Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Muaz !

I honestly think free speech is an illusion only now instead of government or kings it’s the general people or public opinion that does the censuring. Oh no I am not talking about the usual case of not being able to voice against your government or leaders, which is prevalent today no doubt. But in areas where an opinion has become so strongly accepted and glorified that to speak against it seems to be an anathema. It seems we humans have developed abstract ideas or opinions which after sometime becomes object of worship and people applaud when you show your undying agreement to the idea while face nothing short of public wrath or obloquy if you dare to speak against it. The result is thought censuring, people begin to gravitate towards monolithic set of opinions which in turn reinforces those opinions and further stifles any criticism, constructive or not. Combine this with the fact that most people are single tracked, egoistic, narcissistic, “cognitive misers” (those who don’t get the term mostl likely fall in that category) and you end up with set of “godly opinions” whose existence is like “lack of universal healthcare in USA”, you don’t know how or why they persist.

However there are certain opinions where instead of one you are blessed with equally illogical but polar opposite set of opinions. In these cases to side with any opinion, in my opinion, is like choosing between BNP and Awami league, in both cases you end up looking stupid. The reason is no opinion should be glorified and be kept above and beyond criticism. The gravity of the matter stems from the fact that opinions at present are being protected by people, there are no centralized body trying to stop you from saying things, it’s the people and ignorant ones at that. Social networks like facebook or Hi5 are interesting place to check this. One would assume that people having access to internet will be reasonably intelligent, although it is very much open to debate but hey for assumption’s sake we can make that. In those network try to say something against a publicly held opinion and you will see flurry of comments nicely implying that your comment was politically incorrect and at the same time showing their agreement to the opinion. And these are your friends, unless of course you happen to be those who have no friends and hence have a friend list of 4000+.

What is even more interesting is that there is something evangelical about it, when people censure you. It’s like they are saying “you see I am not like this guy who doesn’t know what to say, I know how correct this opinion is”. The jury is so in when it comes to patriotism, religion, Darwin, superiority of woman, “freedom” , that surely you are joking if you criticise the conventional wisdom. Recently I was looking at an article in facebook about returning home from abroad. It was a moving article which basically went on to show that people from Bangladesh who go abroad to study should return home and not settle abroad. The author basically tried to appeal to reader’s emotion, and he was successful without a doubt. His basic argument was to say that religiously speaking we should take care of our parents, and that their happiness supersedes ours since they sacrificed a lot for us. He was using the time tested method of being apologetic and at the same time evoking guilt in minds of the readers. Fused that with some patriotism and voila you have the magic formula, everyone immediately started posting their comments and conveyed how obvious it was and brilliant too. This is a good example of opinion censuring; I know most of them will not return back home and will settle abroad, yet it doesn’t stop them from publicly stating how much in agreement they are with this article.

After flurry of comments siding with the article, I wrote that I disagree with the logic even though I will probably return home. Obviously I faced some criticism but not much, at least not to the extent I would have liked. What can I say I love turning the table, I hate stale opinions they tend to remind me of swamps and hence most of the time I try to stand against public opinion or conventional wisdom out of pure sense of fun and jest. Oh no I am no vanguard of free thought, au contraire I am pretty coward and probably because of that I am rarely confident about any particular opinion. I shift my opinions and think other than politicians it is insane to have fixed set of opinions about everything. The more I read the more I see that there is very little reason to be confident about anything. Our knowledge is but a grain of salt in an ocean of ignorance and to be confident in these circumstances is to question that very grain of salt we profess to have. Thats the funny thing about knowledge, it breeds ignorance.However fortunately or unfortunately I am not the majority and hence most people tend to be confident.

The article I referred to was obviously debatable specially for a country like ours where trade deficit is $8-9 billion dollars i.e. we export around $14-15 billion where as import is $9 billion higher. Only through remittance we are able meet up this deficit and that comes not only from labourers working in Middle East but also NRBs in UK and USA. If one looks at Bangladesh Bank website then you will find that our top remittance sources include UK & USA. Hence the question of brain drain and returning home is very much open to debate and I am sorry to say the “jury is not in” on this. But obviously if you are vocal about this then it is very likely you will face unjustified criticism which is more ideological than fact based. If it was only criticism then ‘who’ cares, at least not me but the primary harm from this is that it hinders logical rational assessment of the situation. I want people who are working and studying outside, those who are sending money back home, i.e. people not like me, to be really proud of themselves because they are one of the largest exporter of our country and they are the true patriots.

I think criticism in all aspect of life is necessary and it is not easy to take, I will be the first one to agree to that. I hate criticism and cannot stand them but at the same time it ‘itches’ me to accept this but in the long run I owe a lot to them.


  1. Heh heh; did you see my response to Sharif's article in Joyonto bhai's blog? We do think alike A LOT.

    It beggars saying that I ABSOLUTELY LOVED this piece. The problem I have with your writing is that I so innately agree with most of these that I can't really objectively or constructively criticize. Which again leads us to the fact that it must be someone somewhat opposed, or at least oblique to your perspective that need to do that part.

    I will finish by saying, again, that critics are the salt of the earth. They might sometime be a pain to bear, but well, don't you also like it when your most ardent critic praises you? ;)

  2. Hahaha so u read the thing too....yeah after ur comment i went and checked Joyonto's blog ........what can I say ....we do think alike :-P

    As for your praises.......Abar jigs....."thumbs up" from ones critics are always highly motivating :-D