Editorial – Back to Basics


In all problem solving strategies, especially when things begin to appear too complex, there is one mantra which always comes handy, and this is so finely encapsulated in a statement by Oliver Wendall Holmes, quoted in John Paul Ledarach’s book “The Moral Imagination” which advices to look for the “simplicity on the other side of complexity.” This is interesting and should throw interesting light on the way we look at issues which appear too overwhelming because of their apparent and indeed actual complexity. Just to elaborate the idea some more, it is well known to all that even the most complex computer programmes are written with just two alphabets, 0 and 1, in what in mathematics is known as the binary system, a much simplified version of the decimal system that all of us are so familiar with. This knowledge itself should serve as a reminder to anybody that at its basic, even the most complex issues have simple foundations. Deciphering these foundations should hence be a big factor in all problem solving propositions.This however should not be understood as any need to simplify complex issues by way of deconstructing them. Indeed this would be disastrous. What is called for is to look for the building blocks of these issues and then look for innovative ways of interpreting and finding out ways of making desirable interventions with an objective of ultimately changing the complex structures that stand over these simple foundations, in the process shedding light to where a solution to the problem at hand may be. We have in mind the festering insurgency problem in Manipur and its related and equally weighty problem of ethnic tensions and unhealthy contestations for state power amongst them. These problems seem to form a formidable and extremely complex web of interrelated issues that it seems almost impossible to look for a place to make an intervention. Not only the entirety of the problem but even its different parts as individual units, are in their own ways complex and formidable for anybody to think of an easy answer. As an entirety, there will be no dispute from anybody how complex the social matrix of Manipur and therefore its problems are. As for instance, the ethnic divide in the state is so deep and the insurrections so widely different in objectives, that a magic bullet that can tackle all of it at once is virtually impossible to think of. In fact, as in the case of the Naga-Meitei divide, a solution for one can lead to the aggravation of the problems of the other. The same can be said in relation to any solution thought of for any other ethnic group in the state.This does not however mean that an effort to look for a solution must be abandoned. This is where the old proposition of going to the basics when a problem gets too complex arises. What then are the basics of these interrelated problems? What are the fundamentals of the objectives they are fighting for? Is the current strategy the only one available, or more pertinently are there others that can be employed without the resort to extreme means of using violence? Is the violence getting the place and its people anywhere? These are some important questions that must be first explored, and they should if not anything else, at least point to what the different possibilities of the next step forward. Unfortunately, none who can make the difference are interested in asking any of these questions. They have instead simply remained fixated only on what they have set sight on, regardless of whether this would cause friction with fraternal communities, or whether they can at all solve the problems at hand. The reality has also been, these rigidities of attitudes have done nothing more than prolonged the agony of the entire place and its people. It is time for everybody with a stake in these problems to sit back and rethink. They must now earnestly begin looking for the “simplicity on the other side of complexity.” We are of the opinion that many of the objectives of these issues are achievable by many other different means, the most attractive of which is for all parties to look for what are common in their real (as opposed to politically trumped up and idealised) aspirations. In all likelihood, the common threads thus discovered should surprise all by their immensity. This would be probably true of the larger picture of a settlement with the Indian Union as well.


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