Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Government - A Sufi Perspective

If we were asked, and sometimes even if we were not asked, about what we believe to be the problem, if any, with the way various public officials go about their duties, most of us would be quite prepared to share our opinions on this matter. We all seem to feel we have some insight to offer about the difference between good and not-so-good government.

Interestingly enough, whatever the accuracy of our perceptions about the political process may be, many of us tend to be oblivious to the quality and character of governmental operations within ourselves. This lack of awareness could be because many of us may not consider what goes on inside of us to be much like a governmental process.

However, the politics which goes on in the external world does not rise ex nihilo. It comes from within us. Indeed, external politics is, in a sense, internal politics writ large.

The characteristics of internal politics are quite similar to properties found in external political processes. For example, there is a need for decision making and the implementation of such decisions. In addition, within us, there are activities which resemble: think-tanks, spin doctors, lobby groups, image consultants, intelligence gathering operations, ethics committees, regulatory agencies, judicial review boards, dirty tricks operations, military forces, legislative bodies, prison systems, and revenue generating enterprises.

All of the foregoing internal processes affect the character and quality of the decisions made by the individual. Moreover, because of the problems and pressures generated by the dynamics of the decision making process, one finds many other features of our inner government which share some common themes with certain aspects of politics.

For instance, many of our internal governments are capable, in various ways and degrees, of: biased agendas; partisan politics; corruption; dereliction of duty; human rights violations; grid-lock; revolution (both peaceful and violent); fraudulent conduct; cover-ups; repressive measures; irresponsible spending programs; breaking promises; and both minor, as well as, major scandals of one sort or another.

Like external governments, our internal governments: make both good and bad decisions. Similarly, our internal governments, like their external counterparts, get both good and bad advice from a variety of sources.

Again, like external governments, our internal political systems often are involved in crisis management operations. These operations, frequently, are as much a reflection of the problematic way we govern ourselves, than they are an expression of life-problems arising independently of our style of mismanaging our internal government.

When the ego is running our internal government, our affairs are in the hands of a politician exemplifying all of the characteristics we tend to associate with the stereotypical bad politician. Indeed, bad politics on whatever level is, in general, a function of the activities of the ego.

The ego, like many politicians, tends to be very charismatic and polished in public situations. However, at the same time, the ego is ambitious, vain, and arrogant.

The ego knows, as almost any politician does, how to get things accomplished through pushing the right emotional and psychological buttons. In fact, a considerable portion of the resources available to the ego, are expended to gather intelligence about the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the various players in the political game.

In addition, the ego has the gift of gab and is always on the stump making internal political speeches, filled with stirring platitudes, about this and that issue or situation or person. Like its external world twin brother, the ego is forever making solemn promises and undertakings which are rarely kept.

The ego, as either head of the internal government or as leader of the 'loyal' opposition, knows how to threaten, cajole, manipulate, flatter, pressure, compromise, bribe, neutralize, and cheat for purposes of political gain. Political gain, however, is not necessarily measured in terms of worthwhile accomplishments.

More often than not, political gain is a matter of doing whatever is required to stay in power or to be able to influence the decision making process in a manner which is favorable to one's interests. The doing of things, whether good or bad, are merely means to the more important issue of securing or maintaining control.

The ego, of course, is not as much in charge of things as it often likes to give the impression is the case. The ego is under constant pressure from a variety of intense lobbying groups that are extremely demanding, temperamental and fickle. Some of these lobby groups are: jealousy, revenge, malice, prejudice, hostility, lethargy, lust, greed, and desire.

When the ego blunders and commits public relation gaffes in its dealings with the external world, the spin doctors of the ego go to work. Their assignment is to try to make things appear as if what everyone knows is the case is not the case. The spin doctors are incessantly trying to give a take or a slant on things which puts the ego in the best possible light with respect to its intentions, motives, and conduct.

In ways reminiscent of its external, political counterpart, the ego is subject to becoming entangled in bribery, corruption, scandals and kick-backs of one sort or another. For the ego, such things are just unfortunate risks it runs, on occasion, in order to get, or keep, its government up and running.

Like many politicians in the external world, the ego doesn't really care what damage it does to others or to the environment in the pursuit of its political agenda. Compassion, generosity, fairness, kindness, servitude, sincerity, honesty, integrity, justice, equality, rights, freedom and so on are, all too frequently, just empty words which are trotted out every so often to enhance the image and dazzle the suckers.

Nonetheless, the ego understands, as do many politicians in the external world of government, some degree of discretion must be exercised in the implementation of its governmental policies. If one steps on too many toes or ruffles too many feathers, there will be negative, perhaps, embarrassing, political fallout.

Consequently, the ego tends to play a maxima/minima game. The object of this game is to generate strategies which will permit the ego to give up the least for the most return on it's efforts. Quite a few rational think-tanks in the employ of the ego are set to work on this task.

