Do you remember when you were a newborn baby, someone took you in her small arms clumsily and you bitterly complained with a cry? You were brought up wearing her clothes which she used to wear in her childhood. You enjoyed breaking her toys that she had preserved with her life for years, but she never complained about that. She is no one but your sister.
A sister is someone who used to change your diapers when you were an infant and your mother was not at home.
A sister is when she took you to the playground obeying your mother’s order. Her peers used to play joyfully there, but she couldn’t help but see that from a distance, holding you in her arms. She couldn’t join them because she had to look after you.
A sister is someone who is born to create competition for you. Sometimes you think…
Bangladesh is a champion of corruption and we, the Bangladeshis, religiously curse corruption at every point of our lives. When we are young, we promise ourselves that we will never engage in this heinous activity. We teach our kids that corruption is a bad thing to do and how it is being a blockade for our country’s progress. Do we realize that corruption is just like a web and we are just one of the knots that is keeping the web integrated?
A few months ago, I had to visit a government office for a particular document to make a machine readable passport. My parents advised me to slip a couple of hundred taka notes to the government employee and get the document. I complied because my plan was to get the document in hand and ask the employee whether he gets paid by the government or not when he asks for money. My parents thought it to be a very bad idea and my dad decided to go fetch the document instead.
Maybe the government employee receives a meager salary which might not be enough to run a family. As he gets accustomed to the “extra income”, his desires increase too. Sometimes we slip those hundred taka notes out of pity and because we are so rich the amount does not hurt our wallet. Most of the time, we are forced to slip the notes because we want to get things done without delay. Even if we earn the money after such toil and pay taxes to the government, we have to let go a big portion of our hard earned money paying bribes at different places. If we just randomly pick a sector, say law enforcement sector, we will find 79.6% of the household faced corruption when they sought any kind of help from the law enforcement agencies. Each household had to pay an average amount of 3,352 taka to get things done in this sector (Nawaz 2012). We feel proud of ourselves that we are not receiving bribe. However, we are bribing others and that keeps the corruption cycle going.
Now the question is how to untwine the web. In an article entitled “Anti-corruption Mechanisms in Bangladesh,” Advocate M. Shamsul Haque mentions, “…corruption in Bangladesh is considered a way of life that cannot be avoided or eradicated” (Haque). Are we going to get used to this way of life? For example, to avoid bribing, one might suggest complaining to the higher authority. It is quite confirmed we will find the higher authority corrupted to a greater level than their juniors. How can we expect them to take action against their juniors when they themselves are found guilty for the same crime? This even encourages the lower level employees to claim for bribes because they know nobody going to charge them for the crime. On top of that, their seniors might be claiming commissions from them as a price of letting them receiving bribes. As a result, corruption prevails and our life becomes so much intertwined in it that gradually we stop noticing it. Even a teacher who is supposed to teach his or her students that corruption is a bad thing has to pay a bribe to get a job in a government school. A report of Transparency International, Bangladesh mentions that to get a job as a teacher in a registered primary school, bribe is taken in the form of donation. Not only this, but also they are coerced to pay 1000-1500 taka in the name of different subscriptions when they go through a training program for “skill development” (“Administration and Management of Primary Education: Problems and the Way Out”, 5).
As a remedy to corruption, Advocate Haque suggests to make a “corruption-free” family. Parents might try to do that by encouraging their children for career option that includes less scopes of corruption, options like—doctor or engineer. Even if all of them don’t turn out to be doctors or engineers, many pursue private sectors where they think they can extricate themselves from corruption. Nowadays, parents encourage the least to go for government job because they might have to pay a huge amount of bribes to get the job. Secondly, the salary is very low and they do not want their kids to get involved in corruption to supplement their income. At the end of the day, they somehow get involved in corruption when they have to pay those extra amounts to get their passport, driving license, or at least to get rid of the traffic sergeant blocking their way for no good reason. This takes us to the state of nature described by Thomas Hobbes where human by nature is selfish (Wolff 12). People pay bribes without a big fuss because their self-interest lies there. They want to get their work done without any delay and do not mind paying for it when it is needed.
