Transcending ideology and sculpture -Abu Muaj
“In the room women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo”
English Poet TS Eliot, in his poet ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, talked about common people discussing about the dexterity and artistic excellence of one of the greatest Italian sculptors Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. The common folks, who are not at all literate, are talking about focusing on the nitty-gritty of superb and advanced knowledge about Michelangelo who carved the many sculptures including those of Jesus and Moses (peace be upon them). Now sculpture has become the talk of Bangladesh. Government wants to build the busts of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and a section of people the country vehemently opposes the construction or curving of the sculpture and putting them in different corners of the country or roundabouts of roads apparently.
Supporters want the sculpture to garner more and more support for the Father of the Nation and popularising his personality among the people while the antagonists are putting forward argument that it goes against the spirit of Islam. The act of popularising Bangabandhu is good enough for the ruling Awami League and as a political party like its fellow parties to resort to the act of popularising their demagogues as long as the country claims to be democratic.
If setting up of a statue of a political, religious or statesmen means all, then followers of Goutam Buddha, who has one of the highest number of statues in the world, wouldn’t have decreased. Until 2008 Spring Temple of Buddha in Chinese province Henan was the tallest statue with 420-feet height which was overshadowed by 597-feet tall statue of Indian leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s ‘Statue of Unity’ in Gujarat.
Before China Myanmar erected the highest Buddha statue (380ft) defeating the Japanese Buddha sculpture(330ft). Mad race of religion through making statues reached the nearest points of the Indian, Chinese, Myanmar, Japanese etc skies furthest point of the creator because of these sculpture construction works were funded with tax.
An analysis of the tallest statues of Wikipedia list, which contains over 134 statues, shows most of the statues are of Buddha whose number of followers is dwindling. Many states were once Buddhist countries but now they are not. Despite frenetic effort of the predominantly Buddhist countries like Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Tibet, Laos, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Japan etc to promote Buddhism through construction extravaganza of Buddha sculptures, according to Pew Research Center, the number of Buddhists are expected to decrease to roughly 5% by 2060. This is because Buddhists have relatively low fertility rates compared with other religious groups, and they are not expected to grow significantly due to conversions or religious switching. So sustainability of an ideology doesn’t depend on the number of statues or sculptures or idols. Rather it depends on the correctness of the ideology, application of the ideology by talented people of a society and ultimately its quality to answer the questions of humanity and provide solutions to the problems of the world.
On the other hand, Muslims who are sculpture-shy or statue-shy are hardly seen in the race of making idol or curving busts of their prophets. Rather it is forbidden for them to worshipping the statue of their prophets particularly Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him). It is also forbidden to play in a film in the role of last messenger of mankind Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH) who propagated Islam. As Islam’s authenticity is unchallenged, people find The Holy Quran answering all the questions of humanity and providing solutions to the problems of the world. So the ideology as a complete code of life is marching forward at a great pace. The lacking of Muslims is that they are failing to regain the control of the knowledge of the world and contributing to the world of research. Their number is increasing rapidly. According to Pew Research Center over the next four decades Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current demographic trends continue, by 2050 the number of Muslims around the world (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) will nearly equal the number of Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history.
If greatness and godliness lie in the height of the statue, Patel is the greatest man in the world as India joined the race of erecting statues with China, Myanmar and Japan defeated all others. The last three in question erected the statues of Buddha but India pitched its first deputy prime minister to compete and his statue became closest to the sky. Once Statue of Liberty was highest structure most probably stoking the race to reach the creator through statue. Similarly, once-tallest building Twin Tower probably stoke the race of touching the skyline with office building and Petronas Towers of Malaysia merely competed.
Personally a poor man can earmark a lion share of his income depriving his own starving children in his own home. Similarly, a rich man can spend his surplus money the way he wishes, overlooking the poor people around him in great despise or doing some Corporate Social Responsibility merely for media coverage or as long as the camera is there for the corporate leaders in action. When a government wants to spend tax money it has to think broadly. Only political gain shouldn’t be the goal while using funds from the public purse which requires accountability and transparency. Hell-bent politicians can follow the footsteps of those aforesaid poor as well as rich men and overlook the priority sectors of the country and spend wherever they wish as they claim they have ‘people’s mandate’ and come to power democratically.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had a large following after October Revolution as he was the leader of Bolshevik Party in Russia. Over 5,500 sculptures and busts were carved and erected in different intersections across the former USSR. The hell-bent activism on state level couldn’t buttress the ideology of communism nor check it from collapse in Eastern Europe and Russia. Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara became a heartthrob in his country then among the communists of other South American countries. His ideals crossed the border as primarily he is the symbol of the ideal of the revolution, symbol of innovation and hope. As a physician, author and economist he challenged solitude travelled a lot to inspire people and lead by example.
Bathism, which spread in the Middle Eastern countries, and its follower former Iraqi president Saddam Hossain had a great fall after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A good ideology, some diehard but talented followers and their good deeds help a person or cult to stand tall among the crowd. A political ideology can be sustainable only when people follow it generations after generations.
In fact, a good wine needs no bush. Similarly, transcending the truth needs no sculpture and truth itself is enough to pass through ages. Such an ideology having truth in it may not only sustain in its country or origin, rather crosses the boundary and end up influencing people of the whole world. The fertility rates of the followers of an ideology also matter. And thus the ideology transcends time and international borders. Hardworking and talented followers also help propagate the ideology. Devotion of the followers to the ideology tops all the criteria and helps a philosophy or a socio-political theory greatly to sustain for generations.