Description of the Two Elders Interviewed
The interview was carried out on two elders who were living in the City of Dubai. The first elder, named Abdul, was a man aged 60 years and a former teacher in a local high school. The other one was a woman aged 59 years who had worked for several years as a nurse in Abu Dhabi, but had retired and moved to Dubai. Her name was Halima. The two interviewees were enthusiastic about technology and its role in socialisation. They were the perfect match for our interview which was focusing on the role of technology in socialisation.
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The Story of the Elders
In this interview, the two elders gave a detailed story about socialisation and how it used to take place in the past in this society. Each of the two elders gave independent versions of socialisation in the Emirati society in the past, and how the society has transformed with the emergence of communication technologies. Abdul narrated the social life in the 1960s when he was young. He remembers how boys were treated superior than girls. They had the freedom to visit friends and places without any restriction.
During that time, they strictly adhered to the teachings of Quran and were expected to be the future leaders of the society. In Abdul’s story, he recounts how socialisation entailed the physical encounter. Abdul says, “During those times, we had to visit friends and interact during major ceremonies in the society”. At this early age, boys were expected to take the leading role in socialisation.
The school environment was the main forum for socialisation. They would meet new friends and develop strong bonds towards one another, based on the common interests. However, Abdul says that the changes that have been taking place in the society have been worrying, especially with the emergence of the social media. He says that the social media has affected socialisation by eliminating the physical interaction.
Halima gave a slightly different approach to how the emerging technologies have affected socialisation. According to Halima, life during her youth was a prison. In a family of eight girls and only two boys, she was the eldest. There was massive pressure on her to be a good example to her younger sisters. At the age of 15, there were plans to marry her off to a 35 year old widower, but she was rescued by her father who was determined to see her through to the highest levels of education.
However, the social environment was very unfriendly to the girls. They were not supposed to be seen as being too social, especially in forums where there were boys of their age or elders. Such actions would be considered as a bad behaviour. Sometimes they would develop some social relations with the fellow male classmates and plan for the marriage, but boys always had the last say.
They were supposed to be passive participants in their own lives. Halima is pleased with the changes that have been taking place in the society, especially those brought by the emerging technology. She said that women have finally been liberated. They can now play active roles in their own lives.
Elders’ View of Rapid Changes in the Society and Its Impact on Their Lives
The two elders had varying opinions about the rapid changes in the society. Abdul was sceptical about the social changes that have been taking place in this country, especially in the City of Dubai. The idea of empowering women according to him is going against the Islamic teachings. He laments that the current women are no longer as submissive as they are expected by their parents.
He recalls an incident when his daughter, upon graduating from the university, chose her own husband and rejected all the suitors that he as the father had recommended. This was strange to him. He was sceptical of the rapid changes, and according to him, these changes have had a negative impact on the lives of the elderly members of the society. When they were young, they followed the teachings and demands of their elders. However, when it is their turn to be listened to, the younger generation considers them backward and antisocial.
To Halima, the rapid changes that have taken place in the society occurred at the right time. She says that she was able to achieve academic success because of the support from her loving father. This came at a great cost to her family. She was always branded as a rebel while some people branded her father as an infidel. She saw her peers drop out of school at tender ages to be married off to older men.
According to her, the rapid changes in the social environment in this country have not only liberated young women in the society, but also the old women like her who were denied the freedom. She enjoys the fruits of this liberation alongside the young women who can now make their own choices.
Elders’ Advice to the Younger Generation
When called upon to give an advice to the younger generation, both elders had the same message, despite their divergent views on the rapid social changes. Abdul and Halima emphasised on the need for the younger generation to be disciplined when socialising. They stated that the younger generation should be responsible in their actions at every stage of their lives.
They were both critical of the impact of technology on socialisation. According to them, technology had reduced socialisation as opposed to the general view that it has boosted it. They argue that Facebook creates an impression that one has many friends in various countries, eliminating the need to visit friends and engage in physical activities together. In this regard, they urged the younger generation to balance the use of technology, and the need to engage in physical activities.
Finally, they warned the younger generation from defying the elder members of the society. They said that, although some of these changes may be good, it is still necessary to consult the elders when making serious decisions, because they have a better view of life based on their experience.
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Personal Reflection to the Elders’ Wisdom
An analysis of the story of the two elders’ wisdom shows that our society has slowly transformed from being excessively patriarchal, to one that is now considerate to both men and women. It is also coming out clearly that, although some of the elder members of the society cherish some of these changes, the younger generation still has a responsibility to respect the wisdom of the elders. Ignoring this wisdom is a sure path towards self destruction.