The Pace [Archives:1999/24/Viewpoint]

June 14 1999

The predicament of people at the forefront of technology and efficiency is a difficult one. The few that are way in front are frustrated because they are pulled back by the majority. This is true in all societies worldwide. But it is especially true in more backward societies. People on the frontiers of technology know they cannot really break loose from the bulk of society and take off at the pace they choose. Their progress forward has to be within range of the general public; otherwise they risk being alienated. 
This is especially true if such a person wants to serve as an agent of change and as a force for modernization for his/her society. Such a role requires that the leading person be seen by the public as one of their own. If he/she is seen as too foreign or too different, then his/her efforts to help community’s forward march will not be successful. The efforts may even backfire. Change agents are like the front-line runners in a marathon. If they run too fast ahead of the crowd of runners, the majority will not be able to see where they went and which turn they took. In other words, the leading runners have to remain at a followable pace, even if they can run faster. In other words, it is sometimes necessary to restrain one’s own progress forward, just to remain within the reach of the general public. 
The other day, I was in a ‘dabbab’ (mini-bus), and I accidentally met some secondary school kids who come from my village area. We talked about many things, until we hit the topic of Yemen Times. They said that they followed closely – and with admiration – the growth and progress of the paper. Then, I asked a stupid question. 
“Did you check out the Yemen Times homepage?” 
“What is that?” was the immediate unanimous answer. 
“You know, our address, our site on the internet!””Internet? What is that?””You know, the data of files from all computers worldwide.” 
One of them quipped. 
“Yes, I have heard about computers.” It was a sad morning. While few of our secondary school students have even heard of computers, babies crawl onto keyboards in some countries. The gap is widening! 
It is now evident that the pace of grasping and using information is directly dependent on one’s education and abilities. If one’s progress is too fast, he/she risks being frustrated by the slow pace of others. Have you experienced this? Did you ever feel people around you were moving in slow motion? This is not their fault, but it isn’t yours either. Yet, for a technologically up to date person to continue to belong a community, it is necessary to slow down in order to fully interact with others. This is not easy. 
There is some consolation. As technology brings the world together and makes it smaller, it is possible to link up with people around the globe who work at your pace. Thus, one really starts to belong to a class of like-minded and like-paced people worldwide. This is one positive dimension to globalization! Yet, that global comradery is not strong enough. It is still vital that one should be at ease with his/her community at home. One of the main objectives of new technology is to improve conditions in one’s community. For that to happen there is a need to enhance the education of our people. This will increase their pace. 
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF 
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher