November 24, 2018

Demonstrating wisdom

We bring up our children to be able to take care of themselves by the time we have to leave. This is both existential and moral. We want our children to have the life skills to survive by themselves by the time we go. Every animal does this through natural instinct; birds teach their young to fly, terrestrials teach their offspring to hunt and be safe from predators; all this to survive as a species. Human children too, learn from parents the skills to survive to and in adulthood when protection from the parent will not be available. This is the essence of bringing up a child to adulthood. It’s not merely to nurture their bodies but their minds too to be ready for the psychological and mental struggles of life. However, surviving within a human community is different to surviving in a jungle environment where it is truly the survival of the physically fittest. But in human communities, especially if it can be called civilised, it is through good values and respect for each other, that survival happens. Yet, it is our selfishness that creates the competition that divides the community and tatters it; while caring, respect, and compassion strengthen our bonds and hold us together. An absence of these nurturing values and mores doom us as a society.

In the past our societies were nurtured by the leadership of those wise who have lived and experienced life and which for them had translated into wisdom. These people were selected by their communities. Leading requires wisdom and this cannot be fast-tracked because wisdom is the result of experience, and to accumulate experiences takes time. It can’t be learnt from books and lectures or the internet. We can know a lot and bank ourselves with information, but wise decisions are not the result of information alone but the result of wisdom. But today’s communities have chosen a model of governance in democracy that elects our leaders who are not actually leaders but servants of the people; we may call them servant-leaders. 

In this environment of freedom, there is an aphorism that says "the slave is a free man as long as he is content, and a free man is a slave as long as he is covetous". The servant and the leader are thus strange bedfellows as human archetypes, one of which will surely vie for supremacy when the seat is taken. One exhorts to honesty and a trust to the needs of the public and to be content, and the other tells us to aggrandise our ego and “collect water while it rains” in the model of being covetous. Given the nature and quality of those who stand up to be elected, it is more often than not, the ego that wins. As everyone knows, the servant archetype is very visible during the political campaign process, but soon the leader archetype takes over and the elected one transforms to that of the insulated and inaccessible leader. This metamorphosis works against the will of the people even though these officials were elected by the will of the people. Where has the servant gone they may ask in surprise; yes, they will surely surface again at the time of the next campaign. So, electing the right people to be our true servants who will not morph becomes of utmost necessity for on this depends the results of the next five years. Until we realise this truth we will always be led.

How ironical is this situation of the leaders being led! Yet we accept this time after time. That is not surprising because as a public we have not done our homework on the tenets of democracy or the acceptability of these models of democracy which we have imported and are using to elect our “servant leaders”. In our case too, perhaps there are other ways that would fit the Maldives better just as many other countries have tweaked the democratic process to fit their national values and cultural sensibilities.

National development depends on these elected people to improve the lives of our youth who will hold the future reigns of our society. But humans too, learn from our role models. When our national servant-leaders neither show the right behaviour nor sanction such behaviour, our youth will also learn that not so right behaviour and these will become the norm yet again when they come to hold the reigns. How sad it is that we can just let this happen! There are other ways to get selfish gain than being in these national driving seats. Why not register a business and work hard for the wealth one desires. That would be fair.

We must ask if our nation is going the right way to nurture in our youth to the spirit for being the good citizens of tomorrow; those ready to be independent and responsible in their thinking. Do such policies adorn the hallowed corridors of our schools (where is Dhuroosul Akhlaaq)? Do our homes nurture the values of community and moral rectitude (where is the time to eat together and chat together)? Only in these fertile soil of society can the human tree grow to be what it was destined to be. The human child will only be as skilled as the parents are in leading the moral life; or as nurturing as our teachers can be.  Immorality is the path Shaitan shows us for that is his sole purpose; he is always ready to lead us astray and the path he lays out for us is full of glitter. Are our youth and the parents of our youth closer to this glittery path of hedonism or that straight one that our Creator has laid out for us? 

