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General News    H4'ed 8/9/20

Porn, and the Born Taxpayer

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No First Amendment, please. We're Bangladeshis.
No First Amendment, please. We're Bangladeshis.
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Taxpayers are born - not made.

The social structure of Asia radically differed from that of Europe. Historian S.E. Finer goes into great detail regarding the almost insurmountable forces arrayed against a European monarch in consolidating his rule and realm in the guise of the Church, the magnates, the cities...and so on, all fungi left over from the despoiled Roman garden. Taxation was paramount to wage war. Yet Europe's monarchs were fiscally starved by the above centrifugal forces. In antipodean opposition were the Asian states where the populace (subjects, not citizens) were "born taxpayers": "The nascent absolutist states of Europe had to struggle long and hard before they established fiscal absolutism; of the Asian populations it can fairly be said, in the light of their 2,000-year-old histories, that they were "born taxpayers" (S. E. Finer, The History of Government from the Earliest Times, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p 1303)".

Born with a tax-dollar in our mouth, we offer no resistance to the - authoritarian - state. The state takes us for granted, just as we take the state"'s pronouncements " at face value, a tacit contract. An unresponsive state commands neither our allegiance nor our disloyalty - fear, no doubt, gratitude for rare acts of generosity. We never remember what the government did in the past - all indiscipline, wickedness, incompetence are erased from memory. Nehru's defeat in the 1962 war, his daughter's zulm, Mujib's killings and the famine of 1974, Bhutto's loss of East Pakistan, pogroms against minorities, the burning alive by political parties of innocent bystanders...and so on, an unending list that never sticks in the collective memory. In South Asia, failure, bungling, habitual incompetence and cheer criminality pay dividends for the government.

The differential attitude to government can be seen in two "extreme" situations. In Bangladesh, two years ago, the High Court ordered all internet service providers to block pornography sites for six months. It was greeted with adulation in all newspapers. The constitution of Bangladesh allows freedom of speech, expression and the press, with the proviso that these are "subject to any legal restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or an incitement to offence"(Article 39 (2))."

Freedom of expression, therefore, does not exist in Bangladesh. The High Court was responding to a writ petition filed by an NGO, Law and Rights Foundation, whose lawyers claimed that porn sites "impair the moral and mental development of youngsters". They cited a survey report by the mega-NGO, Manusher Jonno, that 77% of school students in the capital city are addicted to pornography.

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Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, "ÄBangladesh. He has contributed to AXIS OF LOGIC, ENTER TEXT, POSTCOLONIAL "ÄTEXT, LEFT CURVE, MOBIUS, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, and other publications. "ÄHe is also a (more...)
 
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