“The country where people are greedy and covetous, thugs’ rule there” – Chanakya
Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister of the British Labor Government then. He had the majority only by one member in parliament. The cabinet could collapse at any time. At the time, a leader of Britain’s racist and fascist party- the National Front, elected as a member of the British Parliament in a by-election. But he was not allowed to enter in the parliament and take his seat since the Labor, Liberal and Tory MPs combinedly opposed him. MPs from all parties did not agree to sit in parliament with a member from the fascist party.
The member of the National Front gave a proposal to the then Prime Minister- Wilson. He said if he was given a chance to sit in Parliament, he would support the Labor government in any case of the no-confidence vote. So, there would not be any risk of the cabinet collapsing. Wilson rejected the offer, said- “I do not want to be in power with the support of any political leper.”
The above-mentioned notion is a significant example of political morality, as well its opposite is not rare. Our Excellency the President was able to express the overall condition of Bangladesh politics by one sentence in his recent speech. Thank him for his candid statement. “Now, Politics is in the pockets of businessmen,” he told.
Businessmen are keen to control the political milieu through placing ‘politics’ in their one pocket and ‘business’ in another, and they have done so. Now, the question -are the politicians leaving their positions to the businessmen? If so, what is the reason? Don’t the politicians think them as skilled in politics as they were in the past? Or, the businessmen are becoming very skilled in politics? Infiltration of businessmen in politics is not culpability, but the use of politics for the purpose of business is guilt, its’ painful and everyone has to pay the price of that pain. We have seen the consequences of using politics for business and personal gain in history, even during the present time of worshiping capitalism. Not only families or parties, but the consequence sometimes causes the suffering of a nation for decades.
If politics is not in the control of politicians then the continuity of development or what we actually desire will not happen. Leaders are created through politics and political processing. This political processing is scarce in Bangladesh. My personal request to the undisputed leader of present Bangladesh, Hon’ble Prime Minister, please give your attention to developing leaders. Not a political slave. The leader will assist you in judging the situation correctly; the slave will run the trick to mislead the way.
Now let us see, commonly what we meant by politics in our life or in our country. Usually, in such countries of ignorant and low-income people, politics is a democratic process of changing the government through an election, where the politicians of the government party and other parties menacing people to understand that the overall welfare of a country is possible through doing politics in a broader way. The meaning in which they say is false, but if we remember Bertrand Russell’s statement it seems to us that it’s true.
That means, if I go to a shop to buy a product or a commodity of daily necessities, my intention will be to pay at least one taka less to the shopkeeper and the shopkeeper’s intention will be to take at least two takas more from me. So, politics is here also. Politics is hidden in the fabric of our daily life. While forming a political party and bringing change in the governing system of a country through that political party could be the broader aspects of politics. But over the last 70 years how much change of the governing system be seen? In the last four years how many people of this country being aware of the politics of becoming politically aware or how many people mentally become competent for participating in politics?
If we notice our legislature- how many of the elected representatives know about their responsibilities, how many of them know the definition of the law, and how many of them know how to change the law. At the same time, do the people, who elected these representatives, really know what the works of the people’s representatives are? This is one aspect of life but inevitably life has different aspects. When we go through the avenues, in order to make a living or to deal with the life we just don’t see politicians on the streets. Life not only means just government, law-policies, and administration. Life is much more than this and cognition of life does far more than this. When a society is plagued with so many problems- where the population is the problem, unemployment is the problem, the drug is the problem, even where people’s morals and ethics are not structured in a usual way, there it is not possible to lead a society to a path of long term development by mere politics or political ideology.
From primeval society to the history of modern time, we observe that powerful entities influence the environment and the surroundings. The farther we go, the more we see the autocracy of the powerful. Early in human history, the source of power was physical strength or muscle power. Stepwise, weapon, wisdom, and supportive manpower began to be added as a source of power. The larger the tribe and the more the manpower they had, the more the tribe be able to dominate the territory. Gradually the institutions began to be shaped. In human history, the state is the highest and greatest institution. And in the modern state, the latest and greatest institution is the political party.
