January 21, 2015

Dream merchants

Given the happenings of the past few months, I cry for the state of our nation! Being an islander myself (not a Male born) I feel the grief of many who seem shunted out of this process called democracy and its fancy underpinnings we have inherited from those who created this process far away from our shores, and yet seem to have espoused even before we could even articulate the word  “democracy” as it should.

Sadly, given our level of understanding, for the island voter who has not been involved in the nefarious world of politics, the direction of his vote will be to the one who will not jeopardize his state of presently enjoyed status of life. For him it is the availability of his daily food rations, the sale of his fish for a good rate and the availability of fuel for his fishing dhoani. Perhaps now it is also the access to schooling for his kids and the hospital for getting treated for his health ailments; now we can also throw in the mobile phone and the flat TV.

Beyond this, the murky world of politics that engages with the exchange of lucrative deals in expensive mega contracts, corruption in the dispensation of jobs and promotions and attendant financial and related benefits and how lofty political positions are used to maintain power and authority lie the serene world of the other islands. Social nattering on these deals in the past were no more than hushed conversation pieces to pep up an otherwise balmy existence. Even now in the new bustling era of democracy, hyped up rhetoric and social unrest has not made the issues any more owned by us in the islands. Still these seem of no immediate concern to them because they are firstly unaware of this nefarious world and also disengaged from the understanding of the consequences of such actions and behaviours that for them lies far away from their everyday lives. They (most of them) are still too innocent to fathom the depth of such intricacies. In this absence of awareness, the political game is being played and winners and losers decided based on base compromises and arm twists. The island voter is given what he wants to fuel his everyday needs without exhorting one bit to his need to nurture the compassionate society of tomorrow that his children and grandchildren will have to inhabit. 

So how can the ordinary man on the island’s joalifathi be the steward of this profound concept called democracy? Given that there is no overt public education on democracy in Maldives, our beloved country either before or after the 2008 democratic transition says a lot about the effete nature of our system and the independent commissions that are mandated for this job. Neither are the Parties doing any responsible role in doing this but rather squabbling in the politics of this game with only occasional morsels thrown out to pacify the crying needs around, or the peddling of dreams that the polity seems to swallow in their political innocence. How long do we want to keep the polity in this ignorance and expect this moral decadence that our society is slipping into to be stalled? All well-meaning citizens of Maldives must take up the challenge; democracy will be made or broken only us – We the People.

January 2, 2015

New Year Resolution

Happy New Year to everyone!

Another new year and more resolutions to be made to make our world a better place! The global geo-political turmoil and the skirmishes of the smaller kinds in our own nations keep us guessing as to what positive omens this new-year will portend. We all want peace and harmony even as we tussle with the negative elements that seem to get the better of us most times.  

A couple of days ago I was invited to a radio talk show in Maldives on “the role of the individual in bringing harmony to a nation”. As I have repeatedly shared thoughts on this topic in various ways through “Rukkuri’ blog, I was more than delighted to share these thoughts on national radio too. As usual, the time available to such programs is always too short to probe the true depth of the minefield of such issues that plague our nation. Yes, disharmony can well be the AKA for our country at this juncture, and thus we need this discussion. To my friend and I in this exchange representing the “Panel for National Harmony”, this topic begins and ends with the individual citizen and about our disposition to always blame the other person for our ill fate. It seems that we never look at ourselves as the perpetrator of our ills. Many who don’t want to look deep into the genesis of human discontentment may not want to accept this at first, but our hope was that when each one of us takes the time to truly analyse the source of our resentment that fuels our divided society, the solution would become clear. I perceived this sense of general resentment from the comments of those that called in while the program was going on. This was a dial-in show and there were two or three callers who did not have questions but comments that seem to lay blame than point to queries or clarifications on what we were discussing. I presume that there are many who may have had genuine questions, but those who have the courage to call and ask are few and those that did yesterday all seemed to have some frustration with the way our public condition is governed. The irritable issue for them was about insensitive public leaders who don’t care about the public’s interests. It was the concern about our Male streets thronged with guest labourers who have no regard for our age-old local Maldivian culture of cleanliness and respectfulness, the streets and sidewalks that were being increasingly spitted on, littered and derelict. Who is to blame but the public officials and those who we have to uphold law and order – those in uniform and those meting out justice in their grand edifices?

Yes, all these are the more proximate determinants of the social decay we see amid our burgeoning materialism -- plush vehicles on our uneven road surfaces, fast motorcyclists that care little about pedestrian safety, and multi-storeyed buildings that crowd every bit of open space in Male. But the real issue we both noted was the irresponsibility we seem to have acquired within ourselves and now don’t see or don’t want to see that society is built on our collective views complementing that of each one of us individuals. We elect our leaders with our own free will in democracy, we crowd this little square mile of space with these over-sized vehicles, litter the streets with impunity, and fill our workplaces with guest labor because our young people have not been nurtured into appreciating the dignity of labor. 

Two generations of the budding nuclear family have destroyed the character-nurturing context and space of the extended family that has shut the child from the supportive presence of grandparents, schools given way to teaching children only to bank information and pass exams, parents who felt that English education was enough to land a child into successful adulthood without any value education, politicians showing that the model of temporary flattery and availability during election time is adequate to convince voters to get the numbers to win, and do as they please from then on, and employers who don’t care about hiring locally with the excuse that Maldivians are too capricious to their liking; no wonder our wobbly sidewalks, any railinged curb-sites, or park benches at any given time of the day or night are all occupied by the bodies and footsteps of the guest workers. 

Soon they will outnumber us. In one way it is a harbinger of a subservient future we may have to face as a nation that is reminiscent of the parable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Are we to slumber in national self-importance and arrogance until another people take us over? That seems to be what our good book also says – paraphrased: until we attempt to change our plight, God doesn’t do it for us. We can change only when we become aware that the power to change is within us and not with those we point fingers at. Let's begin the struggle to change ourselves!