How Hurricane Sandy affected Bangladesh!

Yeah yeah, you read the title right. Hurricane Sandy may have ransacked the East Coast of the United States, but its effects have been widespread and felt as far away as Bangladesh.

Hurricane Sandy and its devastation

But here in Bangladesh most of the people are actually happy that the United States has had a violent death toll due to a natural catastrophe. And the reasons are as varied as the number of individuals who have given a thought to the issue.

One facebook friend put up this status:

ঘূর্ণি ঝড়ে ইউসএ র অবস্থা দেখে বেশ ভাল লাগছে! প্রাকৃতিক দুর্যোগ মানে নাকি ওরা বাংলাদেশকেই চেনে! জলোচ্ছাসের ঝাপটায় ভেসে গেছে ওদের আধুনিকতার প্রযুক্তি। এই দুর্যোগেও ওদের জনগনকে খারাপ কাজ করা থেকে বিরত থাকতে অনুরোধ করতে হয়। আমরা ওদের চেয়ে অনেক উন্নত জাতি!

which in English translates into:

I am pretty happy to see what’s happening to the US due to the hurricane! And all this time the world thought Bangladesh was the only country most victimized by natural disasters. The cyclone has swept away their ultra-modern technological prowess. But even amidst this disaster I must endeavor them to keep away from the dirtiness of their hearts. If you consider the dirtiness, we as a nation are much better than them!

While the status does echo a public sentiment against the Americans here in the East, it also designates that the East has had its fair share of natural disasters, and thus it is time for America and the West to have them as well. Cyclones are a part of growing up in a delta country like Bangladesh. Although it has been at least five years since the last time we have had a major hurricane or anything in the capital city, the coastal areas are a frequent victim of similar dangerous natural disasters. Every year, the flood water kills dozens of impoverished coastal residents, and erases the livelihood of hundreds who are directly dependant on the natural waters of rivers and lakes for food and living. And thus for us, cyclones have been a part of our growing up process.

Images of the world-famous New York subway completely submerged, cars stuck in deep waters, buildings ransacked all over New Jersey, and people fleeing for their lives——it’s been all over on the newspapers, international media outlets and local news. And thus my mom wasn’t left out of the tide either. She, however, had a different take on the issue. According to her, “It served America right. Such a war-mongering nation. Killing and raping Muslims all over the world. This is only a trailer of God’s wrath for America. Soon the entire film will be showcased.”

While anti-American sentiments have been all the rage in the Islamic world in the post-9/11 era; and have been cemented with the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; and elevated with the ongoing talks of a new war against Iran, which is treated as an elder brother in the sub-continent because of the fact that Islam was brought to the region by the Persian Sufis and saints; statements such as those from my mother aren’t a very abnormal one. Rather, after the release of Innocence of Muslims in the United States, this rage has been further heightened to new levels (and resulted in a blockade of youtube) and so now the political parties of the sub-continent are also politicizing this popular feeling. A Pakistani railway minister even went as far as announcing a huge monetary reward for the Pakistani Taliban if they successfully executed Sam Bacile, the maker of Innocence of Muslims. In Bangladesh however, since the government firmly follows a neutral diplomacy due to the founding father, Sheikh Mujib’s idea of turning Bangladesh into the Switzerland of the East, although there was a widespread condemnation of the movie, behavior towards America have been quite moderate in comparison to the countries of the Middle-East and other parts of South Asia.

The facebook friend who put up the happy status due to Sandy, however, was not met with assertion from the people on his friends’ list. The Bangladeshi expats in America condemned his views, and one of them even went as far as telling him that ‘life in America was beautiful, but the same could not be said for Bangladesh”. And another asked him to be a human being; after all, despite our racial and religious differences we are all human beings. It is unsure whether the friend had a change in viewpoint about hurricane Sandy and America, but regardless of everything, the issue created quite a public debate in this part of the world.

Anti-American memes on social networks are as popular as anti-Muslim ones

America got what it deserved– that isn’t actually the dominant opinion here, but a lot of loud voices like to draw attention to America’s brutalities in Iraq, Japan, Pakistan, Somalia, Palestine, Vietnam and Afghanistan; and many even went as far as reminding the people of Abeer al Janabi, a 14 year old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped by US soldiers in front of her family and later on murdered and burned along with the family in their home. Several people have also recalled the Afghan girl who was mass-raped by US marines to such an extent that her genitals had become mutilated beyond repair, and the doctors could simply watch while she bled to death.

The public at the end of the day is torn between being humane and vengeful when it comes to America. An idea that is increasingly becoming evident in the progressive circles of modern-day’s politically-conscious Bangladeshi citizens.

