Today we reviewed the topic of last Friday on globalization’s effect on a changing Maldivian society. Abdul Sattar began with a short review of last week’s session and then Zakariyya continued with some links with stories from Islamic past. Umar alKhaththaab was known to have cried for what might become of the Prophet’s Ummah in the face of the massive changes that will come in the trail of materialism that will dominate in the future.

This is the basis of our discussion today too. Maldives as other nations have, been influenced heavily by materialism and from then our path has been determined by how our polity looks at this new approach. It has transformed it in many ways - positive and negative do the public see the downside of it all or is it only the glitter swaying us away from the middle path or moderation Islam call us to follow?

The sways the result of many changes in our midst. Tourism stormed our sleepy islands in the 1970s. Our sailing boats began having inboard engines also around the same time. Raw fish sales to foreign companies witnessed ready cash in our hands at the end of every day. Then came the TV and telecommunication and the internet. Frequency of locals on foreign travel expanded exponentially exposing us to ever increasing delight of the mind and body and the desire to own ever more. Without the inquiring and exciting local minds to manage our daily life, we began pouring in expat labor to do our most menial tasks. Our businesses and households and municipal services couldn't do with lazy locals but captive migrant labor from neighboring countries; naturally, when lazy local labor was also irresponsible.

Broken extended families seem like a harsh blow to our children’s chance to have stable lives; redundant grandparents lose their role in our families and individuality beings in selfishness and greed and competition. Religion become a mere symbolic activity of one's day. Neo-colonization by the West brings in un-Islamic values and distances us further from Allah.

What do we need to do? We need to reflect and have some time for reflection and in prayer. Asking Allah for forgiveness and or for righteousness. Reflect on what kept us together all this while and where did we go wrong?  Attempt to rekindle the aspects of our soul that made this downward moral transition happen. How to build national pride. It should not be a running away from our home (our country) but staying back showing good example even in the face of adversity and giving praise to Allah. We need to ask ourselves why we became an independent nation. To be recolonized by our ego and a subset of our own community? Or to be liberated from the yoke of our ego and rediscover the eternal warmth and truth of our true self, the soul? Parents and teachers need to think of how to restructure our family life and the content of what is taught in schools to bring in moral and civic values even as we bank our kids with knowledge and information.

Today’s discussion generated following views:

In our new wealth directed environment moral values seem to have given way to selfishness. A big reason is that we have broken our families and separated our grandparents from our immediate families. The grand parents were the connection of the child with the past and so this thread of history is no more. This eliminates our local centeredness and we become of double identity; more so global rather than local, whereas we should be thinking global and acting local. There is no one to advise now. The chain of the credible religious advisors of the past are also gone. Now there are only advisors towards societal division and not cohesion. We need to prepare the child for the street but we are preparing the road for the child. We are spoiling them. This way we are pampering and squelching character rather than help develop it. We have forgotten our religion and the awareness that all good and benefit comes from Allah. It's not a result of our hard work alone. When we give in the way of Allah in sincerity Allah blesses us with benefits tenfold.

Besides family not doing its right job of nurturing, another cause the group discussion identified was the degrading schooling we have come to experience in Maldives. We need better and more appropriate education in our schools. That which emphasizes Islamic values - even in English education schools. Home education is also as important. What roles must parents play? Spend time with family. Have meals with family. Read to the child. Spend quality time.

One of the group mentioned that control of the internet is also needed. That schools must have a repertoire of information students can tap from and not from anywhere on internet. If this is not so they will get distracted or go to wrong sites. At home too parents should control time on internet.

Parents spend too much time in their shops and so they have no time for the family. When fathers come home the children are asleep and women are tired out. We can close shop at 4 in the evening and spend time with family. This will take a huge social reform on the part of the public attitude. Many people work on weekends too. We must know that while we keep away, the children are growing up and soon they will have no time for parents. It will be too late to change them then. Business parents must take the lead.  Others too should be aware that parent’s primary role is to prepare the next generation. This is a test given to us in this world. The group felt all the time to change a child or mold a child is when they are young. Participants discussed the example of the dough and bread and the potter and his clay. But each time the pot is baked or the bread is baked we need to put in the effort to make the child with character.

Families also have differently earning members. And given the present generation’s selfishness, don’t want to share their wealth as was done in the past. In the past the family labour was collective. Now it’s individualistic. Work time and individual daily plans prohibit all members getting to eat even a meal together where family matters of common concern are best discussed. 

What to do? 

     Spend time propagating Allah Focus on our work and not on the gift at the end, or the salary at end of the month. The inner aspects of spirituality says focus on the work. The outer dimension of worldly aspiration says to focus on the salary.

     Change our intention. Do work for service and not think of the salary. Our opportunity cost in this world has no meaning with Allah. He rewards us for the opportunity costs we incur - if we are sincere in our work.

     Happiness is when we have a happy family. Not money. But for this paradigm shift, our hearts must change. We must make it change. The way is to bring the fear of Allah into our hearts.