March 27, 2014

Connecting with sincerity is the basis of morality

Connecting is the basis of prayer. Actually the word solath means connecting. We connect with Allah when we pray. We as human being are in constant need to connect. In fact, we can quite easily go crazy if we are left without connection to other human beings. That is perhaps why solitary confinement and imprisonment is so wounding because it takes us away from connection with either others or the outside world.

Human beings in our progress through life attempt to make this act of connecting ever easier. In the days of old connection was difficult beyond the tribe and so the connection with the community or tribe was basic and provided for us our security. We looked at another tribe with caution because we did not have any connection with them. Connection gives us a sense of calm and security, and connection gives us the intimacy too. That is why we befriend those with whom we can connect and we shun those with whom we cannot connect. For example someone who is overly critical is seen as difficult to connect and so most of us would shun that person. Even those who are critically minded don't really like those who would criticize them. We feel that sense of security with those with whom we can connect without the attendant anxiety of being criticized or put down.

Our Islam provides that opportunity to connect at least five times a day through the medium of our five daily prayers. It therefore is not strange that Islam, in the wisdom it embodies, expounds such a prescient concept that is so basic to our being. It is strange though that while we love to connect with others like us and know that this connection gives us a sense of flow, calm and security, we don't seem to attempt in any urgency to connect with God, when this inbuilt opportunity is there available and advocated in so many echoes in Islam. 

Connection is the true basis of keeping our real self or the "piece of God" that we have within us thriving rather than allowing our false self - the ego- deceive us. And indeed the ego does its job so assiduously by dividing us, not connecting us. We can all clearly see what is happening – that the sad emergence of this negative division in our societies – Maldives too being a case in point -- is the doings of the ego that is our false self.

Our true self wants us to connect, but the false self wants to divide us for it to show us that self-important side of us that tempts us to go astray. It is thus not surprising that any social condition that separate us makes us increasingly arrogant; it comes from the urging of the ego. Behaviors that make us feel better than the other person are examples of such urging. The latest in everything is what the ego wants for in that lies seed of arrogance within us and envy of others from outside of us. In fact all our attempts to jump onto the bandwagon of the material world’s capitalist model are the ways we are deceived into this path - the draw of the glitter of the world; into the thinking that this is the way to go, and so it is no mystery then that self-importance makes us feel good in the short run. Yes, that sense of our superiority can only be temporary - as long as our materialistic acquisitions last or our position of power in society lasts. This flimsy tether can be easily severed by a simple twist of nature and then we are, in no time at all, back to our position of insecurity.

We can indeed say no to our ego if we want; it can be very easy or as tough as hell. Our mind can make that decision and it will when we can be convinced that the ego is playing with us. Let's truly attempt to connect in sincerity! Don’t be deceived by monetarity, instead espouse morality. Just as our wonderful religion of Islam implores us! That is our way to our national salvage and so even to global safety.

March 18, 2014

Like minds connect

Harmony in whatever form is about coming together. This means that there is something about similarity that draws people and things together. Furthermore, in nature this is starkly evident and follows the instincts that it has vested in living things. ‘Birds of feather flock together’ is a powerful metaphor that alludes to this. 

Animals certainly adhere to this edict and even the vegetable world including forests, seem to sprout this similarity. Perhaps this has environmental and other innate factors associated with this flocking together including the perpetuation of the species. However, there is a curious difference in the case of human beings that we can observe in the consideration of similarities that bring people together. Perhaps there is nature working here too from the biological aspect for there is some relationship of how our skin colors and our cultures pit us together into groups occupying different terrain. But the similarities stop there as far as this hard-wiring of nature is concerned. When we think of who flocks together there is a clear preponderance of us being attracted to like mindedness, rather than the similarity of our physical appearances. 

Even though we may be of different colors, it is the creed or the mind-sets that bring us closer or separate us. It is the inside of us that is the critical vantage here; not our outside, defined by the wealth we own, which only does a show of homogeneity rather than portray the real confluence expected in harmony. We see the clubs and communities showing a convergence based on wealth and status. But in this uncomfortable harmony lies also the seeds of discontentment, competition and jealousy. This flimsy bond is soon broken when the time or the price is right. There is never a sure harmony that the materialist side of our lives brings.

