Monday, August 04, 2014

How we will be doomed as a nation

Over this Ramadan I had these thoughts on local and global events unfolding: what happens if we do not come together, look at ourselves, where we came from as a people, what we have become, and where we want to go...

Within the last few years we have been experiencing unusual phenomena pointing out to social, political, and religious turmoil - all these exacerbated and sped up and even made viral by high-speed cybernetic technologies. These phenomena take on a truly global and globalising character, thrusting this one ‘pastoral, peaceful, and pristine’ nation into the world arena of both fame and infamy

From mystery to tragedy - this is the theme where are at now in the two incidences of the Malaysia Airlines flights we are still grappling with, as a nation new to problems of such magnitude.

Within six months we not only lost planes, but we are also plunged into socio-emotional chaos of untold proportions, as if they are capstones of the never-ending corruption, bigotry, power-abuse, mismanagement, and the inability to enculturalise systems meant to make our living safer and saner.

As a student of existentialism, cybernetics, the nation-state - a topic that inspired my doctoral studies, I feel that the Internet, as a tool of social engagement and cultural change is pervasive. It can bring us together or rip us apart, it can build a nation or destroy it, and it can educate for peace or incite violence on a massive scale.

It is a Frankenstein in post-modern times.

I had hypothesised that the installation of our Multimedia Super Corridor, the birth of Cyberjaya, and the rise our own networked society and the “democratisation of the post-industrialised digital and globally-networked tool of social engagement” will alter the fundamental character of the ‘nation-state’ such as Malaysia.

I had that thought in the early 2000. I am still “observing” what the Internet will continue to do and what will be the cognitive and emotional consequences of the nurturing of this post-modern Prometheus.

As a nation, we perhaps become more informed, more able to learn from the boundless wasteland of cyberspace, and perhaps more able to see where we are going as nation.

But with any technology, and as it becomes enculturalised and become us and even as it tells us how to live, think, as well as to continue to be and become as a human being, we are confronted by all the contradictions of what it means; confronted by the disabling or even deconstructing and destructing aspects of our creation. That Frankenstein we are no longer able to bring back home.

Critical juncture

We are at a critical juncture - how do we stop and think how to use technology, especially this medium I am using. Do we see its value and utility from the point of view of ethics or do we become a child overly excited of the freedom it accords and use it without understanding what ‘creativity and altruism’ means?

Do we use it to spread falsehood and half-truths and to destroy others - or do we use it as a tool to educate and to educate for peace based on the crafting of knowledge and the sharing of information that will elevate human dignity and help reduce the suffering of others?

Of course, like many, I am a believer in the Internet as a tool to make others aware of the injustices the powerful amongst us inflict onto the powerless, of the hideousness of capitalist formation and the evolution of the sophisticatedness of the modern class system, of the rise of religious fundamentalism that is leading towards the ‘struggle to establish’ this or that theocratic state through violence, and as a tool to make children smarter by having smarter schools.

These are the elements of what this Frankenstein of ours can do.

In a time of chaos we ought to think how to use this medium. My emotions these past few days have been quite ‘fried’.

I have been overwhelmed by images of horror derived and drawn from the two horrifying events unfolding: the Israeli incursion into Gaza and the massacre of innocent people in response to the diabolic work of Hamas and the massacre of innocent people as well, and in the case of the instantaneous destruction of Malaysia Airlines MH17 with all on board reportedly dead.

The images, especially of dead bodies strewn into pieces and of children dying and dead in such horrible conditions, became too much for me. They are meant to make a point of the war: the crime against humanity but they have come to me too much to be cognitively and semiotically ingested. Many of them ought not to be posted and passed around.

Use the Internet responsibly. Educate and not aggravate to annihilate. Use it to build this nation and not to celebrate bigotry and racism.

But at this moment in the most difficult time we are facing as a nation. We need to look at ourselves and look at this social media too we have in our hands and ask this question: will this help globalise and multiply hatred... or will this spread love and goodwill...?

Let us work together on a common ground - for the common good. Let us pray for the ending of the violence destroying both the people of Gaza - and the children of Israel, too.
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