November 24, 2011

Parents - nurture your child's love for reading.

In this world of social media and video games, our children's proximity to books is a dwindling reality. With every other teenager and children as young as 10 yrs old having their own swanky handhelds, texting, tweeting and chatting occupy the larger part of their day -- its use is for anything but reading as in the more formal sense of it. Chat, twitter and facebook all cater to the brevity of the written statement and a demise of large blocks of text as attractants to youth. In a time where speed is glorified, from the speed of internet access, the acquisition of wealth, power and position and any other human aspiration, the refreshing tantalizations that reading embodies is being soon forgotten or dumped as baggage from the past. "We don't need to be tantalized and kept waiting" seems to be the pertinent refrain --- for the order of the day is instant gratification.

Parents, let's look at the consequences of this pervasive culture on the growth and development of our children's sensibilities. Books give childen a peek into the experiences and values of our past through the experiences of those who have inhabited our spaces before we came into being. The enormous library of knowledge, awareness and experiences aggregated in the written body of knowledge provides our link to this past and gives our children the bearings to be good citizens of tomorrow. As we know today, our success in life depends more on our emotional intelligence or emotional quotient than on our intelligence quotient. That is accepted as truth today and is starkly rational, for our ability to make relationships work is what makes us better sharing human being rather than just selfish human objects. The building blocks of making and living in such sharing relationships is a good comprehension of our world from various angles. That is the gold mine of opportunity reading provides to our children and their love nurtured for it will be the good harbingers of a successful future - success defined as a satisfied journey through our life on this earth.

It is said, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Parents! Please don't lose this opportunity to chart a cherished future for your children. Even as you give them those shiny handhelds, please don't neglect offering them the edge reading will ensure.

November 22, 2011

To be in a hurry is to be selfish

In community development we cannot be in a hurry for as they say haste makes waste. People in a hurry often are very tied to their own opinions as being right. Rightly so; It is only logical in their minds that they rationalize it to be so because it is only then that they can go ahead with that decision and so contribute to the fast pace they want to create in life and in society. However this attitude of "I know what's best" even by a collectivity of decision makers may not provide a wise decision. Just as many wrongs do not add up to making something right, the result of a collectivity of flawed decisions cannot also be right. The result of such muddled or self-laden decisions would be conflict and impasse. A more practical way, but not necessarily the fastest, for the preferance of many, is the option of dialogue with the community. Ultimately our decisions of community development is for the benefit of society and so it stands rational that we seek their views to be the very foundation of our action - not just a mere sounding board for comparing the degree of fit with our opinions. It is this acceptance by the community that will sustain the actions we roll out. Such consultation will also supply the strength we would need in moving forward that action as many would, by the very fact of the decision being theirs or being involved in making it, give of themselves  -- sometimes in abandon -- for its success. Unfortunately, much of the decisions we make for our community development are made in haste and so lack this important facet of community legitimacy. Given the power of the decision maker and the size of ego involved, such hasty decisions can leave society in tears for generations to come. So how much leeway should democratically elected leaders strive to exercise. The answer is only found in our own reflections about the implications of such decisions we see in our society through a budding awareness of the principles of democracy and what powers it gives to the people. Let's not make haste. While it may bring windfalls of benefit to the perpetrator of the decision in the short run, it can however be a waste and a burden to the generations we hope to nurture in our future.

November 14, 2011

Soft bridges

The theme of our 17th SAARC summit was very profound yet fitting. Building bridges is a theme that is so appropriate to the context of socioeconomic and human development. Bridges make possible access to goods and services just like roads do. And for an island nation such as ours it is no doubt essential for getting from one island to another. Even in our larger neighbors, this is what we find across every river, pond or lake and have served their economic development by leaps and bounds. While this physical dimension of bridge building is highly desirable, the social aspect of bridge building I think is even more desirable in a conflict filled world, which does not spare our little nation. Even in our little corner of the world, the disease of conflict has surely raised its head and is consuming a large part of our society. True, with freedom of expression comes an inevitability of conflict as we vie for space to be heard and the competition for visibility or loudness intensifies. But given our situation of the blessings of freedom we have to exercise this with some restraint and responsibility - for with great power comes indeed great responsibility. Unfortunately in our choice of the process of exercising our democracy being a party-based system, this divergence of views is inevitable. But with the degree of polarization that has resulted in these couple of years, the rancor seems to be taking on pathological proportions and hindering rather than facilitating any egalitarian dialogue. The result as we all now witness is a plethora of conflict conditions and a divisiveness in our society as never been seen before. Something needs to be done for sanity to prevail; digging our heels in confrontation cannot draw us closer consensus or compromise. So where does this leave us as to our priorities of building bridges?  I would say lets focus on softer options; let's begin building bridges to our hearts -- bridges of love and brotherhood that will again connect the collective warmth of spirit in our communities and the sharing that Islam so advocates. 

