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OP-ED: The comedy of errors

  • Published at 06:38 pm September 1st, 2021

We just never learn from history

It was the unerring ability to expose the contradictions of life and present them for what they are that made William Shakespeare what he is today. 

His work encompassed human nature like few others, brought out the beauty of the simplest aspects of nature itself, all threaded together, be it in plays or poetry. True, there have been accusations of some of his work not being original or indeed being his creation. Taking the context and placing them in modern-day settings took little away from the core. Juxtaposed in common day life, his characters are as real and relevant as they were in his times and before.

Alfred Nobel is a case in that context. A man so perturbed by the way he made his fortune, through instruments of death, bequeathed his wealth to reward initiators of peace and other disciplines. That the peace awardees raised more than a few eyebrows wasn’t his doing. The jury that makes the decisions are to be held accountable. Or is that so? There have been a few who turned down the honour with due humility because, in a way, they found it an exercise rather than recognition of what they stood for. The contributions of winners, with notable exceptions, following such awards can well be brought into question. 

The universality of literati that have won the honours is a fascinating field of study. Those who asked questions of happenings and events well ahead of their times don’t figure as prominently as do those who probe current thought of questions that should have been asked earlier. Music, or as Shakespeare described it, the food of love, hasn’t been considered. 

Nor have the lyrics of songs that were at one stage not considered or understood found a place to be exalted. No wonder that Bob Dylan turned down his award for literature. He had been the one to ask questions on freedom, death, war, and such in the verses of “Blowin’ in the wind.” There are so many like him who asked questions in song that were never answered or acknowledged. 

Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” banned for its at-the-time “seditious verses,” had prophesied that education, as was known then and even now, is all about thought control. Think of the contradiction between the greater arguments for freedom of thought and expression and the dubious experiments to use technology to read minds in some dark, hidden lab. 

The outcome of such research is just too obvious. That Pink Floyd verses were ignored, banished for many years, is just as beautifully expressed in the song “Vincent” by Don MacLean: “They did not listen, they did not know how.”

The attempts at mind control are unashamedly prevalent through what critics call “social engineering.” The acknowledged learned minds might just want to pass it off as “evolution.” As for the mango people? Their views have only ever been taken on when it resonates among “leaders.”

Repressing free thinking overtly and covertly has been newly weaponized by the intrusion into privacy. As with any repression, there is a counter movement that can and has been used nefariously. The intent of re-allowing Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf to be printed isn’t to be missed. Put that side by side with John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Leonard Cohen’s “A thousand kisses deep,” or Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” and ask world leaders to debate. 

Add Plato’s Republic to the mix to make for a mind-boggler of a virtual meeting. The provision is that they read them for what they represent. Jules Verne was ridiculed for suggesting that for something to be stronger than air, it had to be heavier. 

History is meant to be learned from. The same applies to forward-looking thought. Some of it is certainly going to be old hat. It’s the essence that matters. The nectar sought by bees as offering to their queen, so to say. That we didn’t take the learnings and move ahead is one further factor to history. That we continue not to do so is where it becomes a tragedy. Unlike the “comedy of errors,” the comedy is missing. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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