Psychology

  • Issue 92 / March - April 2013



    How Many Tsunamis May I Survive?

    Seema Arif

    Diversity or uncertainty. Beneath all our differences and behind all our diversity is there a unity that binds us together and makes us one human family?


    Postmodernism includes theories that recognize and aim to create diversity. This creates the following dilemma: to what an extent will this “heterotopia”[1], which allows mixing of nations and classes at all levels, is allowable at the cost of self-degeneration, becoming ethnic oneself or at the risk of cultural extinction? Internationalization of higher education though promoting diversity has failed to define globalization, the norm of this totalitarian approach. While this idealized mixing occurs, it is uncertain to determine how legitimate it is to sacrifice one’s own individuality and cultural identity to receive a global identity, if any. Decline of nation state and territory being immanent, questions are raised whether or not such hollowing state would be able to survive, whether or not governance without government will work after dissolving the nation state. What positive changes entrepreneurial governments will be bringing to the people, and what alternate forms of identity are available if national identity is lost?

    It seems that uncertainty instead of diversity is prevailing from the eve of post-modernism, thinning the lines between world cultures and societies from day one. In search of “theory of everything,” we have almost forgotten all good and great theories and ideas about everything, leading us to skepticism and unbelief. The challenge of open skepticism tends to create more refusals than acceptance and the objective of higher education fails bitterly here, an objective that is to create a global level of understanding of the universal phenomena and to proceed with a uniform level of evolution of the intellectual mind. Instead of growing intellectual maturity and reflexivity, the symptoms of anxiety and panic and/or withdrawal are prevailing. Is this a healthy sign? Will we be able to save the sanity of the world?

    In sanity lies peace and stability, and both are at stake. Now there are two choices: The first is whether the world knowledge leaders should aspire to regress back to pre-industrial revolution’s feudal monarchy based upon resignation to a single authority, where people are more entitled to powers by declaration of ownership and where there are no choices but moralized obedience to such authorities. In corporate world, Machiavellian moral has already been resounding that might is right and means may not justify the end. Such regression calls for the indoctrinated agenda of the education with priests and preachers ruling the mobs and world streets are rushing for it. The second choice or alternative is that people should embrace postindustrial Marxist-Socialist interventions, which celebrate sharing rather than ownership. The individuals sub-serve the community and in turn communities the nation; whereas, the nations must not compete in status but protect the welfare of its citizens. Whether the traditional concepts of “welfare” and “citizenship” still exist in today’s world is questionable.
    Since the right of choice is still available, the nations and communities are making blind choices without thinking of the outcomes of the outcomes. What will happen to nations who will fail to attain socio-cultural and political balance in their visions? They may hear the sound of the doomsday bell ringing in their ears, thinking that they have enough time to fight till the “end.” Actually, sound travels slower than light and people are misled to believe that doomsday has yet to come, whereas, the reality has crossed that threshold much earlier and what they are witnessing is the after-math; just like a Tsunami that passes in a few minutes and only some people survive to witness its after-effects. The victims remain in shock, while those who have not experienced a Tsunami themselves hang in confusion, pondering whether their present condition is the result of the Tsunami or post-Tsunami mishandling of affairs. They may continue creating split-hair logics till doom, but their wish to reverse time remains a dream.
    Similar has been the case with the “corporate” Tsunami; it came and it won – not just overpowered but overthrew everything else. We were in midst of celebrating the glory of human worth crowning individual freedom and liberalism while achieving the impossible, reaching beyond skies and galaxies through advents of natural science. We are unable to justify from where this financial meltdown came and suddenly we found ourselves struck with global recession, as if travelling on the smooth pathways of the Milky Way, we were suddenly engulfed by a black hole.
    Will this mammoth spit us out alive? Is living inside a dragon “life”? Are we not inside a cave as Plato had remarked, but inside a dragon? The world outside is no more a safer place to live with nuke ideas, but living inside the dragon, the corporate culture, is wearing us out of our vitality and enthusiasm. Our weakening may weaken the dragon but do we want to die with the dragon or live with it? Those of us who believe in the afterlife, we may have the spirit to risk martyrdom or if we have the feudal courage, we may have cut the stomach line of the dragon with our bear hands, as if ploughing the fields. Kingship and martyrdom are the stories of the past. We believe in peace not war, therefore we should manage to live with the dragon. Now onwards, every tear or drop of perspiration is creating dwarfs of “relativism” and “nihilism.” The harder we work, the more we reduce in size, creating our own prototypes. Small is beautiful, but what will happen when all of us will be cut to the same size? We are shrinking together; whether or not will we grow together is questionable. I grew up listening to the stories that explained how once the earth was populated by giants and dinosaurs, and a Tsunami came and all of them became extinct.
    I’ve been informed that Post-modern life knows no ethical limits, understanding that values are a matter of choice, a matter of aesthetical personal taste, and suddenly I am reminded that the purpose of higher education was to develop that aesthetical taste in favor of public good. Why then should we refuse the hegemony of valued knowledge and insist on creating new knowledge of “no taste”? No wonder this “new knowledge” is impoverishing both bodies and minds rather than nurturing them. The knowledge remains stratified and complex, non-chewable and non-digestive for the common as it was engineered to fit the purpose of the “elitist corporate.” The elitism is created on the type of education one has received rather than how knowledgeable one is, where reason reigns supreme and traditional methods of acquiring knowledge are blandly rejected being accused of spreading false prophecies and hearsay.
    It is not only in the field of knowledge that legitimization of factionalism and particularism has gone too far, it has also affected the social fabric of society as well. When we witness the mixing of gender and social identities, the puzzled mind asks: which gender of which race do you belong to? Elongation of the ego exposes shadows and in a consumerist world, the question is how we can cease any production. Who will dare stop them? Who has the right to exercise “choice”? Whatever come may, the post-modern world is committed to the challenge of social change and social justice, no compromise, no deal to public freedom, whether they create demons or mole hills. They are liable to create colonies and their inhabitants. Does residence and citizenship still matter?
    As the Tsunami of media and information technology has been rising, social sciences have remained dumbfounded as individuals become plain victims questioning oneself in sheer pain and guilt about one’s identity: who is the citizen of which world, real or cyber? Citizenship itself is challenged employing virtual rights over social networks. With the population of cyber networks increasing at a faster rate than the population of countries and may be that of small continents, everyone is jubilant at the promise of post-modernism fulfilled – the promise of diversity. It is not setting new world order, but a new social order, defining rules of communication and relationships, where virtual existence matters more than the real one and remarkable solutions for issues related to time and space are readily available.
    The citizens of a global world have never experienced such flexibility before. The gates of Eden are wide open and you do not need to carry a “good deeds license” to enter. All you need is a cyber-work-space to enter the world of ideas. Is it a dream or an “afterlife” because that too appears to be more virtual than real. Again the boundaries are thinning between the virtual and the real, between a scope of possibilities and number of its realization, all that corporate citizenship wants is huge numbers so the giants are feeding on numbers and digits. Should I worry?
    While waves of uncertainty crash to a shore nearby, I embrace the warmth of diversity emanating from the Sun above. I recognize my impotence before such Radiance and realize that just like the sun, there is a unity that binds humanity together.

    Dr. Arif is the Head of Department Psychology, University of Central Punjab, Pakistan.

    Note
    [1] Heterotopia: An idealized utopia of heterogeneity, that of mixing social gender and identities by realizing the principle of diversity

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