Advocate Haque also suggests exercise of religious values which I think has least to do anything with corruption. Even if we avoid corruption in fear of god, we submit to it at different levels to please our gods, such as—in the process of going for hajj or getting permission to set up a puja pandal during Durga Puja. Advocate Haque has said, corruption has become a way of life, we think it does not contradict with our religion when we are bribing people and praying to our gods simultaneously.
So, what is the solution? What would have happened if I had collected that document and refused to bribe that government employee? It would not have made any difference in the whole corruption system, but it would bring some change if a large number of people do the same at once. When a group of people refuse to bribe, it sets an example that there is an option to be bold and say no to bribery. Gradually, it will ripple all over the society and make more people realize that they have the collective power to come out of the corruption web. When everyone altogether refuses to pay bribe to anyone, corruption has to stop right there. To be candid, this sounds dreamy when every individual is driven by their self-interest. The conflict here is between individual rationality and collective rationality. Collective rationality is considered the best way when everyone becomes a part of it. According to an example by Jean-Paul Sartre, individual rationality said cutting down trees would increase productivity, but that would destroy the land. Collective rationality is to avoid cutting trees altogether. Same applies in terms of states. Individual rationality lets us pay the bribe and get our work done, but when everyone does the same, it brings destruction to the state. To make collective rationality successful, effort needs to come from the agency. Therefore, to achieve a society free of corruption, everyone needs to let go their individual rationality and become a part of the collective rationality. Is it something very feasible to think of? I hate to be pessimistic.
“I came to know what I didn’t use to know,”says Rokeya Begum, a member of Jatiyo Mohila Party. What she did not use to know is her responsibilities and rights of being a party member in the political arena. Bulbuli, Kohinoor, and Sadeka were also going through the same situation. They got over with this ignorance through round table meetings, workshops, and women dialogues arranged by Democracy International under the project of “Democratic Participation and Reform”.
Kohinoor Begum had joined politics in 2002. While being in Jatiyo Mohila Party, she only used to be active during elections when she used to campaign for the party candidates. Rest of the time, she would just sit home and take care of her tailoring business. Jatiyo Mohila Party is one of the many sectors of Jatiyo Party, consisting almost 100 women in Meherpur. Members there, like Kohinoor Begum, knew little about their responsibilities and rights. Even if they had enough potentiality to work for the people and the party, they did not know how to approach. They had irregular meetings where they used to discuss how they can add more members in the party. While campaigning during elections, they could not do properly as they did not know how to mix up with people and speak in public. They never realized that they can go further from their position within the party.
Through different training programs and seminars by Democracy International they learned to raise their voice up. They started to claim equality and accountability in decision making. Sadeka claimed why the male party leaders always take decisions according to their will. Members of the mohila party have rights to take part in decision making too. Before, the party leader would only give assurance of their rights, but now their boldness forced them to give them what they want. After attending women dialogue by Democracy International, Meherpur Jatiyo Mohila Party members built up an advocacy group which would make a list of promising female members who are eligible enough to be added in the main committee list of Jatiyo Party. It also created a space where the advocacy group could negotiate with the leading members of Jatiyo Party about adding the female members in the committee list. As a result of the negotiation, about 90 party members from Jatiyo Mohila Party have been added in the main committee list of Jatiyo Party few months ago.
Rokeya, Bulbuli, Kohinoor, and Sadeka are four of those women who have been added in the main committee list. According to them, it would not have happened so early if they did not have the support of Democracy International. “DI has opened our eyes and mouth,” says Sadeka Khatun who learned how to work for the progress of the party and realizes the importance of nominating the right person for an election. The addition into the main committee list also helped in flourishing her NGO, Onirban Mohila Kollyan Songstha. Bulbuli Khatun, a homemaker in occupation, now has plans to serve the people and make progress in different party related issues. After learning about different policies and public speaking, now they can influence more people during election and attract more people in the party through their speeches. People in general have faith in them as well as the male leaders of Jatiyo Party. They are cooperating with them like they do with other members and inform them different party related matters, which they did not use to do before.
