Advancement in technology has made it possible to have group meetings without being physically present. This has been especially useful during the Covid-19 pandemic when restricting physical contact is an important measure to address the situation. I belong to many WhatsApp groups, many of them professional groups. I have learned a lot from these groups.
Professional platforms usually limit themselves to the area these professionals find themselves in. What I realise is that ‘minor deviations’ are usually accepted. For example, a member can share a message from the bible or Koran daily without raising eyebrows. It is not usually a problem if it it one person or just a few people who do this everyday. If becomes a problem when everyone in a group of over 100 wants to share their daily devotional/religious message. Then the platform will require rules to address this.
Whenever and wherever intellectuals meet you can be sure about disagreements. What is acceptable? What are the boundaries? In Ghana, politics and religion are two areas that can be slippery grounds on platforms. So polarised are we, it is difficult to have objective discussions to a large extent without emotions from many people.
What can be discussed surely will depend on the aim of the group and why it was set up. We now live in a global village. To restrict yourself to discussions in only your small corner without a global picture may put you at a disadvantage. The world is moving quickly. Solutions and innovations in sports or entertainment may turn out to be very useful in health, for example. To restrict yourself to health may deny you of knowledge in other areas that may make a great impact in your field. Lessons in the aviation industry on safety have turned out to be useful in the medical field in preventing medical errors.
Then there is politics. How can professionals in the medical field achieve their aim if they are detached from the politician who makes the decisions and may not know the technicalities needed in their field?
I think more ‘professionals’ need to go into politics. Not just that, professionals need to actively discuss issues outside their fields when they meet. Nobody or no professional group is an island. Where there are serious disagreements, group administrators must come in to settle these. Not discussing issues outside the field of the group may end up putting the group at a disadvantage.
I would have liked the Ghana Medical Association and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ghana (SOGOG), for example, to have discussed the manifestoes of the political parties (openly on their platforms for members) before the December 2020 elections and let political parties know what they stand for.
We have options. We can decide to stay solely in our fields or engage in other issues outside our fields that affect us directly or indirectly. I recommend the latter.