By Rishard Najimudeen –
We are living in a different time which is called by some scholars as ‘Postnormal Times’. This particular time period is defined as ‘an in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have yet to be born’. Pre-modern world order was totally different to what it is now, socially, culturally, economically, politically and epistemologically as well. Following are some features that differentiate modern world order from pre-modern: modernity, postmodernity, predatory capitalism, market fundamentalism, hierarchical structures of society, institutions and organisations, top down politics, broken government, polluting industries, runaway technology, marginalisation of the vast swathes of humanity, xenophobia, racism, misogyny.
For instance, post modernism has introduced the concept of ‘Decentralisation’ and has started to marginalise essential elements of the traditional social structure such as religious thinking and formal family system. Religious texts have been replaced by human rationality and scientific inquiries. Materialistic mind set has overcome faithfulness to the heart, spirituality and common good. Most of the educational institutions, from primary to higher education, have become big business centers and now behaved like multi national corporations. Family structure has experienced more liberal and liquid system instead of being conservative and organised. Urbanisation and increasing amount of big companies have made a new lifestyle, in which refinements are prioritized to necessities and essential needs. Multi national companies and business elites influence the market and the gap between rich and poor, wealthy and needy, power and marginalised is getting worst. Consumerism is deliberately promoted by the media and the customers are urged to purchase above to their income. Besides, so-called economy empowerment impacts negatively on ecology as well.
Due to the globalization, developing countries tend to imitate Western countries in each and every aspect of life. Western art and its culture have immensely impressed them. The changing social phenomena can be observed in the art and cultural events such as music and dance competitions. Traditional way of dress code and old musical instruments have been forgotten or neglected. In pre modern period, songs purely provide rich meanings about the life and its reality, provoke thoughts and emotions. In contrast, most of the songs that are produced today play negative role in the society, particularly it makes worst phycological impacts on youngsters.
These are only few characteristics of new normal times from a lot. In summary, it can be said that post normal times possess complexity, chaos and contradictions. To put it by another word, each segment of the society has the interrelation with others. Anything can’t be separated from others. For instance, modern scholars have started to argue on introducing and implementing the system of multi disciplinaries in universities. Some of them have already started the process. This means that political science is tightly connected to economy while it has a relationship with ecology, history, education, culture and so on. One who has knowledge in political science only is not capable to analyse or handle the political scenarios. He has to have a profound outlook on various fields that are related to politics.
Having profound knowledge on the Postnormal Times or the context where we live is quite essential in the efforts of drafting alternative futures. Scholars who are engaged in futures studies reiterate that there are three well established methods of futures studies:
1 – Analysis of prominent Trends: Thinking and exploring futures begins with examining and analysing trends. The aim of trends analysis is not to predict the future, or divine a master list of content but rather to establish a breadth and depth of understanding about the extended present. In short, trends analysis aims to answer a seemingly simple question: what could be next? What could be the possible consequences?
Following are some areas that can be considered as prominent trends on contemporary days: Global warming, population and youth, pollution and endangered cities, politics and governance, economy and energy, science and technology, terrorism, education and creativity, health and wellbeing, gender inequality, religion and culture, entertainment and sports, social media and so on. One particular issue can be a trend for a long time while another issue for a short period. Number of small issues here and there may make an awareness among the public and later on it may become a popular trend throughout the country. Media including social media plays a vital role in creating an issue as viral and popular. For instance, Bagya who appeared in Sirasa Lakshapathi as a contestant raised an environmental issues and she has become the limelight of the media as well as the environmental activists. Shukra who had also participated in the same program initiated a laptop revolution and still it is being a trend.
2 – Examination of emerging issues: In order to create alternative futures, emerging issues should be carefully scrutinized and analysed. Emerging issues are not yet fully visible. However, it should be studied. Because, it is the raw materials of future studies. Some emerging issues involve into mega trends.
Not all emerging issues become trends.
An emerging issue for one person or society may not be an emerging issue for another. One of the key challenges of emerging issues analysis of evidence. Data to support emerging issues is often a lot less substantial than with trends.
03 – Building Scenarios based on identified trends and emerging issues: Scenarios are usually developed in clusters to show alternatives possibilities. Eric jantsch defines “scenarios are attempts to set up a logical sequence of events in order to show how, starting to the present situation, they may evolve step by step”. Building Scenarios is not an easy task. Careful reading to both emerging issues and trends helps the readers to build scenarios. It is worth noting that, most people, even some intellectuals, are engaged in sharing superficial informations instead of going beyond the surface. Shallowness in observing issues and trends won’t help anymore to build scenarios.
Abovementioned three steps are necessary in our exploring alternative futures. The actual fact is, we are going to create alternative futures for our next generation that would mostly consist of our children and grand children. The premier reason why we have to take this responsibility seriously is, if we don’t think about our own futures others will, or futures will be colonized. If we failed to think about building futures for ourselves “others” will do. We will be colonized and will become slaves, not in a traditional format. Rather, it will be in a different way.
We should encourage our young generation in Sri Lanka to go in-depth reading and insightful observations to the events and issues in order to explore futures. They have to discuss on various levels of futures: Near future, Medium future and Far future. Educational institutions from schools to universities are the proper place where critical discussions, heated debates, meaningful conversations, creative presentations and analytical forums can be taken place in order to formulates alternative futures.