Like exams, a new job, or the weather — Goom has become a part of life

Afsan Chowdhury
Thursday, December 28th, 2017
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Whether we like to accept it or not, we do have a very disabled political system. It doesn’t take much to see that. One look at the failure of the power transfer system is enough to convince people. Till date we have only had complaints from the BNP but that is largely because it has been at what it thinks is the wrong end of the 15th amendment that removed the caretaker (CT) provision for elections.


But the CT system itself was actually an admission of the body politic’s inability — even after two, three, four decades of independence — to organize an electoral process acceptable to all, and sustained through successive cycles. It must be an embarrassment to all that the last truly non-controversial election that proved acceptable to all parties and concerns was the landmark 1970 election under the murderous regime run by the Pakistan army! So much for politics.


Three matters are on many minds. First, we have the enforced disappearances, or Goom, the word that places it in our particular socio-cultural context. Then there is the looting of the banks. Only, in this day and age, owners/directors are the ones you must guard against, not any dacoit or thief. Finally, there is the 11th JS election scheduled to be held by January 2019.


These topics have raised much interest in many minds but it is also true that it is not positive energies that sparkle when the topics are discussed. That is an indicator of our overall system’s health.  Are they all part of the same root that breeds the bitter fruits of a nation’s failure?


Goom is here to stay


Goom has become a symbol of fear, often scarier than death, because nothing is known about the victim. It’s a fear that overwhelms because no one ever knows what goes on. No one ever says, no one ever asks, and no one will ever know. When the IG of Police says it’s always been with us, it’s totally normalized.  But there it is. Strangers from our within arrive and take us away and then sometimes return the person, and then go away, into some nether. We have no control and we shall never know, we know. It’s always been with us, we are told, and now it will always be with us, we feel.


But it’s not only persons who disappear but many other things do as well. Trees disappear from the streets, roads disappear under rainwater collected due to disappeared drains, canals disappear under the paws of the powerful, lakes disappear under landfills, education disappears under incompetent management, law and order disappears under God knows what, votes disappear… the list is endless.


But nothing astonishes us more than the looting of banks which are supposed to keep people’s money secure. This is supposed to be the place of safety but has now become a den of thieves – a diabolical reversal where depositing your money in a bank account amounts to handing it over to the robber barons in its boardroom. People are given permission to set up banks often, nearly always on political grounds, and they then proceed to fleece them knowing nothing can happen to them.  They have got the license to goom the money. And the goomers, the perpetrators of this strange new paradigm, are never punished.


But it’s not just money that is goomed but laws, rules and ultimately banking systems as well. In a world of finance, if laws are not in operation, it becomes a world of looting at will.  And if 47 years after liberation our banking system is goom driven, we should consider living permanently in a state of fiscal goom.


Electoral goom


It’s amidst this mental state that we face another goom prospect which is that of an election, in this case the national polls in 2018. What we saw electorally at various times hasn’t or doesn’t fill us with hope.  We have seen stolen elections so many times that it is probably the most common goom of them all.  People don’t discuss the prospect of a good life after an election but what will happen to the election itself when it’s held. They are keener to know if a goom will be executed and how.  Sad to say for both political parties, most people have very little trust in the political system, including in national elections. It’s the politicians who really are keen about elections, looking upon them as a tool for living a better life. Ordinary people really don’t care much because they know it is always on the verge of being goomed.


So we really don’t know what to call the system, but we know that it doesn’t deliver much to the ordinary people. It’s part of the dominant goom culture where people live in this state but the country is missing, where the biggest goom is that of hope in the system.

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