December 27, 2012

Democracy is not hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is defined as thinking or doing what one does not truly intend but as surrender to the deviousness of the mind. When ingrained in us, we act this way as mere subconscious behavior. Thus, hypocrisy is considered one of the most derogatory aspects of our being. It indicates certain deceptiveness in our behavior that thrusts society into collective negative behavior and seals a stalemate on any hopes of progress towards the social harmony democracy hopes for.

Democracy is about consultation and this cannot happen effectively in the context of negative emotions and ambiguity of agreements that will militate against good decisions becoming mainstream and sustainable. When the very people who agree to a policy today bunks it the next day, it bodes dark to the progress of this consultative process. And needless to say, the public merely becomes onlookers or mere spectators in a battle that is fought on the political stage. Hypocrisy kills the confidence in those that lead us or even estranges friends and partners that make for the effervescent confluence of our social relationships.

Getting away from hypocrisy requires an internal reflection. A reflective eye into our inner selves will show us from where these dark thoughts arise. And what are the causes behind the causes. Inevitably we will be confronted with the realization that all our hypocrisy is due to the jealousy we harbor within us; and surely there will be reasons why that jealousy resides in us as it does – that too can be clarified with further reflection. And reflection requires dedicated time away from the traffic and noise of the mind we are so used to sustaining in this modern world of electronic gadgetry and instant connectivity (with our friends but not with our soul). We seek to hide the whisperings of the ego to be in the limelight by the outward manifestation of doing what it tells us to do – not what our true self would like us to do. So in effect we are just responding to the callings of our ego which is not our true self. Always having to please the onlooker rather than our inner selves, we live our lives in a charade of sorts. This has to be so because the ego doesn't want to annihilate itself by society rallying against it. So it is better to seem to be conformist even though what flows in our true mind is just the opposite. This negativity thus makes us quickly agree – especially when authoritative and powerful sources coax our indulgence, in time of action however, do nothing to help, or do the opposite.

We read in our holy Book, the ignominy of hypocrisy and yet we fall prey to its callings orchestrated by the ego. Prayer and social service can help us reverse such devious callings. If done consistently, it can become a habit over time, and surely our ego's voice will be thus incrementally muffled and the voice of our true self will ultimately emerge to shine through our ethereal self. Parents, we can all attempt to build a new society by encouraging our children towards truthfulness and non-hypocritical behavior by example --- by us being so ourselves; “being the change we hope to see”.  

December 21, 2012

Smoking rots the brain

It’s official! “Beware, smoking ‘rots’ the brain by damaging memory, learning and reasoning” according to a new study from King’s College, London. In brain tests and analysis of health and lifestyle data of group of middle agers, found that smoking affects the brain negatively even more than high blood pressure and obesity. People need to be aware that lifestyle could damage the mind as well as the body. Changing such behaviors for the better is a necessity for keeping our cognitive functioning at a premium.

My jibe alluding to Lord Bernard Shaw’s definition of a cigarette being “a long cylindrical object with a fire at one end and a fool at the other” drew some flack from my friends and readers, but perhaps this may provide additional gist to the fact that smoking truly damages our cognitive capacity. That means we need to not be fooled by the persuasive adverts on smoking that draw drones of young people to believe that smoking is chic and socially exciting. But what we don’t know is what it is doing to our body – both our lungs, organs and now they say our brain functioning too. Is this worth the social style we want to project, when we know now beyond a shadow of doubt that smoking will only get you huge health bills to pay when you get past middle age? To young people today, this age may seem far away, but surely the day will come and then we cannot lament for the opportunities that were. And for women, that goes for having its effects for the babies you will have too. How much of a sacrifice is that to make for the momentary ego flashes we want to sustain? 

December 17, 2012

Consultation is difficult but necessary

Accommodating other points of view is the essence of democracy. After all, consultation which is the tool of democracy can best generate its fruits when we accommodate myriad points of view. Just as there are many types of people in this world – even beyond color and creed – there are infinite view points on any give subject. And as if that is not enough, these views and opinions are dynamic too. Someone’s opinions today may not be the same tomorrow. That is the nature of us human beings. Therefore, democracy, as an idea for governance provides that space for listening to other points of view, even though the final decision may have to be categorical. And the art of decision making is about how deftly we accommodate a confluence of these myriad views – the best of such results is called consensus. The general process by which we arrive at this kind of decision is persuasion, and it comes about through the use of tools such as negotiation and accommodation. In the world of politics this coming to consensus is often termed as “deals” which give such decisions a derogatory ring. And many a time this maybe so because the so called win-win situations arrived at seem biased towards the benefits of  the parties that are negotiating rather than for the public for whom this decision was needed in the first place. Hapless public in our so called democratic systems languish from one voting day to the next lamenting the wrong decisions they have sided – and are so deceived over and over again. It is not difficult to understand why; because we are ignorant of the purpose of democracy!