The age of the history of the state is much younger compared to the elongated history of human beings. The city-state emerged in ancient Greece about two and a half thousand years ago. At that time, not all the people in the state were considered citizens obviously. In the period of 700 BC, in Sparta of ancient Greece, men aged over 30 years were only considered as citizens. Every month a public assembly named ‘Apela’ was held in Athens of Greece for electing the representative who would run the state. People used to shout or showed numbers for announcing their support for a representative. But Aristotle did not obey this system. He criticized this method very harshly.
The Roman Empire was one of the largest empires in the history of the world. Around 800 years prolonged this empire was spread to Europe, Africa, and Asia. In that Roman Empire, only a small part of the population was considered a citizen. After the fall of the Roman Empire, feudalism began to flourish. In the feudal system, the feudal lord is the owner of the land. The tenants used to cultivate the land in exchange for money or crops.
In Europe, the period from 1100 to 1500 AD is called the Middle Ages. At this time most of Europe was ruled by feudal lords. Of course, feudalism is not a mere invention of the Middle Ages. Feudalism existed in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. During the time from 5000 to 3200 BC, Egypt was divided into thirty to forty feudal kingdoms. These were called Nome. Each of the feudal kingdoms had a feudal king. Around 3200 BC, a king named Menes united the whole of Egypt under one reign. That means the feudal system is also an ancient system. In fact, the history of human civilization is multidimensional and diverse. Each civilization has evolved in a different way. Not all the civilizations of the world can be explained in a single outline. But one explanation is similar for all and that is, check and balance. Whatever the method for developing the empire it always takes a ‘check and balance’ to govern. We will discover a little later what that ‘check and balance’ is.
In the Middle Ages, there was another center of power apart from the feudal lords. And that was the church. The Middle Ages were ruled by feudal lords and priests. In Europe, the European Renaissance defeated the medieval feudal system and Protestantism evolved to resist the oppression of the Catholic Church. And much later of that time, science has liberated the collective human society through the hands of the Industrial Revolution. But the complete freedom of man is still a long way off. Still, the world has a monarchy, dictatorship, theocracy, mythos, and controlled democracy.
Since the twentieth century, two types of political philosophy have become popular in the world and are also involved in conflicts. One of them is socialism and another is democracy. These have basically created a circle focusing on two economic philosophies, or it better to say these are two ways to shape or manage two economic philosophies. The socialist economy is in favor of communism and the capitalist system supports democracy. Income inequality is very low in the socialist system. However, in the socialist system, human rights are being violated, fundamental rights are controlled and there is less opportunity to protest. Since in the socialist system, everything is controlled, the progress of free knowledge, creativity, literature, history, philosophy become sluggish and gradually being crippled. The economy cannot be flourished due to a lack of competition. Since the human history is a history of creating rules through breaking it, human history is a history of overcoming everything, human history is a history of breaking record after records, so the development of civilization is hindered when people are being blocked in socialism. As proof of this, we have seen how the big wave of mass revolution in 1917 gradually turned into a collective prison. In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the flag of the socialist world started to tumble but the idea of socialism, equality, and human dignity is still alive in the hearts of countless people today.
In the capitalist system, democracy supports economic philosophy. The powerful are most benefited in today’s conventional capitalist system. The system gives overemphasis on enjoying rights and excess of human rights. Here the excesses increase of profits by the capitalists exacerbated inequality in society. This is happening, because this conventional system doesn’t have any ‘check and balance’ tool. Though many now understand that consumerism alone cannot be the goal of any economy. Therefore, the idea of an effective democratic state should be more comprehensive. There should be an effort to create a welfare-oriented state. The welfare state will help the poor by collecting more taxes from the rich. Because not all people can earn equally. But the country belongs to everyone.
In order to establish a welfare state, the system of the state should be beneficent, strong, and cohesive. The country where the change of government is not constitutional, where the political parties take refuge of any kind of immorality in order to go to power and stay in power, that country is difficult to be created as a welfare country. Since 2006, the Intelligence Unit of Britain’s influential Daily Economist has published a ranking of the world’s democratic countries. According to them, 34 percent of the world’s people are now living under a dictatorship. The people who have been thought to live under the democratic rule are not really in actual democratic life. Because the democracy of the 251-year-old America is now fragile.
