The lip-soldiers
September 29th, 2018 at 12:39 pm
The lip-soldiers

By Maskwaith Ahsan;

There was a village where all lived comparative lives; their only moment of happiness was when they could show themselves to be better than their neighbors. After a while they ran out of comparison, so they had to divide their one village into three. Other villages failed to understand this acute sense of inferiority, so no other village responded to this thirst for comparison.

Year-long mudslinging festival has been the core source of delight in this 3-village. Money is the only god here, but selling God to earn money is also a tradition much valued. Bragging about culture is fashionable and anyone with some money wants to prove that they have got it.

In the rest of the world, research is usually the only thing that needs proving but in the 3-village everyone remains busy in proving themselves to others. They have no time for research. It doesn’t bother them either. They sell their children to rich villages as slaves and enjoy that money in a kingly fashion.

They dream of being ‘elites’, using every trick in the book to loot the commoners. In the quest of dressing and talking like ‘elites’ they mimic the ‘white men’ who once came as colonizers. But what they mimic is almost a hundred years old.


Freedom in the air

In this time, realizing the hollowness of elitism, those white men evolved into simplistic human beings. But the ghost of elitism still haunts the neo-palaces of the 3-village. Because the villagers from their small huts used to wistfully stare at the palaces of the white men, the dream of a similar palace continues to allure.

Slaves working in rich villages are willing to sacrifice their lives for a palace back home. Just so they can ride a car like those white men, the poor dream of their children being able to read. But studying hard to buy a car no longer makes sense to their children when they see some people buying helicopters simply by selling God or fear. The capital of fear is also known as politics in this 3-village. Politics, a new element to become rich like those white men who colonized and ruled for many years.

But the white men evolved, turned politics into social service, and excluded the fear of God from their politics. But the 3- village politicians turned into demi-gods and started selling fear to run their businesses. Village politics emerged as a new tool of colonialism. Children of the poor were recruited as foot soldiers for their political parties.

These politicians also have renamed ‘the dream of civilization’ as ‘development’. But when commoners visit other civilized villages and see good education, healthcare, transportation, human rights, rule of law and civic system, they ask in wonder why their own politicians are still looting like colonizers, talking about development but delivering nothing?

To quell such queries, lip-soldiers are installed to derail the conversation by trumping up ghost conspiracies, just like mothers warn their children of ghosts when they refuse to sleep. Some commoners believe these ghost stories, some don’t. The non-believers are branded as enemies of the village.

Lip-soldiers use pseudo-nationalism, God’s fear and half-cooked secularism to measure patriotism in villagers.

Villagers wonder: the fathers or grandfathers of these lip-soldiers used to travel in horse/donkey carts, yet surprisingly within a generation or two these lip-soldiers have emerged as men capable of discussing nationalism, secularism, patriotism and so on. What the villagers can’t comprehend is the relevance of such discussions in delivering good education, healthcare, transportation, human rights, rule of law and a civic system.

Despite the world having gone through the horrors of revolutions and world wars, the tools of political and economic exploitation in this 3-village remain the same: witch-hunting and fear-mongering in the guise of village politics.

Bangladeshi writer

Maskwaith Ahsan is an expatriated journalist and writer