A way out of this conundrum for us the public is for us to be aware of the consequences of political decisions (what the government calls policies). All too often we are easily swayed by the glitter of the moment, or at best only the very immediate future, of what is offered to us and seen as an immediate personal benefit, and want to grab it while it is available for we feel that soon it might be gone or that someone else might have it if we don’t act fast enough. Our minds are not used to reflecting on consequences of such decisions to the larger society because our primeval instinct is about getting what we can quickly – the survival instinct – and this hasn’t still left us, or put another way, we have not been able to get out of its clutches. The role of civilization is for us to move from that level of self-serving survival mode to another that moves us closer to our real selves – that of our essence as spiritual beings as we go through our just this temporary human experience. When we can begin to think that way, we can begin to see ourselves in every other person and thus view humanity as one whole unbounded entity, rather than fragmented beings each with our own selfish ends. Unfortunately, these types of ephemeral pleasures that the world of form offers us are what we continue to grope at, and this behavior never subsides because the material society, in its market logic, continues to expose us to such enticement, and we keep lapping this up being blissfully ignorant -- even deciding to be willfully ignorant because the moment of experiencing pleasure is so engaging and thrilling.

Our Maldivian public deserves to be given the awareness for us to become the reflective polity that will drive a mature democracy. So far in these past five years or so little has been done to make the Maldivian public become better stewards of democracy. Rather we have been made more ignorant of becoming it. The overt rifts, fights, and deals all the way – have exemplified this inaction by the party machinery and the independent commissions that are supposed to do this for us. Perhaps this ignorance is just what serves best the divisive politics that is rampant in our midst now – all in the name of democracy! 

December 11, 2012

There is no free lunch!

Many people have asked me about how not to be angry. Being mortals we cannot stop this emotion of anger completely. But with effort and awareness we can make some headway. Believe me we can, if we only try. 

The issue at the bottom of all anger is our ego dominating our being. Now it is not easy just to subdue the ego, because most of us are its prisoner even without realizing it. But if we can be aware that this ego is our false self pretending to be our real self and coaxing us to be better than the other person, we can beat it. However, when we cannot be aware that this formless entity of ‘conscience’ that is within us is a manipulator just attempting with all its guile to keep us separate from others, we fall into its  trap, imagining that what it calls for is what life is supposed to be.

Life is about social harmony. Even the most die hard critics of individualism would agree that ultimately we would like a caring, sharing and loving community. Those who deny this must be totally incarcerated by the ego. Given that this harmony is the objective of humanity, each one of us must contribute to this expression of love if we want our community or humanity is to be infused with love. Some will say this is a just a dream; how can it ever be! Yes, it can be as long as we want it to be -- remember the power of intention? -- perhaps, in the trappings of our ego, we believe we cannot be. But there is a silver lining; each one of us has control over ourselves to be what we want to be even if we cannot change the whole of society; if only we can be brave enough to look the other way to what the ego is beckoning us to do.

This is possible when we can stop doing what I term the most pervasive of our social habits – that of comparing ourselves to others. This pervasive social habit --again perpetuated by the ego because it wants you (and by that ‘it’) to be better than the other person -- is the root of our jealousy. This jealousy makes us do inhuman things. When we can’t get what we want by legal means, we use the illegal or even criminal means to achieve it and feel good about it because the ego has been satisfied. We identify so much with our ego that we are totally unaware of its tricks.

And unfortunately, even from childhood we are taught to compare – as if that is the best we can do for our children. Parents compare children with other children, at the workplace, bosses compare worker with worker, and even give awards to those who are better (who might not be better actually), teachers compare one student with the other by voicing directly, or indirectly by our archaic grading systems, and in life there on, this goes on pervasive. Parents think that by comparing they can make their child feel some shame and goad them to work harder to be like the other. Believe me parents! This is the most destructive thing you can do to your children. There are many ways to talk to your children without that young mind being affected by the feelings of disdain and rejection. Unfortunately, we do just the opposite – that of raising the specter of resentment in the young mind and plant the seeds of jealousy that manifests in many ways. Bullying, teasing, stealing, ganging-up on others, and so on – all this anti-social behavior that we see in grade school are the sprouting shoots of the seeds we as parents and society have planted – there is no denying. This behavior moves into adulthood in the form of social delinquency, theft and crime, and a life of dishonesty and deception. Mercifully, some may wake up from this through events of harsh and poignant realities that befall them in their adult life, but others go on ignorant that the ego is their real enemy within.

