July 9, 2012

Blowing one’s own trumpet

My young friend is a good sounding board on the attitudes of youth in Maldives. In today’s discussion he told me with delight that that many of them including himself admired luxury. Latest phones, laptops, ipads, itablets, designer clothes, perfumes, and even the features of the latest cars. Perhaps it’s not wrong to say, we admire luxury to some extent, we all do, but if the intensity of it is not kept in check, that admiration can lead to coveting and just wanting for the sake of wanting which never fulfils our craving. When needs and wants are confused, the seed of selfishness is planted.

Selfishness and individualism begin in childhood. While individualism is important to understand our roles and responsibilities in our society and to achieve individual excellence that can contribute to societal improvement, individualism when carried to levels of vanity and self importance, the collective attitude can make for a cynical society, where we become overly critical of the other person’s views to the point of even rejecting what someone else has to say because we truly believe that what we have to say is the truth. Consequently we become bad listeners with short attention spans who in the context of a conversation fidget in restlessness with an overpowering desire always to quickly shift over to our own story.

From an inter-personal point of view, no one really likes to be in such company where someone keeps harping about his/her own successes. But what is sad is that while we may not like the individual with this quality, subconsciously we too behave the same way when the opportunity to open our mouths arises – we too go on talking about ourselves without choosing to listen more than we speak. When such weaknesses in youth are not pointed out and sympathetically addressed by those with more experience and wisdom, these cynical and disruptive attitudes can become hardened as youth grow into adulthood and become the collective norm in our society. The signal that this is becoming so in our society - picked from my young friend’s sounding to me – is evident, and is a mix of many reasons. We should all reflect on this creatively to unravel the causes behind this pervasive attitude. To my mind, one reason may relate to doting parents who pamper their children without the requisite discipline needed to build a child's character (why a parent behaves that way also has its reasons that will have to be revealed and addressed). Another reason may be the lack of contact with grandparents who now live away from the nuclear family settings that new couples in Maldives have chosen to adopt in the pursuit of modern ways of living that our western world practices and which we take to as being modern and fashionable. Parents may not be aware that keeping grandparents at such distance is really a forfeiting of the immense lessons of life that grandparents have to offer their young grand-children. It is really a breaking of the bond that nature has devised for us to keep inter-generational knowledge intact.

So, while our youth’s (even adults, for such youth have become the parents of today) desire to be selfish is understandable, and young people cannot be pushed to take the blame for wanting the latest gadgets, be unhealthily competitive and wanting to show off and feel being better than their peers. The ego is at its deceptive work here, and because, somewhere in the past, it has been nurtured through the neglect of building more responsible character in our children. Without addressing a suppression of the ego, our future may well be chaotic societies. This is a nationwide issue for us in Maldives that our leaders need to understand and begin building our primary school systems and family values that will breed more responsible future generations of Maldivians.


Anonymous said...

Humans have two opposing urges according to biologists, the urge to cooperate and the urge to compete. Both are needed for survival.

Abdul Sattar Yoosuf said...

True, Could we try to play out a healthy balance of the two?