By PROF DR HALIMU SHAURI
(Dean; School of Humanities and Social Sciences; Pwani University)
When I was growing up and throughout my academic career, I heard in many instances that the future will be better through science and technology.
I have read many books and scientific journal articles and participated in numerous research projects, I can thus attest to the hope in the future as held by ordinary people and professionals.
Inventions after inventions, innovations after Innovations, inch by inch we are, as humanity, inching to the future, the digital future.
From the books I have read, lecturers I have listened to, movies I have watched, I noted that shift into the future or new today has been without challenges.
From classical sociological literature with writings from Henri de Saint Simon, Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Herbert Spencer, Max Webber to the controversial Karl Marx, all point to painful events that disorganize old order into a new order and ways of doing things.
The age of science or enlightenment, the industrial and the French revolutions, the agrarian revolution among others; all ushered humanity into a new order.
In the words of Emmanuel Kuhn, the paradigm has to shift into the new order. These major events disorganize society in a way that old order, including academic disciplines is challenged.
This can only be resolved by a change in the paradigm that has been guiding society from Kuhnian philosophy. Now the million Kwacha question we have to grapple to answer:
“is COVID-19 pandemic the major event of our time requiring a paradigm shift?”
My answer is a yes, am not sure of yours! The way the age of science or enlightenment, industrial and French revolutions brought disorder and disorganization in society is similar to the socioeconomic malaise brought to society today by COVID-19 pandemic.
“Coronization” of the world maybe our industrial or French or age of enlightenment in the developing worlds.
The hopelessness and havoc it has caused is a kin to the disruptions of the three aforementioned major events that shaped the new order in Europe and the world.
Indeed, economies are in a state of panic, and to put it properly in a state of quagmire. Politics is near death, maybe in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupying one bed in an Isolation centre in your country or county.
Religion, the oldest institution, is shaken badly with masses being reminded that religion is a personal affair, with closure of social spaces of worship and emphasis on praying alone or with social distance at home, underscoring the personal nature of relationship with our creator.
Further, science, especially medicine is losing it’s prestige to the social sciences, especially sociology as it did in the 18th century when sociology was born because it cannot offer solutions to COVID-19 as at now: no COVID-19 pandemic vaccine and no treatment yet.
More so, the social and cultural pillars of life are in shambles. We cannot greet each other the way we used to do socially and culturally! We now marry and bury, two key phases of life and revered rites of passage in many communities, with a handful (15pax) of people.
In some instances COVID-19 casualties are buried in mass graves with due disregard to cultural and religious rites of passage. Indeed,
“Our men and women can no longer do what they used to do because their manhood and womanhood has been crushed by Corona.”
In sum, our old ways of doing things have been challenged. What do we need to do now to salvage humanity?
In the words of Emmanuel Kuhn, we need a paradigm shift. A new way of doing things. We have started this journey albeit slowly and we must get used to our new normal, washing hands frequently, sanitizing, keeping social distance, working from home, staying at home, worshiping from home, and very soon completely shopping and probably schooling from home.
Whether we like it or not this is our new foreseeable future. The new normal that our Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe keeps repeating in his COVID-19 daily national media briefs in Kenya.
The question then is how do we then survive in this new order, what I call our foreseeable future?
We will survive if we change our paradigm. I can see you are confused! Yes, change our old ways and embrace new COVID-19 ways. We must continue behaving abnormally for us to make this shift according to Mr Kagwe.
Apart from the new ways of washing hands, and sanitizing and social distancing, we must shift from our face-to-face old ways of doing things into the digital platform.
Thus, enjoy social spaces in the digital web, hold your meetings digitally, do your orders and deliveries or business online, preach online, give your public lecturers and speeches using Webinars, Zoom, MS Teams, Skype etc, schools and universities to embrace online learning and teaching.
Researcher to perfect digital data collection I am already doing mine. The foreseeable future is here and the paradigm shift is in the increased use of Internet Technology. Thus, countries or nations or counties need to prioritize installation of the necessary infrastructure to support this shift.
We are now fully in the era of the digital world courtesy of COVID-19 pandemic.
People and countries therefore that do not realize this fast enough are doomed. Remember Charles Darwin’s theory of:
“… survival for the fittest and extinction of the unfit!”
Developing countries, and my country, Kenya in particular wake up and smell this transformation. We are “Ndani, Ndani, Ndaniiii” (Mr Nick Salat) of the digital era.
The paradigm has shifted from face to face interaction to online transactions and service delivery.
With this regard, we must begin strategic investment in digitizing the country immediately.
Giving people relief supplies is okay because we made them poor and incapable, but not a key priority into the new order.
The key priority in this new order is to create supportive infrastructure to accommodate this social change of digital order.
This article has been inspired by one of my Facebook followers, for confidentiality purposes I will call her just Mbaluka in her comment in another platform and request below:
“…. And affordable internet in rural and urban areas. Even campuses closed fully… and you tell us our Universities are ready for CBC? Prof. Dr. Halimu Shauri you tell us in your new article. How is it so hard for the country to adapt to virtual schooling? Virtual ordering/selling? In secure and affordable spaces? … (The next question is not mine, hence not covered in my article)… digital learning ambitions died? 21st century citizens’ agenda seems hazy in our context Benson Mutuku.
Finally, the paradigm has shifted and we must embrace new COVID-19 ways of doing things.
Science is challenged, medicine is struggling for a vaccine or cure, economics is in limbo, politics in ICU, while religion, the hope of the hopeless, is now personalized limiting its power of social influence and control. COVID-19 has reduced us to our individuality and slowly killing our social being.
We must rise up to the challenge by changing our mindset into the new COVID-19 world order and new ways of doing things with technology as the lead discipline in ordering our new social order.