Need for issue-based politics  

Raihan Amin   | Published: December 27, 2018 22:14:56 | Updated: December 28, 2018 20:56:55

It is dangerous to mix politics with ideology. Whereas, politics is the art of statecraft, ideologies spring from deeply held values nearly as old as human civilisation. They are distilled by thinkers and philosophers and need a high level of abstraction to understand and articulate. Usually great ideas cannot be packaged for mass consumption and political expediency.

Unfortunately, lofty ideas have been hijacked by the cunning with the intention of deceiving people and drawing followers. Muhammad Ali Jinnah is an example. Mention must also be made of You Tube which has played into the hands of people fanning chauvinistic and exclusionary views. Now the world is full of experts, mostly of the wrong type.

The world is changing fast. There is a need for returning to old politics to get rid of its ills. ICT revolution gives ordinary people current and credible information. While most citizens, not highly educated as they are, may not appreciate the nuances of politics, their ears are to the ground. They are able to see through shallow, customary and circular arguments that whip up passions.

A good example is the Bangladeshi vs. Bengali binary engaged in by our two main political parties. This argument can be put to rest by simply asserting: Bengali by tradition, Muslim by faith. Both Bengaliness and Islamic faith are the cultural heirlooms of a large majority of Bangladeshis. The fact that Bangladesh is a member of the OIC does not come in the way of our adoption of a Rabindra sangeet as the national anthem. Placing a man in an ideological straightjacket does injustice to the fact that he is a complex animal; several identities and roles jostle continually for dominance. It is tantamount to taking away his personal space and, more fundamentally, liberty.

One cannot reverse the flow of time. The tide of history does not care about one's belief system, it sweeps one off one's feet. In this context, we view with concern that some in India, under the banner of Hindutva, wish to disown an important part of that country's rich and varied legacy. It is like trying to choose your birthday or Mom. Good luck! 

Is it possible to rid the word 'algebra' of its Arabic roots? How about the expression 'Arabic Numerals'? 'Preposterous' you say. Place names in Spain and the Spanish language are heavily indebted to Arabic. Much better than to debate issues that affect people as they go about their daily business. These issues may be local, regional or national, or affect particular segments.

Inflation, unemployment, education, health and housing should replace debates that seem distant and of little practical value and oftentimes loaded. Voters are tired of politicians who engage in shadowboxing. For politicians to talk intelligently about concrete issues they must be properly informed and briefed. The more serious the issue is the more unbiased decision-maker.

Issue-based debates depend heavily on data. Also, we need space for arguments made and re-butted in public without fear of retribution. Strong and viable democracies are participatory. The broadcast media should do their part by inviting ordinary citizens to air their views freely. Ministries, departments and other government bodies should commission opinion surveys for taking the pulse of the country without being costly. Nobody has a monopoly of views; by the same token, every citizen has the right to speak his/her mind.

The writer is a part-time faculty,United International University


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