Members of Jatiyo Mohila Party discovered their inner strength through different programs of Democracy International. They are willing to work for the general people and the party. Now, they are aiming to stand for elections while having the constant support of Democracy International.Leaders
Ours is an age when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has become something that indicates our living standard. It has been the main device used to measure a country’s economy since 1944 (Dickinson). It indicates which countries are economically developed and the living standard of the countries’ people. On the other hand, Gross National Happiness (GNH), a newer term than GDP, emphasizes more on a nation’s wellbeing than economic status and was introduced in 1972 by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Bhutan is the only country till now that has adopted GNH to measure the progress of the nation instead of GDP. This paper, will argue that if the measurement of GNH is practiced in all countries, the world will be a better place to live in because happiness will prevail and inequality will not exist.
The measurement of GDP is done by aggregating a country’s all of private and public consumption, government outlays, investments and exports less imports. Indirectly, GDP is related to the income of the individuals of a country because the more a person earns, the more he or she can consume. Conventionally, economists look at GDP to understand a nation’s economic development. When the GDP of a nation is going up, the economy is good and the nation is advancing (Lisa). On the other hand, the notion of GNH involves sustainable development taking a holistic approach towards the concept of progress. In GNH, equal importance is given to the non-economic form of well-being. The measurement of GNH contains nine domains: psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards. The domains here measure the well-being of the Bhutanese people, where well-being means accomplishing all the conditions of a ‘good life’, if not a monetarily wealthy life (Bhutan GNH Index).
According to David R. Loy, economists in present days live in a world of statistics and equations where human value does not exist (1). While comparing between nations, we just look at different data, like GDP, that indicate which nations earn more and consume more. Eventually, ranking of the GDP shows for different countries set them off for a race where they compete to increase their GDPs. As GDP has no upper limit, there is no finishing point of this race and the race keeps on going. Being so engrossed in the race, nobody notices that their lives are not at a state of well-being. The race is also devoid of human value, which makes a human being ‘human’. It lacks religious values too. Loy says, “Increasing our ‘standard of living’ has become so compulsive for us because it serves as a substitute for traditional religious values — or, more precisely, because it has actually become a kind of secular religion for us” (6). It also takes away people’s mental peace as they always think of increasing their wealth. The desire for wealth preoccupies us and shadows our life with the fear of poverty (Loy 8).
On the contrary, the limit of GNH is just to be happy. A person is considered happy even if he or she does not have adequacy in all of the domains because individuals having adequacy in at least six of the nine domains are considered happy. In pursuit of the nine domains to be happy, people end up having a healthy and prosperous life. For example, under the domain of ‘Psychological Well-being’, they acquire spirituality, life satisfaction, positive emotions, and avoid negative emotions, like anger, fear, worry, jealousy, and selfishness. This reduces people’s craving for material well-being. According to Lyonpo Jigme Thinley, Bhutan’s home minister and ex-prime minister, material well-being is only one component that does not ensure that people are at peace with their environment and in synchronization with each other. This is actually a concept that is based on Buddhist Philosophy (Revkin 2). Buddhism values nonattachment to material needs and upholds the virtue of having less wants, but that does not mean that it encourages poverty. In Buddhism, poverty is measured through the lacking of fundamental needs to lead an adequate life. In fact, it is a “clever way to enjoy your life,” said the Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, as mixing up the quality of life and the quantitative standard of living is considered foolish (Loy 5). Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, has also instructed that satisfaction with whatever you have is the greatest wealth (Loy 4). This relates back to the domain of ‘Psychological Well-being’ where life satisfaction is achieved. So, in terms of Buddhist philosophy, a person satisfying that domain is not considered as poor even if he or she does not earn a lot. Thus, GNH is more important in people’s lives because it teaches us the need for self-limitation and self-satisfaction, instead of GDP that renders us a monetarized society.
