THE RELEVANCE ECONOMY

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    When one reads on the Internet about the best universities, how great in the world of work and employment their students are, one is forced to wonder how this relates to all parts of the world including Africa. How true and widespread are such views being jockeyed? It seems that comments arising from such statements are often more interesting and insightful than the original postulates. It is especially so when one recognizes the parts of the world from whence these comments emanate and their likely overtones.

    In observing trends, tradition and history, a natural reaction is to ask questions. What knowledge and work is relevant today? What kind of education, training and profession will lead young people to vaunted bliss in life? How unchanging are these?

     Again, one may muse whether the issue is just the age long battle of the sexes that will never end. Or is it a challenge that has intensified by technology and dwindling global resources? How long will this issue continue to confront youths?

    What is relevant at any time is a challenging issue across the world. In some locations, this battle is fiercest. Youths are mostly drawn to its vortex. They face a kind of blizzard as they listen to their parents, peers, teachers, religious leaders, opinion molders even exploiters of their exuberance. This issue assumes different faces in different parts of the world

     For the standard bearers and gate keepers, they will not deign in their positions on this issue as chief advisers. Some of them believe that the outcome of deigning is far reaching. They believe it goes with a possibility of destroying the basis of their existence. What is relevant to them is not only a claim to exclusive determination, their intoned position carry moral, spiritual, economic insignias –  they hope will define who you are and where you will be in the future. These palpable intentions look noble. But how well informed are they in the face of history. Are their thoughts immutable predictions in unstable, imperfect world of confused young men and women seeking the way to go?

    Battle for relevance is not new. It involves choices. It changes with issues, world thinking, opinion molders, prognosis of the future, state actors in international arena, philosophies undermining traditions, technological breakthroughs and other imperceptible influences and values that loom large with only a little trigger.

    Probably, a little foray into world development and how it affects thoughts and directions could open our eyes to bigger issues involved. At a time before the collapse of the socialist systems in Europe, religion was taking a bashing. It’s relevance in a scientific age was greatly queried. All kinds of anti God and religion books were hitting as best sellers! Main stream religions wobbly stood on the ground. Surely, they suffered from loss of large following of youths in those days. Suspicion was deep among the youths of that time about the relevance of religion in their lives. It created levels of ambivalence among many even adults. It may appear that some of the youths of those days who are now in their sixties and seventies are still haunted by their choices of ‘relevant thoughts’ of those days.

    Relevance of religion to man was also vastly spurned in the ivory tower too. Indeed, it was under trial even on the outside. Today, even though such relevant issues about religion still rage in the west, what is happening in Africa, south of the Sahara presents a different scenario. Church boom seems to be here. Religiosity without God some call it. Cynics would ask if those in this religious tray in Africa are not seeking for relevance? Others argue that the search for relevance is creating a boom in religion in Africa. But ask a man or woman on the street of Lagos or Accra whether religion is relevant today.  You’re sure to get a different answer if same question is posed in the street of London or Paris. Different strokes for different folks. As we ask in history, is there a reconsideration?

    In the realm of governance especially in Africa and Southern Hemisphere, being a socialist those days was seen as fashionable and relevant. Those who advocate it were toast especially for young minds because of what they claim socialism will do in the material sphere of life. Others who were undecided whether they should belong to the East or West trod cautiously by declaring their non-alignment. Overtime we have come to see many of such nonaligned persons and nations that treated the West with long spoon had recourse to dine with the shortest spoon. They even go further in presenting the west as all-time defenders of humanity! This tilt could change in what seems like extreme nationalist tendencies sprouting. But do you see how time and relevance change? Can we extrapolate and learn a lesson in the so called ‘relevance economy’?

    In my privy I sometimes wonder the place and usefulness of many of those nonaligned theses submitted for the award of doctorate degree in many highbrow universities in the 1960s and 1970s. It seems that those advocates have quickly sought out refuge in new areas of interest and of today’s relevance. Political shift seems to have thrown such scholarly and so called ‘relevant works’ overboard. Far-rightism upsurge, multi-polarism and terrorism may be some ‘in’ issues giving such men and their works new hiding place after years of ‘non-alignment distress.  Time changes relevance.

