September 28, 2011

Getting out of our bind

With democracy blowing like a fresh morning breeze through Maldives, to truly feel the difference it brings to our hearts and minds, we need to breathe this in deep and long and feel the energy it gives us. It is said that a democratic culture shatters the bonds and shackles of oppression. These shackles have always been a part of Maldivian life as evidenced from the writings of our history - both from those indegenous and those foreign. For us it has been a long history of kings and queens who filled our lives with fear and intrigue when it came to the discussion of the distribution of power in our society - nowadays called politics. Since 2008 all this seemed to have come to an end - at least on paper. And it is time that our hearts and minds begin to internalize the ideals of democracy. What is the ground-breaking split with that past this new concept of democracy signals? How has the power of the people transformed and what is the blessings of the precious vote that we have for selecting the best people to lead us? All in all one word describes the essence of this new found freedom. Its called responsibility. It is said that with great power (that comes with this freedom we call democracy) comes also the need to exercise great responsibilty. Needless to say, this power used without the rationality of responsibility will land us again into an age of oppression . Let's exercise this responsibility with the foresight and resilience that can build a similarly resilient society in Maldives. Let's wake up and become true stewards of democracy!

September 23, 2011

Community harmony: the essence of development

Community harmony is the essence of development really. And the result of harmony is happiness and contentment. But what keeps us away from this harmony is that very human aspect of desire, which fuels greed. This desire is manifest in us as the greed for power, fame, money and control; and ultimately the finality of possession – we just don’t seem to feel satisfied unless we “own” whatever we desire. Unfortunately, that is the essence of desire; we can’t seem to enjoy something just by beholding without owning. Because we see our material world’s “resources” as scarce, we scramble for whatever we can get of this seemingly short supply. But in doing so, we alienate each other by being competitive rather than cooperative. The resulting feelings of not getting what we want emerge as anger, hatred, jealousy, and resentment. These burn up our insides and continue to keep the fire of discontentment and longing burning inside us as long as we don’t achieve what we desire or observe others succeeding. How can we find peace and harmony when a fire of resentment is burning within us? We need to squelch this for love and sharing to permeate, which is the actual yearning of our inner selves. Where is the solution to reducing desire? This seems anathema in an age when materialism is our goal. But there is no way around this to peace unless we can learn to change our daily habit of fueling our selfishness to a task of serving others. Just experience the joy of unconditional giving! Try it actively, and experience a pleasurable shift in our consciousness.

September 13, 2011

Linking to the past is about accepting our essence

Linking to the past gives us balance and a sense of security of knowing where we stand and what psychological resources to tap in our life ahead. So in that sense, this connection with the past is a primeval need of all human beings for growing up in a life of peace and security. Knowing where we come from gives us a sense of comfort and belonging. The whole idea of nationhood and home is related to this. In the case of Maldives, we have grown up with our sense of belonging as from this island or another, or this atoll or another. We always feel a sense of warmth and friendliness when we meet someone from our home island or atoll. This can be translated into how we feel about our family too. Even a distant relative makes us feel a sense of connection even though we may have never even met.

However, in this changing and mobile environement, this loss of contact with the past is becoming more of a reality, and many of us seem destined to live far away from relatives and childhood friends with whom bonds have or needs to be strengthened. In Maldives, the mobility and relocation by many to Male from the islands leave behind such loved ones especially the elderly who remain back in the island devoid of the loving touch their children and grandchildren could offer. For the elderly this can be emotionally devastating, and for the children who grow up without that time with grandparents unknowingly forefiet an evolutionary step of connecting with the past. The deficits of growing up in such emotional deprivation would show up in later life. The lack of appreciation or respect for the elderly, arising perhaps out of this lack of connection with them in the children's formative years is a gap that will be difficult to fill with the conscious mind. It is the subcounsious that nurtures such lasting feelings of love, affection, and respect imbibed during the formative years of childhood and youth -- that parents can encourage. One thing as sure as the sunrise of tomorow is that we will all grow in age and before we know it, we would be at the receiving end of that lack of appreciation that we ourselves were nurtured with as children. The continuum of life is real, tangible and inexorably sustaining; its time will indeed come for all of us. Lets think of appreciating the elderly and not divide ourselves into a dichotomy of youth and the old as two distinct categoriest that will remain that way for ever. Our Holy Quraan reminds us repeatedly to appreciate our parents (the elderly) and care for them with compassion, for they looked after us when we were young and helpless. Building a more compassionate Maldives begins with appreciating the past, and those who populated our lives in those times.

