There is a lot of similarity between the outlooks of most established religions (if not all the religions) and the ideology of historical and dialectical materialism, of which we know Marxism is the most prominent. Both are deterministic and believe in the linear progression of time and history. Because this is so, they are also by nature prescriptive. To some extent, there is an inevitability about this. All ideologies and religions must have a common objective of bringing order to the essential chaos of the universe. It is interesting that even the great Albert Einstein was known to have exclaimed in exasperation while working on his geodesic model of the universe that “God did not play dice with the universe”. Everybody wants to believe the universe is not without any purpose or meaning, and that it is simply a neutral phenomenon. Quite obviously, it is also easier for theists to explain this purpose, for they can simply attribute grand meaning to the will of the Supernatural Creator, but even the die-hard agnostics are seemingly unable to absorb the idea of a value neutral universe without any underlying meaning, which is why they too have resorted to ideologies to give it meaning, just as the Marxists have.
While this human compulsion to give a personalised meaning to life is understandable, it must be acknowledged this can also get extremely dogmatic, resulting in straitjacketing of all visions of life and its meanings. This is troublesome because it would rob life of the freedom of individual choices. Some religions and ideologies more than others are guilty of this, for the indoctrinated beliefs they advocate, insist the predictability of not just individual life but also of society and indeed humankind. Almost uncannily, all such (dogmatic) religions and ideologies, also have in unmistakably ways found life and history to be about the struggle between the good and bad. Consequently their teachings also invariably predict the ultimate victory of what they believe are the good over the evil, or in the familiar jargon of the agnostic “religions”, the victory of the progressive and the historically correct visions. Surrendered in the process is the freedom to periodically question the supposed infallibility of one’s own beliefs and convictions. He trouble is, without this freedom, the individual would also lose the ability to correct vision and therefore also his course of action. If he (or she) for instance were to be barking up the wrong tree, he would continue to do so until it is too late to salvage himself from pursuing what may ultimately prove to be unachievable, if not an abject untruth.
Such tragedies are not altogether uncommon, precisely because dogmatism both in religion and ideology is no stranger in this world. Capturing these situations and illustrating these foibles of humanity, of course make for very endearing literature. Orhan Pamuk for instance rather humorously but penetratingly describes such a gulf between human longing and reality as the fate of a “luckless soul, looking West from a ship headed East”. The direction of the gaze of the luckless soul or that of the course of the ship he is on could very well have been just the opposite, but the important point is to be able to introspect and realise the fallacy. We bring this up in the belief that amidst all the rhetoric and proclamations of ideological infallibility by so many in so many different situations, Manipur, and indeed the entire northeast region, may have become blinded to their own shortcoming in the regard. The question that we must never shy from asking ourselves is, have we overlooked the need to realign our political and ideological visions? Or more precisely, have we ended up as the luckless soul looking longingly at the horizon from a ship headed directly in the opposite direction? These are important introspective questions which can prevent tragedies, or at the least, lessen unnecessary and prolonged agony of being caught with the heart and mind longing for two different and incompatible things. It is not too late yet to begin. The self questioning must be initiated by the region’s enlightened intelligentsia. The universities, theatres, cinema, media etc, are the appropriate forums for this drama of the microcosm to take shape. The frustrating experience has been for this intellectual leadership to either fail or else abdicate their responsibility, and the space meant for them to be usurped by lumpen politics and thoughts. Or is it a case of this intelligentsia still failing in the struggle to grow out of its infancy?