    At different period of history, the breadth of discourse on what is relevant may be limited by those who control world opinion with their limited communication systems. Then, a large mass unfortunately tended to buy such ‘respected’ views and opinion. However, vast array of information dissemination tools has gradually move the pendulum. The Internet as an example has opened up the world to many and the social media systems have become great opinion molders for the youth.  Respectable ideas are no longer so fixed.

    In recent times the battle and pressure are on the universities. A technologically dominated world and poor funding are putting great stress on them including them disconnect in practical terms with the society they are supposed to serve. Some stakeholders are increasingly asking questions on the worth of some University certificates in a ‘relevance economy’. In a ‘relevance economy’ it appears practical outcome – the immediate result determines the value. Patience of the planter and gestation period for harvesting means nothing in their financial reports. In this situation, the issue of relevance becomes bigger.

    What is in there for me now seems to be the end game. Pecuniary levels and additions acquire chief positions in determining relevance. Don’t you see how the world has wreaked untold trouble for the youths and distorted what they term ‘relevance economy?

    Sometimes the matter gets bizarre. In the ivory tower facing this inquisition like heat regarding its relevance to the outside world is also hit by internal cleavages. Which of the disciplines hold the ace? The up-man-ship game in law, medicine, science, engineering, humanities, business and technology raises everyday getting to limits when there are things to share.

    Some professors would tell you that their individual worth can only be evaluated by themselves, their discipline peers not by their practical contribution to move the world and things forward. The fact however remains that when those with such mindset step out of the groves of academe, they realize that worth and relevance have their subjective values in situations and in climes. Dogmatic posturing has not only disturbed many young minds as to their choices, it has not helped perspectives or addressed the issue. When they follow thoughts spins of such teachers they only get more confused.

    The fact we all have to face is that the old resources of the world is changing, shrinking each passing day. New ways of doing things are on the rise and obliterating the old. Grazing field theory may not necessarily explain all that can be done. The issue is not purely about sharing but values, perception and location in a changing world of technological dominance.

    Values are changing rapidly. Things held dear and lofty some years ago, have suffered decline as to their usefulness. Imposed values are also taking a serious ride on cultures even over turning some in the metrosexual chase.

    Millennials begin with a different value orientation that is somehow strange to the old. It appears that woods in their new clime are sufficient to cook their food. That is the message the present children of our time are delivering to themselves. The connect of things that create wealth for business target youths. They introduce new values and what constitutes today’s ‘relevance economy’

    Entertainment industry conterminous relationship with youths, business, and their in-now ideas given a fillip by ICT are really determining relevance in their world. The way to wealth, popularity and glamour that are shorter tend to be the clearing path machine for the emerging world. For some, this is not deep, and they hope it will fizzle out with time. But today, this thinking of youths across the world seems to be the ruling principle.

    ‘Relevance economy’ is elastic, unending war. It will continue to rage in dimensions, for many reasons and at various locations. A young man was reported to have spent 10 years in college studying medicine without graduating. Indeed, for a course allegedly chosen by his parents. Arguably, they had a thought of relevant economy. But the young man later earned a first-class degree in another discipline of his choice! My profession is better and bigger than yours tells a story of the mind, but not always the value, food and reality. Prestige that used to be a great ally to relevance is today suffering similar fate. You are in the first, second or third world (not archaic) don’t always tell the full story even though it is part of it. In these worlds people live at different levels of values, prosperity, comfort, spirituality, crime, poverty of thought, material and relevance. There seems to be no single digit model that completely defines relevant economy. There are many aspects to what is relevant today.

    The determinant of relevance will never be the same in every place and at every time. Individuals have to examine themselves to know what their values are, to determine what is relevant. If relevance means what is popular or quickest route to money, fame and wealth, then it will ever be a stillbirth for many. Relevance can have a subtler meaning, diverging as you go, denoting different things to different persons at different locations and at different times.

     For you what is your ‘relevance economy’? Tell us

     

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