“Please stop”, I screamed as I came to a halt half way down the curb-crossing that would lead me to the next spate of the pavement that lines Boduthakurufaanu magu with its many breaks at each block of the atoll fihaara zone in Maafannu. In defense of my safety, I put my hand down on the handlebar of the now halted motor cycle that came zipping towards me to make the turn into the lane even as I was half way along this crossing. Of course, given my grey hair and being a generation or more older than the bike rider, I expected him to momentarily halt and give me the way to cover the next four feet or so of the distance left for me to step on to the next spate of the pavement and then ride away in the space behind me. But to my surprise, the rider who was perhaps approaching middle age, glared at me with knotted eyebrows, pursed his lips in anger or defiance and slid through the narrow space in front of me demonstrating to me vividly that HE had the right of way, not me. For the next moment I stood there quite perplexed for all the road sense that I have got through my many years of driving was that the pedestrian be given preference especially when the person is more than half way down along the crossing and the vehicle turning arriving later.
This case is one of many instances where the chaotic conditions of Male streets have become a hazard to both pedestrians and drivers. The issue here is not just one of driver intolerance but a lack of law enforcement. It is much too difficult and time consuming – often generational – to rectify dwindling social values of a society. Especially more cumbersome it is when the complement of that society is changing constantly as is happening the fast urbanizing Male. We are no more a homogenous Maldivian society living in the comfort of familiar surroundings but one subject to the daily influx of change. People, traffic, terrain, all subject to changes that we need getting adjusted to. But the social dimension of inter-personal space and how we protect and value this is not something enforceable through edict. It has to be a constant prodding towards incremental improvements by the inputs from family, schools and community leaders – political, religious and business. We all want a society that is caring and sharing. Perhaps we have forgotten-- in this get-rich-quick-by-any-means global culture -- that every good thing is got with some toil, some hardship, some endurance of a temporary burden. And this ultimate prize of a life context where we can bring up our children as such to be caring citizens of the future depends on the degree of effort we put in. As the law of thermodynamics says: everything goes to entropy. Chaos thus is the least energy state and so being uncaring than caring, throwing trash anywhere we want than disposing it in a bin kept for that purpose, burning mixed garbage, than separating and composting, or being selfish rather than being kind and helpful are such social examples of things going to entropy.
But that is exactly why we have governments and social structures to help us put that positive energy by ways of resources and resourcefulness to curb such degrading behavior so that we don’t regress to ways that are unbefitting to civilized behavior. What does development mean ultimately? This is a very basic question we all must ask ourselves as we seek a caring and cohesive social future. Will big buildings and other imposing physical edifices make us developed? This materialistic paradigm has shown that civilizations fall as the edifices of these outside forms loom to the sky because the edifices of our soul congruently fall to the lowest of depths. Yes, ultimately, what gets us to Jannah is our good deed we impart to our fellow brothers and sisters and to Allah’s creation as a whole, not through the numbers of or heights of the towers we build. Our society can be a sustainably happy entity only when we nurture the future generation with love and compassion and some hardship that goes to build character. When parents and teachers and community leaders show the strength of their morality in the practice of good leadership to make these ends happen.