Of Ethics and Civility

“Remember you are guests of TARC.” I got up and left to chit-chat outside. Out there is better than in here. Guest my ass. We get blackmailed into going, “No go no degree,” and these people actually have the audacity to say we are “guests”? Wait. I am pulling ahead of the story here. So let’s rewind it a little and see the prequel first.
On arriving here, I did not care much beyond what I wanted. That changed pretty soon, the unfathomable studpidity being perpetrated around me began to bother me as much as I took pains to ignore all of it. The shoving and pushing on buses, the incessant blaring of horns even when the entire road is gridlocked, the dishonesty and double standards of the people in dealing with matters…as far back as I can remember, I could not stand such things and have trouble behaving with such manners as well. I was told that there will be a ‘residential semester’ when I joined university and I did not have any objection then to such an idea. Just a two month stint in a slightly isolated place, a big field to play all the football I want and a slight fear of bird flu from the chicken farm next door. We get to come back on weekends and chill a little before going back there. All in all, not a bad package. Then some genius came up with the idea of ‘improving’ the students’ English by starting an English Language Programme, ELPRO. Very good idea, except that it begins to backfire when students already have a good command of English and are confident in their manners. But who cares…it is a cash cow. Everyone has to pay to take the programme and everyone has to take the programme if they want their piece of paper. Apparently, the ELPRO programme is headed up by the university’s owner’s wife. No problem there, except she thinks that gives her the right to screw everything else up just so that her programme can take precedence over everything. Class schedules here have to be matched and approved by the ELPRO people first, not any academic council. Now we know that ELPRO runs the university here, since the programme director has the university owner by the balls. Moving on, the residential semester is a semester spent by the students in a facility built outside the city where students are let loose from their parents and given a little taste of living independently. Alongisde that, there are two courses available there titled ‘Bangladesh Studies’ and ‘Ethics and Culture’ with ELPRO. The stated aim of the semester is to improve the students English and communication skills. I would not have objected had I not picked up tidbits from here and there which seem to give things a slightly different shade.
(I could quote the tidbits, but bear with me while I do not, as I do not wish to drop names.)
I got a job here at the end of my first term, the job was simple. The course instructor required a pair of hands to compile all the scattered material for the upcoming course, Bangladesh Studies,  and put them into lectures and all the lectures into a single volume. As I began to compile everything, I noted that there was ALOT of reading there, about Bangladeshi history and culture. Then I came across the plans for the residential semester. No trips back home, save only one in two months. They sort your timetable out for you, packed so tight that you have nothing to do except WHAT they want you to do WHEN they want you to do it. This is at an organisation that is known to train people on social issues and hold forums to make ‘responsible citizenry’ out of the peasantry.
‘Ethics and Culture’, ‘Bangladesh Studies’…am I missing something or is this some attempt to factory produce ‘responsible educated citizenry’? Or wait…
Isn’t that a great thing? I mean, Nazi Germany did and Communist countries do the same thing. Pack all the people into a group and teach them what is good and what is bad. Depending on the ideology, hating Jews or hating God is fine, or maybe even hating something that the programme planners just do not want to see exist. Teach, preach and impress all the things that they want into those minds which are wide open and waiting to receive.
Intentions may be good, noble and all that, but the crux of the matter is that a grown leopard has a distinctive spotted design all its own. In the same way, a grown person has gone ahead and picked up all the ethics and culture that they CHOSE to pick up. Nothing can be impressed upon someone if they choose they do not want it, for which they may have to give up something in return. Eg. you can argue all that you want that smoking is killing me, but i’ve decided, and unless I choose otherwise, I will continue to light up. Same way, you can lock me up and force me to read tons of literature on my history and culture and teach all the ethics you want, but unless I CHOOSE to make it my own, it will all be a jolly good joke to me.
So now we see two things
1) I do not wish to learn ethics and culture from them as I do not wish to, I want to do it on my own for reasons unsaid and
2) Admit it, an adult’s ethics and culture  is no one’s business, if they mess up, there is the law of the land to deal with them.
So why this attempt at teaching such things to adults? What was the point of 18 years of schooling then? Correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn’t parents imbibe such qualities into their children? Recently there was a huge song and dance over what seemed to me like an extremely trivial issue. Mobile phone operators here offered, as a promotion, free calls between midnight and 6am. Result? All the kids spent their time yakking on the sets, not to mention act out the entire…kama sutra…over the phones. Everyone started blaming the mobile phone companies for what was obviously no fault of the companies. ISPs are not to be blamed if the people start surfing for porn or “how-to-go-nuclear” guides or do anything illegal, neither are mobile operators to be blamed if their customer uses their phone for illegal/unethical purposes or abuses the facilities offered. Why would a university spend time and resources into creating responsible citizenry out of people waiting to get out on the first plane they can take when there are better uses for the same resources?
I am sick of hearing about the special circumstances surrounding our country and all, but isn’t 35 years of existence more than long enough to have produced a semblance of maturity in our society? We still behave like all of us just walked out of the caves 5mins. ago and cannot wait to push our way through to the end of the rat race. Are not we capable as a nation and as a society to make grown, mature choices that will benefit the entire country? Looking back 35 years, the answer seems to me like a sad “No.”
In 35 years the only thing we have managed is to politicise all the administrative sections of governance, the police, the courts…EVERYTHING…and as a result bred corruption to such an extent that our country has the dubious distinction of being ranked the most corrupt nation 5 times in a row. Not only that, people actually enjoy voting for one of these two corrupt bitches into office!!! For them, the party is greater than the nation. The stupid argument over who originally declared independence flares up all the time…honestly…who cares? Mujib and Zia both have their place in history, leave the dead men alone and concentrate on the important issues at hand. Well, that is one side of the coin, those who kill and die over who was the first to say “Pakistan all out, Bangladesh innings to start…” The other side of the coin is dominated by people who will look at you and say, “So what’s so great about this Mujib guy?” In English. No Bangla, it is beneath them to speak their own mother tongue. And here we have people trying to make ‘responsible citizens’ of this bunch who are simply not interested in being a citizen even. I’d laugh if the waste was not a colossal one.
Well…so much for a rant. For fairness, I will re-evaluate my thoughts and sometime later, put up a ‘flip side’ to this here rant.

1 Comment

  1. Ahmed Waris al Majid

    Partially disagree
    a)ethics cannot be taught in a lecture based course but it can be taught in a discussion based course.
    b) sometimes parents fail to do their job.

    nothing else to remotely disagree with.

    Reply

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