The solution has to be to make minds connect at another level that doesn't consider wealth as a defining line, but moral confluence and spirituality as the common element that allows us to see ourselves in each other. When that happens, there will be permanent peace and harmony for us in this little corner of the world, and also for a whole world if we can so engineer our social systems in this way. 

In Maldives too, not unexpectedly, it is the like-mindedness that flock our "parties" together. However my take is that the genesis of these attractions are unfortunately based on the commonality of their selfish interests rather than those that profess the interest of the community. Podium talk merely panders to the selfish emotions of the polity and not to their moral integrity. And not inconsequentially either, the reality that unfolds on the ground when such proponents have the power of the ship's steering wheel is equally incongruous. It is perhaps high time for us polity to realize that the strength of our economy -- a proxy for selfishness -- surely is not the answer for a safe and harmonious future, but the moral strength of our community is.

March 12, 2014

Campaign photos – Image or substance?

Male streets are awash with the smiling faces of aspiring politicians who are running for our Majlis elections – those ranging from sheepish smiles to confident and overconfident ones; and those few with facial lines that tell of years of experience and many of those who are no more than children just out of school. But in the flashing of color photos or the lost faces on banners that seem to be the hallmark of their campaign setups, in a small square mile such as ours there seems to be such a crowding of these in numbers and colors that attempt chiefly to highlight image more than content; not to negate however the presence of catchy or pithy phrases that can keep the onlooker guessing.  Being and academically qualified youth; asking us to elect so and so this time; the promise of patience or that of orchestrating the separation of powers, or to keep harmony in the midst of diverse view are all beckoning us from banners between the trees on our streets.   

It appears that those who are running are merely attempting to pander to the shallow emotions of our polity and not to any deeper aspirations for nation-building. Looking cool or presidential in photos seems to show a superciliousness that really should not be the draw of the public. It should be humility that brings those running from their high perch to the ground level where the ordinary people inhabit. We want leaders who walk the streets just like us or who are seen to be those who inspire confidence from what they have given to society in the past rather than taken from it. Those that meet and smile and talk to us on the pavements rather than from convention daises or TV platforms. That is indeed the hallmark of the good candidate.

To be fair to us citizens, age and experience also is a factor that separates the caring from the avaricious. Most faces on the walls and the banners seem too cool to seem responsible. The photo-shop touched faces may have cleaned up some of the lines of experience from the faces perhaps, but that just seems to make them more like children than serious adults, and don’t seem cut-out to be the experienced faces of the bodies that we elect to make the laws that would govern the functioning of our nation of the future. In this present context and time of our budding democracy more clarity is needed from those aspirants. Do these running really want to serve the nation, or themselves? Would they flock in such a throng to the available seats in the Majlis if the pay and package was only ceremonial and thus befitting the service mandate we give to those who we select to manage our house for five years. I tend to believe that this task should actually be a labour of love from a national sense and not an act to merely sequester a secure financial future for oneself and family.  And for a young person with a service-to-society mandate and mercifully a long life to live InshaaAllah, this is a lot of money from the nation’s coffer – money from the public’s pocket to look after him or her for the rest of life.

Then there is the issue of dismantling these pin-ups when the election is done. It then becomes junk that litter the streets or mar the city landscape. This is evident from the remnants of the presidential elections that still remain as such persisting tatters or wall-effacing graffiti. Likewise, the wall colours of party affiliation splashed on adherents' walls still seem to linger on even though many who define parties have crossed the party floors in search of lucrative opportunities that increasingly signal to us the folly of our parties which doesn't seem to breed anything useful in our society; but sadly, only resentment among families and friends.

Beyond this pasting of images on the walls, I wonder if a statue would not be more permanent and perhaps more decorative than these tattered remnants on walls that must be a nightmare to the municipal authorities too. But then this is where we notice the crossing of the line that defines secularism and our religion and we can't by law contradict the edicts of Islam as our written law being subordinate to it. But soon our fetish with our image on paper and the speed with which such conduct is being accepted as a way of political life may in time cross that barrier of even acceding to erecting statues as nothing to be that much concerned about.

Perhaps we need to reflect on these a bit deeper to fathom their consequences in our future. Getting carried away by our ego's calling may lead us to a place too difficult to get out of in the first place - and even worse, those who lead us there may also not like what they would see in that future they so desired if they did arrive there. Our wishful desires of today may be ones we may want to truly shun when a few years in our lives have passed and sanity has dawned on us in the process we call growing-up.  