November 8, 2011

Culture to keep us anchored

Everything we do has culture associated with it. In fact we may say that culture is the way we do whatever we do. It gives us a sense of control, identity and security. Playing music, buildng a home, how we take care of our children, what foods we eat and how we prepare it - all have a culture associated with it. Everything we do has a context in which it is done. So in the same vein, we may say that culture developed as the most fitting way to do whatever we do at a certain time and place, given our available resources and the skills we have learned from that environment. Thus this skill comes from learning the most relevant, practical and most efficient way for us at our disposal. In Maldives we first built our homes with sticks and thatch, then with coral stone, now with bricks and motar, and tomorrow perhaps with glass and steel as the norm. As the context of our existence changes, our culture of doing each of the above - also changes. So, music which we used to play one way in the past changes as our attractions and thus our beliefs of that being the best way to do it, changes. Food and cuisine also go this same way and so do how we build our houses and homes and how we manage our relationships with our friends and loved ones - perhaps even how we deal with our foes. We were masters of our setting given a culture of our own making.

But in the buzz of the modern world, every culture is hostage to the burgeoning wave of globalization. Even though overtly we feel centered and in control, the blindingly fast array of events inherant in this movement, shakes the ground of our traditional berth and leaves us vulnerable. So how is this blindness able to get to us? I would say it is the yearning for the new that attracts us inexorably. While changes in our past held us with familiar values as their underpinnings that emanated from within our communities, the new stimulants are from the outside. The anchors that held us to our ground is loose and we are like floatsam in the flowing tide taking us in the direction that the tide dictates. However, this loss in our grounding is a welcome moment to our senses which are always looking out for new stimulants as we get bored with the old, wherever that may come from. The attractant is indeed what is fashionable, where fashion is what is deemed by most as the way to do anything. How fashions change is very well explained in Malcolm Gladwell's book the tipping point. It is a crescendo of acceptance that make for the tipping point to occur and soon our actions become asymptotically alignend- everyone doing that same thing. That's what we call fashion - like blind ants following blithely one after another, without a care for the consequences. And now more than ever, fashions orchestrated by global big business and other such influences come and go ever so fast leaving us vulnerable to the vagaries of such demands. It doesn't allow us a moment to think of what a farce we may be subject to just to keep us vulnerable and keeping us spending to fuel the advent of alien cultures into our midst with no time to think of consequence.  So where does this leave us as regards national development? In this scheme of things that we call globalization, it must be the recipe of the day - materialism where we forget the idea of community and nationhood and bring in competition and conflict. Who is seen mightier in the world by whatever standard we measure it, leads the pack and we all follow just because it is the in-thing. Not because it is the right thing or the most rational even. That's the story of our food, our coffee, our clothes, our values, our music, our family life too. When can we wake up?

November 1, 2011

Pre-teenage is the best time to build character

A child is dough in your hands. You can mold it in any way you want, shape it any way you want, or give it any taste you want. The mind of a child is so receptive by its very nature so much so that we don't really have to try to make it so. It just is so. Therefore, the onus is on us to craft ways to mold that mind. The effort must come from us through our sense of responsibility for shaping the future of our family, community, society or nation. Looking at this process even beyond to encompass even humanity as the great prophets and compassionate leaders of yore have done with the grace of God.
In our own small way, it is therefore incumbent on us to mold the future of our children who are in fact God's trust to us. One way of looking at it is that these beautiful little lives we have that we call our children are seen as ours and what's ours must be, by the very fact of our selfish nature, things to protect and secure. Another way to see our children is as a trust from God, and in this perception, we having to be ever respectful of that trust. Either way we cannot absolve ourselves from the arduous responsibility of bringing up our children for building posterity. Breaching this would be ignominy, and a deep travesty of the blessings we have of life. Humanity is nurtured through us - parents - as we build each successive generation. As I emphasized in the last blog, we need to build character in our children and that comes from good consistent example and the experience of some hardship in life. Rich parents are generally averse to their children going through hardship - as if loving a child means giving everything they want. Unfortunately that will inevitably leave for the world a not so fit citizen of whom society will have more problems than benefits. We need to breed children who will when they are adults "ask not what my country can do for me, but ask what I can do for my country"

Parents please use the beautiful pre-teenage years to nurture this character!