July 30, 2013

An uncomfortable harmony

The campaign hype in our Nation is on its homestretch, and we see its glitter exploding before our eyes in the crowed space of Male and the islands and on our living rooms’ illuminated plasma screens.

Our present situation does not seem like harmony, yet we all seem to want social harmony. We tend to push our views in arrogance at the expense of what others express. No doubt, it’s not easy to accept others views when our ego gets in the way of rationality. In Maldives too, as in the globalizing world, the ego plays out a big part of our lives even though we may not be aware of it. Our political parties, the source of our divisions in our society, are fueled by the power of the ego. There is nothing of an ideology worth its salt to propel their being. Is it the protection the environment, an advocacy for small government, the push for a social idea, or ethnic space? The list could go on, but unfortunately, in our multi-party democracy, we have only wannabe presidents with their coteries forming our so called parties. Those hanging on or are enticed into their fold are those groping in the hope of big gifts either momentarily or when the winning is ensured. All the hope and excitement is about “what’s in it for ME” rather than “what’s in it for the Nation”’ no doubt the ego playing its part to the hilt and sadly we are not aware of it one bit. Each one in the party lead echelons is drooling at the prospect of the high post or comfortable berth one would get when the win in September is ensured – how can it not; they must get their “pound of flesh”. The gamble on such gain makes us forget the pristine edicts of Islam that calls for the opposite of all what our desiring minds are engaged in. How easily we are swayed by the ego and the world? How easy it is for us to jump ship from party to party, in betrayal and greed to see how we can get a piece of the action before someone else will? Alas! How do we build a nation of peace while mired in such pandemonium? Can we have the harmony we need in this chaos of selfishness?

I see two ways to have our national harmony, we can have it by promoting love and camaraderie which will give us lasting peace as propitiated by Islam, or by enforcing it - like despotic regimes do, but which will keep the smoldering embers waiting to be ignited whenever that artificial facade of calmness is removed or shattered.  And then a fulminating chaos will again be born just as it seems to be the case even at the present political stage in our lives.

The dream of democracy is harmony in diversity. For Maldives this question of diversity that is so distinguishable in character as in so many other countries does not arise. Yes, human beings will have differing mental images of what the world they seek to be. But these are not so ideologically or socially diverse to deserve a mass calling. Yet we have chosen to divide ourselves just because someone said that democracy is implementable only through a party process, not hesitating for one moment to weigh the pros and cons of an alien approach as it would apply to our homogeneous small nation. The result is out there to see, and to put Humpty Dumpty together again would take ages, if we let an organic process to prevail. But we can all come to our senses and reflect into our inner being as to how our ego is fooling us to be foes of our brothers and our sisters in nationhood and religion. We are taking to heart every indication our ego gives us to be taken for the ride. We need to wake up and look at our Nation for the future we want to build for our posterity. Yes, building harmony is only possible with reflection, patience, forgiveness and a suppressed ego when we are able to entertain a multitude of differing views without getting emotionally involved. By stepping back from the crowd and seeing it for the foolishness it is perpetrating.

Such intense conditioning requires a deep reflection into the depth of our being to drag out our suppressed inhibitions, fears and anger. Such defensiveness when exposed and expiated will be when we can have lasting harmony in our societies. We need to hope, dream and work to make those dreams become reality in some urgency. 

July 22, 2013

The prize of service

Society progresses by engaging in giving rather than being engaged in getting. In getting we are selling our capabilities for price that is measured in monetary gain. This is done not with the purpose of giving our services with love but with a motive at the end of fulfilling our egos desires. This is most often tainted with selfishness. Perhaps the one you are working for is also doing that task for his selfish motives of personal gain. Thus this selfishness becomes a chain of selfish motives that encompass a whole community. We are immersed in doing the tasks that we do with the hope of getting a prize at the end of it. What keeps our attention is the prize or the jackpot. The means become secondary in importance. We may fudge or cheat or connive to get a piece of work done all for the gain of the prize. We thus infuse society with this same aura of selfishness and the distrust and suspicion that goes with such actions.

On the other hand service oriented work is infused with compassion and affection. What one seeks in this type of service is the quality of the giving. When the object of the giving which is the benefit to society,  there is another kind of aura that pervades such contexts. The positive aura is a result of it being in the same wavelength of that signified by our creation. Creation and service are imbued with similar auras that form the essence of our human being --love and compassion.

