Living in a World of Hype and Numbers
Growing up in Nigeria in the generation in which I was born cannot be anything else than a blessing. I can say it was the learning generation just like the generations before it and that’s due mainly to the fact that learning was more relational than virtual. With no Facebook, Instagram, the massive internet presence we have now, friendships and learning were based on true connection and not some false numbers of friends that are not real. For though you may know a few of the people on your Facebook page, most of them may just be bots, that is, non-humans.
Being an introvert, I love being indoors, away from people, and I spend a lot of time thinking and imagining things, both real and unreal. My mind was like a huge movie house with never-ending movies showing. I would create a story in my head that began with me being born, me going to school, getting married, having money to travel around the world, getting old and then dying. Once that movie ends, I would begin another one with different characters and a different storyline and plot. So it was a roller coaster of mental activities for me. And somehow, those imaginary stories I created in my head helped me with understanding how to do scripting for stage dramas and advert copy later in life. One other thing I loved to do was kill snakes. Yes, you heard me right. And when I say I loved to kill snakes, I mean I would literally chase snakes into the bushes until they were dead. And the simple reason why I did that was because of the scripture in Genesis 3:15 where God said the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. So for me then, killing snakes was more like the fulfillment of scripture. But now I know better that the serpent God referred to was more of the devil than it was the poor animal called snake that crawls in our farms and gardens. Anyway, I had my introverted moments where I learnt simple wisdom and life’s crafts through relating to nature.
I was always in awe of how things grow and how nature operates. I loved the clean unpolluted water from the stream which supplied drinking water to the little town I lived in with my dad. Learning from nature was beautiful and healthy. I loved climbing fruit trees to pick fresh juicy fruits and planting simple crops just to watch how they grow. I loved to read a lot. I literally read anything that was written in black and white and it was very enjoyable doing that. In fact, I had just two friends and one thing we enjoyed doing was to compete between ourselves who got to finish a novel or a book first. So life was simple but full of productive learning and creativity.
The last twenty years have seen a seen major rise in quick knowledge just as we now have quick everything because of the internet and the increase in major areas of technology. Quick fixes, micro-wave foods, drive-through burger and fries, research no longer requires the turning of book pages but one just types their search on Google and they are good to go. Looks like it is a lot easier to do many things now and truly it is so. And from the way we are going and coupled with how Covid-19 came to shatter traditional classroom learning through virtual learning, we will be raising a generation that loves and appreciates shallowness in knowledge acquisition, cramming of information just to pass exams and to feel educated, rather than depth of wisdom found in the deep studies of things – unless we do something about it. My wife and I visited a sister of ours for an interview for this magazine and after the session, we started talking over lunch and somehow she got talking about her kids and how bringing them to Kenya from the UK where they lived was hard at first but later they appreciated it because of the beauty that comes with learning wisdom from nature and all. From our talk and from the various points that were made, it was obvious that we have an issue in our society as to how to raise this generation of young people that do not have any connection to the age of learning through wisdom that comes from how nature works, but were born into the age of accumulation of information which really is mainly information but without much wisdom for life and living. They were born into the world of Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, which all look “beautiful” but lack substance.
During this lockdown, I watched young people becoming more and more confused about what to do with all the extra time they have on their hands. I saw some of them trying to keep busy practicing basketball, listening to music, watching movies, talking to friends on Zoom, playing video games on the internet with their friends at the other end of the connection. Looks like real fun for them, but I can clearly see the futility in it all. For in my mind I am thinking, what happened to learning how to create something new from our popular “YouTube University”? What happened to learning how to make handicrafts that will spur their creativity with bigger things? What happened to tilling the ground and planting things, if not for anything, just to see and appreciate the beauty of how things grow and how nature’s life works around us? Am I saying that technology is bad? Well that depends on what you are doing with it, for clearly all the activities I mentioned are all available for learning online and more.
The youthfulness deception
The teen age is a very interesting age and season. Like a bridge between the days of no-accountability (childhood) and adulthood (accountability), it can be quite scary to cross that bridge, not knowing what awaits on the other side. And because young people mostly now have access to the internet, where things that are meant for the age of responsibility can be easily accessed, they somehow try to replicate what they see. Maybe just out of curiosity, or just to undermine the bridge season they find themselves in. Case in point, it was recently reported that a group of young boys and girls in Kakamega, Kenya were caught having a sex orgy in a rented house, with a video camera, apparently to film the entire show. Another case is that of massive teenage pregnancy among students. All these are taking place within these same months of lockdown. The question is this, why is it very difficult for young people to pick up and emulate what is right and creative from the internet, instead of the various weird activities they emulate?
And who is to be blamed for these actions of our young people?
Enough blame to go around
Blame games don’t make changes, responsible actions for change do.
Because our young people were born into an age of massive information which is readily available, and because they do not have any clue of what life looked like in the days of no internet, they are almost not able to curate any solutions to their emotions or problems outside of what they find on the internet; making mentorship by older people the key to saving our young generation. It’s as simple as it can get, at least for a start.
We all have this responsibility to help our young ones grow in wisdom and accountability. Our entire future depends on it.