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.

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