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The Financial Express

The lessons of introspection

| Updated: October 23, 2017 08:52:58


The lessons of introspection

Introspection is a good thing. Once in a while such probing of the self, asking disturbing questions individually and collectively is an exercise designed to purge that which is perceived as inappropriate. From a religious angle it is about seeking penitence; irreligiously we look behind at what we could have done better. But only when grossness is thrust into our faces does true realisation dawns; that somewhere we've lost the plot. Beyond the conspiracy factors, the questions of efficiency and mulling over rationales the souls of those taken from us rudely, brutally and insensibly demand we ask the simple question. Where did it all go wrong?
Management theory suggests that at times leaders must take a helicopter view, uninhibited by the baggage of that what seems apparent. This view, backed up by reasonable research into the consumer mind and psyche provides inputs towards product innovation. There's little to argue against a similar philosophy when life's beliefs are concerned. World history of the past twenty-years or so is pregnant with lessons that were never heeded. And as history tells us, it repeats because of this inexplicable apathy. The world leaders are chasing impossible concepts of an equitable world order without paying any attention to the diverseness of population diversity. The more people are forced to compromise with or abandon that which they hold dear and true, the more the conflict. Religion, especially Islam has its own internal problems of sects, traditions an interpretations - all man-made. When elements of one religion clashes with another, instead of seeking a workable mid-point, we are led to extremes. The rise of the faith -- it is the fastest growing on the planet -- has been a cause of concern for those who fear its power or drive a more agnostic agenda. Few outside the faith can understand what this faith is, that steers millions towards masjids on Fridays or paying hard earned money to journey to the annual Hajj. This, more so when churches are shutting down, when continents such as Europe have by their own admission more non-believers than believers. Added to this has been a sorry tale of deliberate misinformation in the digital age always finding the wrong end of interpretation of the facts.
Just as Greek mythology was carried down through the ages by word of mouth, interpretation of Islam has taken a similar route. And while much of the truth has been lost in transit the original concept of reading between the lines of the Quran, to understand the spirit and not just the words has sadly been lost as well.
Physical distance between nations and countries has been reduced thanks to technology but the diversity hasn't been recognised or reconciled beyond the physical aspects that are much easier to understand. Ramadan is more than just fasting and praying. It is about soul searching, understanding the physical reality of the have-nots and crucially doing something to help change their condition.
The drop in educational standards is something that everyone bemoans. Even those with basic education used to have a much wider view of the world than students now do. The periphery of certifies dominate education; not the substance. Likewise, earlier generations went through religious teachings in more depth than the going-through-the-motions practice of today. The depth is missing and inevitably the essential message with it. And when the outburst unleashes, no matter how reprehensible the answer cannot be devoid totally of empathy. It may be a criticised theory; painful and unacceptable to those who have had their own plucked in their prime. But is there an alternative?
There are those  who have grown up to the sound of bombs and explosions, been through years of hunger and lack of treatment due to sanctions, those deprived of education, maimed and distraught at having to face death on a daily basis. Can they be blamed for not viewing the cultures dumping such misery on them with any respect, even hatred? May be the Middle East was ruled by despots but at least their people were living in reasonable standards. And those same despots were in their own way keeping extremism under raps.  And can those generations be blamed for seeing no accountability when the leaders responsible for such mayhem hide behind the excuses of flawed, even made-up intelligence?
Terror has arrived in our own backyard, in arguably the most fortified part of the country, Dhaka, more specifically Gulshan, supposedly under a three-tier security wrap. The wrap wears thin. The ease with which armed young men walked in and attacked innocent café-goers at Holey Artisan Bakery, murdered with impunity and then died has a lesson that reaches far beyond shock, awe, numbness and incomprehensibility. It's no longer about apparently illiterate youngsters from religious schools being radicalised. We are talking of those who went to the best schools, colleges, universities where the ways of the world as close to western philosophy as possible were taught. Obviously something was missing - a gap savagely exploited by those who have lost the reason or the motivation to distinguish between right or wrong.
Bangladesh, before that East Pakistan had its share of religious differences but it never led to silencing one another save for with rhetoric. But the land has been virgin for intrigue and of late a distressing penchant for unsolved murders and custodial deaths. Administratively not enough attention has been given to train and equip, more than increasing the numbers of law enforcers. The world has changed, technology has brought both opportunity and threats and as a nation we have been in denial. We have lived in the euphoria of the ideals of independence and failed to look ahead to inculcating those values, indeed to explain them to a vast majority that probably didn't understand them. Beliefs and values passed on through centuries can't be expected to change overnight. The path was always going to be long and arduous and once again history suggests just that. It's never too late but we now have a doubly difficult task ahead. One of containing a disease, the spread of which is unknown, the other of an antidote that can only work if the gap between belief and a changing world is addressed. The effects won't be seen overnight and in-between young minds are to be shielded.
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