MESSINESS AS SOCIAL AGENDA: DILEMMA OF TRANSITION

By Amar Yumnam
This article was originally published by the Imphal Free Press on 9 July 2012 

Every individual and every society goes through phases of transformation. This is however never a continuous process nor a linear progression. It could happen that a single phase may continue for long like hormonal problems in individuals. Instead of progression there could be phases of regression like period of violence in African or Middle East countries. But the fact remains that, whatever the phase, the most critical period is the one of transition from the existing phase to a new one. The issue becomes much more critical in the case of a society. An atmosphere of progression would generally generate forces of further positive advancement and the tensions involved would mostly result in positive fall-outs. But if the prevailing context is one of regression or violence or conflict, the transition period becomes doubly critical. The transition could be towards further regression and the collective application of mind for ensuring positive turns of events becomes all the more difficult. While a negative turn in the case of an individual could be absorbed and addressed by the society, such options are not available in the case of a society. Governance is a key component for success in the transition of a society and shortening the period of negative impacts. But affecting improvement in governance is a very difficult task. The nature and sources of the political power may be very corrupt and would try to sustain the status quo. The qualitative capacity of both the governed and those who govern could be suspects.

Today let us talk about such issues in the context of Manipur. Manipur has been very messy particularly for the last three decades or so. One can point fingers in every component of the social fabric of her. Starting from the component structures of education, ethnic relationships, development infrastructure and all that to the superstructure of social direction, it has been very chaotic and cluttered. There are however signs of transition of late. This being the case Manipur today is at a very critical period. Escaping from the messiness and move to a robust society cannot occur in a vacuum. This is the moment for critically evaluating the character of the prevailing governance and the dominant faces of the governed. The moment is now for evolving a sustainable vision of a good society and collectively commit to that. Here I would hasten to add that it is no joke. What John Kenneth Galbraith said in his 1997 book, The Good Society: The Humane Agenda, is apt to be recalled. He wrote: “There are many visions of the good society: the treadmill is not one of them.”

The recent unfolding of events seems to be establishing the emergence of treadmill manufacturers as social reformers with their products and endeavouring hard to forcefully market the product as the ultimate saviour of Manipur society. This is understandable for any transition would make many irrelevant and unimportant for they do not possess the quality and the orientation for carrying the torch for the new period. Such people would definitely try to cause and sustain as much chaos as possible so that the transition to the higher level of social equilibrium would remain incomplete. This seems to be the salient public manifestation of unhampered mobilisations. We cannot question the democratic assertion of such mobilisers. But we must remember that man does not leave by bread alone. The assertions on seemingly democratic principles should also possess ethics founded on morality and be such as to ensure widening of our horizons of social existence. One remarkable feature of the Manipuris in recent decades has been globe-wide establishment of presence and intelligence. Well, whatever the case, let us concede the democratic assurance to every possible social articulation being provided social space.

But the governance cannot remain a silent spectator of every unfolding of the social articulations. It must possess a social vision leading the society evolving towards a higher plane. It cannot afford to leave everything enjoy a un-directed, uncontrolled and chaotic presence. It should make her presence felt in all the spheres of national existence through meaningful initiation of public interventions. Education, particularly, school education is a very important arena. While the commitment for reforms is visible, the interventions seem ad-hoc and haphazard. This sector has important implications for the core competencies of the people of Manipur. Economic infrastructure is another key sector. It has loads of implications for the inter-ethnic relationships, equalisation of development opportunities and the larger development potential of the land. Another key area where we need immediate devotion of thought relates to the environment. Let us take notice of whatever happening around the world today in relation to climate change. About two hundred people have died in Russia because of floods during the last few days. America is suffering from unusual heat-wave. There are huge floods in Assam while Manipur still waits for meaningful monsoon even in the second week of July. In the name of earth work and development, we are going to permanently annihilate what nature has bestowed us as mountains; the personal benefits of contractors are treated more important than social costs involved in these. The development designs do not show any acquaintance of the inherited social ethos and the principles of sustainability. Even the country known for allowing the dirtiest of activities, China, is now witnessing a wave of environmental awareness resisting new projects. The question is how far we can move ahead without addressing these issues on our soil. Chaos as disequilibrium for change is fine but chaos for practical disturbance would be socially costly and largely meaningless at the individual levels. Sound is ok but not noise.

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