Following the recent US presidential election, an allegation was surfaced that a company called Cambridge Analytica had used social media to influence the US election and the European Union referendum. They gathered information from social media like Facebook and used it to motivate people psychologically in favor of one group or to averse people from another group. This allegation first came up in the Swiss publication Das Magazine. Although many believed this story, many did not. Again, an extensive allegation against Russia is also aired to influence the US election, which is still under investigation. That means the influence of information technology is newly mounted on democracy. And the influence of muscle power was there since very ancient times.
About two and a half thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Herodotus, in his definition of democracy, told- “Democracy is a form of government in which power is not vested in any class or a group of class, but it is in the hand of the members of society.”
Plato called democracy the stupid system. In other words, democracy is the kingdom of stupid. It is true that most people are stupid and these stupid are running the state in the name of democracy. The statement of mentor Plato slightly differs from disciple Aristotle, again it can be said that there is no difference between their statements.
According to Aristotle- ‘in a democratic country the power of the poor will be greater than that of the rich because they are more in number. In a democracy, the will of the majority has to have prevailed’. But it is obvious that where there is poverty, there is ignorance. People are not become stupid by their choice but they are compelled to be and poverty compels them. They become imprudent because of their poverty, not their imprudence makes them poor. Therefore, the kingdom of the poor will give the sense of the kingdom of the ignorant, and if one wants to introduce democracy as a system for poor, then in that introduction the element of ruling by the ignorant will be there.
It is certainly true that the poor want democracy. They want in the belief that democracy will give them freedom, equality, and power. Votes are very valuable to them. Why? Because it can be sold in the market? No, not for that. Voting gives them dignity, importance, empowerment. It also gives them confidence. It gives them the feeling that they also have an opinion informing the state government and his opinion is valuable. This feeling is no less important.
But even the rich want democracy nowadays. So? That means Aristotle did not lie. There is a huge gap between the democracy of the rich and the democracy of the poor. Apart from that, the way the rich want their democracy, the poor do not want in that way. For the rich democracy is an opportunity to govern and for the poor, it’s a hope for living. It’s a sky-high difference. If democracy comes in a country, no poor will be minister, they will not get any car, no flag will fly for them. (The flag for the poor is only one — the national flag.)
However, the statements of these ancient wise people are now only in the words of books. The current concept of democracy in most countries of the world can be found in Heinz Hao’s definition of democracy. He said -“Politically, democracy refers to such a doctrine where the people give the state a coercive force as it demands, which all the people of the land are obliged to obey.”
Plato did not support democracy. He considered democracy created a dictatorship. He believed that an ideal state needs the rule of wise. Aristotle said that democracy is such a system of government where each (elected) person has the chance to be blamed. He said “Of all the government systems that have been experimented, this is the best among the worst’. There is widespread disagreement among the scholars about supports of post-Greek Islamic philosophy to democracy.
That Greek course of state philosophy did not continue later. Thomas Aquinas once said – ‘although the monarchy is a good government system perhaps the potentially good government is a mixed system of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy’. Conceivably, the influence of this philosophy still persists in some countries. Thomas Hobbes, on the other hand, opposed democracy and supported the authoritarian government. In stark contrast, John Locke’s philosophy is similar to the current democracy of the West. The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a proponent of ideal democracy. Whereas, Emmanuel Kant told the rights of the individual and the limited power of the state. The German philosopher Hegel told about individual freedom, freedom of thought, and so on. Karl Marx voiced for proletarian democracy, which is almost questionable.
Tocqueville identified democracy as a “majority dictatorship.” The British philosopher John Stuart Mill had tried to determine which one is the best government system. He demonstrated some logic in favor of democracy. However, Samuel Huntington opined for abandoning democracy and to introduce dictatorship for a while, for better development. He said, the government first needs to rule the people and then itself. But though the government achieves the first, it will not be possible to achieve the second.
John Rawls, on the other hand, has demanded equal rights for all citizens. Amartya Sen has tried to find a connection between democracy and development for giving his logic in favor of democracy. He said, for the development, there is no need to have a democratic government, but it would be better if democracy was added to that government working for development.
