I have always disliked this phrase “speaking truth to power” (although I’m sure I’ve lazily employed it myself on several occasions). No one needs to speak truth to power: power knows the truth well enough, it knows what it is doing, and to whom, and why. What we need, most desperately, are people who will speak truth about power, and speak it to people who might not have heard that truth through the howling cacophony of media diversion, corporate spin and political manipulation.
Chris Floyd, A Prism for the New Paradigm
This particular paragraph got me thinking, “What exactly does it mean to ‘speak truth to power’ and ‘speak truth about power’?” Leaving the obvious grammatical insinuations aside, the two phrases capture in almost its entirety the essence of most popular revolutions. The simple truth of these revolutions is just, “Spare us the abuse of power and from power.” While most revolutions were directed towards governments, a point lost on most readers as they skim through events is that ‘power’ is only held over one when one relinquishes it to another entity, in this case, the government. A simple case in point would be the relationship between a husband and wife; the husband holds sway over the wife primarily due to his ability to make her dependent on him for her daily needs. Take away that power and one finds a drastic reduction in any form of domestic abuse.
In most cases, a student-teacher relationship is much skewed in favour of the teacher; however, teachers attempting to ruin a good student’s life are rare because there is another entity in between. The institution of study that both are party to. The presence of the institution ensures that both individuals behave in an ethical and transparent manner. Of course, the institution has to be endowed with powers to regulate the conduct of those who are a part of it. This endowment comes from the people who run the institution.
The above analogy would hold true for any institution and its members. Looking at other countries, one can readily see that the various government bodies and its members work together in a manner beneficial to both inspite of the obvious power imbalance. This is because the bodies themselves are endowed with the necessary powers to regulate the actions of its members while the regulation of the actions of the body as a whole rests with another agency. If the argument seems circular, it actually is so. People are regulated by police, laws and judges while they in turn are answerable to their respective institutions, which in turn are run by ministries who are answerable to people. This power distribution keeps a society from sliding into eventual chaos as people revolt in the face of the oppressive nature of concentrated, overwhelming power.
Unfortunately, this does not hold true in Bangladesh. Neither is power distributed between the citizenry and the government, but also the citizenry are unwilling to step forward and demand that power be shared across the spectrum of society. The bulk of the blame lies, of course, with those who are concentrating the power in their hands for their personal benefit but we must realise that by silently tolerating such behaviour, we are party to this seizure of power that will finally end with us being unable to lead a private, meaningful life. This election offers us with a new chance of ensuring that we try and take back our share of power from the petty politicians and to ensure that our state once again begins to function for us. For this to happen, every voter will have to make the effort to study the candidates and pick the one they feel will put in an honest effort to improve the state of the country instead of voting for a person based on party, religion or any other trait. People have to demand that political parties are run in a more democratic manner, that they stop selling nominations, that government agencies be run by honest bureaucrats, that the necessary laws are enacted and enforced and that the police work for the people instead of behaving arrogantly. The power to demand these and enforce these changes lies with the voters now, they can choose to elect the right person for the right job, or they can let this opportunity to slip through and bring about another disaster in the name of governance.
[Personally, I’m very sceptical of the majority of the voters. They simply DO NOT use any brain cells when voting. Go out, put a mark, come home and sleep knowing one has done “citizen’s duty”. What a load of tripe.]