A roommate once cooked something, or recommended a movie, I forget, to which I replied:

She just gave me a smile that let me know that she knows I am being nice to avoid saying I didn't think it was good! When, I title this post as "Interesting Times" - it is totally in that context.

I was just reading an article titled Sweatshop Garments Drag All of Us Down, which starts off with a little story from 102 years ago in New York, USA:
The turning point in the United States was the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, when 146 garment workers — mostly women seamstresses — were burned to death when an exit gate was purposely locked.

The article describes the reaction that incident caused from a huge number of people that ultimately led to reforms in laws and ensuring better protection for workers. That is an important result that we should be learning from considering the fires that are continually claiming lives of workers here. The thing to realize, is that businesses will be businesses, with their eye on profits, and it falls on a government to make sure the rights of the general people which includes workers, are set and protected.

Issues like this are all around us now in Bangladesh, but its amazing that most of us are not aware of our rights and what we can expect from the government. Two highly revered economists a few weeks ago tried to tell us on a TV show that the 'growth' stats that the government throws in the face of its critics can take place very much in spite of them. My own feeling is that the government hasn't taken very many steps to ensure growth of new entrepreneurs and in fact, that they step in the way only to move aside for a price. In USA today, big businesses are very influential, but they also have a culture of startups and small businesses. Big businesses are after all, now taking their production off USA to countries where their cost of production will come down. Again, on this end, we are relying on a pressure created from abroad, rather than local, to ensure our workers have a safe and just workplace.

I am now writing this from home while a hartal is underway. Called by the Jamaat-e-Islami party, whose many "top" members are on trial for war crimes of 1971. But they have on their side a factor that helped ease them into mainstream Bangladesh, despite their past - religion. Religion, namely Islam, is the religion of the masses here and that remains the one thing that can create a visible reaction - unlike workers dying in factory fires, unlike students being tortured by police, unlike any other issue that should create a massive uproar. The YouTube ban is an example. Jamaat's religious base helped them get a big following across the country who upholds their religious identity more than their national or any other. That resulted in them being invited into alliances time and again when the elections came and numbers mattered. They are also known to command a good financial hold.

Just like religion trumps most social issues we should've cared about, the war crimes trial is in a similar way clouding our already clouded consciences from other things happening around us. War crimes included murder, rape, and destruction. Each of those are still carrying on in this independent country of ours. Whereas to me it seems like the last ticket the ruling government holds over this country's people for a second term in office is this war crimes trial, its also a maneuver in the overall game to foil the chances for their arch nemesis, BNP. Meanwhile, the ruling party cadres are instructed openly to take to the streets on hartal days to protect the 'people', whereas just weeks ago a young boy named Biswajit was brutally stabbed to death by these people-protectors on suspicion of being a Jamaat-e-Islami! There were heart wrenching photos of that in the papers, and accounts of how he begged for his life, and tried to make them aware that he was hindu. The irony is almost forgotten. Even the police stand by while these party people go on showing their weapons - batons, guns or swords. Either the people don't know how to speak up against these things, or these events don't register in the heads of people as being serious enough for any thought for a significant amount of time. Right now, we just naively sit home and hope for justice from the war crimes.