Fareed Zakaria, an American political scientist, has a different opinion about democracy. He said that there is an “immature democracy” in many countries. Describing India’s experience, he said democracy has given birth to many crises there. According to him, democracy has created many crises in the world today such as ethnic conflict, poverty, oppression, war, and international terrorism, which he called ‘democratization of conflict’.
Woodrow Wilson said that the world needs to be made safe for democracy. Whereas Fareed Zakaria said democracy must be safe for the world.
In a study by American sociologist Mohammad Ali Kadivar made on 112 neo-democratic states in 2018, it was found that if democracy is established by organizing people, institutional structures are formed, leadership for new regimes is formed, a bridge between government and people is built, and equilibrium for exercising power is created.
It is also said that if a democratic government is established through the awakening or evolution of the people the shift of democratic government to the undemocratic government will not continue. And if the democratic government is formed there through revolution or conflict, it is unlikely to be sustainable.
In short, the review of the history of state philosophy reveals that early philosophers opined against democracy or considered democracy as a better system within the worst. And the second-generation philosophers were talked about for limiting the power of the state and ensuring the freedom or rights of the people. However, there is a group among them who also opposed the unlimited power of the people.
Political scientists believe that elections are very useful to stop the battle between the ruling classes. This is an effective way to transfer power peacefully from one ruler to another. In this system the ruling class enjoys power but the voters suffer inability. The actions of their elected government become the cause of various kinds of sufferings and adversity. Since voting is done considering the political parties but not the candidates, one who gets the nomination from the political parties become elected. So, there is a chance for the anti-social or anti-state people for being elected. As soon as a parliamentary election is over, the countdown among the people begins for next term. Many have argued for a four-year term for Bangladesh’s parliament so that they can be held accountable to the people again in a short period of time. It is a common picture here that politicians cry before the election and people after the election.
In anyhow, our state also runs in a democratic manner. In our current political situation, economic development is going on; the country is going towards development passing over the middle-income pathways, the economy is in full swing. But our major problem is that those who are out of power do not want to accept the process of handing over state power. This system of opposing the process every time, not analyzing its advantages and disadvantages is not a good practice. This is the risk of democracy. Think we ascended to the golden peak of prosperity, then ten or twenty years later everything is ruined in such a political turmoil- such a system is certainly not a sustainable system.
Another big challenge in countries like Bangladesh is the tendency of the government not to respect the people. It is not enough for Bangladesh to have a free and fair election, but to have a democratic government that respects the people. Again, if we say that it is necessary to fetch all the state powers under peoples’ authority, it may push the state into the risk of moving towards anarchism. Just as the omnipotence of the ruler is dangerous, so is the omnipotence of the people. If the government enjoys more autonomy, it is not good for the people, and if people enjoy more liberty, it is not good for the country.
In Bangladesh, the democratization of politics is taking place but not the democratization of the country. If the first does not occur, there is no possibility of the second. People participating in elections may also be intolerant, sectarian, disloyal to law, and non-liberal. Even during the period of the elected government, one group only notice the achievements of the government and the other may highlight the failure of the government. Among them, it is not only an issue of disagreement but sometimes create conflict or contradiction. As a result, in a democratic system, social peace and solidarity are not as much achieved as it supposed to be. In general, people are more influenced by their own ideas rather than by information about politics.
It would be wrong to consider elections as democracy. It is obvious that without election democracy cannot be completed, at the same time for considering election as democracy the people may have to pay huge for it.
In the coming days, the way the history of Bangladesh will be written may reveal different characters and different events, but out of these events one truth must come that is ‘patriotism’. But patriotism is an airy word. As Mahmoud Darwish said, ‘My suitcase is my country’; As Nazim Hikmat said, ‘My memory is my country’.
Patriotism is a fierce nationalist game in the politics of our subcontinent. As like Pakistani nationalism has no value if you are living in India, or Indian nationalism has no value if you are living in Pakistan. But we are different; we are the only ‘state’ in the subcontinent who change the map of divided India that was created from the legislation of the British Parliament in the light of the Cripps Mission in 1947. We are the only nation that has been able to create a single language-based nationalism. So, in the light of the glory of our people’s passion for liberation and sacrifice, we have to chart our own path to democracy.
