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.

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