I recently observed with abysmal shock when, while at a community dialogue, an event which brought people from across Africa, a participant pushed through the day without eating a buffet organised by community members because there were no cutleries to use, and had never used bare hands to eat before. As part of the organising team, it was shameful as such peculiarity caught us off-guard despite prior pre-travel briefing. Perhaps the participant feared likely reprimand to have carried personal cutleries and or ask for one.
Technology is here to stay and it’s slowly and painfully robbing us off abilities to function without them. Perhaps you have a friend, family member, neighbour, or colleague who types over 40 words per minute on computer but takes an hour to write an A4 full page using pen and paper. Increasingly, we see people; a) unable to prepare rice without a rice cooker, b) from childhood have been using washing machine, and d) have difficulties using pit latrines because they are used to sitting pan ceramic toilet systems. We can’t deny the fact that some people are born and raised in fairly ‘privileged’ environments. Nonetheless, one can imagine the shock of having to adjust in the event of a temporary visit to friends or relatives without such facilities.
Perhaps you have observed children struggling to adjust to new homes upon unfortunate demise of their parents. Like me, I’m certain you have also heard or observed with empathy, people who due to life uncertainties fall off from ‘grace to grass’, and with numerous examples of previously ‘powerful people’ who suddenly lost their anchors and fame and as such, had to physically relocate from inner rings of the city to hard-to-reach villages, and were relegated from posh cars to footing, mansions to small suites, and air-conditioned office/room to grass thatched huts with uncompromising rats, generous mosquitoes, and severe deprivation.
Of what value is it to ‘pump’ our lads and lasses with unlimited and unregulated Internet bundles, television series, computer games, but not create time and space to teach them life skills, self-help strategies, and survival techniques especially when confronted with extreme and undesirable life-demanding circumstances? How about our contribution in ‘pumping’ children with implausible doses of ice creams and chocolates? What does this say about parenting styles at a time when adults are struggling with daily stressors of managing contemporary families, and all they can do is labour even harder to protect, educate, and defend their children to the best of their abilities? I’m neither discrediting ice creams and chocolates nor discouraging their intake. If any, I’m a great fan of both especially as part of my regular downtown weekend drives.
Indeed, modern day lives have been ‘eased’ with inventions of infrared rays remote-supported machines. I’m certain you resonate with me in celebrating the brains behind these technologies and people who ushered us into an era where we watch with amusement as cloths spin inside a machine washer through to the dryer. I cannot imagine how else life would look like without a hoover, dish washer, deep fryer, microwaves ovens, gas and electric cookers, echo friendly refrigerators, Wi-Fi enabled smart HD televisions, and 5D cinema technology among others – all of which makes the twenty first century a much better era for humankind.
However, these ‘beautiful’ inventions continue to have stern tolls on us, and more so on children. While investigations continue on what these electronics do to our physics and psych, let’s mull-over how they both enable and deprive us in equal measures, what they give and take from us, and whether the joy and satisfaction of their usage is commensurate to the degree of damage and why we should be concerned about the health of our current and future generations, and the need to entertain conversations on self regulations but also educate young ones on the potential dangers of addiction to certain equipment.
As concerned adults who desire to leave this world a better place for young people, we ought to keep both eyes open on the likely long-term implications of the decisions we make on behalf of children and the kinds of adults we want to nurture them into as custodians of the future. As for cutleries, they are both attractive and fancy to use but we also need to skill children to use their hands to eat – anyhow, studies have demonstrated its physical and cognitive value.
I implore you to conduct self and family audits including assessing your children’s abilities to wash dishes, mop, wash their own pants, as well as the hours spent seated operating electronic devices. Studies have shown that an average person spends four years of their life looking down on their cell phones. It’s vital to plan and organise the best for our children but it’s equally crucial that we prepare them to walk through worse case scenarios of life in difficult times of life – for which they do come.
Technology should not strip us off our ‘human’ ability to survive and thrive independently. Above all, we shouldn’t be enslaved by our own inventions. Whether or not you have a family or children, may this piece re-awaken our thoughts on children’s upbringing and rekindle our conscience in shaping the future for younger generations, and towards the ideal environment with which we all wish to happily retire in the evening hours of our natural lives. I’m not a ranting unemployed youth. It’s not poverty compelling me to write, I’m not asking readers to stop stocking technology ‘goodies’. I also fancy contemporary ‘good life’ and therefore not insinuating regression to old school hassles. Rather, I’m a concern citizen and I hope you join me in fighting dependency on technology.
Onen David Ongwech. Email: o[email protected]