In general, in every country, capital is shaped within the fifty years of independence, that is, it continues to grow at the individual level. If we think how a state is formed, we will find that a state is formed with the intention of ensuring the security of individuals’ belongings. This means that every human being who is free accepts the boundaries of that freedom. As Goethe inscribed in his poem, ‘Human freedom lies in obeying the boundaries’. So, one’s boundary of freedom is extended until another freedom is not hampered. And to monitor this management, people pay money to a system or institution, which called government.
The Social Contract (French: Du Contrat Social) is an important political book on the political philosophy and statehood of the eighteenth-century by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Through the book, published in the year 1762, Rousseau sought to reveal a number of social truths that are though now seemingly universally accepted but were in fact revolutionary at that time. This book is considered to be one of the most inspiring books on the ideals of the French Revolution. After its publication, intellectuals and politicians in France and Switzerland became angry with Rousseau.
Fearing that the French Monarchy might be angered by the book’s revolutionary conception of statehood, Rousseau decided to publish this book from Amsterdam instead of Paris. Although the purpose was not fulfilled. In fact, Rousseau’s Contra Social was able to stir deeply the French peoples’ minds and thinking at that time, which paved the way for the French Revolution.
By social contract, Rousseau meant the agreement of the state with the people i.e. the citizen. He demanded such a state where the power to the government would not deprive the people of their freedom. These are recognized as fundamental rights of citizens in a modern democratic system. Rousseau wanted a balance of state power so that society would be protected from corruption and injustice and at the same time people would get the opportunity to live happily and be honest.
Rousseau, who believes in the freedom of the people told about the formation of state- “There must be ideality information of the society in which the lives and resources of all members of society are safe and secure by the collective power, and everyone is united with each other by a collective will and actually obey his own orders and remains as independent as ever.”
The individual i.e. the citizen, in fact, give up some of his freedom in order to form a state, but for that, he could not be a victim of state oppression. Rousseau’s republican system of government will be such that state power does not become a tool for exploitation, injustice, coercion, torture, and indiscriminate corruption.
At the conclusion of this valuable four-parts book, Rousseau reminds us that this social contract between the state and the people is bilateral. Just as the people from the state for the security of his wealth & life and foster the government, so as if the government or the state becomes oppressive and exploiter breaking the agreement, the people can throw away that agreement at any time. Even if it is called anarchy, it will be a process of forming a new state. It is time to reconsider the status of the people’s agreement with the state -Bangladesh after almost 50 years of independence.
Still, we did not pass 50 years of our independence and the most unfortunate is that our patriotic freedom fighters who fought directly with arms were killed for various reasons within the 10 years of independence. That means those who had the responsibility of leading the country, we lost them terribly. Those who came to the leadership after that, most of them are like the landlord. They rarely go to their area, take the news of the people of their area very occasionally and It is difficult to see them except the time of the election.
The state of Bangladesh was formed in the light of three truths. Based on those three truths Mujibnagar government was formed on April 10, 1971, and they had taken oath on April 17, 1971. Our liberation war manifesto contained these three words ‘equality, human dignity, and social justice’. These are the main spirit of our liberation war. Any person or party betrayed any of these three words after the independence, identified as Anti-liberation spirit. They have betrayed the ideology of the liberation war. Beyond this, there is no such thing as the consciousness of the liberation war.
For achieving these three, the government should work for overall unity. But along with the development of government, the advancement of peoples’ minds is necessary. That means, If the activities of the government and the awareness of the people are not united, then development is bound to stumble.
More than two thousand years ago, a political system was introduced where all members were politically equal to each other and collectively controlled by their own system of government. This system was superior to any other political system because, firstly, it guaranteed the highest individual freedom, secondly, it developed human civilization, and thirdly, it was the most effective way for reflecting the universal will of people. The first transformation of democracy had taken place through forming republics by eliminating certain monarchies and bringing the people to the center of power. But that system was mainly small city-centric and direct democracy. The second transformation took place when the journey from city-centric democracy to state-centered democracy began through representative-based democracy. In order to carry out the large-scale governing system tasks properly, various departments of the governing body, such as the Parliament, the courts, and the Election Commission have emerged. We can call it the first form of polyarchy system.
