this where authors try to apply “business models” to address and explain larger issues of politics and statehood, often using theories and terminologies from the fields of marketing or management studies.This is fundamentally flawed and I find this tendency problematic. Business and politics (or statesmanship) are two different worlds and their premises and mandates are totally different. Where one is profit driven, the other is public interest driven; where one is all about money, the other is about people (by, for and of the people), egalitarian goals, sovereignty and twenty other different things. [Do I really need to go on to explain this?] Yes, one may argue that in Bangladesh, the distinctions are now blurred–with businessmen holding political offices and politicians becoming profit-seeking businessmen. One may further argue that the boundaries between these two worlds are now collapsing. One may even argue that the nexus between power and money is not uncommon even in the most advanced of the democracies. I guess my point is, that does not make it right. If that happens, then universities all over the world would have placed their departments of politics, economics, international relations and all other social science departments under the umbrella of one big Commerce Faculty, as part of a BBA or MBA programme perhaps. If that happens, then Bangladesh would be run by the CEOs or Chairmans of the Group of Companies. Hey, why not bring the CEO’s of multinationals (eg, IBM, Coca Cola, Microsoft) in and lease the country out in their business-efficient hands?  

Sorry for the crude analogy, but I hope things will not come to that.  

3.  

If I were you I would refrain from using terms such as “shining India” or “rising China” as something positive. These are just buzz words, and their premises are not as clean as the leaders (including their business leaders) of these two countries are trying to make their people believe. For God’s sake, are we not following the news on China, Tibet, Darfur, Nandigram etc? There can in fact be a whole new debate on this “shining-rising” countries which can be the subject of a separate thread. Perhaps another day . . .


5 Responses to “Thoughts on “Generation Bangladesh” article in the Daily Star”

  1. tanm

    I haven’t even read the original article by Faisal, but still from what i extrapolate from here, I have heard the points before. And i admire your replies. I too am sorry when I hear people say “Desh agiye jacche [the country is moving forward]” for all the wrong reasons (shiny buildings, mobile technologies, fancy cars, shopping malls of record sizes).

    I too have heard the suggestion of the lack of business values in running the country. I also hope that your crude analogy is not a reality, but then again, we have to filter out some of the values from the business world that are really needed in the mindset of those running the country. There, we would think of the country’s profits (a country comprising of its individuals, citizens) instead of a corporation. Where we’d care about quality and risk/waste management, about efficiency, and time-to-market, about optimizing ROI. It takes a learning and a degree at most times to run a successful business, or (the elusive) good common sense. Most politicians lack that and most are just blessed with big mouths and big appetites. I don’t know how to solve that, except arm our next generation with proper education that empowers critical thingking, so they can resist the wrong things and accept the right.

  2. Engr. Khondkar Abdus Saleque

    It is very interesting issue. The world is advancing everyday in many matters. But in the real sense Bangladesh is either in static state or slipping behind in most of the areas. We really do not have any national vision and any mission to achieve it. The quality of leadership has gone down drastically. In our school days the first boys usually used to be class captain. They were not only meritorious students. They were equally brilliant in extra curricular activities. Now only mastans having muscle powers are student leaders. Mastan like Faloo, Harsi Chowdhury rose to the level of PM’s advisor. So imagine whether Bangladesh is advancing or not. In 1970 it usually used to take about 45 Minutes to travel from Gazipoor to Dhaka cioty centre now it may take couple of hours due to congestions. Can we compare the quality of any of the present Secretaries of Government to the skills of those in 1970s or even 80s. Talking about sports , have we found out anyone of the quality of Salahuddin, Enayet or Shantoo in soccer, or Saber, Sadeque in hockey, Have we produced another swimmer like Musharraf? In 1970s Dr.Habibur Rahman was Chairman ,Petrobangla .Now can you compare any other PB chairmen with him.

    Unfortunately in the rest of the world most of the things change for the better every day. We do not need rocket science every where. But we are definitely not advancing. We are rather sinking and may soon get swept away in any SIDR or Nargis in not too distant future.

  3. Incidental Blogger

    @ tanm :

    Thank you for your insightful comment. I see your point and fully appreciate the necessity of efficiency, resource utilisations, result driven actions. I also appreciate that skills to attain them are often parts of business education/practices. No one denies that. So, if and when we sit with our socio-political halkhatas, these skills would probably come handy to audit the actions and achievements (as well as failures) of our leaders. Having said that, I also believe it is important that politicians are not “too good” at these kind of audits, always wearing business-managers’ hats screaming “profit . . . profit . . . numbers . . . numbers . . . statistics.” Because political wisdom may sometimes involve being able to think in ways which may not be financially most prudent (in a business sense) or most economic. Examples include social policy driven sectors in a country involving health, education, security, law enforcement etc.

    In order to bring the “necessary skills” on board, politicians can always appoint technocrats or business trained professionals to handle specific matters. But having these technocrats or businessmen in the helm of a country is a dangerous thing. Evidence? Look at the poor performance of the current technocratic, supposedly high-skilled Caretaker Government. Look at the mess they have created one after another. Specifically, look at the blunder two of the business savvy Advisers made—yes, I am talking about Tapan Chowdhury (can you get a more business savvy individual than him) and Geeti Ara. Chowdhury proved how insensitive he was to people’s troubles and how out of touch he was with reality. Geeti ara proved how viewing things with the simplistic CEOs’/owners’ glasses could easily lead to dismissal, torture and persecution of thousands of poor jute mill workers. Do you really want people like them to lead you?

    This whole preference for business-models and business savvy individuals can be dangerous. Just look at Dr Yunus. Do you remember how a portion of our civil society once conceived the possibility that a banker (basically a CEO) like him could be this country’s last hope ? Can you really think anything more ridiculous than the possibility of him running the country? We must not forget, Yunus is one of those high-profile individuals who never took any stand on any civil rights or public interest matter in the last three decades. Do you remember when West Bengal administration and its goons were killing and raping villagers in Nandigram, Yunus was there as a State guest unreservedly supporting the administration’s pro-Industrialisation stand which led to those massacres? Do you remember when the whole country was in turmoil because of Iajuddin during those pre-1/11 days, Yunus in a press-conference commented: “I give Iajuddin A++ for his initiatives and actions.” So this is our Yunus, arguably the best of them (ie, the businessmen) making huge blunders in his public life. What better can we expect from the others?

  4. tanm

    Gee, if its one or the other!? I don’t think I have much of a choice!

    I was merely suggesting the qualities that are currently missing from the profiles of the politicians. So, what is a politician in the end? a good speaker, who melts hearts, conducts a lot of meetings, and has no bearing on managing a project?

    Like you said, maybe involving more technocrats alongside is a good thing. I have very little experience in working with the government, but from my experience, they are very uneager to learn anything, and close minded. They are not inherently bad people, in fact they have good intentions, but their bad work culture i think is a worse enemy than say corruption. sometimes they congratulate themselves too much for the mere fact that they are in the position to help people, even if they haven’t really used it to any outcome.

  5. Twilight

    I think ,this is an interesting topics in the current context of Bangladesh and our neighbours country’s progress. And, I agree with tanm …..unfortunately it has been proven that our current political leaders are(not most,in current days almost all)blessed with big mouth and big apetite and thats eventualy affect every sector of the country and generated an widespread institutional corruption.

    I think there is no alternative to progress a country without basic education and values in combination with skills development.Sounds big task but nothing is imposible. So if any gov or opposition who is or will be running the country,can start that learning process and maintain stability of the country, it won’t be that far to see Bangladesh in different recognition in the world map.

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