The way things are going in
Maldives with respect to its
development path brings many a thought to mind. While on the global
developmental front, there are more than stirrings on the folly of materialism,
when the witnessing of its ravages is at your own doorstep, more than just mere
thoughts creep in. We have to begin groping for an alternative – all the better
when its with the help of similar musings that are becoming pervasive.
Gross National Product (GDP) is the broad indictor that measures economic development. However, it is now generally understood that this is not a good measure of social equity. Given that economic development is the direction all nations are aspiring towards, and now seen as one of major contributors to various insidious ills such as global warming and resulting climate change, the future in a life-as-usual world will not secure a sustainable future for our coming generations. The economic behemoth is bound to founder in the not so distant future if our mindless production and growth policies continue unabated. And human health will suffer. And give all the global conferences that have mooted the subject don’t seem to give us any confidence that the haves of this world will relent one bit to that risks that they create for the have-nots by slowing down the bull.
That economic wealth and materialistic progress will not give us happiness is patently known. Our life is full of examples that attest to this. Stress of modern living drives up the prevalence of diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, cancers and asthma, and various other morbidities of newly named and nameless kinds abound. New emerging infections take toll of our populations in untreatable diseases, death and fear. Politically and culturally induced conflicts kill and maim on the one side, even as we promote disease protection and prevention through magic bullets and other technological innovations on the other. Yet, we continue to amass wealth in quantities that we don’t even use. In the victim that we are, the overambitious ego drives us to want ever more and more just so it can survive. We are the prisoner. Ironically, the economic development paradigm that is supposed to liberate us, keeps us a prisoner of the mind instead. With more than our wealth we can use in our lifetime and with none of it available for us to take it with us when we do depart, it just seems an experience in futility. Even purely from an economic point of view, a range of international surveys show that beyond an annual income level of US$ 15,000 per head, life satisfaction barely changes between countries with quite different levels of GDP. Thus there appears to be a clear point beyond which extra income does not deliver extra wellbeing.
So how can we stop this seemingly inexorable drive towards the precipice of life’s destruction? The only way is to adopt a shift of paradigm for development. The idea of gross national happiness (GNH) is one such possibility. Cynics and pessimists and die-hard consumerists will always disagree, even when the waters will threaten to consume us in a watery grave. But we need to start thinking of possibilities out of this morass if we want our progeny to survive on this earth. (to be continued in tomorrow’s blog inshaa-Allah)