Human beings are social creatures and cannot live alone. This is not only because they need the help of others for physical and biological needs, but also for stability and vitality of the human psyche. At the beginning of the corona pandemic, when everyone was told to stay home, a large section of society did not want to listen to this advice. Another section initially accepted the matter without protest, but wanted to revolt within a few days.
Loneliness has a profound effect on the human psyche. When people have to be alone for a long time, it can affect their sanity. In medicine, social isolation is considered a symptom of mental illness. That is why, whether it is the desert, the forest or the metropolis with the highest level of facilities, wherever there is human settlement, people live in groups.
Socialisation binds people together with kindness and affection. The members of the society share happiness, sorrow, joy and pain. At weddings, Eids and other festivals, they join together to rejoice. In the danger of one, the other comes forward. They help each other with cash and kind. Whenever they have free time, they get together in the neighborhoods, clubs or restaurants to play or chat with their peers. Occasionally there is a get-together at a home, a restaurant, or a community center. Sometimes they go for long walks together or organise picnics. You will see many people wandering from one shopping mall to another, just for a little mental relaxation.
There are other sides to this togetherness of human society. Although there is an overall unity among thousands of people in the society as a whole, disagreements arise on many issues, leading to envy, hatred and conflicts of interest. Cheating on each other, interfering in others' rights, plundering others' property, attacking others without any valid reason to assert one's superiority become a way of life for some people. Sometimes they form small groups and torture others. Sometimes these groups and factions get involved in quarrels with each other and create turmoil. This behaviour is not generally accepted and is considered anti-social. However, when evil forces dominate the society, the masses have to digest these anti-social activities in silence.
When there is moral decay in the society, there is a decrease in the love, compassion and goodwill among the people. Hatred, envy and slander gets rampant. Members of society cannot tolerate one other's progress. They want to topple each other whenever they get a chance. When someone goes astray, others feel no pity or any urge to try to get him on the right track. Everyone ends up just criticising. Many of them, if they find fault with someone, spread it all around, out of mere habit or out of personal resentment. The intent is more to defame the person and bring him down in the society rather than protesting against the misdeeds.
In our society, if someone commits a fault, and especially if it is a little eye-catching and socially unacceptable, you may expect a lot of talk and gossip about it among people. These social condemnations, of course, can have a good social impact. People become careful to avoid such activities for fear of social backlash. However, all this is for the humble, peaceful people of the society.
When mighty, imperious, influential people openly commit misdeeds, they feel no shame. Rather, they feel proud, swell their chests. Even if the society whispers about them in secret, they keep their mouths shut in public.
In human society, religion and religious teachings play a great role in preventing the moral decay. The majority of the people in this country are followers of Islam. Religious scholars and saints have a great influence on their way of life. If you sit down with the Islamic scholars, you will understand that Islam strictly discourages gossiping and criticizing others, except in some exceptional situations. Perhaps one reason is, in most cases it has no great purpose, the mutual friendship of the members of the society is rifted and, above all, the person concerned is socially degraded being unaware of it. Islam places great importance on is respecting others. To cite a verse from the Holy Qur'an: "Indeed, We have honoured the children of Adam." (Al-Quran 17:70)
In recent times, on the one hand, evil deeds have increased in the society. On the other hand, there seems to have been quite a bit of deficit in the temperament of the society in responding to these. One of the reasons for this may be that the high prevalence of misdeeds in the society has created frustration among the people, which has made them intolerant. News of horrific crimes is often coming from somewhere or else in the country, which is intensifying the people's resentment. Along with the proliferation of electronic and print media in the country, the advent of social media has given people a special opportunity to easily express their smoky rage. As a result, you will see many a time, some people are showing excessive reaction without going into the depths of the incident reported.
The recent scandal on social media over an incident involving a JU professor can be an example of our overall intolerance. Allegedly, she took a young domestic help on a long 8-hour bus journey without arranging a seat for her. The matter came to the notice of a journalist who was traveling in the same bus. This seemed very unbearable to him and he even called 999 to inform the police about it. At one point, he charged the lady himself after not getting the expected response from the police. Then there was some argument between them. The journalist later made a post on social media about it. The incident afterwards received widespread publicity on social media.
The thing that amazes me is, as the allegation says, the lady took the tiny girl to stand for 8 hours and none of the passengers including the driver-conductor of the bus could arrange a seat for her. Someone could even have taken the little girl their lap to teach the lady a lesson. The girl could also have been placed in the middle of the row by arranging something like a 'mora'. Although an explanation of the lady came in the media, many do not want to pay heed to it. Is there any doubt that it was a reprehensible deed. But, is the way the issue has been spread on social media just a protest? Concerned media man may have felt the need to publicise the incident out of a sense of professional responsibility, but as you can see if you investigate, many of those who took the initiative to spread it on social media were already angry with the lady for one reason or another and took this opportunity to punish her.
This is what concerns us. In this society, we are all bound by mutual love and affection. If someone does something wrong here, we will catch him. If he has committed a punishable crime, we will bring him to book if required. In addition to punishment, he must also face the criticism and condemnation. However, it is important to ensure that criticism does not end in slander. It is also important to keep in mind that the responsibility of society is to guide misguided members, not to cherish hatred against them or to defame them. We need to remember this old saying: 'Hate the sin, not the sinner.'
*Mohammad Didare Alam Muhsin is a professor of pharmacy department at Jahangirnagar University.