SAFFIYAH EDOO

As is customary, this is the time to reflect on the year gone by. For some people, success depends on any objectives set out at the beginning of the year, for others, it is how things came to them without ever planning for same. For other people however, the year gone by is gauged by how successful they have been in surviving the conditions of living meted out to them. As we step into the new decade, a glance around the world makes for a chilling observation of what is awaiting us. While we do not care for alarmists, we cannot help but sit up and notice the causes for concern.

It is no secret that, over the last decade, technology has seeped its way into our everyday lives, making itself an indispensable conduit if we are to be considered a player on top of his game. While 10 years ago, the smartphone was taking its baby steps, today it has become an essential appendage to many, whose lives would “like, literally” depend on it, and also the medium par excellence to be connected to the world 24/7 thanks to the big bang that was social media, thus overhauling the approach to news broadcast and consumption.

We currently live in a world where anything and everything has the potential to become viral (to stay in the contemporary jargon) within hours. From stupid stories to feel good stories, to general elections, to massacres and genocides, the world is now a place where people are more aware than ever of what happens beyond their little worlds. A look at the news items that garnered the most attention over the past decade gives an insight on the span that public opinion has gained, mostly thanks to the vulgarization of opinion giving through social media.

If this decade has proved anything, it is just how nationalism and sectarianism are taking firm roots around the world. With the opening up of a worldwide discourse over what happens daily around the world, it is no wonder that passions are aroused from all corners of the globe by a number of events. Be it unexpected elections results, terrorist attacks, disasters brought by natural calamities, or crackdowns on particular groups, such as Palestinian Catholics, Uighur Muslims, Yazidis, Rohingyas, women, members of the LGBTQ community, refugees and immigrants, among so many others, the global community is ever ready through the keyboards of their smartphones to make their stands known and fight for it, regardless of being productively debating or engaging into empty discourses.

The latest raging debate these days is the ongoing worldwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, passed in the Indian parliament in December 2019. Once more, people concerned with the issue, have taken two opposing factions to make their voices heard virtually. However, it is very clear that many take up positions out of mere sentiments of group belonging to either side, without truly making the effort to understand the history, the lead up to such an event as well as the potential repercussions that this Bill may have. Similar to previous raging debates, this one too, sees the importing of issues that do not necessarily have their place in one’s home country. This attitude of making another country’s issues one’s own, as has been the case time and again, is highly detrimental to the cohesive nature of the local society and can only be countered by the willingness of those indulging into this practice to act differently. Instead of taking sides in a debate that has nothing to do with one’s everyday life, people had better take as example, the large number of Indian citizens who are engaged, since almost a fortnight, in an amazing display of brotherhood and citizenry.

The current Indian situation is in fact testimony to the power of the people against the Establishment. Regardless of whether the outcome of the protests will be in their favour, the people against the Bill have rallied together, as one, protecting each other and having the courage to denounce any excessive behaviour of the authorities, even if it means them being next on the target list. Actors (not surprisingly, superstars have kept mum), young people, artists, journalists, writers, laypeople are rallying behind one stand: that of preserving their country from extremism and protecting their fellow citizens, irrespective of any differences that may have divided them. It is clear they constitute a large number of the “world’s largest democracy” who do not wish to lose their say in their country and this is the attitude that should be emulated, rather than taking virtual opposing sides for something with which one is not even remotely connected.

This global behaviour trend of having a say in whatever is happening around the world does not show any sign of slowing or dying out in the coming decade. Rather, it will be gaining in momentum in parallel with what seems to be the steady rise in power of nationalist governments, with a tendency to trample on minorities. For this is the bigger picture that people need to see. Persecutions of minorities is just an excuse to gain and maintain power. In some countries, persecutions are undertaken openly against specifically identified communities. In others, the maintenance of power is done surreptitiously by dumbing the mind of the masses through a lowering of the national education level, false appellations of national projects or covert tactics such as the installation of spy cameras in the name of security, strategies which one doesn’t need to go very far to be enlightened about.

To be a player on top of the game in the coming decade, it therefore becomes imperative to arm oneself using the very smartphone and technology that has become the synapse to the world. With information and reading materials at the fingertips, the woke world citizen needs to be well read in world history, dystopian literature, other countries’ and movements histories, for these will constitute the arsenal that he/she will need to make sense of the world as it enters this new phase. It is incumbent on the woke world citizen to stay many steps ahead of the challenges that are already being established in various countries of the world by opening the mind and discerning real news from propaganda and be able to see manipulation from miles ahead. It is binding on this generation to transition from being actively virtual to become physically active to defend the causes that it fights for so strongly through clicks and keyboards, to make sure that the next decade is one where we globally stand for what and who is rightful, together, as one, not divided along any religious, gender, or sexual orientation lines as the power greedy would like us to be, but rather become and remain united in humanity.