What is 'world in high definition'?

opinion May 12, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

2,155 Viewed

Coming to grips with the ideas and beliefs of the modern era could be the greatest challenge we face

Quite a few advertisements for TV programmes have highlighted the “high definition”
feature. There is no doubt that the world is coming to us on TV in sharper focus, thanks to the technology, but “high definition” can apply to other things beyond images. Thoughts, ideas, ideology and even religious beliefs have been redefined in the new world, too.
As they say in an advertisement for a documentary programme, “seeing is believing”. The more we see, the more we think. And the more we think, the more different thoughts are generated. Ours may go down in history as an age of technological upheaval, but that shall never overshadow the fact that ours is also an age of a great ideological or philosophical adventure.
The orthodox concept of democracy has been challenged. The original idea about the universe – that there is just one universe – has been challenged. Are “you” and “me” unique, or are there several “You’s” and “Me’s” in an infinite number of universes? That’s a scary thought, and yet scarier is the notion that every thought and imagination known to men is there because it’s a real thing that has happened, or is happening or will happen somewhere in the “multiverse”.
“High definition” should mean we are able to see, hear, think and feel in greater details. “High definition” is greater knowledge that enables us to stop or at least minimise generalisation. Democracy, for example, used to be largely about the “voices of the people are voices from heaven” cliche. Technology has encouraged fast exchanges and interactive analyses which have put the concept of democracy under a microscope. Protests in several countries have raised questions about what constitutes a genuine and workable democracy, in addition to ballot box results.
The very founding principle of democracy – which cherishes man’s freedom to think – has brought about technological advancement, which in turn has empowered man to question the evolution of democracy, among other things. To that, we must be thankful. But the ultimate teaching of democracy should be that even its own textbook can be challenged.
Perhaps, it’s easier for the children than for the adults. The former are growing up in a brave new world where many concepts that seemed to have been previously written in stone are being seriously scrutinised. Being adults of today, we bear the risks of having irrevocable mindsets that could be plain wrong. In other words, today’s kids are better equipped than adults to cope with the world “in high definition”.
Every generation faces its own challenges. But the key challenge is the same for every generation. It has to do with each generation’s ability to embrace new ideas. This challenge keeps presenting itself in a specific form under a new circumstance. It tells man to never stop being open, because the concepts of the world, of the universe, of religion have been changing and will continue to change. Everyone is challenged to accept that what seems undoubtedly true today can be anything but tomorrow. 
Yesterday’s liberals can become today’s conservatives. It’s the same for today’s “liberals”, if they stop considering other ideas, that is. Nobody wants to be tomorrow’s “conservatives”, but the “high definition” is exposing some startling possibilities. It requires a remarkably open mind to be a liberal today and remain so tomorrow or a few years from now.