The test of our society as one that has truly progressed in the path of humanity is the innate willingness to be caring and sharing and responsible. These are the action results of committed and wise and responsible servant leaders. These results don’t come from giving handouts to the voters; good results come from “teaching our people to fish; not in giving them a fish everyday”. This is not a mere cliche of life but a moral truth. Let’s not destroy our initiative by senseless charity with public money. Don’t let the public be fooled time after time. Let’s teach a new generation that goodness lies in honesty and sincerity and patience. Perhaps these values prove contrary to the tenets of productivity in politics. But without public officials demonstrating moral examples, the future can be something too far from what most of us pray for. Please do not use public money to garnish the position of the throne; such rallying support must come from the servant-leader’s strength of moral rectitude evidenced by ethical actions that follow from the moment one sits on the throne.

The moral decadence of our nation is not merely the result of an unsuitable democratic model we have chosen for our nation, but more so because of our public’s ignorance of this strange animal called democracy, a lack of a moral focus in our national development model, and the mendacious nature or incompetency of elected servant-leaders.

November 14, 2018

We need a new mindset

Albert Einstein is known to have famously said that  problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them. The truth in this is not hard to see. Problems are created when the homeostasis of life is disrupted. And it requires a mind to conjure up the event that made it happen. If that momentary imbalance becomes sustained over time then we have a problem. This happens in our lives all the time as we attempt to change a given situation we have to our advantage. Sometimes this is for personal gain and sometimes for a larger mandate. Most times these are attempts for personal gain for this is the primeval human desire

In politics too this is so evident everywhere and why not so even in our Maldives. After all we too have arrived to follow the global bandwagon, haven't we?  It seems that to gain personal political advantage we have to offer something radical to what the other regime may have been doing when in fact it's not what we promise to do but what we stand for that is the more important. However, what we stand for is often not explained because it is not easy to conceive, describe and market a whole attitude. What is much more easier is to pander to the emotions of a constituency by giving them what they seem to urgently want. And this comes in the form of material things that people can touch and feel and perceive with their five senses. Money, in whatever form, is the easiest and this is what is promised or doled out fastest and so most frequently; tax cuts, business opportunities, permits, contracts, loans, lucrative jobs, etc. Then comes the next level at the community or island level; harbours, roads, sewerage, running water, flats etc. Now, in all these cases we must realise that the sustainability factor for the receiver for a contented life thereon is very low. At best it's just a breather to settle a temporary glitch in the voter’s life. Yes, we soon run out of that money, businesses fail, loans drag us into debt,  and flats, before long when the initial excitement of ownership wanes, leave us sad and alone and with the absence of a real community. These results leave us worse off and more helpless than ever before. And what of the community level stuff? These need constant care, and when, over time, these also degrade and breakdown and nobody comes to do the repairs, we complain and blame those who gave these to us for their cheap quality or the deceit and corruption that was mixed with such shady transactions. 

But then we quickly forget these past failings perhaps because most of us don't see the picture of our nation in the context of what damage it has done to our lives, and we ask for more from those who stand for election the next time. The public is kept in this flux,  regime after regime; fooled every time. Sad to say we the public never realise it because our egos show us the way to doubt and blame; it tells us it's not our foolishness but the craftiness of those shady politicians and that we are entitled also to have some of the benefits upfront of what they will take later when they win and are in control of the national coffer. In one breath we are right because politicians are always crafty and many a time downright unscrupulous. But in another breath it would be wise to realise that we are also very gullible or our ego makes us so. We are short sighted and either way, we are to blame.

When the constitution says power comes from the people we don't really believe it with our heart. These words are just perfect for wily politicians and crafty lawyers but such a deep concept doesn't seem to ring a bell in our very politically naive public mind. Naturally, because Maldives have for centuries been a kingdom, our leaders have always had a distaste for the public’s involvement in national governance. Even in our post independence period since the late 60s the enlightening civics classes in our schools that lingered for a few years were soon removed from the curriculum and our enthusiasm for the political dimension squelched. Any university education in this major of political science was also visibly discouraged. More encouraged were the neutral preparations of doctors and nurses engineers and accountants. All a harmless bunch who will not be any threat to the ruling elite.

