Freedom consists in converting the state from an organ superimposed upon society into one completely subordinate to it; and today, too, the forms of state are more free or less free to the extent that they restrict the ‘freedom of the state’
— Karl Marx
FREEDOM to abduct and never return, freedom to silence and blame it on the subaltern, freedom to seize/censor thinking minds and persecute them as blasphemous and/or seditious, freedom to toxify the air, the land and water with Eurocentrism and anthropomorphism and hide them under the discourses of development, freedom to exercise repressive power and name it anti-something drive, freedom to hold elections to be rigged and call it democracy — freedom has been transliterated into the unrestricted mobilisation of state power both materially and discursively over the citizens curbing the individual’s agency in the society or community. Since ‘only in community [has each] individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; only in the community, therefore, is personal freedom possible. In the previous substitutes for the community, in the state, etc. personal freedom has existed only for the individuals who developed within the relationships of the ruling class, and only insofar as they were individuals of this class’(Karl Marx and Frederick Engels).
Bangladesh embodying the modern state with 224 years history of colonisation has hitherto concerned itself with the privileging of the ruling class and the freedom of the ruling class of the state has substituted the freedom of all the individuals in the community. The ruling class who fashion themselves with discourses of development chanting the mantra of nationalism day and night on TV screens and university classrooms leaves it unsaid between their bourgeoisie pauses as they talk that development means only their development. But how to know it’s only their development?
As Bangladesh ranks third in growing rich population and the GDP grows accordingly the largest number of people who are not BCS or BSL cadres or religious majoritarian or not even Bangali, who are women but not one of the ‘first evers’ or the political opposition at the grassroots stripped off their human and economic rights watch Bangladesh’s graduation from LDC baffled as their per capita income almost magically increases in the economic index but their real income does not. As the ruling class of the state employ the mechanisms of the state through which it becomes functional, freedom of the state means the freedom of the existing ruling class and not the freedom of the individual with political, economic vis-à-vis personal freedom regardless of one’s religious, gender, ethnic or other identities. The community which is always a dynamic spatio-temporal dimension of cross-religious, cross-racial and cross-sexual identities being superimposed the generalising structure of the state by the ruling class which is necessary for the ruling class to create a generalised ruled class loses the diversity of which it is the carrier, as well as which constitutes it. Bangladesh’s inception in 1971 unlike the negotiated settlement in 1947 was a choice — choice to struggle against the economic, linguistic and racial oppression, choice to liberty, choice to freedom of the individual, not of the ruling state vis-à-vis class.
Living in this necropolitics, after 49 years of independence, is it not the time yet to articulate individual freedom as the indicator of freedom and not the indexes of freedom that the state or its ruling class sets and sometimes pays to buy in the name of GDP and masculinist development? Is it not the time yet to grow into full potential of an individual and not grow into some ideologue or nationalist which the state or the ruling class wants the individual to potentially be?
As Erich Fromm said, ‘The duty to be alive is the same as the duty to become oneself, to develop into the individual one potentially is.’
Oliur Sun is a non-philosopher.
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