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. 

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