Let's ask. Why don’t the politicians have any other long term moral and unselfish agenda? Why do they get into politics in the first place? Why do they abase themselves to go to their constituencies to beg for the vote and promise to do whatever the public demands when they get elected? Often most of those who stand have no social record of good they have done for society in their past. Are we hoodwinked every time they make promises? How stupid can we be! I have had friends who have told me they were going into politics because that is the most lucrative. Many may not voice this but do we truly believe that they run so hard and sweaty just get to the top and do good for us with love and compassion in their hearts? Let's not be fooled. They don't want to change the system that gives them the advantage. They do want the checks and balances system of a democratic process in place, but they don't want to close the loopholes from where they can creep through to be “legitimately” corruptive. They hide behind the rules and say it's according to the law when in fact the party gangs together with other like minded bipartisan supporters to pass lucrative laws that will benefit the party clan. And they go their merry corruptive ways with impunity.

Let’s wake up and make our country moral again. Only in morality lies truthfulness and sustainability of humaneness. Tell me I'm a starry-eyed idealist. But without some idealism there is not going to be any human progress? To be a nation that has some identity (not for ego boost but for moral boost) and celebrate our diversity in a global village. We don't want every city of ours to be an americom (Tom Friedman’s short for American Community) and have the whole world in a straight-jacket following the capitalist model of development. Don’t each nation have a celebrated diversity? While we can strive for the commonality of moral rectitude, we can be at the same time as diverse in our local ways as our God-given colours or shapes and sizes are diverse. Why do we have to conform and subordinate our ways to the ways of development or modernisation as someone else defined? Do we blindly espouse the moral degradation also that is a part of this model and that which we are witnessing before our very eyes? Or do we choose to celebrate our difference? Are we ashamed of our religious and social culture? What makes another's way more superior? Is money the factor that makes us better or an inner dimension of goodness and humbleness that makes us more reverent? Isn't it this reverence that elevates us to the grade of human beings we are supposed to be?

Sadly our present politics debase us into voiceless objects. We say we have a democratic constitution and democratic means to govern with our consent; the consent of the people, when in fact we are prisoners of our own conscience; that conscience that still dictates where we are -  to be subordinate to our leaders when in fact we should treat our leaders as first among equals with us. That can only happen when we can truly begin to respect each other. It is when we don't have the urge as leaders to feel condescending, hide their bodies away from the public in darkened vehicles, darken the windows to their souls behind expensive sunglasses and angry rhetoric and feel too haughty to walk unashamed on wobbly or flooded streets like the poor do; learning nothing from the serene example from our beloved Prophet who did walk the streets and public markets in humbleness. Whose examples do we as Muslims follow?

Yes we need different mindsets to change our nation. Youth of our nation. Please learn new ways to lead and please don't follow the ways of the politicians we have had in the past and even now who attempt to usurp the reigns of power and leave us stalled for for these recurring spates of 5 years when hopes are raised with the ballot and then shattered soon after.

I would implore the new President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who is a marked difference to those who have warmed that seat in the past, to usher in a new age of democracy where the public is kept in confidence not through doling out presents but giving them the tools with which to be the movers and shakers of a new era rather than merely be the recipients of doled out largesse. Teach us how to fish rather than give us a fish every day. Make each citizen enthusiastic for the vibrant future we so want for our children. Give us a new set of morally endowed governors that will have the interest of the public in mind rather than their own. Don't just crowd your cabinet with those who merely seek a recompense for the electoral labor they put in, but those with proven technical and managerial and the wisdom that deserve those seats. This new Maldives don’t merely want the glass and concrete development; it wants you to invest more in the growth and proliferation of the moral and wise citizen (as opposed to the wiley and the corrupt). It wants a focus on more relevant education that will nurture creative minds who will build a more rational and caring future; not just bodies to pass the GCE exam. It wants health care that is truly healthful, not just shiny and expensive edifices where we are crowded into when we are sick and given half a dozen lab tests and scores of tablets and capsules to swallow, but don't care about showing us how to live healthy and be preventive in our social and mental attitude and lifestyle. We want a spiritual environment where we can invest in our inner moral values of islam; not the hypocrisy and heedlessness that degrade our soul This is the change that we need.

Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past. Be aware that this election was a great Blessing from above! Let's never forget the fear our nation was going through as regards our future even up to the very day of the election this September and the continued uncertainty and fear of the possibility of a verdict of negation and a calling for another to follow. Please don't let the Great Deceiver Satan have the day. Let Allah be our guide. Not in lip service but in deed, with the inspiration for it coming from our hearts.  

Please keep the Etihad alive and don't allow that Great Whisperer Shaitan to influence cracks and divisions amongst the four leaders. Realise that Shaitan is an enemy of unimaginable power that can put any sentient human despot to nothing. We have this power still to fight against and win through our inner sacrifices. This is the test for us with you in the lead to pass in these next five years and demonstrate the proof of your loyalty to the trust we the people of Maldives have given you in this historic election. This is a great responsibility for you. Difficult as the winning may have been, the governing surely will be many times more difficult. Your banding together in a coalition and working cohesively and being supported by party enthusiasts may have been the auspicious preparations for winning, but realise also in the very next breath that the act of winning was possible only because Allah Willed. Alhamdulillah! Are we so cocky that it will always happen? No we shouldn't! Let’s appreciate and be grateful for this blessing. Lets not weep later in regret.

So our loyalty to keep this trust becomes ever more absolute. Not just for us public’s sake alone but for a much higher cause. Let it not count as a betrayal to our Lord, our Creator. Let the glitter of power of position NOT carry you to delusion. InshaAllah there is a new intelligent youth rising and they may not think like you. Let the Millennials score a good report card for you as a turning point for a new and moral Maldive Islands.

November 2, 2018

Welcome back Ithihad!

Streets filled to the brim with supporters who have to come to greet, tells of a man who is popular. And that is just what we see on the streets of Male on this momentous day in our lives, the 1st of November 2018 as Anni sets foot in Male after months in voluntary exile.

We say welcome and hold in dearness when good things happen or when we feel hope bubbling in our blood. It is warming to see a nation flocking to the sight of a leader. Come as it may, opinions may differ, but when such a swarm of human beings congregate in such mind boggling numbers for our small nation, there needs to be acceptance of the truth of the public’s pulse. Arguably, we have not witnessed even in the most vociferous street demonstrations in our nation, this kind of a turnout. So, it must mean something that is primeval; something that comes from the deep emotions of our being; something true and sincere.

To be dumped behind bars in isolation from those one loves for only fabricated reasons is deceit and treachery of the highest order. The fact that no leader in a democratic nation should govern with such impunity attest to reality of our little corner of paradise falling from grace in the comity of nations. We rejoice in your release and celebrate your sacrifice.

Anni and his MDP has no doubt been the energy that has spearheaded the Ithihad movement at the international level, and which has been the key factor in bringing the shameful and wicked regime of the past five years in our country to its knees. For this we must be celebrating the fruit of the Ithihad and no doubt the key role Nasheed played. To say he deserves the accolade is an understatement.  Whatever party sensibility we belong to, we must share in the political opening we have to bring a new nation into being; a nation where we celebrate our local-ness and our moral calling once again. 

Let’s take pride that we still have that faith to rally around a new type of leader and a new idea that should take the lead in a reform movement that must truly spell reform. Something that is acceptable and sustainable. Something that will take us out of the depth of a corruptive and divisive national mindset into one of moral calling for a nation that is decent and whole.

Welcome back Anni to a rapturous applause. Welcome back President Maumoon, Gasim, Imran, and inshaaAllah those others also still waiting their turn soon.  Under the leadership of President Ibrahim Solih, may we have a new era that will reveal a true Maldivian identity; one arising out of what has been perilously deteriorating before our very eyes.