June 30, 2013

Only Islam can unite us!

And I don't mean the political version of it. I mean the pristine truth of Islam -- the principles and methods sent to us mankind centuries ago and culminating in the finality of these precepts enshrined in the Holy Quran -- with the caveat that IT is a set of principles and methods that will stand the test of time purely because these are patently professed to be timeless.

Then should we be attempting to frame other truths? The confusion and the vanity that go with this attempt are raised because of this. Is it not an act of foolishness to have a universal edict as the guiding principle of this nation and then try to frame a constitution that attempts to be a parallel to it or a replacement of it? The fact that we have a framed one and are struggling to reconcile both is the manifestation of this folly.  While we clearly state in our clarifications of our constitution that our man-made one will not contract the one sent down in Mercy we continue to neglect the edicts that are clearly prescribed in the ONE we give primary credence to. It is as if we are playing with ourselves to gain merit from both sides and surely we cannot do so. The illusion of is doing so can only be revealed in time -- that those were indeed foolish attempts. But by a few of us playing this game at the expense of the many who sincerely await the benefits of social harmony is surely an act of hypocrisy by those who perpetrate this adversity and a categorical act of injustice on that majority who align with the universal edict that has been proclaimed as the law of the land in our case.
One may say we practice the silence of fear, and if that is the case we must remove the causes that make us reticent or fearful, and for us to speak out our true faith. Islam clearly instructs us to keep the sanctity of IT’s edicts above what is professed by those that must follow It. In our pursuit of worldly gain, our egos clearly bloat and we seem to be confused by this vanity, and as usual, our vanity gets the better of us. 

The responsibility for creating social harmony is on both us and our leaders. Once elected, our leaders must lead us in sincerity and openness to the prescriptions of Allah, and the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad as we have laid out as the basis of our moral constitution. What we need are rules that will guide us - not frame another constitution to lead us into confusion or for us to hide behind.
I write this as I begin to open my mind to the realities I see in our little island of Male and in those surrounding us in our Nation as I have the opportunity to see what has become of us over these several years. A nation that is as small and as homogeneous in culture, religion language and biological identity cannot but be pulling together if not pulled apart by the diversity of new-found thinking that are only fabrications of our ego. We are pulled along by the enticement and allure of the gains of the moment and the glitter of the gold we see and are promised through nefarious means.

Please don't be fooled by such enticements and then experience the regret in tears and life lost when everything falls apart. There is no better hand hold for us than the teachings of our beloved Religion. Mark my words my brothers and sisters. The regrets can only be unfathomable.

June 18, 2013

Life is a gradual process

The gradual nature of our life’s change progression is a life-principle none of us with a rational mind can dispute. The way biological organisms evolve is a clear example, except of course for some mutations that occur unexpectedly constitute a very minuscule proportion of the change that happens in evolution.

The social processes that happen in our life also operate along an extension of this principle. Actually it is again related to the inability of our minds that is a product of habit and past experiences to accommodate too much change too quickly. Fast change often flounders because of this. No doubt we can establish new arrangements in the way we live by being coaxed or persuaded into making such changes. New arrangements in lifestyle, parenting, governing and even the social structures along which we re-orient ourselves in communicating with each other, socializing in modern ways all have their seeming benefits in the new ways we impute value to life. But these have their downsides too which are often not as enticing as deterrents when the glitter of change lays bare its attractants.  Engines make us go a bit faster than sailing and we say time is money but there is loss in the time we have to enjoy nature and the benefits of communing with nature which is our human essence, the forfeiting of which takes its toll in lost benefits of human relationships. In similar vein, the change of larger families to nuclear families, the change from mobile to sedentary lifestyles, from healthy foods to fast foods and fizzy and energy drinks, the coffee culture and the change in social relationships these engender. Or the change from the presence of grandparent to keep the narrative of life connected to our grandchildren to the loss of these valuable assets that languish in the solitude of empty homes in the islands while their children live in the lonely throng of Male with their babies taken care of by a foreign Aya while both parents fend in jobs outside their home. Those kids will be the parents and citizens and leaders of tomorrow. All these are changes that we are inexorably swept into and the pros and cons of which we have not ventured to reflect on because the modern lifestyle is so enticing. The conscious mind can be attracted and coaxed into believing the goodness of these and perhaps there are lots of it embedded. But the subconscious takes time to fathom the vagaries of the challenges and settle into the routine. 

That is perhaps what's different in the West and in the East. The West created these ways through an evolutionary process of change that took several centuries whereas for us in the East this is a leap-frogging we attempt to do just because these ways seem more attractive by the very fact that they are modern. It is an enticement to be like someone else -- a renunciation of the old - the wisdom of our ancestors who had also, through the necessity of time and the exigency of the environment, adjusted their lives or created novel ways to respond to those challenges in appropriate ways to live in harmony with our environment.