GNH also ensures equality in the society. We emphasize more on the GDP and let it trigger the competition of earning more wealth. While competing, we do not look at those countries that have a lower GDP than us and feel happy by ourselves for having a higher GDP. We tend to look at those that have a higher GDP and push ourselves to earn even more. We tend to follow every possible way, legal or illegal, to increase our assets. In this competition, the poor fall behind because they cannot join or survive. We use up all the resources and do not leave anything for the poor in this competitive environment. That’s how they become deprived. Lack of resources and infrastructure make their lives miserable and definitely a miserable life with no sufficient food or adequate shelter is not a happy life. On the other hand, those who are using up all the resources in trying to make themselves richer and richer cannot call themselves happy either because they are never mentally satisfied. They always want to increase their income and accumulate GDP. This creates disparity between the rich and the poor. According to the United Nations Development Report for 1998, the three richest people on the planet have assets that exceed the combined Gross National Product of the 48 poorest countries (Loy 8). Loy states, “Three-fifths of the 4.4 billion people in developing countries lack basic sanitation, one-third have no safe drinking water, one-quarter are inadequately housed, one-fifth undernourished and one-fifth lack access to modern health services” (Ibid). Development agencies like World Bank try to help those countries, but unfortunately, it is usually the wealthy class of the country that is benefitted by this help while the poor remain poor.
Now, suppose a person in Bhutan has a job that pays him an adequate amount of money. He has a nice little home to live in with a nice family; he is able to meet the needs of his family; he has good neighbors; he does voluntary activities. On the whole, he leads a healthy and peaceful life. So, on the basis of the nine domains, he is a happy man. And it is the GNH index that shows him that he is happy, rather than showing him that there are other people in the world whose living standards are higher than his own, which GDP does. So, when the man finds himself happy, he will not desire for more. He will not hanker after wealth, so there will not be any competition of earning more wealth. Thus, he will just stay happy with whatever asset he has. In this way, he is just using up the resources that are allocated for him. Therefore, everyone gets an equal access to the resources. As a result, the poor also get a chance to better their condition by accessing resources and that creates equality in the society, not only on the basis of happiness, but also on the basis of livelihood.
One might say that emphasis on GNH will make people less ambitious as people will remain satisfied with what they have and will not have craving. But the point to be noted is GNH does not discourage non-economic achievements. Suppose the same person I have mentioned earlier, who is happy already, has invented a new technology after a lot of hard work. He had the ambition to invent such technology that inspired him to be successful. But for his achievement he will not expect any monetary reward because in pursuit of the nine domains, he is already devoid of craving for wealth. Earning money was not his intention behind the invention at all. His intention might be serving his nation with a new technology or the welfare of the mankind. Thus, GNH only promotes resistance to cravings for wealth, not a craving for other non-economic achievement.
This is also true that we cannot avoid GDP totally as it has been counted for a long period of time and has some significance also. But if we take a deeper look, we will be able to figure out whether it is really serving its purpose. As GDP shows the economic health of a nation, looking at the GDP, economic-decision makers make policies and development planning (“GDP and Its Importance”). But does GDP portray the actual economic condition of a country?
The measurement of GDP does not include the production of the products that are not purchased. It doesn’t count if someone grows his own food, but if someone likes to watch TV and buys one, GDP would count that (“Macroeconomics”). Moreover, even if GDP shows economic development, sometime it underestimates it too. The reason is it does not count the income gained from the black market (Pettinger). A number of nations earn much money through black markets, but still they might show a lower GDP, which misrepresents the economy of those nations.
Also GDP is submissive to oligarchy. For example, South Africa is in top 40 countries that have higher GDP, but 50% of the population in this country lives in poverty (“Three Limitations”). Thus, higher percentage of GDP is actually owned by a smaller but powerful group in this country. The greater number of people in poverty might not be able to access different infrastructure, which is important for economic development, but GDP is not used to improve that (Pettinger). So, GDP cannot actually represent the original living standard of nation’s population. Finally, GDP overvalues negative externalities. This is the bad effects that occur when consumption of production increases. When GDP increases, negative externalities, like air pollution and water pollution, increase too (“Three Limitations”). Living in a polluted environment affects the health of the people badly and we cannot expect development from a nation having an unhealthy population, no matter how high the GDP is of that nation.