If the governance system becomes more complex, it becomes more difficult for elected representatives to make all decisions correctly. In that case, the unelected representatives who are experienced in the relevant field come forward to help the elected representatives. Various experienced committees were formed. It is a kind of guardianship where experienced people are not imposing their will on the people but working with the people’s representatives for the purpose of reflecting the will of the people. Different autonomous media or groups help the people’s representatives with advice and counsel in various ways. We can call this kind of system the second form of polyarchy governance. This is by far the most modern form of democracy that we see in all democratic countries.
At present, the third transformation of the democratic system is inevitable. According to the author, this may be ensured by reducing the knowledge gap between the general public and the political elites. The major point is that the people in power are not more knowledgeable than the general public, but they are more well-informed than the general public.
The vital question is, can we really go back to that direct democracy of ancient Greece? The theoretical answer to this question may be that in today’s era of information & technology, direct democracy is possible even in a country of any large mass group. Only a few days ago, we did not have any advanced technology through which we could receive the views of a large number of people in an instant. But in today’s age of media, mobile, phone, internet, it is possible to know the decision of any size population in a few hours. So, the theoretical answer is, yes- direct democracy is possible now. Moreover, for various reasons, representative-based democracy is failing to reflect the collective will of the people nowadays. A kind of frustration is being observed among the people towards the democratic system today. So, this could be a big question- will the direct democracy using of information-technology be our next transformation?
But we also know the limitations of a direct democratic system. If every action of the state has to wait for the decision of the people, how it will be realistic and effective? Again, for direct democracy, there should be no discrimination among the citizens. But in any large population existence of inequality is very obvious. So, in fact, direct democracy is not a realistic system for a large-scale state. Direct democracy can work for different blogs or small communities. In this case, the solution may be a mixed system of representative-based and direct democracy where the day-to-day work of the state will be done by the elected representatives on behalf of the people in accordance with the rules (constitution) made by the people.
But the people’s representatives will never be at the center of power. The people will be at the center, much like direct democracy. At any moment, the people can remove any public representative, through their vote. In any case, the people can challenge the decision of the people’s representatives, through direct vote. In this case, information technology, independent election commission, and various independent agencies will provide assistance to the people. The major difference between the new system and the present system is that no elected representative is being appointed for the long term. It will be much like a job, as job renewals are based on yearly service evaluation. There will be an arrangement to evaluate the work of any public representative in every six months or every one year or at any time. If anyone does a good job, he will stay for life, or a new representative will come. In this way, it is possible to ensure the accountability of the people’s representatives by using information technology and increase the effective participation of the people.
The second thing is to ensure the provision of an alternative system for information. To keep the people at the center of power and to get the right decision from the people, here is no alternative to ensure the free flow of information. Modern information technology can also be helpful in this regard. If the information of every government institution can reach the doorsteps of the people through the internet, newspapers and other media, then there will be no chance for the people to make a mistake in taking the right decision and through this ensuring accountability of the people’s representatives is possible.
What kind of person should be the state-administrator?
“A country means the people of that country. The people are the real power of the country. You have made and kept the people dead weight” – Professor Abdur Razzak.
Once in a day, there were many presents – Socrates, Plato, Plato’s two brothers – Glaucon and Adeimantus, also there was the impolite intellectual Thrasymachus. Cephalus was aristocratic and wealthy and he was the host to the group.
Socrates asked Cephalus “What has benefited you the most from your wealth? What has wealth given to you?”
Cephalus replied that wealth gave him the opportunity to be generous, honest, and just.
Socrates asked again “What do you think justice means?”
Meanwhile, Thrasymachus was getting impatient and excited. He told to Socrates, “If you want to know what justice is, then better you should answer it yourself without asking questions to anyone. Don’t just take pride by refuting other’s logic like everyone else, because there are a lot of people who can’t answer but can ask questions.” Socrates pretended not to hear the annoying words and continued the conversation.
Finally, in a fit of rage, Thrasymachus began to say-
‘Listen, I’m announcing what is justice. Strength is justice and protection of the interests of the stronger is just system. In different states, whether it is a democratic, aristocratic, or a dictatorship, laws are made in their own interests and protect those who make them.
The laws have been enacted in such a way that these laws can be enforced on the subjects in the name of justice for their own interest, again if anyone violates this law he will be punished in the name of crime. Then, in the name of various trails the property of the people is being grabbed. Purposefully a class is made to property-less slaves and another class to rich.
