The unfortunate idiṓtēs

 Published in: The Daily Star on June 29, 2016
The unfortunate idiṓtēs

“And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Act 1, scene 5, Hamlet

LISA, a thorough Texan, had left the United States only once for a vacation. She had never travelled the world before. Yet, she woke up speaking in a pure British accent one morning. As her husband couldn’t understand what she was saying, he took her to the doctor for an examination. The doctor explained that a surgery that Lisa had a few months back on her lower jaw has changed the way she spoke. As a result, a Texan through and through, Lisa now speaks like a British citizen. Today, the list of Ripley’s Believe it or Not is probably the longest than it has ever been, as we encounter newer shocks and surprises every minute.

To put it simply, things aren’t the same as before.

Once, great businesses were supposed to continue as great businesses; trade agreements were supposed to continue ensuring increased benefits; people were supposed to be crossing borders with more ease; law enforcing agencies were supposed to protect the people of the land; presses were supposed to be freed from persecution; good governances across the globe were supposed to be truthful and farsighted; and finally, tolerance was supposed to be breeding peace.

But then these were all supposed to happen. Shocking all, stunning many, the globe seems to be rotating in just the other direction. What was ought to happen did not; what was ought to impact has not; what was ought to positively change, plummeted into a new dark limbo, and nations today are experiencing these reversals in despair.

Airports, roads, ports, steel plants, cement units, refineries, malls, corporate parks, land banks, coal mines, oil blocks, express highways, airwaves, Formula One teams, hotels, private jets, and even corporate headquarters are up with ‘sale’ tags. Firms are openly offering stakes and even whole companies for purchase. With billion-dollar loans strapped to their corporate identities, Vijay Malaya hides in London and the top ten businesses houses in India alone owe Rs. 5,00,000 crore to the banks. These entities will have to sell their assets worth over Rs. 200,000 crore. Most billion dollar companies are mostly going up in smoke. Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, with a loan amount of Rs. 121,000 crore with an annual interest liability of Rs. 8,299 crore have put up assets for sale, which include 44,000 telecommunications towers and optic fibre and related infrastructure from Reliance Communications (RCom), its flagship firm, which has posted losses of over Rs. 2,000 crore until December 31, 2015. The company is valued at Rs. 13,440 crore, less than a third of its total debts.

To everyone’s astonishment and dismay, Brexit has been a surprise occurrence based on misleading figures handed out by politicians. On June 23, 2016, an entire nation went to vote and decided to disengage from the EU, falsely led by politicians and plunging into disarray. The right-wing leaders have already started retracting their promises on better funded social services, strengthening the economy and controlling immigration. Apparently, their promises were misconceived, or were not even promises in the first place. Based on misconceptions, racial bias has set in and immigrants are facing harassment and threat. The Pound has dipped to the lowest that it has been in the last 31 years. All this happened just because voters believed in politicians like Liam Fox, former Conservative Minister, who campaigned to ‘Leave’ and post-referendum, and finally thought they would have to “think” again about things they had promised before the voting, including more funding for the National Health Service (NHS), UK’s socialised healthcare. While these politicians started walking back on their promises, hours after the UK voted to exit the EU, more lies began to surface, including Boris Johnson’s infamous statement of the UK sending £350 million to the EU every week and Nigel Farage’s false claim of £55 million per day. These will continue to haunt the English nation for many years to come. And needless to say, backpedalling now will not save the economy.

For us, Brexit will breed pain, as our government will have to keenly invest in economic diplomacy so that the 12.5 percent duty advantage is not withdrawn. After all, it does not benefit the UK to import goods at a higher price when it cannot import from any other country that works at such unfortunately competitive prices. However, the majority work will be left on the Bangladeshi manufacturers’ shoulder, as we will face threats of price cuts from the British brands, as they struggle with their consumers buying the same products at higher prices.

Just think about the dangerously unpredictable times we are all living in when Donald Trump announces a disintegration of the European Union, without understanding what Brexit even meant, when investigations in a murder case leads to the fingers being pointed at the SP who has captured many militants in his lifetime but may have hired goons to kill his wife, when the richest are the biggest paupers and have to flee their own homes and live abroad, when the beholders of democracy abuse the masses the most. Since all these reversals are  related to governance, I can’t help but share that, quite ironically, in ancient Athens, where they invented democracy, the pathetic word for the sort of ordinary citizen who had a vote was idiṓtēs. After all, it is us, the idiṓtēs, who suffer the most when leaders dangerously decide on misleading people; when banks turn a blind eye to the biggest corporate liabilities and when law enforcement agencies break laws the most. Alas.

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