Let’s not get kicked back into the Stone Age
If you are a regular in foreign press or social media in this time of crisis (a stupid question really. You can only spend your time with “productive” habits for so long), chances are you have come across a quote that was spoken by one Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
The quote goes something like this: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.” Now, before you come at me for even daring to use a quote by a communist, how about that article by Yuval Noah Harari that started circulating when we first started getting into lockdown?
Published on March 19 in the Financial Times, Mr Harari talked about how many short-term emergency procedures will become long-term norms in the future, stating that emergencies fast forward historical processes. Well, you could also argue that he is a left-wing Israeli, and by quoting him, I am showing my Zionist-financed agenda to topple the Islamic fabric that rules this country.
How about we look at history and find out how historical events have caused revolutions and turned whole power structures upside down in seconds? Let’s look at March 1971. We had our fair share of skirmishes with the police and the larger Pakistani government, but as they started hitting us with 52 and 69, we became bolder and more aggressive as well. All of this culminated in the general election of 1970.
We were angry, and we wanted to tear everything to shreds. But at the same time, we were trying to reach our goals in a systematic way. After the election happened, we won, but we weren’t given the deed to the country.
The tension between us and Pakistan was at an all-time high. The March 7 speech came, and it only energized us. But it is well documented that very few people actually foresaw what was going to happen. Then, March 25 happened. Body after body littered the street. Thousands upon thousands of people met with death if they were lucky.
And if luck wasn’t with them, well, that’s a topic for another time. People were shocked. People were stunned. This went on for a few days. Then, mass exodus followed from the capital.
Some were just trying to escape, some had other ideas in their minds. Even in the villages where people generally gobbled up the propaganda that Pakistan was pro-Islam, people started to take up arms in order to overthrow their oppressors.
While there was already an us vs them divide, we wouldn’t have taken to arms like this if it weren’t for March 25. And that’s the point, historical crises can speed up a lot of historical processes. When people are pushed to their breaking point, when people are pushed to their most desperate, they tend to turn to the things that will help them avert these crises.
Sure, what they turn into depends a lot on their spiritual and intellectual disposition, but a country like ours where the majority is mired in superstition and extremist religious dogma, a picture begins to emerge why something like that coupled with the recent Covid-19 crisis can spell disaster for our country.
And this brings us to today’s topic. Anyone familiar with Facebook should be familiar with the idiocy espoused by the one Kazi Ibrahim (And if you think that it’s not idiocy, may god help you). Recently he has taken an anti-vaxx stance where he has accused the heroic researchers working day and night to find a vaccine for Covid-19 are trying to make something that will hurt Muslims, and he has brought up age old conspiracy theories about how Western vaccines have afflicted Africans with various diseases and have curtailed their birth rate. This is a well-known conspiracy theory espoused by religious and racial supremacist nutjobs throughout the world, and I guess we can take comfort in the fact that a notion like this has not become mainstream until now in Bangladesh.
But the fact that it has become mainstream in a country like ours is specifically the reason why it should make us afraid. Let’s say that Kazi Ibrahim could be comparable to someone like Alex Jones stateside. While Alex Jones definitely has a huge following, he and follower base is still relatively fringe in the context of the states. But when it comes to preachers like Kazi Ibrahim, he talks to a majority of the people of this country who think that preachers can do no wrong.
Even the more knowledgeable sects of this group condemn the practice of criticizing preachers, saying that they are still preachers at the end of the day. A trip to the rural areas or the Facebook comment sections of news articles are just a slight secular in nature can reveal the vast extremist underbelly that governs much of the population of this country.
It’s not hard to see how religious zealots can gather them up and brainwash them in the name of God to do their unjust biddings. And if anyone has any doubts about this, he should go to Kazi Ibrahim’s Facebook page and seek out the post where he talks about the vaccine. The number of people who support such a ridiculous idea far outnumbers the number of people who try to oppose it, and as it stands, they are getting drowned out at every second.
As such, given how the people of this country are, it is easy for the religious extremists to take control of them and take control of our national identity and culture by extension. Now, why is the government not doing anything about this?
They already try to silence any and all dissidents through the draconian Digital Security Act, then why not this? Of course, I am not suggesting that the government arrest them due to their speech, as it still falls under the umbrella of free speech and the way they use the Digital Security Act is something that should be opposed at all times, but why isn’t the government trying to fight the way they are brainwashing the people of this country and fighting the misinformation they are spewing with actual facts?
Why is the government cracking down on parties using the sound pollution laws and not on wazes, which harm through misinformation and brainwashing tactics? It also devolves into hate speech which often no longer can be allowed to be saved by free speech laws.
An easy answer would be that this is a major vote bank that the government can’t afford to lose. But if they let things go on as they are, things will turn ugly, they will lose the vote bank regardless. I will end this article the way I started it, with the quote from the mighty Lenin. “There are weeks where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”
There are decades happening all around us. And ultimately, it’s up to us so the decade doesn’t take us back to the Stone Age.
Nafis Shahriar is a freelance contributor.