Those who are poor think that rich people are happy and lucky people. Only slaves and the poor, who have no wealth, will be judged in society.
And those who condemn injustice do not do so because they have less interest to do wrong, but they do because they fear for their own failure in this way.”
The basic principle of democracy is to give everyone an equal opportunity to gain power and to decide the policy of the state. At first look, it may seem like a wonderful arrangement. But where the people do not have favorable education to choose the best-experienced government and make the just laws, the result is catastrophic there.
Plato’s Republic is a must-read course in political science all over the world. Except for this book, more multidimensional and realistic political science books have not yet been written in the world. In this book, he described what life should be like for a state administrator.
He wrote, “First of all, he must not possess any extra resources more than necessity. He must not have his own house. He should not have any room which needs to keep locked. He must be allocated the number of foods that is basic requirements of a common educated gentleman of the state. They need to be persuaded that all year round they will only get paid as per their family expenses, not more than that. And they have to stay in a certain camp like soldiers. They should be eaten in a normal dining hall.
And they will be told that since you have come to lead, you have the god-gifted mind set up, you are golden-hearted people. So, you don’t need external gold and silver. You will stay away from all the metals that ordinary people value. Even they should not be allowed to live under one roof with the rich and the owners of gold and silver.
This embraces not only their freedom but also the state’s liberation. Because if the state-leaders become busy with their own houses, farm, cultivation, and lands, then they will not be helpful to the citizens but be the enemies and oppressors. They will be hated and loathing, conspirators, and finally the victims of conspiracies. Then they will spend their lives in fear of the internal enemy rather than the external enemy. The state will be turbulent, chaotic. ”
Plato thought, ‘The end of democracy is oppression and arbitrariness. The people are fonder of adulation and thirstier for sweet-talks. Among them, the most reckless and cunning eulogizer became the omnipotent ruler of the state by introducing himself as the savior of the people.
Plato was astonished at the thought of placing the burden of electing state employees and legislators on the whims of people who have a tendency of being easily deceived. He could not have imagined that the greedy opportunistic class of selfish people would pull the strings of their own interests from behind the scenes of democracy.
Plato objected, ‘Even in simple tasks like shoe-mending, we rely on educated experts from that relevant arena, but in case of politics, we think he who is able to collect votes are worthy of running a state. In the case of our sickness, we call the most skilled and educated doctor, not a handsome speaker. Then if the whole of a state becomes sick, shouldn’t we take the advice and guidance of the wisest and best?”
No better system of governance is possible than the democratic system. So, the only requirement is to improve the system by overcoming its limitations. Through ensuring accountability of peoples’ representatives, through preventing the people’s representatives from the abuse of power, and by transferring actual power to the people, we can boost democracy. It is necessary to increase the decentralization of power and effective participation of the people through ensuring multi-party governance, e-government, e-voting, proportional representation so that the people remain in the actual center of power and not the people’s representatives.
We know that the idea of liberating Bangladesh from Pakistan and developing it as an independent state also came from the thought of Professor Abdur Razzak. Professor Rawnak Jahan, Rehman Sobhan, and others have written several articles regarding this. Tajuddin Ahmed, Sirajul Alam Khan, and others could give evidence to this. Most of the elected representatives in 1970 were Razzak Sir’s students.
In 1981, Razzak Sir was once engrossed in playing chess with Professor Kazi Motahar Hossain at the Dhaka University Teachers’ Club. Victory Day was going to be observed a few days later. On the eve of that, a journalist came to interview Razzak Sir.
After waiting for a long time, he asked Sir in the middle of the game- “what do you think –what is the future of Bengali Nation?”
No reply came. The journalist asked the same question more than once. Razzak Sir suddenly turned his face and replied, “Hey guy, do all the nations need to have future?” Came today, we understand how much of mental distress Sir uttered such words.
Our country is a river-based. On the banks of the river, our villages were developed. The people of this country were simple and lazy. They had granary filled with rice, ponds overflowing with fish. Ibn Battuta wrote in his book that everything was available in Bengal at the lowest price in the world.
