June 29, 2007

The Many Fallacies of Syed Badrul Ahsan

I know, I know. I'm squeezing this lemon bitter. This man is one part of all that is wrong with his generation. He's blatantly partisan without even knowing it. He represents the liberal part, and I'll highlight the more conservative part soon enough.

Take his tribute to Jahanara Imam, in which he manages to insert this little gem:

"When you reflect on the life that Jahanara Imam went through, you will have cause to recall the glamour that once defined her being. It was glamour that did not come with the glitter one associates with it. It was indeed a pattern of living, which once was emblematic of the urbanity and sophistication that came easily to Bengalis in the days when nationalism began to dig increasingly deeper roots in their consciousness."

Ah yes, the URBANity of Bangali nationalism! Shows exactly the hidden assumption he operates under, namely that the urban middle class essentially represents the entire nation. That is why we can get rid of rickshas from our roads and evict slum dwellers from wastelands and patronise madrasha students as being unpatriotic. All in the name of improving, beautifying and building this Bangali nation because we, the middle class, are the nation. Read Syed Badrul Ahsan's writings carefully and this is the hidden assumption you will find everywhere! A true product of his time.

But that was minor by itself. The rest of the writing was good, so I overlooked it. The next day there followed this editorial, where he criticises the performance of the Foreign Office since Dr. Kamal's "glory days" and advocates for the appointment of diplomats drawn from fields other than diplomacy:

"They did poorly, not because they did not know their job but because they worked in the mistaken, pretty selfish belief that they were there to serve a partisan government rather than an entire country. There are, thus, the pitfalls associated with sending men and women from outside the foreign service abroad.

On balance, though, it is always people from academia, journalism and politics who make a bigger impression on the outside world than do those who have professionally been trained to speak for their country abroad."

Marvellous. Simply marvellous. Yes, that is what we need to do to overcome the very partisanship he criticises. MORE personal appointments from outside the BCS, not better trained diplomats. I mean, when we let politicians bring in people from outside the Foreign Office to head embassies, SURELY they are not going to appoint someone PARTISAN! Perish the thought.

There are no figures, no statistics, not even a proposed indicator on how we should measure the success of our embassies. These things would have been of immense value, but alas they are utterly less glamorous than advocating for "journalists" and poets like Pablo Neruda to be appointed. And let's face it, glamour and image are everything in diplomacy. A good knowledge of the WTO or IMF or other international treaties... mehhh, that's all for these "partisan" professional diplomats.

And by the way, Neruda's loyalties seem to have lain more with Stalin than with Chile.


Saif said...

Good one, Asif bhai. This needed to be said.

Zia said...

I don't know what you're getting at, but the aspersions you cast on Syed Badrul Ahsan reflects more on what is wrong with you. Mr Ahsan's insights have depth and harken to a time that infused pride in ourselves as a nation. Beyond that, his literary style deserves to be emulated. Not something half-wits are likely to appreciate. Carry on, Mr Ahsan, with your excellent writing: these discomfit only those uncomfortable with their own selves.

Anonymous said...

last few days our class held a similar discussion about this subject and you show something we have not covered yet, appreciate that.

- Laura

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