Naiveté of advocating the online panacea | Daily News

Naiveté of advocating the online panacea

In-person learning is still the best. 
In-person learning is still the best. 

Online does not mean no life. Unfortunately that is how the term seems to be understood in the context of the pandemic in particular. Many day-to-day problems can have online solutions but the fact that none of these are a solution without life as we knew it being restored at least remotely back to normal, seems lost on many who advocate ‘online’ isolation and online problem solving.

Online learning has been touted as a panacea for all ills in education.

Shruti Sri Luxshmi, a 16-year-old student disfavours this set-up of learning and submitting everything to the schoolteacher on WhatsApp, reports The Hindu. “I prefer to be in a classroom,” she says, “Now, I have to do everything on WhatsApp – submitting assignments, talking to friends, asking doubts... It is boring.” Just who would have guessed, eh?

But online is the mantra for everything and there are experts who think that people can and should live 100 percent virtually. People are beginning to forget that virtual life is but a prop for real life, at best a convenience, no more. Could people meet online, have their own dinner and drinks and enjoy their company the same way they would meet at a restaurant and have that party?

Some experts seem to have come to the conclusion that people can, and that restaurants should merely exist as online delivery providers. That is why they talk of “ghost kitchens” and “cloud kitchens”. But increasingly with ghost kitchens people have got themselves ghost lives.

Some call it the end of intimacy. However, it is strange that none of the experts who tout online solutions for everything see it fit to have any separate unit or think tank to consider the psychological downside of doing everything online. “Online only” is definitely not a solution but people are pretending it is.

Virtual students

Virtual is not virtuous. Virtual students are failing classes at a much more rapid rate than in-person counterparts. “There’s another issue. Ever since the lockdowns began, studies have noted an increase in student depression. That problem grows worse, not better, with every day at home. Imagine, after all this time, being stuck at home while your friends are back in school, enjoying recess together and participating in live lessons. This is poison for the isolated student’s mental health and motivation.”

That is from a community newspaper in the United States. Someone may argue that every student is learning online back here and that nobody feels particularly isolated. Small consolation that. Students compare themselves with their previous batches. Their elder brothers and sisters who were lucky enough to make friends in school.

All this is not to decry the online methods resorted to in education, food delivery, etc., but to say that those who call these trends the ‘new normal’ are sub-human. There is nothing normal about these tendencies and ‘new normal’ should never have entered the lexicon.

 But it has, and that is not even the half of it. People expect the new normal to be the normal forever, and that is when we have to think that the pandemic has created a massive segment of the population that needs to be institutionalized. There are even persons who advocate that face masks should be made mandatory long after the pandemic is over because “that is clean”.

 Asking people to live virtual lives is the cyber equivalent of asking people to wear face masks long after the pandemic is over. It is an undiluted lunacy. The pandemic has made people less humane and less human in turn, and the fact is that people are expected to function as if they are robots or automatons.

 The kids are taught that they can have a “life” as automatons, and they are told that this is the new normal. A curse on all those school authorities, etc., who are prepared to sacrifice traditions such as the Royal-Thomian cricket match, because they can get some hack writer to say that this is after all the “new normal”.

 That’s while there are literally rugger scrums going on during the pandemic because there are organized rugby tournaments taking place while all these lockdowns are in progress. There is also the South African cricket tour of Sri Lanka all set to begin in a few days.

Global surge

These are the real ‘Covidiots’ – these grinch-like authorities, who want kids to live a full time virtual life but do not want games, sports or other social interactions even under monitored conditions. “The UN Secretary-General has reported a “horrifying” global surge in domestic-based violence linked to COVID-19. In some countries, calls to helplines have reportedly doubled.” That quote is from a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.

Children sitting on a tree to catch a 4G signal for their online lessons.

The experts here that lecture the politicians at the drop of a hat have no time to discuss any of these issues. They have indeed glamorized virtual solutions. Some countries have virtual learning in place, while they regularly shut down the Internet for their political and collateral purposes. The world has indeed gone mad.

It is time to take stock of such deviant behaviours and call them, not what they target, the new normal. Yes the new normal is of deranged people advocating the stoppage of hundreds-year-old traditions, etc., citing the “new normal”. The new normal is of Covidiots trying to keep kids glued to virtual learning while turning their backs on the slightest hint of schoolchildren meeting their peers in person, even under monitored circumstances that adjust for present health concerns.

“Across the country, we are hearing that there are increased numbers of serious suicidal attempts and suicidal deaths,” says Dr. Susan Duffy, a Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at Brown University. That is in the United States.

Here in this country the experts have been so busy touting online solutions to bother about collating the statistics about teen suicide – or the mental health of young people during the Covid pandemic.

The events industry is almost dead and people are making a virtue of this fact. But the vast segment of the population that survived due to the events industry such as venue providers, caterers, etc., are forgotten. The loss of income for these individuals is never factored in by the Covidiots who gloat that “virtual events are so energy saving that they will transform the Planet Earth.”

Events industry

Nobody is talking about how to resuscitate the events industry either. Any resistance is at best, episodic. There was that guy from the Marians pop group who made an impassioned plea to get musicians and other entertainers to perform and for hoteliers to enable them without going over the top. This is a very reasonable plea. But all that too has receded to the background with the grievous cold blooded murder of the event industry by Zoom.

People have lost agency over their lives, and they have given over that agency to virtual devices and the pandemic manipulators that manipulate people into going deeper into isolation. Whenever people want to reclaim reasonable agency in their lives there are the grinches saying that no, people have to retreat into their virtual lives.

This has become the time in a way to envy people who do not have access to the Internet, and to smartphones. At least at some level they can be seen as free spirits, though it is difficult to envy their children who cannot access online learning that the experts have been gloating over.

No, the authorities are not to be blamed, but the experts who cannot see beyond their noses and tout these “solutions” as ideal or as semi-permanent, are purblind. They may have lost agency over their own lives but should they also force others to follow suit?

“Don’t wear a mask during activities in which it might get wet, such as swimming.” That is a piece of advice that, believe it or not, found itself into the Internet, courtesy of the world famous Mayo Clinic in the US. Swim in a mask eh? In a world in which people have to be told that they should not wear their masks when they swim, there is a loss of agency of mind-boggling proportions. Humans have become virtual humanoids. Half of this is due to the fact that there is mindless reliance on “experts” and “subject specialists” during this pandemic. People have lost their ability to think straight. Correction: They have lost their ability to think.

Delivery riders are in high demand these days. 

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