The advent of technology and social media has altered too many things in society today. Business, science, health and finance are some of the areas that have changed by technology, good and bad.
Social interaction has transformed from face-to-face engagement to 'spending' time with millions of people that you have never met, that you are unlikely to ever meet and some reside very far away from you. The world is a click of a button.
Social media has altered human interaction. WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram as well as many others are responsible for sharing of tons of data in a minute. Even traditional messengers in the office never transfer so much information in their lifetime.
The only area that appears very reluctant to exploit technology and social media is politics. Admittedly, politicians, political formations and their followers have twitter or Facebook accounts. But they still view them as a by-the-way thing.
Will Harris says, "Politics is such an outdated business."
These days it is quite common to hear people call each other 'QWERTY revolutionaries', in reference to a computer keyboard, because most people still believe in physical activity. Political activism is viewed from an old tainted lens that purports that activism means you have to be in the streets.
Political rallies and door-to-door campaigns, and even television and newspapers, have very limited reach compared to different social media platforms. A successful political rally draws about fifty thousand people. Compare this to the number of people who see or react to Donald Trump's tweets and their reach.
One tweet by Trump has an average of ten thousand comments, over forty thousand likes and an unknown number of people who reads them.
To put your mind at ease, Trump has 55,1 million supporters. Emerson Mnangagwa (250k), Evo Morales (450k), Cyril Ramaphosa (330k), Julius Malema (2,2m), Gwede Mantashe (277k), Helen Zille (1,3m) and Barack Obama (102m).
Of all these people, Trump is a potent user of social media for all purposes. In fact, he has altered the way politics, democracy and consultation as well as advocacy and information sharing are done.
He does not need to call a press conference or political rally to inform his followers, American publics and the world about his decisions and what he thinks about many issues. His protectionist ideas were first seen on Twitter. And since then he has launched effective trade wars, demonised the UN system and also promoted his anti-migration ideas.
Trump has blown apart the walls of Congress, state institutions and embassies that have always served as bastions of confidentiality and secrecy. Democracy has no barriers as it was conceived in Athens a long time ago, amid with greater reach.
Unfortunately in African countries, including South Africa, internet access and related technologies as well as free speech are a deliberate stumbling block. For, the price of data makes it impossible for people to spend adequate time on the net navigating ideas. Let alone to engage their public representatives.
Also, many local politicians and councillors are not using social media to communicate and or engage their constituencies. This is a serious drawback because people are denied an opportunity to raise issues and to create awareness.
Democracy means elections and nothing more in our countries.
Social media has potential to create more transparency and accountability. People and their representatives interact in real time without waiting for tired, outdated modes like branch and council meetings. Are politicians are afraid to discuss serious issues with people who voted them to power?
Public gatherings (sometimes called imbizos and lekgotlhas) are equally ineffective but they still serve some purpose because the digital divide keeps out millions of people who reside in townships and rural areas. Hence, the agitation for liberalisation of information technology is relevant to allow more people to gain access to gadgets and information resources.
Even parliaments are just too lame to be taken serious in terms of the role they are meant to perform. Parliamentarians are in any way made up of people drawn from stagnant political parties, and are politicians themselves. They are are left far behind as the executive runs amok.
A modern society lives and eats information. All this information is right on their fingertips, literally speaking. Thus, to dismiss anyone who politically active in virtual spaces as a 'QWERTY revolutionary' bothers on refusal to admitting to have missed the eight o'clock bus at Park Station.
What is happening to politics is not new, the world of sports has undergone massive transformation in the past 20 years. When television sets became cheaper and widely available, numbers of people who attended games at stadiums dropped significantly all over Europe.
Then football minds turned to broadcasting rights, which suddenly transformed the broadcasting to a multi billion dollar industry. To this day, for example, the English premier league has a following all over the world. And teams get most of their revenues from broadcasting rather than from gate-takings.
The same cannot be said about politics since it has dismally failed to move on with times for a number of reasons. Politics tends to be constrained or limited by space and issues. Politics is focused on matters within certain geography, and issues pertaining thereto.
Attempts to making truly regional and global icons and issues have been thwarted by old concepts of sovereignty, national interests and border demarcations. For example, it is inconceivable for a Ghanaian to support and vote for the Mozambican political party like Frelimo or Renamo. Paul Kagame is not elected by Tanzanians, Japanese and Ethiopians.
And within countries, this stratification is quite rife. Provinces, municipalities and wards operate as mini-states which makes it difficult for dynamism to take place. The situation gets worse in federal states like Switzerland and the USA, where regional politics almost trounces national issues.
Western Europe has tried to integrate different countries but politics has moved in the opposite direction. Hungarians and Danes still vote according to what they perceive as relevant to their countries. The Brexit vote in Britain and the rise of Trump in the US are a serious wake-up call to remind all of us that as much as life changes, politics is more or less static or degenerating.
The point I am making is that as much as everyone talks about a 'modern society' and relevance of technology, the custodian of society management (politics), for a lack of a better phrase, is not prepared to cope with the changes happening in society. Politics is left very far behind.
China still limits access to social media. South Africa closed alternative media in The New Age and ANN7. The West has Wikkileaks' Julian Paul Assange trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in central London. Saudi Arabia killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul.
It is not just journalists that get killed or jailed for talking the truth to power, and or against what they perceive as injustices. Thousands of people, mainly ordinary citizens, disappear in countries each year. Millions of people get dismissed from work for raising their concerns.
Unfortunately politics is an instigator in all of this because it is too conservative and least prepared for change. It will be interesting to see how long politics will survive going forward as the nature of society becomes elusive in shape and form.
One thing is certain, politics is struggling to keep up with changes in society, whose very interests it is supposed to act. Its conduct and action, in both repressive regimes and democracies, are a cause for concern.
Politics has not changed its script for hundreds of years, it risks becoming extinct in the short term. For politicians, "you are either in government, in which case you do everything you can to remain in government, or you are in opposition, in which you do everything you can to get into government."
One commentator says, "there is no middle ground between the two extremes of opposition and government, and consequently all politicians of all parties will prioritise those things that more immediately meet their objectives and defer those things that don't."
Politics is never concerned about the future. We see this every day in our countries: scandals are not an accident but they tell you that politics is about myopia and self interests. Also, we have never thought of what would happen should people not turn up at electoral stations to vote. What politicians do after that?
Politics isn't alone. It's closest cousin economics is dying faster and is dragging politics to grave with it. Politics and economics are guilty of serving minority interests at the expense of everyone. That is the reason the likes of Michael Jackson, Apple, Coca-Cola and CNN shadow both.
I think it is time for politics and economics to die. There is no need for their obituaries.