October 12, 2011

Our salvage is within us

My friends tell me that all the woes of Maldives lie in the leadership. That allegation seemed to be a bit narrow-minded and so on a recent occasion we had some deeper discussion on this. Our spirited debate on the causes of our national anguish and despair ultimately revealed a broader net beyond just that of leadership. We came to place the reasons for this on the selfishness of other people, the pervasive and polluting global environment, on tourists and tourism, our uncaring parents, hedonistic friends, the cunning and pervasive media, and of course on selfish politics.

The common thread in all this as I reflect, is the placing of blame outside of ourselves. This attitude, one could say, is borne out of human nature --- to be defensive and not hurt ourselves or feel vulnerable. Maybe we feel our leaders are there to do things for us and we are entitled to wait passively for the mandatory handouts doled out. Thus we have learned to live on patronage. Over generations, this attitude has perhaps become hardwired into our DNA. And why not? This seems to be the most natural way to survive. The strong take the stage to govern and the obedient serve, in a continuous replay of the divine rights of kings so to say. So even with all our deep reflection and reasoning on the woes of our nation, we can only come up with those that absolve us from the blame.

But perhaps this is what needs to be worked on – changing our primeval defensive human nature to an attitude of civilized acceptance of our part of the responsibility. Otherwise, what is the meaning of democracy? Our nation has now espoused democracy with a new constitution and independent institutions to guide it; but without a matching mindset of a democratic attitude in ourselves, we will be wasting the freedom that this new call of governing gives us. So, could it not be that the cause of our anguish is of our own making – the fabrications of our own mind? We witness despair because we continue to feel the sense of helplessness that centuries have nurtured in us, but still it is an aspect of our “reality” that our national mindset still harbors. The profound change in concept that democracy brings must be fathomed to value its opportunities. We must realize that democracy turns the pyramid upside down; that leaders are now the servants of the people, and unless the boss can direct the servant, we are bound to have the servant dominate us. This notion of people supremacy must be stamped into our minds, and that we must be wise employers, who can invite and persuade difficult servants into doing a good job in our household.

For that we must learn the boundaries of rights and responsibilities inherent in democracy and not take its advent into our midst as an invitation to insolent arrogance (a misplaced notion of freedom) but rather respectful tolerance. Our youth must learn that building a responsible polity is what will get them to a safe berth of a good community in the future they will inhabit. And our leaders must provide the space for the youth to start being that – by leaders demonstrating the good example and role model in democracy and just what is so different in this new scheme of things to what was before.

October 10, 2011

Good citizenship begins at home.

The hallmark of a good citizen is good character. Within the remit of this good character comes the inherent social values that aid in building a compassionate society-- truth, honesty, respect, commitment, caring, concern and love. Clearly, these are the prerequisites to having a happy community that we all yearn for. The voice grows louder that our Maldivian society is loosing that value-based character we had, and a tipping point may arrive when the very fabric of our society may soon flail in tatters in a case that is unredeemable. In this kind of a situation, a reversion would indeed be a painfully uphill task (or perhaps even an impossible one) that can take generations yet again to build. But there is hope for us if parents wake up to the insidious external influences facing our society. The tidal wave of globalization that Maldives too is experiencing must be viewed with caution and wise reflection. We should not be bowled over by it in ignorance or blinded by its intense glitter. We can't blame the children later for their learned irresponsibility if parents don't exercise their parental prerogative and don't model that good behavior today. But children are the citizens of tomorrow - no one can dispute that - and it is the degree of responsibility that parents are willing to exercise that will leave for their children later a safe and happy society; every parent will have to make the exit one day leaving the child to make it in the world by themselves ultimately. So an immediate imperative is to build caring and character building home environments where parents wisely exercise their parental prerogative. To avoid tears later, parents please take heed!

October 3, 2011

Healthy heart in love and life

The 29th September was World Heart Day. It’s a very important day for all of us! Why is that so? Because we are all living now to be older and so need to take care of the organs that keep us alive. In other words, if you don’t take care of your heart, you will die much sooner, and may deprive Maldivian society of the magnanimous contribution you may contribute to it if you were to live a bit longer. Actually, there are two ways of looking at our blessings of being alive; is our lives to be lived for our own personal benefit or for the benefit of others? Of course, which one you select is your own choice, but I can only suggest to you to start feeling the joy of service to others. So even just for that, trying to live longer for the benefit of Maldivian society would be a very wise decision that we all could really cherish in our collective conscience.
But of course turning away from this ethereal aspect of our lives as some of us would like to believe because it seems unimportant or too distant a possibility, the mundane aspects are also important, and particularly more so for the more hedonistic. In this age of non-communicable diseases, the need to lead a healthy life throughout our lives – including the period we call old age is as important as being healthy when we are young. We just don’t seem to know it because old age comes after being young, and when young, the idea of old age never occurs to us because we are young. In fact we even divide society into two distinct groups called the young and the old, without giving an inkling of thought to these two aspects being on a continuum. When we are young, we can afford to think this way, because of the vanity that pervades our very being, but when the wisdom of life lived dawns on us, what we did to our bodies in those vain and narcissistic days cannot be redeemed. It will be too late. As they say, no need to cry over spilt milk!

The heart that gives us these blessings of life must be cared for, just as we would for any other organ of our body. Unfortunately, keeping the heart healthy requires a good preventive regimen of daily action on our part. No pain no gain they say, and often this entails having to give up some of the things that we hold close to our “hearts” (what a contradiction!!): things such as smoking (we may delight in the ‘style’ it projects, as we burn our insides); those tasty fried and fat-loaded, and the sweet foods (keeping cautious of the Macs, the potato chips, and the cokes etc), and of course the constant batch of worries that some of us seem to indulge in daily. This worry is the stress factor in life that is the most worrisome for the onset of heart disease. The smoking that can give you a clot in your cholesterol filled artery can be the final plug too. How can we get away from worry and the stress it generates? First of all worry is 90 percent your own mind’s fabrications. If we can learn to accept that and become more aware of the profile of our worries, we can eliminate it or never ever let it bother us. So you will just have only 10 percent of the worries left to deal with.

I guess this blog is getting too long already, so let’s talk about how to deal with worry in another of our meetings. So please take care of your heart through this multi-faceted prevention regime, and be sure it will serve you well and long. We all need each other to live long -- to give your voice to creating a healthy community of Maldivians.