The Financial Express

Getting over social decline

Getting over social decline

In his magnum opus A Study of History, Arnold Toynbee concluded to the effect that great civilisations are not murdered, instead, they take their own lives.  This means that forces within are in conflict to weaken and ultimately invite collapse of a civilisation. He is right in many ways but external forces may also act as allies to precipitate the fall of a civilisation.

Now the question is, if the same rules are active in the modern social context. If war, leadership failure, social inequality and denial of minimum human rights along with pandemics, climate change and environmental degradation have led to collapse of civilisations, the same principles are more likely -- than not -- to obliterate societies. Right at this moment many parts of the world are recovering from Covid-19 pandemic. Still globally more than 10,000 deaths and nearly half a million infections are recorded within 24 hours. Several nations are at risk of a fresh wave of the disease.

The pandemic has been so overwhelming both physically and psychologically that human aberrations of various types and nature often do not receive the attention they were supposed to do in normal times. True, against moral degradation and bankruptcy of soul, some are ignoring risks to their lives to serve the ailing and the hungry. But they are small in number and their capacity is limited. The rich and superrich of society, who could serve the humanity in this unprecedented crisis in history, even without making much of a sacrifice, are hardly doing their parts let alone taking a lead in this regard. Instead, they are accumulating stinking wealth to their outrageous sums. The pandemic has given them a further advantage to advance their business interests.

No wonder, therefore, that lawlessness and crimes are taking myriad shapes among the common run of people. The less fortunate and 'unsmart' among them blame their luck but the 'smart' are on the lookout for means -- fair and foul -- to stay afloat. This explains why crimes -- some of them blood-curdlingly ghoulish -- are taking place. There has been a series of murders in recent times, in which the dead were chopped into pieces and dumped into septic tanks or disposed of somewhere else. Even an 'imam' has been accused of committing such a dreadful crime allegedly for his extra-marital affairs. A social rot has indeed set in, or else one such incident would have acted as a deterrent. Instead, it seems, such violent and bizarre acts are encouraging others to do the same.

No other barometer is needed to take a measure of a society's decline. But in today's Bangladesh, the criminals are on the prowl often enough. The early incidents of fraudulence involving people like Shahed Karim have acted as a background. Now almost everyday, the security forces are coming up with chilling details of novel swindling, deception, violence, sex crimes, human trafficking and a lot more by organised gangs. From the Tana (pulling) Party to impostors to Tik Tok traffickers, the range is long and vast.

When the pandemic should have left a sobering influence on people, it seems, some have used it as an excuse for carrying out their nefarious agenda and still others taking full advantage of the unusual social isolation and exclusion. If the wealthy are intoxicated to amass wealth beyond all proportions, so are the criminal gangs engaged in unlawful and anti-social activities.

Where will all this take society in the end? The encouraging news is that the law enforcement agencies have proved their skills and brilliance to detect and arrest members of several criminal gangs. One wonders, how many more such criminals are active in society! If they are tackled at the present rate, threats from them may indeed get minimised. But then what about the rising inequality bred out of selfishness of the rich in society, who are reluctant to share their spoils with the less fortunate? This is the toughest question but given the collective doom society may encounter in case this or other pandemics or environmental or natural disasters take place, the answer is simple. Sharing wealth rationally as a social responsibility can indeed bring social peace and poise.    


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