That neighbours would try to stop funeral of victims of deadly disease and demand expulsion of infected families was unthinkable in Bangladesh. People were scared of cholera, smallpox, and tuberculosis in the past but did cooperate when co-villagers were in need of help.
Back then, outstanding performance by a student in public examinations was celebrated by a large mufasssil (peri-urban, semi-rural) community or dwellers in an urban colony. Jealousy, too, was not uncommon, but not like now when many wouldn't hide their irritation if they are informed about good news of a well-known family. Yes, the rate of literacy has increased and a huge number, if not all, has entered the well-to-do bracket. But what about their respect for each other?
Public reactions expressed by various people on different platforms after deaths of quite a number of important personalities in recent times indicate the current reality. Many vented their anger at some controversial acts of the deceased while some others used abusive words. Tributes were paid commonly to only a few who had offered their compatriots the role models that they were, and society paid homage during their last journey.
Victims and innocent people have every right to raise protest against the reported scams in health and financial sectors. Some critics, however, did target the detained persons in such a manner that their families got traumatised. A section of, say, Facebookers didn't excuse even unknown men and women for their personal choice and naïve acts in matters of family festival and professional life.
Women, girls and children couldn't escape such hostilities and excesses. These 'wrongdoers' couldn't be considered obnoxious only because they acted according to their culture and perception of the social order. The girl who was a team member of a victim of extrajudicial killing in Cox's Bazar was targeted with malicious criticism by a group once her photographs were uploaded allegedly after unauthorised editing.
Such attacks, devoid of sensitivity and decency, are both expressions of restless minds and acts of bigotry and sycophancy in a divided society. The social media is just a manifestation of quarrelsome nature of their atmosphere. Any observer would wonder how Bangladesh's social fabric of hundreds of years is decaying fast.
Wider circles of friends and acquaintances are getting smaller. Mistrust largely dictates people's actions these days. This is a loss of what is called 'social capital', banking on which members of society do their socio-political and economic activities.
The over-reactive aspect of our culture - both at individual and national levels - has also contributed to damaging social harmony. Silence, for instance, on the campus despite innumerable issues on the financial and other fronts, doesn't confirm mass happiness.
Rather, flocks of social actors jump on making sweeping remarks on public domain, joining either side of the debate, no matter whether their position is right or wrong. Dormant in them seems to be a volcano.
Criticism, if it's objective and constructive, could have been a beauty of our society. The age-old Bangladeshi hospitality to the extent of interference is disappearing into fear of asking questions on how some people amassed so much wealth without doing any business.
We are yet to sow the seeds of social justice. Instead, we are trying to show resilience in making adjustments with problems that we often complain about and thus carry a hostile mindset. It's high time we explored common grounds for addressing whatever grievances we have. A denial mode stops us from saying what we should say to face a problem upfront.
Despite all odds, there is no denying that society does present fresh scope for younger generations to emerge as new role models in showing empathy and respect for fellow citizens.
Such optimism may help open windows of dialogue for building a harmonious society. A collective social accord cannot be achieved without proper education and economic and social justice.