Mukti

A time to write 3

Posted in activism, blogging, Uncategorized by jrahman on October 28, 2019

Yes, we have to write.  And we need to be cautious and sensible, which is easier said than done.  The question, however, still remains — where to write?

Back in December, an editor friend told me in December 2018 to write in Facebook — you’ll get many more readers there!  He is still right, insofaras numbers are concerned.  Facebook would easily garner a large readership.  And size does matter if the primary objective is to shape the daily news cycle.

However, the longer term impact of the running-commentary-on-the-news-of-the-day is about as high as the bitter personality feuds that pervade the social media.  For any kind of longer form writing, Facebook is simply not all that useful.  If nothing else, as Zia Hassan experienced recently, it is quite easy for the regime’s trolls to disable or delete or erase the analysis posted in Facebook.

Ideally, there would be a multi-media platform where:

  • short, rapid-fire posts from Facebook are archived;
  • videos — including live ones — are posted or streamed;
  • long form writings are published and followed up with contrasting views;
  • TED-talk style videos are shared on relevant topics; and
  • all of these are publicized.

Incidentally, that was roughly the vision I had for the Unheard Voices blog in about a decade ago.  And I had suggested something similar to the editors of Nuraldeen blog in 2013-14.  If anything, there is perhaps a greater need / appetite for such a platform now.

Of course, just because there is demand does not necessarily mean supply is forthcoming, because this is not a well-functioning market.  You have to be incredibly idealistic (to the point of perhaps being naïve!) and energetic to try something like this in today’s Bangladesh.

The point about idealism is perhaps self-evident.  Let me stress the bit about hard work.  Running a platform like above is a full-time job — three people put 20-25 hours each a week on average on UV back in the day.  And much of the work is unglamorous chore — chasing people to meet deadline, proof reading, managing ego clashes and such like.  This is not for someone who treats writing as a glorified hobby.

I have been following two individuals with tremendous potential — Anupam Debashis Roy and Asif Shibgat Bhuiyan.  The former has started a platform that shares with this blog not just the name, but also a commitment to liberal democracy.  The latter’s experiments on youtube and publications on Islam show that a liberal future is still possible.

In solidarity with both.

 

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A time to write 2

Posted in activism, blogging by jrahman on October 16, 2019

It’s a time to write because, to put it bluntly, there is a moral imperative to write while we still can, before it’s too late.  But even if we accept that as a self-evident, axiomatic truth, questions still remain about what to write, for whom, and where?  There are, of course, many possible answers — let a hundred flowers bloom I say!

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The middle

Posted in democracy, economics, elections, governance, political economy, politics by jrahman on November 3, 2017

The Middle is an American sitcom about a middle class family’s struggle in the wake of the Great Recession.  I never watched the show beyond the first episode in 2009.  At that time, it seemed to me to be a poor derivative of Malcolm in the Middle and Roseanne.  Facebook tells me that this will be the final season of The Middle.  Maybe I should watch the show.  Set in the mid-western state of Indiana, the protagonist white family might have been just the type that put Donald Trump where he is.  Aristotle wrote that …those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is large.  Some argue that stagnation of the American middle class lies behind the rise of Trump.  I am not so sure — perhaps tribes matter more than class.

I don’t want to spend precious time and energy pondering about the plight of the white American middle class.  Instead, let me talk about the role of the middle class in Bangladeshi politics.  The term Bangladesh paradox is now at least half a decade old, and refers to the idea that Bangladesh has been surprisingly good at improving the lives of its poor despite dysfunctional politics and a stunted private sector — that’s from the Economist.  William B Milam, former American envoy to Dhaka and Islamabad and a keen observer of both countries, often talks about another Bangladesh paradox:

….Bangladesh should have become, over the past 25 years, a modernized democracy, knocking on the door of entry into the middle income category of developing countries. Its economy has grown for most of the last two decades around 5-6 % per year, and its social development indices have improved rapidly and now are generally better than most other South Asian countries except Sri Lanka. Instead, over those same two decades, Bangladesh has regressed along the democracy/authoritarian axis no matter which of the two major parties was in power.

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