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OP-ED: Hoping for holism at 50

  • Published at 07:46 pm March 12th, 2021
construction canal
Photo: MEHEDI HASAN

Wealth may not bring about happiness or peace


I was five in 1971. I remember almost everything that my family and many other families had gone through during those nine months. I have asked around. All boys and girls of my age still remember the war and the tribulations associated with it. Many had lost their parents. I was lucky that I didn’t.

I carry the memories of our great Liberation War after 50 years, even when, at 55, my short-term memory has started betraying me. But the memories of the war are well composed in my mind. I don’t know why. A neurologist may be able to explain it.

I was happy to have survived a war in which, I remember, many around us were killed. I understood it was a war for freedom, but I didn’t understand its significance. As I was growing up, in a post-independent nation-state, my parents and other elders had made me aware of the significance of being independent, first, from the British in 47 and then, from Pakistan in 71.

However, I saw freedom taking a different hue for every individual, for every political party. I observed there wasn’t any oneness or unity in our reality; we couldn’t create the wholeness as a nation that would lead us to have a single reality for all.

As a teenager, I always thought: Why was one rich and the other poor? Why would people in an independent country have to beg for food? Why did we have to kill two heads of state in the first decade of independence? Our own people assassinating heads of state, to my mind, have so far been the most shameful and dark events of our history.

I concluded that the position of a head of state in Bangladesh became so lucrative that the killers couldn’t resist killing them. They wanted to ascend to that position.

Power became a sought-after commodity in our independent Bangladesh. Everybody wanted power -- every individual. But they didn’t want to become a power themselves.

I observed that everybody wanted to make money -- every individual wanted to be rich at any cost, by toppling others. I didn’t (I still don’t) find a holistic and sustainable approach to nation-building that would weave every individual psyche in one thread so that we all think similarly.

The divisions that ran through all these years are so horrifying that we, till today, have to struggle to instill the spirit of 71 in many. There are still many, as then, who are not convinced in the notion of an independent Bangladesh. Are they -- who still oppose the entity of Bangladesh -- bad people? Or is it us who couldn’t shape their minds to believe in our independence?

My father used to comment, when he felt depressed by the widespread corruption in every nook and corner: “We were not this greedy when we used to be ruled by foreign powers.”

I agree with him. Greed has become a powerful force as we progress towards the creation of wealth. Our greed has destroyed the ponds, canals, rivers, and finally, the soil. Even religion fails to redeem us.

Sometimes, we talk about one river or one canal or one pond, but we consciously ignore the others -- we forget without a wholeness in our thinking process we won’t be able to prevent the disaster that might be looming. Or maybe we cannot foresee the silent holocaust. Maybe we are ignorant.

We now have adulterated food. It’s a sham. Food is a holy gift of Mother Earth to keep her children healthy and happy. We didn’t keep our food holy. Now, the vengeance is obvious across our bodies. Experts predict with fear that diseases such as cancer, diabetes, early-age cardiac arrests will soon attain epidemic proportions.

It’s great to learn that the world is full of accolades about our economic progress. Many countries these days want to emulate us in their pursuit of creating wealth. But wealth-creation has a cost. It does not give a damn about Mother Earth -- the lifeline of humans. Without taking care of the environment, we humans wouldn’t enjoy a holistic life. We would all be trees without roots.

Finding happiness in wealth may be one kind of happiness, but it may not lead us to the holism that is required for complete living. If we fail to live in harmony with Mother Earth, we may not be able to sustain our wealth.

What do we lack? Education? Morality? Age-old teachings? Leadership? I don’t know; we must find out.

We must remember that wealth is glamorous and exciting but it may not bring happiness and peace. We have to look for wholeness to attain peace and happiness.

The word holistic may sound like a fairy-tale or mere jargon to most of us, but to my mind, we need to be extremists or crazy in finding that fairy-tale in our lives as we progress as a nation.

That’s my hope at 55 for my country at 50.

Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller, and a communications professional. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.

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