All the reasons stated above indicate that the measurement of GDP does not serve the purposes it is supposed to serve; the purposes for which it is given so much importance. So, why GDP is worthy of measurement? And why should it not be replaced by GNH?
The world is full of sufferings that are generated from different cravings. We cannot heal all the sufferings even if we turn all the resources into consumable products because people’s craving is endless. At the same time, if the measurement of GNH is promoted everywhere, we will learn how to save ourselves from the craving that will lessen our suffering. Thus, according to Tibetan Buddhist analogy, we will learn to make shoes to save our feet from the thrones of the world rather than paving the whole ground. Paving the ground is a stupid attempt taken by “our collective technological and economic project” in effort to make us happy (Loy 6). In conclusion, making the measurement of GNH prevalent everywhere will bring happiness and equality and a world like this is indeed a better place to live in.
Loy, David R. “Buddhism and Poverty.” (n.d.): n. pag. Rpt. in Global Justice Course Packet. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Revkin, Andrew C. “A New Measure of Well-Being From a Happy Little Kingdom.” (n.d.): n. pag. Rpt. in Global Justice Course Packet. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.
From Teknaf, the southern end point of Bangladesh, if you go 444 miles south, you will find a small circular island called Kalpadesh. It is a sovereign country with an area of 317 square miles near the Andaman Sea. The country doesn’t belong to any continent. It is near to the South Asian countries; this is why it has a moderate climate similar to them. Being surrounded by the sea, the country has a very healthy weather.
The country is neither a monarchy nor a democracy. The head of the government is a king, but he is observed by someone called Rakshak, who is selected by the people through election. He keeps an eye on the king and checks whether he is up to any kind of corruption or crime or not. If the Rakshakaccuses the king of any crime, he has to prove it; otherwise he himself will be penalized. If he is able to prove, the king will be penalized. But till now, there has not been any problem like this. The country is very isolated in terms of relation with other countries. It has never signed any kind of treaties, but it has import and export business with the South Asian countries. The country was never colonized by Europeans, maybe because it was not noticed by them, or because it has a very strong army. Permanently migrating to this country from other countries is impossible, but if you want to pay a visit here, you can get a visa of maximum two weeks, which is enough to travel over the whole country.
There is nothing called gender inequity in this country. While filling out a form, there is no such category where you have to select your gender. Men and women are treated equally and are different only in terms of physical appearance and their outfits. Since childhood, people are brought up in such a way that neither of the sexes considers themselves greater than the other.
Most of the people in Kalpadesh are either agnostic or atheist. Even the king himself is atheist. If someone wants to follow any religion—like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity—he can, but he can’t preach the religion to others or force others to follow him. Having no religion in the country doesn’t mean people have no morals there. Most of the people have high morals and ethics. There is no police force there as there is no crime at all. In case anyone commits any crime, he is punished by the army. Now you might ask how this is possible. Well, that is possible because of proper education with moral lessons. Kalpadesh has 100% literacy rate. It doesn’t have a lot of educational institutions, only two or three, and not everyone gets a chance to study there. The educational institutions are a combination of school and university. So, a student gets admitted there in 1st standard and leaves it only after graduation. After graduating, a student has to teach 10 people who haven’t got the chance to study there in his community for five years. For this service, they also get salary from government. A graduate can get a job or pursue post graduation only after this five year’s service. So, it is very obvious how this country has 100% literacy rate.
The people of Kalpadesh are very firm about their traditional dress. Even when visitors come to their country, they have to borrow the traditional dress from the hotels where they stay and wear it the whole duration of their journey. But I don’t think a visitor would mind wearing their traditional dress as it is very beautiful and comfortable. In the country, men wear loose fitting trouser with lots of girth and frill. On the top, they wear long shirts having different length of sleeves and with closed collars. Women wear skirts with vast circumference and frills, and blouses with collar that reach to their navel. They also tie colorful scarves around their waist. People are allowed to design their clothes according to their wish, but they are not allowed to bring any kind of change in the lengths of the clothes. On different occasions, men and women in Kalpadesh wear colorful and gorgeous dresses and lots of accessories. During physical activities or sports or being in the armed force, people wear different kind of dress which is same for men and women. The dress looks more like a ninja dress with tight trouser and tunic, but brown in color.
