“The small wisdom is like water in a glass: clear, transparent, pure. The great wisdom is like the water in the sea: dark, mysterious, impenetrable”—Rabindranath Tagore
The world today has become an explosive arena of information passing from one source to another within microseconds leaving no time for recipients to process its contents. Had HG Wells been alive, he would have probably gotten to see his science fiction short story ‘The New Accelerator’ published in 1901, in full action. With the advent of internet and 5G technology, knowledge has erupted like the volcanic lava flowing in all directions. People these days are walking less on the ground but are swimming more in an ocean of data, trying to sort out that which they are seeking. So engrossed are we in this new-found abundance that humanistic connections are gradually weakening with ‘all-for-myself’ approach on the rise. Where in the yesteryears, the young learnt from their elders’ experiences by listening to their stories, now the young ones teach their elders directly from the knowledge they extract from the internet.
This trend has grown to such an extent that experts have started feeling insecure as more and more people revert to the internet to search for solutions to their problems. If afflicted by an ailment, they quickly look up the symptoms and reach out for possible cures. Since half-baked knowledge is hazardous, there are chances that such acts can prove more detrimental than useful. Many doctors are heard telling their patients to avoid looking up the internet for causes and remedies because conditions surrounding an individual could be unique which only the sharp eye of an accomplished professional can identify. The available virtual information is general in nature covering multiple probabilities. For a novice, reading details about different diseases can be terrifying. Sometimes quite normal symptoms could be indicative of malignancy whereas there can be the possibility that a major disease is overlooked that could be treated if diagnosed early.
Another instance one can think of is that of researchers who are in the process of preparing their dissertations. Their duty is to dig in deep, find references, read existing literature, provide different views and then draw their own conclusions. Now these steps are required to be taken with complete sincerity and dedication but as it happens, in their urgency to obtain their degrees, they revert to the internet in an attempt to get hold of some ready-made material. In doing so, they not only commit plagiarism but sometimes also end up with falsehood that could be circulating as authentic. This is damaging for their educational achievements and capable of twisting reality into truth. Mere surfing the free net is insignificant. One has to be aware about genuine websites to draw out requisite information.
Curiosity knows no bounds. When students, especially school-going, learn from their teachers or elders, they receive controlled information in a way that is comprehensible to their immature minds. Onslaught of truth can at times become problematic with the onset of hormonal changes in their bodies. No artificial intelligence has the capacity to reveal in subtle terms some secrets of life that can be overwhelming for young minds. Similarly, when the uneducated and/or ungroomed youths, regardless of their social status, are exposed to porn sites that leave no room for imagination, how can one expect their behavior or mode of thinking to adhere to moral/normal standards? The digital world is filled with anonymous malcontents, hiding behind screens conducting all manner of spurious acts. Their latest pleasure seems to be putting false ideas into the minds of innocents.
By making extremely perverse sites freely available through internet, we are actually promoting perversity that reflects in gruesome acts committed on men, women, girls and boys of all ages leaving some to die and others to suffer from mental and physical agony throughout their remaining lives. If they fail to recover from their trauma the survivors in turn, can cause another set of problems for the society, making sickness its hallmark.
Of all the heinous crimes committed against women in particular, the Delhi gang rape and murder case of December 2012 invited the wrath of not just the Indians but the world at large. Clearly, the perpetrators harboured extremely disgusting and false perceptions leading to unspeakable and most inhuman torture of a 22 years old physiotherapy intern. In our beloved country, between 2015 and 2018, 720 incidents were reported from Kasur, Punjab alone. In 2017, out of 129 reported cases of child assault, 34 were abductions, 23 were rapes, 19 sodomy and 4 abduction and gang rapes. These should undeniably raise red flags as to the nature and quality of our people. Is it not time that we check out the level of humanity (our only available shield) prevailing in our society?
The concept of inculcating human characteristics can only become a reality when rigorous efforts are made on all fronts, both by the public and private sectors. Rigorous campaigns are needed to instill respect for fellow beings, the helpless and the vulnerable. Responsibility to educate people lies on the media too. Pakistan Electronic Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has a registered list of 89 channels that can easily devote some time in giving lessons in ethics and humanity. We need programmes, plays and shows that can help promote wisdom, enlightenment and superiority of compassion over animal instincts. Agreed that information is vital in today’s world but unfiltered and more than necessary can result in greater devastation and moral degradation than can be envisioned. People need to be taught complete focus on well-being, prosperity and development not only of their own selves but that of others as well, rather than waste precious moments on frivolous activities.
Pope John Paul II aptly said: “There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little”.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)