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The fluidity of our age


Sukur Cultural Landscape. Photo: Guardian Nigeria

Our age is fluid, fast and ‘fudgy’. There are no certainties, no ‘definites,’ no absolutes, and very few taboos. We go to bed with one principle and wake up with the primacy of another principle in the codes of social engagement. And we struggle to fit in, to accept the new and somewhat hazy new. It is chic to feel and seem new, to fit into the new style, the new way. Boundaries are being broken; yes broken only to create a passage into nothing. Cultural ethos and moral values are fluid too. Icons are re-defined. In other words, that which is iconic is also fluid. Central to the fluidity of our age is the ubiquitous social media. Religion, that bastion of conservatism in all ages, is also fluid. The fluidity of the period makes it impossible for religion to be a proper pointer. The faithful live in the world of the fluid, and it is near impossible to be like Lot in the city of Sodom because fluidity defines their encounter with social reality. So where do we turn to? Who do we turn to? What should we turn to for answers?
This discourse is or ought to be situated outside a religious framework. In Africa, it is difficult to disentangle one from the other; difficult to discuss politics without religion or ethnicity. Sadly whereas we have accepted the new, in ethnicity and race the world has remained stuck in time. The rightwing movements in Europe and America testify to this much to the disequilibrium of the world. Religion has not shaped or guided the view of the west in inter-race relations. If anything it has been used to justify exploitation.

We know the great religions provide an anchor for believers, captured in the all-powerful word ‘faith’. The long-prophesied apocalypse provides a definite for believers in the sense of a termination of evil. Not so as we face the realities of the outside world. The narratives of mainstream and social media almost certainly project the absence of an end. Science has taken over. Faith is a private affair. Faith is to be shelved once we enter the public space.

Science disputes faith; and faith rejects science, sometimes. Both grudgingly have meeting points sometimes when they decide to work together in some aspects of experience, personal or vicarious. For example, the scientist who prays before he challenges issues of faith through empirical data, traverses both worlds in a comfortable manner. The mind is able to compartmentalise the issues and the framework. Faith assures us of another reality; when science speaks of another reality it is in the present dynamic sense of other creatures who like us live in another planet. They come as they will and we have no control over them. Faith says humans live on the earth only; science disputes that and searches for life in Mars. If the apocalypse will come, science says, it would be the result of a war of mutual annihilation. Faith accepts and preaches it as an article of faith and attributes it to the design of the Almighty, the Creative Super-Architect behind the universe.

There is a clash therefore, never resolved to eternal or universal satisfaction. Until we obey the final whistle of humanity we may not holistically answer the questions. Perhaps it is never meant to be. So we create our small world and remain in the cocoon till eternity. Why should our knowledge of things and things-to-come be absolute? How then may we accept how infinitesimal we are in the immensity of the cosmological order?  We accept that which fits into our imagination and received knowledge and chart a course till our appointment with the current phase of existence comes to an end. Within the broad concept of time ours is very narrow and small, measured in decades which after seven usually begins to savage our physical composition.

There is a sense in which this is an arcane postulation. Every age seems to be wary of and warn against the overwhelming forces that challenge the contemporary worldview. So it is in this sense a human dynamic as he confronts the daily grind of things. To get educated, to be empowered with a skill, to earn a living, to settle down, make a family and populate the world are constants. Perhaps! But how has the contemporary world prepared us for what now assails our psyche in spite of ourselves? Pictures, both real and photo-shopped are a part of our consciousness. Videos which convey lies in the image of truth are recurrent to the imagination. That which was impossible has become possible. The voice of Jacob and the body of Esau is an extension, no, foundation of that elemental doubt. The uncertainty of Father Isaac about the information that stares him in his dimmed eyes and failing ear drums. These have been transported in very broad terms to our everyday living.         
The 21st century is less than two decades old. But in the last two decades groundbreaking discoveries have changed our knowledge trajectory, including the possibility of living forever, barring accidents! True? Possible? We have also witnessed life being taken on social media. We have been able to create and destroy. Nuclear warfare which was a serious threat to humanity is here with us and is not so scary after all. Internet warfare however is here and could bring down whole economic empress at the touch of a button. The extension of the imagination which the internet represents has altered our concept of space and time. We travel through walls into bedrooms and sanctuaries that were once hidden from our view.
If all of these have happened, if sacred values can be interrogated and torn into shreds in the public space, if there is a hint that man can live forever, not in the religious sense of the post-apocalyptic perception and apprehension, then we really cannot be baffled by the fluidity of contemporary life and ideals. They represent a shift in responsibility, of reality, and of accountability. Fluidity therefore is a natural by-product of human inventions and capacity. We may not struggle to build a tower to heaven; but the race for space knowledge and conquering outer reality makes us bold, adventurous and somewhat irreverent and irresponsible. This perhaps is why social and cultural relations have become negatively fluid, irresponsible and destructive. Until it gets to its peak and crashes, this fluidity will continue into a crescendo until the foundations of the world as we know it will be shaken and a new order will come into place. The time and hour of that great change no one can tell; not even the great ‘prophets’ who strut the stage in the name of God!    

In this article:
Hope Eghagha
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