Here too, like in selfish work, there is a chain of actions. Those who engage in selfless work that is service oriented is serving an intermediate activity or seeking to achieve an intermediate objective of a higher service. A community drive towards caring for the old is but one link in a chain of activities that seek to bring compassion into society. One may trace the action links of this chain to promoting more harmonious families which in turn is related to nurturing caring societies. Can we carry that further to say it is to form a caring nation and further on to build a more caring world?

Selfish deeds don't have this aura of converging society but lots about dividing it and there is no harmony in division, only conflict. So, there is no other way to bring in loving kindness into a society without reducing the divisions in it.

July 20, 2013

21st century democracy

A new century and a new paradigm in governance! We need a democracy without corruption. This is what should divide the last and this century.

That democracy is indeed regressing in many parts of the world is not difficult to see in what floods our living rooms through TV and internet. Statistics show that only a quarter of the world’s nations have seemingly well-functioning democratic regimes. Another quarter is deemed as flawed democracies, and a whopping half falling into the category of corruptive and autocratic rule, even if they maybe labelled democracies. That means every other democracy is flawed, malfunctioning of defunct. And the situation is not improving. The so-called third wave of democratization of the world’s nations that began in the mid-1970s has now turned many into failed states by the end of the 20th century. It appears that even in the ‘developed’ world, this paradigm seems to be taking heavy breaths. Voter turnout is dwindling and thus public participation, the engine that drives democracy, seems to be on the ebb.

The biggest reason for this is the loss of leader credibility. In a democracy, these persons are actually the servants of the people, whatever personal hype they may garner by the enticement engendered by the grandiose promises they make during campaign time. The public also are fickle and capricious and their character easily changed, no doubt moulded by the years of materialistic mentality nurtured by the capitalist philosophy created by the industrial revolution. We the public are easily bought by the glittery presents that are promised and we cannot blame ourselves totally also, because one’s mental make-up shaped by years of servitude, takes generations to be re-hardwired. Meanwhile politicians make hay, and take us the public for the ride year after year.

In Maldives, the same thing is happening and while many that I talk to are disillusioned by the fraying or our socially cohesive fabric that has been for so long nurtured by the Grace of Islam, we are however easily enticed by the tinsel offered by our servants to be. Corruption in the form of using public office for personal gains and the draining of our exchequer on outlandish capital projects could be captioned as highway robbery by those in high positions in connivance with cronies in the system. Yet our independent commissions are in no capacity to rise to the occasion of their mandate because they have been hardwired also in the old ways. So, with gigantic salaries and perks financed from public money, they sit ensconced because the hapless and politically illiterate public are not organized enough to bring them to the task of being the ombudsmen they are supposed to be. No wonder that the global corruption index fares Maldives way in the dumps with other global heavy-weights - a sprat among the whales. Why does this have to be in a tiny nation such as ours where happiness should prevail in the cool shade of our God-given resources of a paradise on earth. Intelligent and unselfish visioning of what we want Maldives to be for our children and grandchildren will bring to our minds what kinds of people we need to bring into our home as housekeepers. The vote is the only real and immediate power that we, the people have to bring in good people to tend to our house every five years. 

July 19, 2013

Lighting a candle to dispel the darkness

It is said that to light one candle is better than to sit cursing the total darkness. We in Maldives could in this regard refer to the political darkness we are in where everyone seems to be cursing our common condition of ignorance and no one attempting to find the light that will illuminate this thing we have brought into our midst called democracy. We all seem to want it without actually knowing it. Each one describes it in a different way and yet no one seems to agree with the other. This situation of mental confusion can perhaps be described as our situation of darkness.
In our midst there are so very few who are attempting to light a candle to allay this darkness. Many are perhaps afraid to because someone else might blow it out. Or they have just given up, resigned to be sitting in the dark, considering the situation as irreconcilable.

What's there to do, we sit back and say; Either way we fall into the ditch so to say.

Every path seems to lead somewhere we don’t want to go. There is the path some say to the loss of our identity as Muslims and having to forfeit that foundation we have had all this while. Other paths they say take us back to the shadows of despotism we were in. And others seem to lead us into a dead end where too many cooks can stymie effective operation. Such is the confusion and the impasse we are faced with. Yet no one seems to have the edge to attempt a new path of non-alignment and seek a new identity that is not colored by party rhetoric and behavior. That step only will take us out of this darkness. We cannot continue to curse it; we have to get out of it.

July 9, 2013

Ramzaan Mubaarak!

