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     Volume 4 Issue 42 | April 16, 2005 |

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Changing our Attitude

AFM Mohiuddin

After the Prophet Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt, he asked all of them to prepare for the Promised Land. As the entourage of Moses headed for the Promised Land, there was a river to cross. The people, children of Israelites, asked him to make way for them to cross the river. He asked for his Lord's help. The Lord commanded him to use his stick and strike on the water. He did it. Miraculously, a road emerged in the middle. The people crossed the river. Then, there was no food for them. The people asked him to provide that. He sought his Lord's help. Food was sent. Then, water. At one point, Moses got really tired of so many demands from his people.

Finally, when the people arrived just near the Promised Land the soldiers of some rulers obstructed them. History says two brothers were ruling the place at the time. Moses asked his people to fight their way through. The people refused. They asked him to pray to his Lord to destroy the rulers and their warriors. Moses refused. A standstill. Moses then asked them to camp nearby. The desert land was barren. He prayed to his Lord to turn the barren desert into a green pasture. The desert became cultivable land providing sustenance to the followers of Moses.

The children of Israelites stayed in camps. They blamed Moses and his Lord for abandoning them in the desert. Meanwhile, Moses died. He did not lead his people into the Promised Land.

Why did this happen?
An 18th century Jewish scholar, Jacob Ariel, said that these people were slaves for many centuries. When Moses led them out of slavery, they became physically free. But, their servile attitude still continued. They still possessed a subjugated frame of mind. Moses wanted to make them free from all servility.

When the generation of slaves withered and new generations of free people arose, the situation had changed. These free people grew up in camps. They realised why their fathers had to camp in the desert. They organised themselves. They trained hard. They collectively declared a battle against the rulers and their warriors. A leader was selected to lead the battle. After a long and hard war, they won. The camp generation ultimately conquered the Land that their fathers were promised.

Jacob Ariel said that this happened because the camp generation was free. They were not slaves. No bondage with slavery. Hence, they were mentally strong. They wanted to change their status quo. And, they did that collectively.

Of course, things were not so complicated in those days. The way of fighting a battle was different.

This story teaches us a lot. But the important lesson is: Change must come from within oneself. Nobody can change me unless I change myself.

"God does not change a community unless they change themselves." (Al-Quran, chapter 13, verse 11)

In the context of this country, every one of us claims that the other is at fault. The other person needs to change, not me. Every single day, we blame someone else for this or that. We blame rickshawpullers for traffic jams. We blame car drivers for skidding and honking. We blame City Corporation for not cleaning up the garbage. Drivers blame traffic sergeants for demanding bribes. The sergeants blame drivers for carrying fake driving licences and reckless driving.

We blame students for vandalism. We blame teachers for being insincere in their profession. We blame every other trader for hoarding. We blame shop owners for swindling. We blame vendors and peddlers for cheating while weighing. We blame politicians for the deplorable state of our country. We blame cricketers for their dismal performance. We blame every other person in the neighbourhood. We are entrapped in an infinite vicious cycle of blame and counter-blame.

But we never blame ourselves. There are many things that we ourselves can do. We hate it when our neighbour throws garbage on the street. Yet, we never care about where our own garbage is thrown.

Imagine, our attitude! When our drivers hoot incessantly while we're just sitting behind them, we never raise eyebrows. If someone else does it, we immediately accuse him of being insensitive. When we break traffic rules it's fine. But when a rickshawpuller does it, it is offensive and punishable. When someone else's son behaves disrespectfully, it is a result of poor upbringing. When my son does it, it is a pleasant display of an assertive mind.

A change in attitude is sine qua non. I change my attitude. So do you. A collective change can bring collective prosperity. We can all become an agent of collective change. Until this happens, this country will continue to suffer. The poor will remain impoverished. The economy will remain sluggish. Politics will remain destructive.

We need to decide what we want. Wasting time in constant bickering or showing tolerance to one another? Sermonizing or demonstrating practically what we preach. Blaming others or improving our own conduct? Wrangling over politics or thriving over economic success? Castigating whatever the other person does or appreciating good work? Recrimination or reconciliation? Backbiting or discharging our responsibility.

A free hand languishes without a free mind. Likewise, a free country suffers without a positive conscience. A conscience that is collective in nature and proactive in practice.

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