By Kelvin Ugwu Msp
I went for an art exhibition recently. Among all the art works exhibited, one of them caught my attention and kept me thinking. It was an oil painting on canvas depicting a modern family eating together on a spherical dining table. At the background, one could see a square wall clock indicating the time:eight thirty, and a photograph of the smiling mother and father. They looked like couples in their early fifties. Three kids surround them – two boys and a girl. On the dining table the family, presumably, are having their supper, judging from the time on the wall clock and the dark shades of painting from the window. What captured my attention is how the artist beautifully positioned the first son holding a DSTV remote control and backing his food and other members of the family. One could conclude that he is looking at the Television set in the living room. The younger boy is opening his mouth as he tries to put into it, with his left hand, the food on his spoon. While he is doing that, he is equally looking towards what he is holding on his right hand – a BlackBerry cell phone. The father is holding a phone to his ears with his mouth wide open, obviously he is shouting at someone. He is equally raising his right hand like one trying to make a point. The mother and her daughter are eating, though with a laptop before the daughter.The oil painting portrayed to me, a concern that is right before our eyes; a gradual distortion of our inherent African communal mindedness. Notwithstanding, it is commendable that people are beginning to be free in expressing themselves.
The progressive and dynamic nature of human knowledge gives room for continous innovations. These innovations make the world ever changing and in some sense ever new. For those who claim to have a full knowledge of the world as at yesterday, they would have to pick up the large volume manual of today in other to make sense of what today’s world holds. The progress recorded in the world of science and technology today is enormous. Undoubtedly, I am sure the inventors of computer would be shocked were they to reckon with this paradigm shift. John F. Kennedy rightly asserted, “the one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable.” Changes these days are so swift. Just when you thought you have bought the highest grade of cell phones, before you even finish reading the manuel to understand it, the ones that are ten times superior are already out.
Ours is a complex era, and a very paradoxical one; an era that I could describe as ‘fortunately unfortunate.’ Within the space of a few decades the world has changed rapidly. The global mentality of our people has also been so radically transformed. This is what Agber Msugh describes in his book The Wounded Healer and Wounded Humanity, as an age where nothing agrees with anything else. In this age, accessing information is only a click, yet we appear to be more ignorant than eras before us. Technology has made things easier. Work that previously took hours and lots of manpower is done withinseconds, yet we are the laziest. Churches and Mosques are just at our beck and call, yet we are tagged as the most corrupt and amoral. Phones have made it easier for us to remain very close to our friends and family, yet we are farther from them, than we were before. Our generation can be rightly described as the peak of the results which the enlightenment era and the French revolutionists have long waited. It is an era in which we rejoice that we are free and groan that we are not free not to be fee. What a contradictory world! We have brainy minds but lack reasonable people.
One thing that I feel our generation should guard against is what I term as “deconstruction of values.” Our values are perpetually and continually in an evolutionary process of change. Right now, anything can be justified as good. This is the result of a gradual indoctrination of the senses. We recognize and hold on firmly things that are passing and temporary as though they are lasting and permanent. And funny enough, since change is constant, those temporary things which we held as permanent things few years ago will soon face off. The irony is, even with that, we may not learn our lessons. Gone are the days when we were advised not to be attached to our gadgets. Our cell phones stare us to our faces and tell us that we cannot do without them. We turn around, stare them also to their faces and tell them that they damn right. Definitely, the influence of the technological world is creating major changes in the way we think. We cannot push back the hands of time. The only option open to us if we are not to be caught napping is to harness the factors of change and use them to our advantage. This ability of turning things to our advantage is presupposed on beings that are accorded with brains. It will not be funny that we have brains but lack reasoning.