The Sapient Ape

Life as an employed MBA grad during an economic recovery. DISCLAIMER: Everything written here is fiction.

Young Blood May Prevent Spilt Blood

So my cousins were telling me that this past election that just occurred in Bangladesh (early 2009) was in many ways comparable to Obama’s recent victory.  People were out in the street on election day, cheering and dancing, oblivious to the threat of violence that has become so prevalent in politics, not only in Bangladesh, but pretty much everywhere.  Even in the US, our joy and innocent cheer was subdued by the constant threat to the first black presidential candidate that covered the area (when we were around him) like the view from a secret service sniper net.  I can’t describe the fear I felt as an Obama supporter, constantly praying (to my non-existent God) that nothing would happen to him.  I can’t imagine the sorrow and depression that would permeate our nation and our world if that were to happen.

I’m not going to get on a whole political diatribe.  We all know what politics begets.  It has forever been associated with power, violence, and the suffering of the masses for the benefit of the few.  That may not change in some time, if ever (until women take their true place as the master race, and us men are relegated to sex objects (bring it on!!!)), but perhaps there is hope.  That word, hope, did not mean much to me before — it was a joke, a crutch for weaklings.  But somehow, this transformative election and individual have given hope back to me — a person who in the past was the epitome of  apathy, self-centeredness, and self-destructiveness.

But again — I digress.  This post is really about why politics continues to be run by the same people.  Why the masses around the world are so drawn to cults of personality that they would rather elect a despot they know than a stranger who’s actions might actually benefit their lives.

For example, in Bangladesh.  To those of you who don’t know, I’ll attempt a brief explanation.  Bangladesh used to have three major political parties.  The Awami League (left), the Jatio Party (center), and BNP (right).  Both right and center have gained political power through coups and assassinations, although Awami isn’t much better in terms of political subterfuge.  Today, only left and right remain.  Jatio has been eaten up by Awami, and right (BNP) has formed an alliance with far right (religious fundamentalists).  This recent election was won by left.  But here’s the big joke.  The main political players in Bangladeshi politics for the past 30 years are all still heavily involved on today’s political stage, if they are still alive — otherwise their family members are.  Family dynasties have formed, and power keeps changing hands between them.  Can we really consider this democracy (And please remember that family dynasties are not something very unique to Bangladeshi politics before you attempt to judge us for our backwardness)?  So Bangladeshi politics is starting to mimic more and more the politics of the US, or vice versa.

Except for the rampant — RAMPANT corruption.  Its everywhere here — to the point that it has corrupted the national mindset.  I was in hour 4 of an 8 hour conversation with a friend recently when I realized that us Bengalis have really changed as a people, our self-identity warped and twisted by corruption and greed.  There used to be a time (although it may have been before I was born), when we used to fight for values — for our right to our language and culture.  Now we kill for money and power.  And this is seen as not only unavoidable, but even normal or respectable.

So how do we change it back?  It definitely won’t be by handing power back and forth between the same tired old political parties.  Bangladesh, like the US, needs someone transformative.  Someone young, someone not associated with any of the political dynasties, someone full of idealism, someone incorruptible.  Someone who believes that things can change for the better, and is willing to sacrifice self-interest for that change.  So if you’re out there, transformative political candidate — out there on my friends list on FB — get in touch with me.  I’ll help you run your campaign.

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Lifer’s Block

Since the introduction of CNG tech, air quality in the city has improved noticeably

Since the introduction of CNG tech, air quality in the city has improved noticeably

Lifer’s Block.

As in writer’s block, but relating to your whole life.  That’s what I’ve felt about coming to Dhaka in the past.  A black hole from which escape is very difficult.

I guess that’s why, since high school, I’ve been coming back less and less.  I see Dhaka as what my life could become, should I let it — the dark side of my personality finally taking over for good.

In many ways, I’m being unfair to Bangladesh.  The changes here have rolled through almost overnight (if you count almost 20 years as overnight).  There used to be a time, when I visited my family in the 70s and 80s, when the roads used to be clear of any cars after 8pm, where convenience  stores were few and far between, where even picking up a toothbrush involved planning and a 20 minute drive.  The 70s and 80s didn’t see much economic development, and change was slow.  Enter globalization, in the 90s, and a rapid period of development, both economic and social.  Today, city-wide all-day traffic jams make a half mile trip take half an hour.  Commerce abounds, and restaurants are everywhere.  Crate and Barrel quality imports enter the local market straight from the Chinese manufacturers as private label goods.  Here, at least, one can see the benefits that globalization has had on Asia — at least the middle and upper class of Asia.  Their lives have definitely improved.

I stopped playing this game once I got to high school.

I stopped playing this game once I got to high school.

But for me, Dhaka represents stagnation — my last two years of high school were here, and were filled with long periods of boredom and frustration.  Escaping back to the US was the beginning of my freedom, not only from my parents, but from a society that is often small-minded, judgmental, and ultra-materialistic.  Wealth, and the accumulation thereof, is seen as primary measure of success and power.  I realize this can be said about almost anywhere in the world, but it seems to me that due to the extreme poverty that is prevalent here, the materialism is more pronounced.  And I find myself easily falling into that mindset, or being a victim of its consequences.

But I’m generalizing.  Things aren’t all bad here — people aren’t ALL evil.  My dilemma is, that as an unemployed broke-ass, I could probably get a job here relatively easily, either with an NGO, or with a local multinational — the salary would be pitiable by Western standards, but I could actually live relatively comfortably here.

Ahh Dhaka... the idylic crow by the putrid lake...

Ahh Dhaka... the idylic crow by the putrid lake...

This would also (hopefully) give me an opportunity to work on my own business projects which so far, I’ve been stagnating with.  If I were here, I could find other individuals who could help me launch my ideas and make them a reality.  I could even work on products for the export market.  Even China, which remains one of the countries that I would like to maintain a connection with, is a closer flight from here, and business with China is booming in Bangladesh (as it is everywhere).

So I’m actually considering it as a real possibility, especially after June — once I take my Foreign Service Exam.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I have trouble making decisions.  Every time I come here, I am able to convince myself that I can give up my dreams of world domination and settle down to make babies with some hot young thing.

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