Huns, Tatars, Bargis used to invade this country during the harvest season. That time without resisting the attackers, the villagers would flee to the banks of the river. Every isolated village was controlled by the village-head. This village-head was the leader of the village. These leaders were a symbol of a very oppressive character. They forcibly consumed the cattle, land, and whatever the villagers had, but when the villages were attacked, they ran away before anyone without fighting.
We get descriptions of different kinds of kings in history. A tyrannical king, imperialist greedy king, characterless king, but we never get a description of a thief-king in history. The king can never be a thief. Because the king knows that the kingdom is his. After the first independence of rural Bangladesh, those rural leaders become the driver of the politics of this country. Our regret is that we have not yet found the leader of the king’s heart.
Rabindranath wrote in his travelogue ‘Japan Jatri’ – “It was written in the Upanishads, there are two birds in one branch, one of them eats and the other sees. The joy of the bird watching is a great joy; because, that is pure joy, free joy. Humans have these two birds in themselves. One bird has demanded and another does not have.
One bird consumes, and another bird watches. The bird that consumes, builds; the bird that watches, creates. To build means to make in size, that means, what is being made is not absolute; it is being made in the shape of others…… according to the need of own or others. And, creation means not to wait for the size of anything else; it is to create itself, to express itself.
Therefore, all the materials the consumer bird is working with are mainly external materials, and the material of the watcher bird is self or ego matter. The expression of this self is literature, art. There is no liability, no responsibility of duty within it. The biggest mystery in the world is not the object to be seen but the man who sees it”. (Japan Jatri, Rabindranath Tagore.)
Today, Bangladesh is waiting for such a visionary leader on the path of politics, who will not only build the country but also create the political conception of the people of the country. He will be weighed by talent, sensitivity, and love for the country. He will create new examples. Such a leader certainly will not come from Mars, or from any corporate organization. He must come from our society. The people have to be prepared for that.
There is no way to deny politics despite all the allegations against it. Through this process, a country can wake up. Politics is a tool or a powerful process of all kinds of development, a process that determines the structure of development with time. Based on the philosophical basis of politics, it can be said that politics is the mantra of all kinds of development by which the individual will be inspired. The development of the society and the state can be relied upon through the development of the individual. Because the individual is the active vehicle of all the activities of the society and the state, in which all the organs of the state will be safe.
With the passage of time, the innate materials of the human beings to change and create a new form of couch influencing all spheres of life, society, community, a couch that will be safe in the circle of society and politics, will be suitable for all. The philosophical basis of politics and its practice in Bangladesh –these two have more differences than the similarity. Probably for this reason the politics of Bangladesh does not become the actual ‘politics’. Instability seems to be a sign of recovery in Bangladesh.
As a Bengali, it is good to think that the present government has ignored many international pressures of politics at various levels, which have made our dignity, independent position, and sovereignty in the world. Among the third world countries, Bangladesh is now known as the ‘model of development’, a development model that other countries can use.
The present government has been in power for three times in a row. And this is the opportunity to turn all political criticism into a ‘fruitful discussion’. And that has to be done by doing development. The soundness of the political process is paramount to sustain the trend of development; because political well-being governs all the good and evil. Hon’ble Prime Minister is trying her best for proper development. But how active all her MPs are in the development of their respective areas is questionable in many cases.
Today people do not want to trust in words. They have to be shown the benefits of development without any excuse – and this is the responsibility of politicians. Based on the peoples’ demand of respective areas, the road map of action has to be prepared and through achieving the trust of people the vehicle of development should be driven at a breakneck speed. The overall development issue is bilateral. On the one hand, there is the commitment of the political party or government to the people, and the relentless work to fulfill that promise, on the other hand, there is the awareness of the people, to build an overall political mindset so that people are aware of their responsibilities and know their civil rights. Confucius was asked, what is patriotism? About three thousand years ago, Confucius replied, “Doing one’s job perfectly is patriotism.” Today is the time to awaken the nation with such patriotic mantra to make development effective and sustainable.
[ The writer is thankful to Chhanda Mahbub for translating it in to English]
1. Democracy and its critics (Dahl R. A., 1989)
2. Political Parties in Bangladesh- Professor Rownak Jahan
3. Safe road movement and the mask of democracy in this country