September 9, 2011

Moving to Carbon-Neutral

Development of a community depends on how critically it can look at itself. Most communities have their inherent values and mores, and often in cloistered social conditions, we loathe any external influences. But globalization has changed much of that. Maldives is no different. With opening to tourism in the early 1970s, external influences streamed into Maldives, and until now cultures foreign to us have taken over our minds  quickly – most of the time without much reflection of how such changes affect our fundamental social basis. One simple example among others, is the traffic congestion in Male. Motor vehicles are a very useful machine of modern invention – to go places quickly and make transport of goods and services more efficient. But in a place like Maldives, such rationality may not be quite so. Here we see the larger use of our motor vehicles for pleasure, and no doubt, pleasure in the right doses is necessary for human functioning. But when that pleasure is at the expense of another person’s displeasure or utter inconvenience, we are then stepping into the realms of rights and responsibilities in a democratic society. Recent publication in Maldives "To walk or not to walk: a pedestrian’s dilemma in Male", by Clean Air Initiative Asia, EPA-Maldives, and the World Health Organization, provides a peek into the substantive difficulties pedestrians face in Male where one may say an irrational pedestrian culture transformation is taking place. The consequences of injuries to pedestrians from speeding motor vehicles and the inconvenience of narrow pavements make walking in Male a growing physical hazard. In a country that is touting the plans for a carbon-neutral Maldives by 2020, the priority of making Male a pedestrian friendly city stands out stark.

September 5, 2011

at the grassroots

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of facilitating a workshop on decentralization of health services in Maldives. This is a decision the Maldivian government recently took to bring public decision-making closer to the community. Laudable is this move, and I must say is the essence of democracy. People must be the deciders of their fate in the ultimate analysis. That is what we understand by the concept of democratic governance. Hopefully, this will be the first step to our local voices being heard in the mainstream of public decision making. As a nation that has espoused full fledged democratic governance only just about three years or so ago (with the separation of powers etc.), this decision must necessaritly go with an understanding of the power of our voices to shape the future. This is what democratic governance claims to bring in. But it must also be said that much of our past Maldives history is crowded with top-down approachs to public decision making and so to get voices to emerge from these layers of public silence will take a lot of doing. Especially at the island level to which this devolution has taken place, needs a lot of coaching and coaxing to bring the leadership there to both understand this sea change in the way we would now help people lead their lives, and change their style to truly seek the voice of the people. "To each one a voice" is the drive that is needed for a refreshing beginning that must lay aside the centuries old silent and passive generations.

September 2, 2011

what is Rukkuri?

Rukkuri in Maldvian language means the tip of the growing coconut tree. The coconut tree is our ever present national symbol. This metaphor is thus very expressive in our local context and gives deep meaning to the idea of continued growth and sensible development to the multitude of communities in our many dispersed islands. Rukkuri refers to the essence of growth in Maldivian parlance so to say. It signifies freshness, renewal, regeneation, and continuity. Thus, this blog takes inspiration from this metaphor, to promote the idea of social reform and renewal. Together with ENDEVOR's tag line " to each one a voice", rukkuri seeks to link with the essence of democratic thinking -- the plurality of voice; that which will make our social, economic and health decisions ever richer because we have the inclusiveness of many viewpoints. May Allah Bless us all!