The COVID-19 pandemic has not only become a global health crisis but has also affected our humanity in more ways than one. This global pandemic has created a moral panic among communities, raising doubts about the efficacy of common values to bond individuals, communities and global societies. Post-COVID humanity needs to cast light on the new imaginations emerging through this time of crisis. Fundamental values and virtues of humanity that we commonly understand as universal conditions for the advancement of humankind need to be reimagined, especially by the youth.
As history has taught us, humankind cannot develop by merely being individuals; we can only develop together, as a community, by holding onto moral values and ethics that guide us through life. This realization prompted the College of Islamic Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar to create a global initiative that truly emphasizes the importance of such values and the need to collectivize our resources and efforts to build “communities of practice” by disrupting the existing models of teaching and learning.
“Design Post-COVID Humanity: Taaruf, Taawun, Tarahum (DPCH-3T)” is a seven-month educational program that focuses on collectively working on the new normal and the new humanity awaiting us. DPCH-3T takes youth on an educational journey that unleashes their transformative power to design a fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable post-COVID-19 humanity.
Focusing on the philosophical, spiritual and interdisciplinary dimensions of this new humanity, DPCH stresses three key virtues: taaruf, taawun and tarahum (acquaintance, cooperation and mercifulness), to empower the youth in designing our post-COVID-19 humanity.
These virtues are not new. But DPCH participants are building new imaginations that can be instrumental in the post-COVID-19 world. Apart from various forms of pseudo-activism, we now need our youth to embrace their power to “design the new normal.”
We can never go back to the value-free “business as usual.” Post-COVID humanity will need transdisciplinary thinking from our future leaders, along with innovation and entrepreneurialism with moral mindsets.
The young participants in DPCH-3T will take away real-life lessons from our 60-plus guest speakers from diverse backgrounds, including philosophy, astronomy, the history of science and philosophy, entrepreneurship, design, politics, gamification and technology.
“Youth represent the future of our world but have been one of the biggest victims of the global case that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed. Although COVID-19 is mainly portrayed as a health catastrophe, the lasting effects of the pandemic have impacted our world socially by exposing the strengths and weaknesses of our communities and our ability to respond in times of crisis," his excellency, Qatar's State Minister and President of Qatar National Library Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari observed at the opening ceremony of the initiative.
He also argued: “It’s important for youth to first become acquainted with each other. When you do that, the differences between you fade. Then combine your efforts and collaborate. With constructive discussions and the power of social media, you will become more compassionate to each other’s concerns, which will help you collectively achieve your goals and build a better future for the world.”
But, as Evan Wesley, founder of the U.S.-based “Thirst Project,” one of the collaborators of DPCH, points out: “As young people, the problem is that we either fail to ask the question, 'How do we find success?' or the answer would be provided for us by society or culture ... You find success through writing your own definition of it. What helped me find the meaning of success is having a good community around me.”
Wesley emphasizes the role of community and collaboration in finding each individual’s true meaning of success to move forward. "Students are the most powerful agents of social change and they have everything in their power now to make tangible change," he said.
Cooperative and mindful
Collaboration has always been, and always will be, in our nature, argues Jeremy Koons, associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.
“Humans are naturally inclined toward cooperation. It’s actually the key to our success as a species. Our success is not solely or even mostly a product of our intelligence. What truly separates humans from other animals is our capacity for cooperation," he said.
He dives deep into the history of human hunter-gatherer societies and concludes: “Only through cooperative hunting have humans been able to hunt prey such as mammoths that no individual could successfully hunt alone. The hunt is not merely undertaken cooperatively, but it’s undertaken for the benefit of everyone.”
According to Koons, “some countries have succeeded in tackling the pandemic because they either adopted a cooperative approach or an authoritarian approach. We need an ethic that respects both the individual and the community, which elevates both rights and cooperation. Only by reconciling these two essential features of ethics can we survive the significant challenges that we face as we continue into the 21st century.”
The DPCH-3T program’s aim is to give youth the space to start thinking creatively and innovatively about changing our societies for the better, and with mindfulness, they can begin that journey toward change.
Sharing her own experiences with the youth in the program, clinical psychologist Suzi Amado says: “Mindfulness has helped me a lot as I found my identity, as I integrated all aspects of my identity. Mindfulness is not change-oriented, but fully acceptance-oriented. Mindfulness is a lot about surrendering to what’s happening and accepting what is. The belief is if we accept what is, then it has the space to transform, but that acceptance needs to come from our hearts and it needs to be real so we can find peace in any moment that we are in. In corona days, my mindfulness practices have helped me a lot to accept what’s happening and to respond to it.”
The journey doesn’t stop here. With these lessons and real-life examples to learn from, the young participants will gradually and collaboratively begin to design the new post-COVID humanity that will make our world a better place using the three key virtues of taawun, taaruf and tarahum.
*Tok, an assistant dean of innovation and community engagement at the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
**Khaled, a research fellow at the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
***Gürsel, founder of Soglab, a social innovation lab in London