Community: Conflict or Harmony? Part 2

By Mohamedarif Suleman,

Nairobi, Kenya

If one asked any social researcher about the ingredients of considering how fairness, justice and education are related, it will be known that it is imperative that one deals with how people expect to be treated and how they are actually treated is first established. Many issues, even when they appear to be limited to instruction and common sense, actually involves questions of justice and fairness.

In the first part of the sequel “Community: Conflict or Harmony?”, the conditions under which leaders separate, their environment, the opportunities and threats that beleaguer them, were seen at a glance. The discussion now rolls on to what the article purports to call “the workers”, their viewpoint, and what they go through in rendering their services to the community, all within the context of the organized system that we have established over the years.

It is said that many of the ways in which we think about the problems of fairness and justice today were formulated by Aristotle in his treatise on ethics written in the fourth century BC. The end of justice, said the great thinker, is to “produce and preserve the happiness of the social and political community”. In other words, it is the good of others that is sought through justice. Of course, his theory advanced further categorized the two basic standards of reference for justice. One, he said, was justice in relation to law, and the second was justice in the sense of having one’s fair share.

It is not uncommon to hear, after a hard month’s (Muharram, Safar, Ramadhan, etc) services, for ahead volunteer for instance to retort how this may be his last year of service; or that the system is rotten and how he/she have been meted out with poor treatment. In other or more relaxed months, the same individual may recount the happy times and the achievements of their middle-level leadership in delivering the goods that the leaders sanction and the general member expects. Such a class, which compromises of a wide spectrum of workers – right from the vocal PR team leaders to those quieter, behind-the-scenes types. All of these persons are nevertheless pivotal in running the day-to-day organization of the Community.

From very early days in adolescence when young adults start serving their first nyaz, disappointment rages as per the dictates of the human nature. After all, such a service usually involves tremendous participation of one’s physical as well as emotional self. And elders are quick to reword that very popular cliché or adage that “working for the community, one should not expect reward from people…”, that the “result of working for the community would be a kick in the back…”, and so many others. But even if this were the stated law or rule, in which case once hurt, a worker should feel justified according to the first of Aristotle’s pretexts, one cannot but scale the monumental work that he or she does versus the lousy treatment that he or she perceives to get, or actually does. Because while he laid down principles are very straight forward, not everyone agrees on how we decide who and what deserves to be rewarded.

Borrowing from another very exciting proverb, “The responsibility rests with the government”, it may be construed momentarily that the cause of this very resource plundering activity, where we each year lose thousands of workers through self-incrimination or lack of appreciation and regard from leaders, is the mixing and blending of two very contrasting styles of government. Or is it three?

Like the identities of most Khoja brothers who are citizens of one country, estimate from one state in India, speak one other language amongst a host of others, and live in a completely different place, in addition to being practicing Muslims, our systems of leadership and organization too are over burdened with workings of multiple systems.

When a chairman presides over a Managing Committee, his committee members are workers in relation to him. In playing his balancing act of appeasing, say, donors, he invariably sacrifices the momentum and the vigour that his members have. Even when he later sidetracks to take a moment in considering the members’ viewpoint (which is usually after a decision has been taken), his action only helps in neutralizing the persons’ anxiety to serve, an attitude of passivity, and “let the Chairman do it all”, starts creeping in. on the other end of the spectrum, when volunteers give their all in serving people, they are occasionally rebuked by a select group of people who are out to prove their own point. The conflict goes down, and at the end result, unlike what Aristotle said, would be the common grief for all.

The worker perennially considers himself or herself as a used force, as a person who is called upon at the time of need, but discarded when things are normal. This important and energetic class, in the face of a total lack of support or motivation from the leadership or the general membership, finds itself in a crossroad, finally resulting in the kinds of statements earlier quoted.

The dual system style of leadership in which a President expects the professionalism of a corporate officer, and the sacrificial tendencies of a Muslim volunteer simply failing to click in awe of gushing human emotions and needs. Reward, when needed, even by a simple pat on the back, is not forthcoming. Punishment, always at hand in different forms, is aplenty in supply. Is the community then a congregation of harmony or that of conflict? How can we then change or modify our systems so that our successes are strengthened and our weaknesses are overcome?

In the last part next week, this article will look at the general membership. Views, comments are invites while the discussion is ongoing.

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