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.