Mukti

Star Wars and Bangladesh

Posted in politics by jrahman on January 21, 2008

Long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

There was a Republic where the elected governments actively sought the counsel of the a group of wise beings.  The Council of these wise beings consisted of the Jedi — beings who are well-versed in the use of the Force.  For a thousand generations, the Jedi kept peace in the Galactic Republic.  Then came the Clone Wars, end of the Republic and the rise of the Empire, and resistance against that empire. 

Events in that ancient, far away galaxy have a lot of lessons for the present day choices faced in a country that is all-too-close to our hearts.  The false promises of the council of the wise and a sustained period of stability being made in Bangladesh today echo the Republic and the Empire — both fundamentally anti-democratic states. 

Let us begin with the state of affairs in the Republic when the events of the prequel trilogy occurred.  The Republic was governed by a Chancellor who lacked a clear majority in the Senate to stay in office.  The Senators were beholden to sectoral and vested interests.  It was the bureaucrats who really goverened.

The elected politicians in this Republic were no angels.  The actions of selfish and self-serving senators clearly failed the people.  Their misgovernance regarding tax complexity and trade restrictions led to some idealists demanding secession.  This ultimately led to the Clone Wars, at the conclusion of which the Chancellor Palpatine, promising stability and order ended the Republic.

Politicians’ squabbles leading to the rise of a strongman who promises to put the the galactic train back on track.  Sounds familiar?

Alright, so politicians are susceptible to corruption and vested interest.  That’s why we need them to be guided by wise elders.  That’s why the Republic had the Jedi Council.  In Bangladesh, when the Emergency is lifted, we need something like the Jedi Council.  We need a National Security Council.

Dear readers, think about the Jedi Council for a momment.  The Jedi were ‘the keepers of the peace’, exercising extraordinary powers.  They actually operated outside the executive, legislative and the judiciary arms of the state: they were a state within the state.  They were a law unto themselves.

They claimed to live by their code, but there were no external checks and balances.  Considering how easily Dooku and Anakin turned to the dark side, the Jedi code was not much of a substitute for intstitutional accountability.  Further, they were an organisation entry to which was rigorously restricted.  And they were openly contemptuous of the elected politicians.

Suppose we set up a Jedi National Security Council composed of leaders who belong to an organisation entry to which is rigorously restricted, an organisation whose members are openly contemptuous of the elected politicians, an organisation that faces no effective checks.  Suppose we set up such a council, who is to say that this Council will not meet the same fate as the Jedi Council?

The Jedi Council could not prevent the Republic from failing.  But was the Republic worth saving to begin with? 

Well, the massive state that the Galactic Republic was, it brought its downfall on itself, the lesson being that the larger the state, the larger the bureaucracy.  A large bureaucracy is bad news for representative government.  The lesson for Bangladesh is to reform the bureaucracy, trim the bureaucratic fat, tear up the red tapes, and increase transparency in decision-making.  If we are serious about curbing corruption, we need to look beyond jumping with glee about the (mal)treatment of Tareque Rahman and think about these hard-to-crack nuts. 

Moreover, the Jedi for all their power to see the future, couldn’t predict their demise.  This is also true for the Sith Lord of course.  The lesson here is that no government planning agency is likely to be able to plan efficiently for the future — central planning just doesn’t work.  And if it is tried, even with the best of intentions, it begins a road that ends in serfdom.  The lesson for Bangladesh, again, is be very cautious about anyone who tells you that they have the plan for a golden future.  

The Galactic Empire was of course not the solution.  If it were, we would not have had the original trilogy.  We would not have the resistance.  If the Empire were indeed popular, if people only cared about the inter-galactic commuting services that ran on time, the Emperor and his minions would not have needed the Death Star to terrify the galaxy.  And similarly in today’s Bangladesh, the rule by decree that is the Emergency is drawing resistance.  How long before we see a Luke Skywalker or Han Solo emerge in the campuses or factories or fertiliser distribution centres? 

If neither the Republic nor the Empire, then what?  While we don’t have a sequel trilogy, the logical conclusion must be that the Galaxy’s best hope is to free systems uncontrolled by the extraordinary powers of the Jedi or the Sith, under government of the people, by the people for the people: that would be the solution.  This sounds awfully like democracy to me.  And this is what we need in Bangladesh too. 

No to Jedi Council.  No to bureaucratic state.  Yes to a return to democratic politics.

(Based on a November 2005 A-A-A post).

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  2. tacit said, on January 22, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Jyoti bhai, I salute you. I actually thought about drawing a Star Wars parallel once as well, but what checked me was the casting. Although I think Iajuddin makes the perfect Palpatine (especially after getting hit by the force lightning from Windu), I chafed at casting Moeen, in all his cartoonish idiocy, as Anakin.

    May the force be with.. no wait, what’s the democratic alternative of that? 🙂

  3. Pages tagged "bangladesh" said, on January 23, 2008 at 5:19 am

    […] bookmarks tagged bangladesh Star Wars and Bangladesh saved by 1 others     robthevip bookmarked on 01/22/08 | […]

  4. jrahman said, on January 27, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Tacit, I’d have thought Iajuddin and Fakhruddin would be like Dooku – pawns in a greater game. Anakin is perhaps the army rank and file, which really believed in the rhetoric about saving the nation, but is now becoming addicted to the power that is the dark side (didn’t you write something like this yourself?). The question then is, who are Luke-Leia-Han, and where are they? I hope that Luke is someone we don’t know yet. The hopelessly optimist in me still wishes for a new leadership. But the rationalist me says, there is no deus ex machina in the real world. Meanwhile. I’d like to think that us, the keyboard warriors, have a role too – perhaps the ewoks, or if that threatens anyone’s masculinity, wookiees?

  5. tacit said, on January 30, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Hahaha, role accepted.

    Although, the way media is being shut down and bullied in BD, it sometimes feels like we, the bloggers, are the rebel alliance. If this continue, I suggest we all have a blog-a-thon and start distributing call signs amongst ourselves.

    I’d like to believe that there are one hundred and fifty million Lukes, Leias, and Hans out there, Jyoti bhai, and we will not get anywhere until we can clearly show them the perils of this new order.

    I nominate Motiur Rahman to be Jar Jar Binks.

  6. fugstar said, on January 31, 2008 at 1:30 am

    hey i wanted to be ja ja binks.

    anyway, heres to cultivating the force. Sufism, the sciences of the human soul.


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