The biggest challenge today however comes from our espousing of the new process of democracy. While the basis and principles of democracy are non-negotiable to my mind, the ways we have instituted to give effect to this edict has obviously manifested its flaws. Otherwise we would not be such an angry nation upset with each other, shredding and fragmenting age old relationship of friendship and family bonds that are the bases of our society. Surely something must be wrong! And unless we search in urgency for alternatives to rectify this decadent process, we may have to shed many a tear in a future that is laced with fear and anxiety.

June 16, 2013

Before youth leaves us -- let’s invest in good health!

Health is about not getting sick -- not about getting sick. We all know by now the rising cost of health care around the world and Maldives is not out of this cycle of medicalization of health care. The WTO's Global Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) bears witness to the rising tide of health care providers moving across national boundaries. All this, together with the portability of medical insurance will ensure that the medical industry survives and grows from day to day. While this has overt benefits, it has its downside too. It would be good to have quality medical care on a competitive footing, but this diversion of national health service approach from disease prevention to treatment leaves the public helpless to help themselves about keeping healthy. In this new business environment, medical service providers soon flock to the private sector at the expense of the public provider space. Health care insurance that has seemingly come to fill this gap of access escalates the cost of care to exponential limits. All this is quite apparent in our own little nation of Maldives also.
This has implications for our future health care. As we may be aware again we are in the midst of an epidemiological transition. Our communicable diseases, in our past colossal efforts of public health based on prevention has put these disease into the closet of the past – tuberculosis, leprosy, filariasis and malaria -- which were the dreaded killers of those days gone by, have given way to another transition -- that of non-communicable diseases. How many of our young people are truly aware of the dangers to their health of smoking, eating all that fatty fried foods, those succulent yet killer sausages, all those preservatives in the packaged foods and even the mere volume of food consumed with little concern for how much stress we are putting our poor body through.
If we think that our affluence is making this happen to us, it’s not quite true; it’s really the globalization frenzy the world is going through. For example, in Maldives it’s not just the rich that develop heart-disease, cancers, diabetes, hypertension and the rest of this smorgasbord of disease conditions. There seems to be a pervasive prevalence. The packaging market has made possible the long keeping quality of foods such that every corner of the country can have these “goodies”. Yes, it’s those thirst enhancing sugary and fizzy drinks that are found all over Maldives, so are the potato-chips, the packaged cakes and chocolates that look so good but at which our bodies wince as if to say "how can I tolerate this onslaught any longer; I might as well just give up and say goodbye to this world". The body’s pleadings and groaning is of course not heard by the youth, the owner of the young resilient body in its relentless search for the fun and frolic of life and is mesmerised by the clever goading of the marketing industry. We keep on guzzling the energy drinks even when we don't need the energy - prodded by the enticing adverts, and like so keep choking our lungs as we lull at the street corner to smoke yet another Lucky Strike, Camel, or Marlboro, as if this doing will clothe that body in importance and be the centre of attraction. Then as the body gets older the breakdown of its organs inevitably begin, slipping from sight would then be the days of the good looks and the pretty girls who seemed at arm’s reach. Now with wife and children and grandchildren we begin to suffer the effects of those carelessly lived robust days. The fool at the other end of the white long cylindrical object that is called the cigarette can no longer yearn for when it should not have been. It would be just too late!
But who will listen to this plea? The vice, voice and visuals of the tobacco company drown my lone voice for conscience or the persuasive power of the small silent message at the street corner "no smoking in these premises".

And so goes life, our cost of health care from this and others rising incrementally or even exponentially. How can we halt this rise -- in our ill health and the stress on our pocket books?  The solution is prevention! That we can do without expensive gyms and costly diets. Just good clean life habits are all what we need. Eating and drinking wisely, spending time on our feet more often, filling our lungs with that God given servings of fresh air rather than be choked by that chemical laden smoke from the cigarette, and spending more time in communing with nature rather than those endless hours of chatter on our mobile phones. But who will listen? For those who would listen, it is the path to happiness and a long life of joy away from the portals of the hospital. We can do it, if we truly have that intension.

June 15, 2013

When youth is gone who will care? ...

The old man with a week's growth of weak white stubble bristling out untidily from his sweaty face all unkempt and attired in oil-and-dirt stained and crumpled clothes lay asleep at the foot-wide curb that flanks the supreme court building of Maldives on one side and faces the local vegetable market on the other. His back bolstered by the building wall behind him was enough to keep his body stable but his arm had slid off in his sleep onto the road space that was the path of the incoming throng of motorcycles and lorries that made up the mid-morning traffic at that junction. And it was quite probable that these drivers always in their impatience and hurry would not perhaps notice that arm lying in front of them. It was a pathetic sign and sight and a veritable contradiction. The supreme court that meted out justice to the nation on one side and the site that dispensed nutrition to our masses on the other. But this old man of "no means" lay disowned and disdained. Where is justice and where is the municipality that is the physical conscience of our city? 