People in Kalpadesh mostly eat fish, which is their staple food. They also love seafood and coconut. In different occasions, they make sweets with coconut and various kinds of drinks with coconut water. The main attraction of this country is coconut jam. They import coconut jam to different parts of the world and even today nobody can discover how they make it. When you visit there, you must try flat breads with coconut jam in breakfast and once you try it, you can’t stop yourself eating more and more. There are lots of hotels and restaurants where you will only get their traditional dishes, not Chinese, Thai, or other European delicacies. The most popular and the biggest hotel here is “The Kalpa Inn”. The restaurant of this hotel is mainly popular for its fish items. It serves hundreds of different kinds of fish items and your whole trip might get finished while tasting those dishes. If you can’t taste each and every dish, you should at least taste the grilled pomfret fish with coconut sauce. This is a dish that you won’t forget in your lifetime. Surprisingly, though the hotel is very famous and also big, the prices are not very high. A full course dinner or lunch will only cost you approximately 7-8 USD and if you want to take a buffet dinner, it will cost you 10 USD per head.
The most interesting thing about Kalpadesh is it is void of any kind of globalization. So, you can taste the pure Kalpadeshi culture without any adultery of other culture. Practice of other culture is totally forbidden here. It means, when you visit there, you also become a Kalpadeshi for a couple of weeks. There is no cable network there, but you won’t be missing it. You can entertain yourself with their drama, music, and dance. The cultural dance of Kalpadesh is a spectacular thing. Girls dance wearing skirts of vibrant colors and holding the end of their skirts gracefully. Their dramas are also full of comedy and romance and guess what: all the actors and actresses speak in English!
Now you must be dying to know how to get there. As I have mentioned before, you will only get a visa of two weeks. To get visa of the country, you have to endorse at least 800 dollars per head. Travelling to Kalpadesh is also an attraction. There is no airport there, so you have to get there by ship. You have to fly to India, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka. You can take the ship from southern coasts of any of these countries, which will take you 1-2 days. Though Kalpadesh doesn’t let other cultures enter, it is very hospitable to visitors. And you will want to return to this destination again and again.
(The “illogical” description given above is just my imagination. There is no such country named Kalpadesh. But I wish there was……..)
Back in 1998, I used to live in the older part of Dhaka, which is basically known for its crowd and congested neighborhoods. It’s also known for crisis of various facilities like—electricity, water, and gas. Amongst all these, crisis of water used to prevail most at that time.
Often during the day time, there was no water and I used to get an excuse of not taking bath. To solve the problem, WASA, a government-run company for water supply in Dhaka, used to come in the neighborhood with trucks carrying big tanks of water.
Women used to carry different sizes of containers from their home and hold it in front of the pipes which came from the tanks. It was the end of my making excuses. To carry a bucket of water for bath from the road to the bathroom was quite laborious and it also used to waste water because water used to spill from the bucket while taking. So, what my mother used to do is, send me with our maid to the tank and make me take bath there, on the street. Let me mention, I was only 6-7 years old then.
The next year we moved to the new part of Dhaka, where there was no scarcity at all, be it water and be it electricity. There was plenty of water and also plenty of wastage of water. Then I got to understand, as people here are wasting water, we had not been getting water there. As I grew up, I also got used to waste. Whenever I waste water, my mother reminds me of those days in old Dhaka. Thinking about those days, I try to save water as much as possible.
When I am applying face wash on my face or brushing my teeth, I keep the tap turned off. May be the drops of water I would save here, will add to their jar who are suffering from water scarcity. So, when you are not using water, turn off the tap. Keep an eye on the container you are filling with water, so that you can turn it off timely.
In my religion, it is said, “If you waste, Satan is your brother.” And I don’t think Satan would make a good brother. So, if you don’t want to make him your brother, don’t waste! TURN OFF THE TAP!!!!