In an attempt to establish, at least, the appearance of order and intelligibility within the world of internal politics, the ego sets up: various planning groups; watchdog committees on ethics; regulatory agencies, and assorted judicial bodies. Unfortunately, like its external world Doppelganger: plans are not carried out; violations of the ethical codes are often overlooked; regulations are not enforced, and a great many arbitrary, unjust and inconsistent judgements emerge from the appointed judicial bodies.

The ego's short-term and long-term goal is control along with the perks which come with such power. Everything and everybody else must be accommodated to this program.

One of the biggest fears of the ego in this respect concerns the possibility that the rightful heir to leadership of the internal government should seek to return from the exile to which it is has been banished by the ego.

The rightful heir is the spiritual essence of the individual.

The ego has powerful resources and allies on which it can call if there is such an uprising. The body, emotions, desires and the rational mind can all be employed to suppress any move toward spiritual liberation of the homeland.

Dirty tricks, negative campaigning, disinformation, filibusters, procedural delays, and terror campaigns can all be used by the ego to prevent the rightful heir from returning to the seat of executive power. Moreover, the ego can lead the internal government into an emotional and intellectual gridlock so that nothing gets accomplished and, thereby, the status quo is preserved.

Fiery, impassioned addresses will be given by the ego. In these speeches, numerous charges of censorship, repression, rights abuses, and curtailment of freedoms will be leveled against the spirit and its supporters. The spirit will be painted as a threat against all that is good and right with the present, incumbent government of the ego.

If necessary, steps will be taken to imprison, or lay siege to, the one who would depose the ego. Various deployment of troops, blockades, minefields, and ambushes can be arranged by the ego for these purposes.

Through years of mismanagement, bungling, neglect, short-sightedness, selfishness, and corruption, the ego has done tremendous damage to the spiritual infrastructure and the ecological balance of the internal world. Therefore, a tremendous amount of work is necessary to bring about a reform of government.

There are many frustrations, setbacks, difficulties, and obstacles involved in such a spiritual reclamation project. Many sacrifices will have to made before the internal government starts operating according to its potential.

This, too, the ego will try to use to its tactical advantage. As with all corrupt governments, there is an inertia and malaise which settles on the land.

The ego has distributed patronage in various forms. Pleasures, ease influence, status and comfort are at risk if the ego loses control.

To resist the flow of things in such a world, is extremely hard, dangerous work. It takes a lot of effort.

The ego can offer, in the present, ease, comfort, gratification, diversions, and so on. Alternatively, the spiritual side only can offer a future dream of realizing our essential potential through struggle and sacrifice in the present.

The psychological and emotional advantages all seem to be on the side of the ego. Yet, the spirit has a nobility of cause and purpose which resonates very deeply and powerfully in the halls of internal government.

The call of spirituality has a purity and integrity which is very appealing and alluring. Furthermore, there is a sense of justice, beauty and truth inherent in the call of spirituality which cannot even be remotely simulated by the tawdry, impoverished political style of the ego. The possibility of happiness, peace, satisfaction, contentment and love which are part of the platform on which spirituality runs is very attractive.

Restoring decency, honor, and integrity to internal government is a very complex task. The magnitude of the challenge intimidates many of us.

Many of us believe reforming external government is somewhat easier and more practical than to attempt to reform internal government. We often tend to believe, under the influence of the ego, that the problems of the world are generated, for the most part, by others and not by ourselves.

Consequently, many people direct their efforts, energies, time and resources toward working on the problems of the governments of the external world. In effect, we embark on a quest which is dedicated to get other people to change in certain desirable ways, when we, ourselves, often are not prepared to change in equivalently desirable ways.

However, according to the Sufi masters, this kind of thinking has its priorities confused. We will not be able to reform the governments of the world until we have reformed our own internal governments. The chaos of the world is but a reflection and projection of the chaos of our internal worlds.

The foregoing priority of the Sufi masters does not mean we have to abandon the external world until after one has completed the task of reforming the internal government. Instead, they suggest we see our interaction with the outside world as opportunities to work toward developing programs, policies and projects which operate in line with, and give expression to, the spiritual principles necessary for the reform, care and maintenance of good internal government.

Acting in accordance with the foregoing dialectic cannot help but have, if God wishes, positive, constructive ramifications for enhancing the quality of the social and political atmosphere in the external world. The development of better communities and governments in the external world requires that we repair the problems in our spiritual infrastructure. We, then, need to take the benefits which are made possible by these repairs and invest them in, among other things, rebuilding our families and communities through the spiritual lessons learned while reconstructing the infrastructure of our souls.

1 comment:

Jawad Jafry said...

Subject: Locating Members of Dr. Baig's Family

As-salaamu `alaikum. Several organizations in Canada are working on an oral history of the first place of prayer for Muslims in Toronto. We were wondering if you were in contact with any family members of Dr. Baig? Also, would you possibly be available for an on-camera interview in Toronto?

My contact information is below should you need more information. I look forward to being in touch. Thank you so much!

Jawad Jafry
v. 416.321.0047