March 6, 2014

Atoll development -- nurturing good investment

Any development is about investing effort and energy into things we do to make an improvement. In the case of personal development it is about the focus we give to improving the aspects of character in ourselves that make us better people given the objective we have in mind  -- whether it’s a skill for earning a better living or imbuing ourselves with the goodness of moral values that make us better human beings. By acquiring those skills or character we invite others to have confidence in us and draw them to us as friends, spouses, business partners, employees, even team-members in sports.

We can extrapolate this even to our national development or local atoll development in Maldives. Yes, an atoll is not a person but it’s a confluence of persons or in this case personalities. When the people of an atoll become the aggregation of such goodness, the way others look at them is transformed from a state of social invisibility to a condition of visibility. Our attention is drawn to things that we like or we see the potential for gains that will make us be a part of it. This has great relevance in the case of investments that will boost the economy or the social well-being of an atoll. This being so, the atoll leadership has a lot to do to invite this visibility. To the degree that the atoll council members can become such good human beings with the leadership that will draw others to invest with confidence or decide to relocate to live there will be the hallmark of the leading atolls of the future.

Our policy on decentralization should be used to good advantage to share the benefits with the people of the atolls. However, this will require the polity of the atoll to be aware of such windfalls that could be theirs by electing leaders that will make the cut and show progress; not dynastic incompetents who will only warm the seat for another five years until the tamasha begins again. It is a huge leap of awareness that we all need to have, and each of us must make the effort to understand our role in this our newly found democracy. And it is for us to realize that people's power – as the essence of democracy - is truly possible only on that fateful day of elections. Our decision that day will keep us in joy or tears for the next half decade. Let's make our choice count and not be led up the garden path over and over again.  

Perhaps we adults smile each such day for the momentary ego boost we get from the presents we receive in exchange for our vote, but our children would certainly cry when they discover what we left behind for them.

March 2, 2014

Can we look a bit further?

A couple of days ago on my morning walk I saw glistening things in the water in Male harbor along the stretch from the coast guard building all the way to the boats moored across HSBC.  The sun had not risen as yet, but the early glow of it reflected off these to seem like jewels in the water. Upon closer look however, I found that these were empty pet bottles and energy drink cans and cigarette carton wrappers all bobbing up and down with the billows of inward sweeping waves or on the wake of boats. I was not surprised, for this I noted was not uncommon in Male in the present time. Just as the streets were being littered carelessly by pedestrians, our pristine sea is also the dump yard for some thoughtless beings that inhabit our emerald islands. Even with the trash bins out as the new venture of the City Council (it is high time – dear public officials!), the good habit of aiming the trash to the bin seems a bit far-fetched still; we still seem too tired -- even after the energy drink – to make that trek to the nearest bin for disposal. Most trash still seems to linger around the bin or across from it when these should be inside. But that will take some time, I say to myself, as I continue my walk with a bit of lament for the past neutralizing some of the tonic of the crisp breeze that is never in short supply on these ethereal Maldivian mornings.  

In actuality, what we do in life is not for ourselves but for our future generations. At the Youth Ministry sponsored Kissaru at the Social Education Center a week or so ago, I was pleasantly surprised by how many young people expressed the desire and hope for a peaceful and harmonious Maldives where we all lived in a context of sharing. These were young people and I thought of how we adults are suppressing these sweet and hopeful dreams. If we reflect on what is happening in Maldives we see that our anger and envy is being projected by us adults who have instilled in ourselves over these years of growing up, a sense of competition and wanting to be one-up on our neighbor, and with the examples of the social menu we observe on our media for expansive dissemination of our negative anxieties, we perpetuate this ill feeling to these young people who have only sweet hopes for tomorrow.

What may I ask is the role of us adults if not to create a more able and positive society of tomorrow. Not one that will take years back again from the place we have had on the moral scale. We may think that our wealth is the indicator of development. I will say that this is following a lead that someone else has set for us. In this East of ours, we have had the moral compass as the indicator of human progress. We cannot be throwing these away to espouse alien concepts just because it is seen to be the path to development. We adults need to keep the dreams of youth moving in the right direction and only then can our Maldivian society survive the turbulent sea of discontentment that will be our future.