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Occupy Wall Street—Lobbying for justice

The Occupy Wall Street Movement, which began on 17th September 2011 at Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, has spread rapidly across the world. What began as a random NYC protest by some youngsters who have been choked to death (not literally obviously!) by poor socioeconomic infrastructure is currently a movement accumulating a lot of media heat and international gossip. Amazingly these protesters are not the usual politically motivated spoiled brats trying to seek some attention to their cause but are hard-core middle and low-class citizens who have a lot of hurdles to pass through. They have named themselves ‘the 99%’, calling the Wall-Street predators and other famous CEOs ‘the 1%’. Though I am not actually sure how the protesters mourned over the death of a billionaire CEO like Steve Jobs. Maybe it is because Jobs was the one to initiate this revolution of giving the public whatever it is they desired through his unique products like the IPAD and the IPhone which the protesters are constantly using to reorganize, develop, recruit and bring everything under one roof.

However the 99% movement does have a lot of significance. Lately, America as a nation has been going overboard on its capitalist policies. The policies, designed by politicians who are funded for their agendas by various interest groups, are more or less designed to make the rich get richer and the poor to become poorer. Whether it is inflation or recession the wealthy have nothing to worry about, since if their expenses increase their incomes also rise, but the consumers from the middle and low-income backgrounds go through a lot to pay for their increased expenses while simultaneously maintaining their basic (and expensive!) amenities like health security, rent, food etc.

Graph showing income inequality in the United States. Source: The Economist

This disparity in income has been demonstrated by the graph above which was published in the economist on Oct 26th 2011. According to the aforementioned graph, in the past 30 years the incomes of the so-called 99% have risen by around 45% whereas that of the 1% have increased (or coerced to increased perhaps) by around 300% !! Imagine that, the ones who hardly need any more have had their salaries increased by around 10 times more than the ones who are in dire need of pay-rises! In the US alone, in the past 10 years (2000-2010) the total inflation rates have been 27.38%. I could not find the data for the past 30 years but as you can realize from the available data the rates have got to be really high—-even the pay-rises to the 99% would not have been able to mitigate their increased expenses. Thanks a lot to the liberal economic policies of the most powerful economy of the globe that the rich dwell blissfully undertaking philanthropic stances in front of the public while at the same time behind the public they are robbing the poor from their basic rights. The poor, on the other hand, toil hard to bring food to the table and strive to live their lives through heart-attacks and other stress-related diseases.

With the likes of billionaire CEOs like Warren Buffet, Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, the New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Indian Ambanis dominating the world market, the world in the past three decades has had rapid lapses in income distribution. Not only have the youngsters had to fight through overwhelming inflation rates ever since their birth, when they finally emerged out in the world with the degrees and all they have had to confront themselves with the fact that the promised jobs were never going to be there. And moreover with the frequent recessions the graduates were pushed to dead ends and thus the final result is an outbreak of revolt against all those apparently responsible for controlling the entire world economy.

However the best part of this movement is that it has no leader. Everyone involved is a leader, because after all this is the 99%. The movement cannot be controlled by a handful few like the manipulators of the world economy, which can now be classified as an oligopoly. All the protesters are fighting for their rights, regardless of castes, creeds, religions or nationalities. They only need a better future for themselves and their future generations. And to achieve their objectives they have taken up placards in thousands of cities across the globe and invested their time in rallies and demonstrations. I do hope and think that their time and energy will bear fruit. The desired changes all across the world will definitely be there at last.

A point to be noted here is that although the mob may be extremely gullible and short-sighted—-qualities which all the politicians have, are and will always be exploiting to achieve their lofty ambitions——they have successfully demonstrated the meaning of teamwork, discipline and pacifism. They have credited the Arab Spring as their inspiration for trying to create a change and although the American politicos have been more than supportive during the Middle-Eastern revolution it now seems that they are not at all happy with the new revolution in their own land. After all their seats are at stake here. Just goes on to show how pretentious politicians always are. In fact, pointing at the billionaire NYC Mayor who, being a foe, is also trying his best to squeeze the movement, a protester has recently remarked: “as a billionaire, he’s under constant temptation to squelch protest” . The media is not being very helpful either. It is evident from their tone and use of language that they firmly disapprove this protest for better democratic countries. Obviously, all these newspapers, television channels, studios are owned by the signature 1% only so it is just natural that they will not be very helpful to the cause.

As an ending note I should like to define ‘democracy’ properly.  The word democracy is said to have originated sometime during 1525-1535 from the Greek dēmokratía, which means a popular government. My grade 7 History teacher always insisted that it means ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’. And since the past few decades the so-called democratic countries haven’t at all behaved democratically. Tax cuts were imposed to favor only the wealthy and to choke the poor. International policies were developed for the money-making and business-minded communities and most importantly the general public, who were under the impression that they were living in a democratic country were fooled by the politicians and corporate leaders by taking advantage of their innocence. The true spirit of democracy was violated by the very people who were supposed to protect its sanctity. A valid example is Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan which is a democracy at the time of writing this article, who despite being a billionaire does not pay a penny in tax.

Therefore I urge everyone to defend what is truly yours. Politicians and other sociopaths must be made aware of the fact that the voters nowadays are no longer illiterate and guided by illusion. They must not try to elude the public any more. And we, the youngsters must now get rid of our laidback nature and stand for our rightful positions because “the only solution is World Revolution” (the slogan for the Occupy Wall Street Movement).