How can democracy in our new nation be played out this way? Surely, taking care of this man and some others of this same plight that inhabit this space in Male can be taken care of more humanely. Surely a pittance of the stupendous expenditure doled out for those expensive political campaigns in the atolls will be enough to address these pressing social concerns. We seem to be a mesmerized nation attempting to find a servant to look after our house yet being dictated by the terms of the servant.

June 4, 2013

Gender difference is more than skin-deep

As if you didn't know this!  But seriously this is a very basic issue of a lack of understanding or misunderstanding that is at the root of much of the problems our societies face. As the basic unit of society, the family is what makes society; weak and fragmented families auger for a weak and fragmented society. 

Why do these family issues arise we all ask? It’s because marriages break and even in many cases that don’t, many endure in such anxiety that it seems criminal to bear such misery. Islam of course has such a wonderful leeway given to allay the turmoil and seek other ways. But within many cultures in our world, families keep on living the life of agony just because society would baulk at family break-ups. But why are these cases of unbridgeable difference? Some would say that nothing is really unbridgeable if we step back and observe what's going on. The one in the crowd can only see the way of the crowd. We just need to step back to take time to observe with some detachment. 

Men and women are not just physically different but mentally different too. The physical we can't do much about it and perhaps we don't want to tamper with it either. But the mental dimension is where the real issue is. Actually all our issues in life arise from the mental condition -- the "we are what we think" paradigm. It is said that women are right brained which means they are more the imagining and feeling type whereas men are left brained and thus the logical and set in their logical ways type. Both these have to result in a compromise if life is to go on in harmory. To the degree that it does not indicates the mismatch or the inability to accommodate each other. How was it that the courting days saw harmony and then overtime many marriages became situations of suffering? Yes, somewhere that accommodating spirit had died. The novelty, infatuation or love that was must have evaporated.

But salvage is always possible -- when we can know this differing types of minds we live with and attempt to observe how our inner selves have developed over time to envelope us in cultural sensibilities such as male chauvinism, labeling, stereotyping, cast-bound pigeon-holing, etc that have come to characterize how we and society see ourselves. In this bound up and opinionated mindset, our gender differences will continue to keep us in misery unabated. We can build bridges unto ourselves for sure! --- by attempting to do so not across physical boundaries but across the mental. 

Society can improve only with better stronger families and that can happen only when spouse bridge those differences by learning to respect each other.

June 2, 2013

Don’t wait only to receive, let’s earn!

While we are fully aware that what someone gives to us is less of worth than something we buy with our hard earned money. However, it is very easy to fall into this trap of expecting for that takes much less effort from us, and as expected, this is the folly we fall into even when our politicians promise us gifts and freebies in the garb of promoting social and economic development. We have grown up over the years, especially as affluence pervades our families to be giving a lot of gifts. The businesses promise it and families lap this up as developmental ethic, and follow the Joneses in mimicking this behavior. This is capitalism in action, tingling the ego strings within us and sparking our competitive spirit as if it is the right thing to do. 

This was sparingly so in the more distant past when we were given our new clothes in alignment with some festival like one of the Eids - to don when we go for the days prayers or a function of the day. It was a moment for celebration and of course valuing this gift also because we knew we would not get another till the Eid next year. But now we get presents whenever we ask for it and even supplemented by the need of parents to allay their increasing neglect of their children of quality time with them, yet without a hope they will value what's given. Boredom soon sets in and they ask for more and the cycle goes on. As adults we don't fare any better.  In such a social habituation politicians make hay by extending that giving to whole communities -- a harbor here, a mosque there, airports, schools, roads, reclamation, and subsidies everywhere, are some of the gimmicks we fall for. Of course behind this culture of political giving and acceptance is our vestige of authoritarian rule of the past - of kings, queens and strong individuals who have used this approach to keep people continuously mesmerized by their benevolence. 

But now in a democracy should this be so? How does this culture of largesse measure up to the democratic principles of independent behavior we need to nurture if we do not want democracy to die on our door-step. By our very acceptance of gifts and largesse we are forfeiting the power given to us by our democratic principle.  By acceptance we acquiesce to the whims of another because we feel indebted and compelled to vote in that direction. How ironical is this situation. We want to eat the cake and still keep it also. We want what gifts we can get but we would like to keep our independent stance also? That is impractical both in reality and in morality. We need to be true to ourselves and learn to live to earn our gifts rather than these to be just offered to us for the taking. Accepting this state of affairs must indicate to us the immaturity of our polity to practice true democracy, rather what we dabble in is self deception.