In his intellectually stimulating book Politics, the 4th-century Greek philosopher Aristotle shed light on the relationship of the individual to society (the state in a broader sense), the sort of education it should disseminate, and other issues related to political communities.
He wrote, "Man is by nature a social animal. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to and, therefore, does not partake of society is either a beast or a god."
In the wake of happenings - for example, the death of incarcerated writer Mushtaq - in the last few days, these lines are jolting my inertia and a couple of ideas are floating around in my mind.
Despite my unwillingness to be railroaded into such a double bind, these lines from the aforementioned tome have forced me into a mental conundrum as to whether I am performing the duties that I have towards my society or just ducking out of those.
As a denizen of society, I definitely have some role to play, which I cannot abnegate so unapologetically.
First and foremost, am I being socially responsible?
As a responsible member of society, I am supposed to know about my neighbours and others living in my vicinity and fraternise with them. I should also be standing by their side through thick and thin.
The reality is antithetical to what is expected of us. Just like many other people in society I am also an individualist.
It is distressing to see that people are so individualistic nowadays that they do not even know anything about the family living next door.
Many people do not even dare to approach their neighbours because of the uncertainty of whether they will be treated congenitally or not.
This is how individualism is not only turning us into egocentric people but also giving shape to fear for the unknown inside our minds.
So, when I am keeping myself aloof from others, constantly refraining from exchanging pleasantries with my neighbours, and not willing to devote some of my time to social amelioration, am I not failing myself?
The next pesky notion that pokes my mind – am I doing my bit to address the social incongruities?
As a part of society, it is our solemn responsibility to question our surroundings so that injustice, anomalies, and incongruities prevalent in the society can be brought to the fore and ironed out.
Though it sounds appalling, the fact is I am also one of those folks who have been socially programmed not to question the processes and the surroundings wherein it is very essential.
As a result, we have landed ourselves in the post-truth age where we are more likely to believe an argument based on emotions rather than reason, paving the way for tarring everyone with the same brush whenever there is a conflict of interest.
Great philosophers have always put emphasis on being inquisitive.
Powered by afflatus thrust upon him by the circumstances of the contemporary times, Socrates did it -- he enthused people, the youths to be particular, to question because without intrinsic inspection it is never possible to develop as an individual and as a society in a greater sense.
Unfortunately, I am not one of those who can pluck the courage to question what is going on around me and in my society.
There seems to be something wrong as the society is awash with strife, tumultuous events, and subjugation of the dissent, yet I am not willing to put my finger on it.
Am I not failing myself by exhibiting such disinclination?
Finally, do I have the temerity to take the bull by the horns, stand up, and be counted?
French statesman Napoléon Bonaparte once said, "The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people."
We often forget that injustice in any society thrives on the understanding of society's indulgence and it is our collective silence that creates ground for despotic behaviour, systematic clampdown, and mala fide abuse of the trappings of power.
In some cases, the room for such suppression is fortified by means of laws, reversing the very spirit of law.
The end of law, English theorist John Locke once said, is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.
When people hesitate to raise their voice against any injustice or aberration, that is when rulers come up with stringent measures to silence cross-sections of people to execute their visions and aspirations.
The example of the Digital Security Act (DSA) can be adduced here to clarify this idea.
There is a wide allegation that this act has been formulated to gag the vociferous opponents of the power, and it turns out that owing to the fear of being reprimanded many of us have muzzled ourselves.
Cashing in on our apathetic silence, the apologists are creating hue and cry over silly things every now and then, and the lackeys to the power are manipulating some of the provisions of the DSA to clamp down on opinionated people, even if the point s/he is raising is cogent.
According to information by Amnesty International (data collected from Bangladesh's Cyber Crime Tribunal), nearly 2,000 cases have been filed under the DSA, with journalists being the main targets whereas at least 10 editors of national and regional dailies and online news portals were arraigned under the DSA.
Consequently, most people including me find it more convenient to be as silent as the grave. By being a man bereft of conviction, am I not failing myself?
Our psyche can be compared to Peter and Plato. Plato was one of the most ardent followers of Socrates.
But when Socrates was being tried in the court on charges of corrupting the rectitude of the Greek youths, most of his avid adherents except Plato were present there to express solidarity with and support for the philosopher.
Plato was hesitant because he thought he would be singled out and such a declaration would put him on thin ice. Similarly, Peter was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.
But when Christ was arrested, Peter's enthusiastic support for him dwindled so that he (Peter) could deny knowing him (Christ) three times.
In plain words, we are like Peter and Plato who are not audacious enough to stand our ground when the occasion arises.
To call a spade a spade, I am (maybe other people in the society as well) spiritually dead because I am too fixated on securing my own life.
In TS Eliot's most profound poem 'The waste land', modern men are metaphorically described to be spiritually dead because their conscience is buried just like the corpse interred down the ground.
So, when I am increasingly morphing into an inhabitant of the wasteland, am I not failing myself?
To be frank, living such a life devoid of humane instincts and full of abominable affectations is not worthwhile.
So, it is up to the readers to decide if such a life, trapped in the straightjacket of consumeristic frenzy and devoid of grit, is worth living?
The writer is a philomath
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.