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21 November, 2016 00:00 00 AM
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If we could be a little parochial

The territorial boundaries delineating one state from another are, after all, an artificial construct of the politics and many of the pressing human concerns such as environmental degradation transcend national borders
Md Rizwanul Islam
If we could be a little parochial

Most of the world’s great people perhaps transcen­ded boun­daries in their thoughts and perhaps parochialism was not a vice that can even remotely be imputed to (most of) them. Arguably, even many great politicians who are bound to act for the protection of the interests of their electorates more often than not could and did think beyond petty national interests. As many may say, great people are not citizens of a particular country; they are the citizens of the planet earth. And the unprecedented growth of communication technology and inter-connected global economy, many argue, have become great unifiers so much so that some say, “The US Sneezes, the World catches a cold.” And historians would tell that at the dawn of the human civilisation, the world was 

borderless. 
The territorial boundaries delineating one state from another are, after all, an artificial construct of the politics and many of the pressing human concerns such as environmental degradation transcend national borders. These being said, it would appear in some ways, the concern for the so-called global affairs may, at times detract us from equally if not more pressing issues at home. 
At the risk of over-simplification, it may be claimed that by the metrics of the media coverage of the US election, Bangladesh would rank in the top tier of countries. Erudite and not so erudite columns after columns and news reports have appeared in our media, covering various dimensions of the US presidential election both before and after it. Probably, the same can be said about the hype of the election deluging our social media. While the US is the biggest destination for our exports and there is a growing Bangladeshi diaspora there, due to our limited clout, it is dubious to what extent Bangladesh matters to the US. It is also uncertain as to what extent the US election would bring about any conspicuous shift in the US-Bangladesh diplomatic relation which has been lukewarm in the recent past. If we just compare this hype with the election to the attention paid to the violence on the Santal community in Dinajpur and the Hindu population and their places of worship, it would probably appear to be quite odd and sad. While Mr. Trump has been very rightly vilified for his antics, it does not appear that the same degree of condemnation was visible for the violence perpetrated on the Santal and Hindu population in our country. And this would look even more uncanny if we consider that much of what Mr. Trump did was just was uttering words, however, despicable they may be, while the events in our country are not just events in our own backyard but despicable actions taking away lives and property of vulnerable citizens.
The reason behind this phenomenon may be manifold. To borrow the parlance of the young generation, perhaps it is not ‘cool’ to bother about violence on the religious minority community or Santal community. For a segment of our educated community too, the US politics is a more stimulating topic than ‘filthy’ national politics in Bangladesh. The fear of confronting real people with ugly motives may be another issue. But the obsessive, blissful ignorance and disinterest in our national issues and be more interested in anything ‘foreign’ (mainly western) or global (irrespective of the degree of our own involvement) may also be a factor. Let me use a personal experience. When during my doctoral research studies, I came home for a few weeks in June 2010, my son was so captured by the mania of the Football World Cup that after we were back in Sydney that he forgot that his country was Bangladesh. 
He started saying that the name of his homeland is ‘Bergentina’. He was a Bangladeshi, born in Sydney and until he was in his homeland he could very clearly say his country was Bangladesh. But after witnessing innumerable flags hosting over the homes of Bangladesh and the never ending discussion of the prowess of the stars, he forgot the name of his country. To get mesmerised by the mastery of sporting heroes is natural, acceptable, and may be even adorable. Surely sports can be a unifying force. For many of us, when life has so many travails, the sporting events can be an escape too. 
However, to hoist foreign flags perhaps defies logic. Thus, at the risk of sounding too cynical, let us hope on many occasions, we become a little more parochial and a little less the sons and daughters of the planet earth. Of course, we should not be like many Americans who are so much fixated about the vastness and richness of the US that to them there is nothing called ‘the rest of the world’. 
However, for many of us in Bangladesh, it would do more good than harm, if we could just be a little more parochial and have our gaze on the surroundings of where we live, not just on what we consider to be ‘cool’ or ‘safe’ or ‘cultured’. 

The writer is an Associate Professor, School of Law, BRAC University

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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