Dear Rukkuri Visitors and Readers,

Another Ramzaan greets us with hope of sharing and giving and remembering our Maker!. May this month be the beginning of yet another journey into the awareness of our inner selves. During the rest of our eleven months, we focus so much on the world of form that constitute the physical environment we live in. Our bodies, our clothes, our houses and cars and motor cycles and mobile phones. These are the result of creations from people who reflect and learn - and then we use them mindlessly. We too can be such creators of a better environment when we learn to be mindful and reflective through reducing the mental traffic that we are so used to daily -- the desire-filled thoughts of our world of form.

During this month let's focus on our inner-self and pay some attention it truly needs. Not that your soul is crying out for attention but you will learn much valuable stuff from it if you do attend to it, as opposed to the cry-baby-like spoiled child that is your EGO which is always vying for your attention and cannot survive without you giving what it wants. However, let it be, and focus on your true self that is lost in this barrage of noise that the EGO makes. By focusing on your true self, you will become a more caring and loving human being because the discovery of your true self is the discovery that all humanity is ONE.
Salaams galore to you and may Allah Almighty shower his boundless Blessings on you in the days ahead!
Yours in Islam!


July 8, 2013

Logos not photos

Voter education is the most important part of democracy, for an ignorant populace is sure to select sub-optimal leaders. The saying "a nation deserves the leaders we get" is precisely related to this ignorance of the masses on their inability to elect a good leader.

While little is done in our nation to educate our voters, one may say that just the opposite is being done to sink us deeper into ignorance. Giving physical entities and edifices is not something a polity in a democracy should be offered by those seeking the top posts. What should be offered instead should be the inspiration and promise of a safe and plentiful future for everyone. The election notices should be embellished not by the pretty faces of the candidates but by the logos of their parties. 

Perhaps it is sadly the case in our nations of the developing world are parties who don't often have guiding principles and vision worth their salt to gravitate voters to their midst, but rather it is the hope of gaining power, wealth or position that is the pull. In such cases, given that our modern political parties are nothing but propaganda machines complete with their PR systems and TV channels, we the people should strive to  become evermore aware, and attempt ever harder instead to bring up leaders that are truly credible, trustworthy and visionary to the true needs of the polity, and for the betterment of a more harmonious Maldivian future.

July 6, 2013

Imagination is the essence of creativity!

Imagination is more important than the knowledge gained – so alleged the great Albert Einstein. I suppose he should know. Yes, imagination is a product of our nurturing in ways that fire up our curiosity. Just allowing young minds to inquire and explore lays the basis for life's transformational process, and those imbued with this blessing keeps on asking the questions that allow them to be creative life long.

In Maldives this vibrancy of an inquiring mind is sadly lacking, and it is not for no reason. The causes point to notable cultural impediments in our childhood mainly and the nurturing of these over the years into our early adulthood. The culture in our schools, our upbringing in families and the condescending nature of our bosses at our workplace are all hindrances that we accumulate in our personality as we go through our life. 

Firstly at home our parents have nurtured a world view that children should be seen and not heard. This quickly puts to rest the inconvenience of children hanging around us disturbing the flow of our work, whether gardening, picking firewood in the forest, making our homes, cooking and cleaning and the like that is the chore and industry of life. When children are around the work gets disrupted or the children are put into some danger just because we cannot keep all our attention on them. In the process, that child care edict had come to hold. Yes, that maybe appropriate for efficiency of our work process but it nevertheless eliminates the opportunity to instill creativity in our children because we may not have stimulated the inquiring nature of their minds. In our schools too this process repeats where impatient teachers inhibit the kids from asking any questions that might ‘squander away’ teacher time or on the other hand reveal the teacher's state of ignorance -- for our 21st century kids armed with their computers tuned to the many websites at their disposal glean a plethora of information that teachers cannot keep up with. So the easiest way to save face is to keep kids quiet and force them to memorize the lessons given for later regurgitating it at exam time.

Such is the inhibiting nature of our schools to creating inquiring minds. Our bosses too ensconced in their comfortable offices will not brook dissent for the blemish it will have on their hubris. And so, here too we have a future of organizations that are turn of the mill types lacking imagination or creativity. This regressive ambiance can only offer our Maldives decadence rather than development. For building our society of the 21st century we will need creative minds that think out of the box of the past and imagine the lofty vistas of creativity that lies beyond a recycling of the past and the blind engagement with materialist culture. We the public and our leaders must become aware of this God given ability we have to be the transformers of ourselves through the power of our inquiring minds. That is the divine attribute that we sometimes forget we can nurture. And for this, we must give our children a new beginning in our schools and in the loving laps of their parents.