National ethos refers to the particularistic values, traditions, identity and vision of the future (or 'destiny') of a nation. Communities are social collectivities whose members are tied to one another by bonds of affection and at least a core of shared values. It is very much akin to the notion of national character, which tends to imply that all the members of the society have a same basic psychological profile and the same behavioural traits, ethos merely suggests that the relevant collectivity has the said attributes, but many members may not internalise them nor view them in a positive light. It is like the power of music to influence its hearers' emotions, behaviours, and even morals. Ethos forms the root of ethikos, meaning 'moral, showing moral character', used for the study of morals. It is the origin of the modern English word ethics. As TS Eliot wrote, "The general ethos of the people they have to govern determines the behaviour of politicians." Ethos may change in response to new ideas or forces. Ideas of economic emancipation cherished by sectarian leaderships may bring about the settlement of themselves through the abandonment of the agrarian ethos or denial of public rights or demands, likewise the ethos of rapid self development.
A leader's ethos extends to and is shaped by his/her overall moral character and history - that is, people can presume his or her character before the speech is even begun. Ethos, like postmodern subjectivity, shifts and changes over time, across texts, and around competing spaces. It can be as expressing inherently communal roots or it may stand in its direct opposition as 'ethos can be faked or manipulated'. This is because individuals would be formed by the values of their culture and not the other way around. Ethos is negotiated across a community, and not simply a manifestation of the self. In the era of mass-mediated communication, one's ethos is often created by journalists and dispersed over multiple news texts. With this in mind, one can coin the term inter textual ethos, the notion that a public figure's 'ethos is constituted within and across a range of mass media voices'. While its meaning and application within the country and space might differ over time.
Radical multiculturalists advocate resolving this tension by abolishing the particularistic values of nations, that is, those values which differentiate the one national community from another. This entails 'neutralising' their distinct sense of history, identity and future, in short their national ethos. They argue that the state should strive for normative neutrality centred around the protection of rights that all share, and should not foster a distinct conception of the common good and the particularistic commitments it entails. Or, that the values to be promoted should be those that ease the said conflict, such as tolerance, diversity, rights and due process.
A nation which fought for the due recognition of its mother tongue, could establish a nation state named after the mother language is a very exception in the world. A nation which fought united for the independence in the Liberation War, cannot succumb to internal bloodshed deprivation of fundamental rights to live with due dignity and honour.
Bengali nationalism in all its forms has shaped the heritage, morality and public life of Bangladesh; and our belief continues to influence our society for the better. The fact that our society has welcomed people of several faiths to live together over the centuries in no way detracts from this. Bangladeshis continue to be positively involved in public life, from the role of rural versus urban, agrarian versus industrial, trading versus manufacturing, should be through the moral leadership offered by national, community, professional leaders, to the contribution of to the social fabric of volunteering and sacrifice. There should remain an explicit 'integration' strategy to bring communities together, while confronting extremists who spread hate and division, the mainstream values, tolerance to bind society together.
At a time when the Christians are under attack for their beliefs in different parts of the world, I am proud of the freedom of belief that exists in Britain. But there is no room for complacency. To suggest that the Christians in our country are literally persecuted would be to demean the suffering of those around the world facing repression, imprisonment and death. We should, however, recognise that long-standing British liberties of freedom of religion have been undermined in recent years by aggressive secularism, especially in the more politically correct parts of the public sector.
The interpretation of human rights laws cuts both ways: while resisting the spread of sectarian groups, laws to open the door to moral relativism. None should be bashful about asserting that this side has a greater role to play in the public life of the nation than the other.
Micro, small and medium enterprises are preserving the democratic ethos of the nation by providing gainful employment to the masses. They have a big role in the nation's economy. They contribute immensely to industrial development, employment generation, exports and to a great extent to innovation also. So it cannot be stressed enough that at issue here is not whether the rightful demand of the citizens should be fully respected or whether they should benefit from some kind of partisan-led affirmative action programmes, be compensated for past injustices (during colonial days, days of dictators) or even whether they are ought to command some additional rights. One can readily favour the people of the land in all these regards and still not necessarily hold that the national community should significantly attenuate, let alone give up, its national ethos.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Mazid --- former Secretary to the government and Chairman, NBR --- is Chief Coordinator, Diabetic Association of Bangladesh and Chairman, Chittagong Stock Exchange Limited