ART OF THE POSSIBLE

This editorial was published by the Imphal Free Press (http://ifp.co.in) on December 7 2011 at http://ifp.co.in/imphal-free-press-full-story.php?newsid=3487&catid=5 
 
There is a tendency in Manipur for things to always return to square one. The avenue for a way out of this depressing stagnancy eludes the imagination of one and all, including our leaders, intellectuals and the numerous NGOs in the field of social works. The shared obsession seems to be to analyse, dissect, scrutinize and then either rubbish or glorify the past compulsively and then blame each other or else some external agency or the other for all the misery and misfortune that is everybody’s fate. Maybe there is some truth in this vision but it certainly cannot be the whole truth. To think this is so would be to reduce the social organism that we all are part of, to a simplistic mechanics of stimulus and responses only. And this we know cannot be, for the being and the soul of any society is far more complex, and we would contend, infinitely so. The difficulty in sizing up a society or its mores completely lies in this complexity and not to any attributable flaws of the past, as the current intellectual tradition in social analysis in the state seems to suggest. If social issues were so clear cut, and there were no ambiguities about remedial measures, most social problems ought to have disappeared by now everywhere in the world. The greatest thinkers have discovered, or others discovered after they are long gone, that this has never been the case and cannot ever be so as well.
 The linearity of our social analyses has had some very serious consequences. For instance we seem to be a society which sees salvation in the past, at the cost of even ignoring the future. From the point of view of this limited linear vision, this is totally understandable. At least in its structure as a chronological sequence of events, there is a definitiveness about the past and this makes it comparatively simple to grasp, or at least it does not make it seem out of grasping distance. We would not say the same thing about the substance that gave form to this structure, but even here the same definitiveness associated with past events thins out the desperation to get the diagnosis right. The unfortunate thing is, this approach in our effort to come to grip with the past, is often extended to our quest for an understanding of the future. This, we would contend is flawed, for one thing there is nothing linear or definite about the future. In fact, the biggest flaw in historical materialism of the Marxist variety is precisely this linear and deterministic view of history and the future. This modernist outlook it seems is infectious, and hence our problem solving efforts have seldom acknowledged that the future is about discovering previously unknown and unexplored equations. The foundations of our mainstream as well as the numerous prevalent alternate politics today have never been built on any such broad platform, negating in the process the well known, one line definition of politics as “art of the possible”. Unlike the past which is a dead process and circumscribed in time and memory, the field for the future is wide open. We cannot erase the Chahi Taret Khuntakpa chapter in our history, but creative vision of the future can prevent similar historical catastrophes.

While we cannot possibly forget our past, or ignore what we have inherited from it, we do feel there is an urgent need for our society to tone down some of its claustrophobic obsession with the past and develop a vision of the future that is not everything about undoing the past or based on any utopian ideal, but in the light of it as precisely “an art of the possible”. Only when this understanding becomes the standard, realistic terms for resolutions to most of our conflict situations, both internal and external, can begin to dawn. If the question is about past wrongs and their impacts on the present and the future, surely as creative, autonomous beings that all human individuals are, we can overcome these impacts. In structural terms, democracy guarantees this possibility. In spiritual terms too, the prison of “coloniality” of even formerly colonized worlds, cannot contain this same creativity that gives the individual the capability of sizing up his predicament and affect the changes necessary to overcome that state of mind. It is depressing that our public discourses seldom have approached the future without the past as the sole measuring tape. Let our future go beyond the status of being just a response to our past.

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