Venandah Madanhi (VM) sat down to talk to Yusuf Takoliya (YT) about community, education and problem solving.
VM: Yusuf, what does community mean to you?
YT: Community is synonymous with cooperation. Generally, an individual alone is limited by what s/he can do but when cooperating with others, they collectively achieve more. For example, in school, if you have a tight group of friends that help each other out, you can do more. We just need to take this mentality on with us as we progress through life. I consider that at present, western society is quite fragmented and quite individualistic. Individualism, of course, is to a certain degree beneficial and without the concept, theories such as the Rights of Man may never have been adopted, nonetheless, life is about balance and a dose of collective spirit may be necessary for the greater good of the group, be it in family or country.
This collective spirit is arguably found more in developing countries and I think this is something western society should learn from. For example, in some societies such as China, there is a strong belief and encouragement to innovate and create economically sustainable solutions; however, there is also a shared understanding that to some extent, these new solutions must also benefit the collective group.
Take Alibaba as an example, it started off as an e-commerce company but has expanded into fintech (Ant Group) and now operates the world’s largest mobile and online payments platform. Ant Group, until recently, also had free reign in providing financial services through ecosystems for insurance, credit, loans, credit scoring, and wealth management. Though it has enabled healthy competition, such as keeping the traditional players such as banks on their toes, the latter is arguably at a disadvantage due to being more strictly regulated.
Power and politics aside, we have recently seen how the Chinese government had clamped down on Ant Group and some of these financial services they provide citing prudential risks that could lead to a financial crisis. This is understandable considering that such loans provided by Ant Group were offered to individuals and small businesses who may not usually be credit worthy in the normal lending market. The risk of non-payment by consumers and small businesses would lead investors to lose, requiring a bail out by the government. This is arguably an example of collectivism, as an individual business was not allowed to continue to grow if the long term risks were too contagious for the rest of society. In the West, and especially following the 2008 Financial Crisis, the opposite is arguably true as banks are not regulated enough despite the obvious risks to the society as a whole. To conclude, the needs of individuals and businesses need to be managed to ensure a prosperous community.
VM: If you could solve any issue in the world, what would it be?
YT: I would change education and how it is approached. Education needs to be presented with a deeper purpose and not just note memorization for an exam. Also, by learning how to learn, it would allow us to continue acquiring knowledge and gaining skills. This would benefit us all in the long term as we would be better prepared to handle the challenges and situations that we face in life. This can be achieved by adopting, within a modern framework, a classical education that emphasises upon the study of our history, literature, language, poetry, drama, philosophy and art. This would be fruitful as it would allow us to appreciate everything around us and would make us a bit more grateful.
VM: When young people and experienced people come together to solve a problem, they are able to come up with some great solutions. Why is that?
YT: Those that are experienced are experienced for a reason and that is because they have been in situations that have demanded results. In contrast, the newbies are arriving onto the stage with a sense of optimism and can be a bit more in touch with newer trends, technologies and open to trying things out. They will all have varying views on what is right, wrong, valuable and worth spending time and resources on — this variation in value systems will have an impact on what the two groups are able to achieve together. For example, I am working on a proposal regarding sustainable cities with my fellow contributors. Those of us who have had more experience in living and working in the city may have a different idea of what a sustainable city is. Meanwhile, those who are still in education may view the meaning of sustainable cities from a different lens.
Generally, a group with experience injects a level of conservatism and caution as they know what works whilst the other group are more willing to take on some risk. When the two come together, the solution found will have a solid foundation and a refreshing sense of dynamism.
VM: So much has happened so far in 2021 but what has shocked you the most?
I’ve gotten to the point where not much really shocks me anymore. It’s a mindset, we have to take what comes and adapt to it.
Yusuf Takoliya is a Talk About Contributor specialising in Culture & Politics.