August 11, 2015

Going to entropy is natural

“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.

August 8, 2015

Two great words that melt the heart

A community is judged for its compassion by the value it gives to inter-personal respect. And no two words or phrases signify this better than "please" and "thank you". Both indicate a valuing by us of the other human being as someone who deserves our respect. When this is not voiced it shows a lack of consideration to the other person.

Sadly again I have to bring up this lack in the burgeoning societies in the world, and that includes our beloved Maldives too. Alas, this paradise is sadly devoid of this display of mutual self-respect. Many a time when I walk into a shop and pay for the goods I purchase, the young person at the check-out counter almost never reciprocates appreciation. A smile or a “thank you” seem distant thoughts as they direct the attention at the next customer even as the change is dropped into the customer’s hand. There is not a thank you in lieu or even a smile. This visit leaves me with feeling that by my visit was just a favour I had done to them rather than they being grateful for my patronage. That word grateful may seem a bit harsh to several readers in the new-age think, for why should they be grateful for what we buy? After all it was an exchange and benefit to both sides; the customer paid for it and the shop dispensed it. It was a fair deal, says their ego. The soul within, meanwhile, doesn't want to battle with his body because it wants peace at whatever cost, and lets the internal argument rest. In the final scheme of things in this Dhunya, the ego wins most of the time because the ego’s prodding and enticement to be as disruptive to the soul is its mandate and so this factor is plugged into the covert test we are all subject to in this world of form.

But all who have dealt with these golden words or phrases know the advantage we have to move closer to the person we interact with. Here our soul wins. But for these to be articulated with finesse and abandon, one needs to remove much of the pride we harbor in our hearts and let in humility as our driving force. Yes, these words are precious and yet we keep them out of our daily lexicon depriving ourselves of the compound benefits of spiritual elevation we receive here and now, and for so much more in the Hereafter.

It's not only at the curb-side shops and department stores, but at airlines offices, government front office counters, doctor’s clinics and hospitals. This spectacle is played out daily, continuously.
Perhaps we have gone too long a stint without much priority to value-education rather than information-banking in our schools and parents too, in their eagerness to make the most of this world, struggle and not too infrequently by immoral means, to amass the wealth we can't use; unaware of the observant presence of our kids who imbibe every bit of this immorality that will stud their life character too. This, even when we know that at long last we can't have any more than just the footprint of our final slumber in a few cubic feet of ground.

A ubiquity of "Please" and "Thank-you" in our society in our daily life interactions with everyone we meet, can begin a revival of lost values. With the mutual self-respect these beget, we can do wonders to society to bring to bind the common culture that is the essence of our homogeneity, or as others may want to call it, unity in our diversity. Used frequently at home, in schools, at the playground and at the workplace, these two words will etch in the formative minds of our children and youth, the truth of our oneness and bring forth the compassion and the trust that will make society prosperous yet humble.