Our social unrest and this behest to be better than the other person, and the conflict it perpetuates is the result of the examples in our past that have formed our present psyche – the ego. But with awareness, we can change this. With an aggressive attempt of becoming aware of these competing forces within our mind, we can overcome this divisiveness. There is hope, but each one of us must make the attempt. There is no free lunch ever!

December 3, 2012


With the advent of democracy in Maldives, we seem to have become a very angry society. There is increased anger on the streets in the form of violence, anger at home in the form of arguments, anger on TV as debates that seem like fights, and anger among friends and lovers in the form of estrangement just because of party allegiance. All this I see as an internal resistance that we harbor against anything that challenges our set beliefs and our obstinacy to sticking with our own views. Such behavior does not come out of wisdom but out of foolishness. Just imagine, when everyone is with this mindset, what we get is a stubborn nation.

The world of our essence doesn’t work that way. Take for example our local breadfruit tree for all its strength and steadfastness has its branches shattered or itself gets uprooted in a violent storm, whereas the slender coconut tree survives. Eastern wisdom says, be not like the oak, but like the reed to weather the storm. This is the essence of acceptance, that when practiced with wisdom will help us be tolerant and survive to be the essence of building a compassionate society. Nature is always compliant and has its solutions within itself. It is man who is obdurate and breaks up in his resistance. The examples are everywhere, if we only seek to observe these in our midst.

This is a very apt allegory to follow if we want to heal as a society. In the divided society that we are becoming, vengefulness that ensues from pent-up jealousies and resentments buffet us daily, and we hurt ourselves as these negative emotions manifest in the ambiance of society as violence, crime and fear that rip our social fabric, and inside of us as high blood pressure, vascular diseases, anxiety, diabetes and the like. We don't realize this, but for example, one of the most prominent risk factors for the increasing levels of diabetes in our societies is our increasing levels of anxiety or stress– of course, gorging on fatty and sugary foods being the other is one that is quite well understood but sadly less acted upon. Many may not be aware of this first one. We may perhaps also not know that our Maldivian society is rife with anxiety and stress, but we are. The daily niggling feelings of discontentment, fear of theft and burglary, lack of public safety, the unkempt physical environment, and the congested streets that make for precarious walking and disgruntled driving are just some examples that drive our anxiety.

Anxiety may also be visible in the increased rate of smoking in our society -- perhaps we are the biggest smokers in south Asia. This too is a folly that can be beaten only when we can beat our ego. As a past smoker I should know. We burn our lungs for the glory of the ‘style and show’ these “killers in packets” engender. By the way, for those of you who may not know, Bernard Shaw’s definition of a cigarette is reflective of this folly. He described it as a white long cylindrical object with a fire at one end, and a fool at the other. True, we are constantly fooled by the commercials and the phony propaganda of the tobacco industry that boosts our ego on the one hand of being sophisticated and suave, and our policy makers, the drooling over the momentary benefits of the windfall we get from tobacco sales in our nation that can be used for nefarious ends on the other.

Our laws are stymied by this folly and fraud, for if we truly comprehend the extent of tobacco related illnesses on our society, a rationally thinking public leader would not think of shooting himself in the foot by not agreeing to pass such good and healthy legislation. For example, the Frame work Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a world accepted piece of global legislation is still finding reticence to its ratification in our country in its full stipulation. A watered down version may have been passed, yet its enforcement looms as a nightmare. How shortsighted can we be? Either that or we have elected leaders that don't care about the welfare of our Maldivian people. Tobacco is just one example of legislature the passing of which in its original form will make for a better society. There are more that needs to be looked at with a more objective frame of mind. But of course, given our democratic rights, many will say that truth is in the mind of the beholder.

So, what has this got to do with letting go? Perhaps it means that any solutions to reduce these civic concerns, we the public must let go the struggle to confront, and bear with the social monstrosity we have created. This does not mean we just give in, but it means that we cannot fight with the present moment. A wiser approach would be to introspect and ask ourselves, where we had gone wrong; be brave to survive in the storm of events and intend to vote wisely another day. If we reflect and are willing to search deep within ourselves, we will find the source from which the poison flows --- our ego propelled decisions that make us take selfish routes on national welfare; how we elect our leaders and fill our public governance portfolios. Only when we take the care and effort to exercise our rights for collective benefits can we call our process true democracy in action. Otherwise, it is just "old wine in new bottles". The Maldivian society cannot afford to prolong a charade. Another pool of voters will mature into suffrage in the next five years -- minds without the acculturation into human goodness that will form an added mass that needs to be persuaded will only make our task of nation-building ever more daunting. Take some moments to be silent without being angry and then God will allow solutions to flow into our minds.