February 6, 2012

A moral society cannot be fraudulent

Fraudulence and corruption in society happens when there is weak rule of law. OK, everybody knows that, so what's the big deal? The big deal is not the awareness of the physiology of this horrible social disease at an academic level of understanding, but the lack of an awareness (not just knowledge) of its prognosis - how its impact will be felt for us as communities and nations both in the short and the longer term. We seem not to have the time to reflect that deed. In this modern age we are in a hurry every day of our lives - as if someone is waiting at the end line rewarding the one who breasts the tape first and the rest would be all losers, or that the hand-outs at our destination is in very short supply, hence this urgency. Our ego makes the noises in our heads that drive our bodies; heads cluttered with the buzz on what’s new in the market, what new gadget my neighbor had bought recently or what new job my competitor had landed as I occupy envious a less rewarding one. Or how I would up my neighbor on my child’s next birthday party or my daughter’s wedding arrangements. Or my plans to buy that shiny car when I can hardly afford it or lack the space to park it or enjoy its speed in this square mile of chaos. We have no time for reflection on the deeper consequences beyond these immediate callings of our ego.

So where does that leave us in the deeper understanding of corruption as a social issue? We can know this only when we become aware of the nonsense and shallowness of our daily thoughts most of us are busy with – our fetish with our material desires which form the primary basis of our daily thought patterns. Unfortunately, most of our seeking in life is guided by the archetype of “what’s in it for me?” rather than by “how can I help?” How I can have a piece of the corruption that will satisfy some of my immediate desires so that I will be happy today, never seeking to understand further about the rot that might be setting into our societies by this very indulgence, and how it might impact the world my children and my grand children will have to live in when I am gone! How I can sell this precious blessing called my vote for the pittance of a moment’s mental fantasy. In this myopia of our hurried modern lifestyle we are blind to consequences. Living for today as if there is no tomorrow seems to be the guiding ethic. Unfortunately, this pervasive hedonism of our modern day does not allow time to reflect on the consequences of our actions that is the heart of wise action. We are too busy in the vanity and competition that fills our lives. If we ask most people why we tolerate such unethical behavior in a Muslim nation, the response is often a reference to what is happening in other similar countries and so why not here - as if that constitutes a response to the question; as if two wrongs should make a right. Or we may even get just a blank expression --signaling that not a single brain neuron may have been used to contemplate such profoundness ever.

It is true to say that we live in a make-believe world oblivious to the consequences of our actions. Busy as we are, that connection is often very hard for us to make because, as individuals, we seem so distant to the consequences. Take for example the issue of climate change. Even at the big environmental summits, the world’s greed is overt. Forget individuals, even nations and the world, rather than changing consumption patterns, the focus is now on a green economy – to go our merry way to continue producing the mass of things we don’t need at the cost of the environment (chopping the branch we are sitting on) and fuel the pleasures of a world consumed with the archetype of materialism – while a third or more of our world lives in poverty. Moral bankruptcy seems perniciously pervasive. As individual communities and community of nations, we need to be more responsible and aware that we, the people, are the real players in a democratic system. We need to be aware of how in such a system, the pyramid of governance has been turned upside down with us the citizens at the top of the inverted pyramid and the caretakers we have selected to be our national “housekeepers” sitting at the bottom. In this new frame of our reality we call democracy, we must become active and more responsible for our actions and not just be the passive observers that we were in a monarchy or other similar governance arrangement when we were merely the recipients of its benevolence, and felt mentally incarcerated. Now that we are liberated, we should wake up from that slumber of learned helplessness and exercise the rights and responsibilities of a democracy. As Maldivians we decided for this option of governance four years ago. How can we sit back now as if nothing has happened? To usher in a moral society, citizens need to lead rather than be led.

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