By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
Meiteis are arrogant and aggressive by nature. There is a common Meitei phrase; mana kari khangdana; eina khangibasině; mamaida khudumna pop thajilaga loirě. In English: he doesn’t
know anything, I know better; I’ll just smash ‘pop’ on his face with my clenched fist.
In an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry, and government has been achieved this is not actually sophisticated behaviour.
Meiteis have inherited aggressive trait though it is scientifically incorrect to say that human evolution brought on aggressive behaviour more than for other kinds of behaviour. However, in the course of Meitei evolution there has been a selection for aggressive trait.
The Meitei aggressiveness is not the same thing as bravery. Bravery is when you do something that frightens you, but you do it anyway because your gut feeling tells you that it is
The pre-modern Meiteis possessed an unconquerable ‘notion of superiority’ over each other and over their neighbours – a conceited trait – not false Meitei self-esteem.
In my later life I had a sneaky feeling that this arrogant Meitei character had something to do with an ‘inferiority complex’, which we have inherited.
In my younger days I had doubt regarding the certainty of truth that I had an inferiority complex or at least my comprehension of it, could be said to be socially constructed.
In my undergraduate studies I did learn that people with inferiority complex, suffer from an unrealistic feeling of general inadequacy, caused by real or supposed inferiority in one sphere. It is sometimes marked by aggressive behaviour in compensation.
Ancient Meitei men did not regard most of what passes for tolerance today as tolerance at all, but rather intellectual or physical cowardice and those who hide behind that word are often afraid of intelligent or physical engagement.
Even now the Meiteis find it easier to hurl an insult than to confront the idea and either refute it or be changed by it. They are unwilling to be challenged by alternate points of view, to engage contrary opinions, or even to consider them.
A recent example: an educated Meitei, true to our inherited trait of inferiority complex, sent me an email disagreeing with what I wrote in my article – “How did the Meiteis come from Africa?”
He wrote haughtily: “Your research seems to be at the initial stage, do not assume that other people will accept easily your hypothesis; I feel that you need to review it in the light of the fossil finds in China and Southeast Asia, and also I suggest to acquaint with the formation of …”
“Further you have also mentioned that phenotypical (sic phenotypic) similarity does not indicate genotypic relationship of the people. But in genetics phenotype is the outward
expression of the inherent gene. By writing such unfounded information are you trying to divide the people of Manipur?”
In normal non-Meitei decorum, he would have simply asked me to cite references. Or, he could have rephrased it like: “I would have thought your hypothesis is not in keeping with the fossil finds in China (??which) and genetics”.
Perhaps he also overlooked that in advanced genetics, not all organisms that look alike (phenotype) necessarily have the same genotype. Phenotypes of organisms are produced by complex interactions between genetic and environmental information.
For a vivid imagery of this Meitei character, I as a genuine representative will describe two true, personal stories from my experience.
A young Meitei man: during my teenage years I always decanted with pleasure by a relative peculiarity of Meitei character. It was a fighting creed on moderate provocations, which superseded any other character. It had its own virtues and vices, as all national characters have.
In Meitei anthology, this character is considered the most profound, from the several angles of the conditions of its existence and its symbolic capacities.
Having graduated from the rough-and-tumble fights of my school days, for which I was not cut out physically but through sheer Meitei narcissism, the fighting trait filtered through my university days, with paroxysmal scraps.
The trait showed up only when I felt that I was either intimidated or my character was defamed.
Like everybody else, I was born without built-in mental content (Tabula rasa or clean-slate).
My personality, social and emotional behaviour, and intelligence come from my inherited genes.
In the formative years of my life I had a few serious near-misses in my tryst with destiny that links my behaviour to this Meitei trait. One such incident almost ruined my life. Had I been
imprisoned (as could have been), I would not be what I am to day. And that was not the only time.
As a student at St Edmund’s College in Shillong, I beat up a College Professor for his act of “injustice” that was done with my character. I was not a hero who stood out a mile in the narrow confines of my time. It was aggressive Meitei character.
An elderly Meitei man: one evening while I was doing my stint as a doctor at Churachandpur, the Chief Minister at that time visited Churachandpur with his two younger Meitei colleagues and the mayang Chief Secretary. They were having a drink of whisky at the mayang SDO’s bungalow. I was also invited.
During the merry party there was a heated argument between the CM and a colleague. I was having a drink in a corner with CS and SDO. Suddenly we heard the CM challenging the other in true Meitei style.
Karino ibungo nangna hairibasibo? Mapanda hekta thoknarushi. In Englsih: how dare you say this? Let’s go out and have a fight. The CS said to me – ‘Mohinder let’s go to the other room’ and we went.
Fortunately nothing had happened, but had the other chap obliged, the CM would have had a brawl on the lawn of the Bungalow. In civilisational terms this was unthinkable.
I have been doing some research about this Meitei social-behavioural model as an
Human aggressive behaviour is inherent. We did not evolve in the environment we have now created for ourselves. In stressful situations they revert to aggression, as this was necessary response to a threat or survival
Meitei national character can be conceived as the inherent Meitei spirit or the primary agency of their historical change. It is a collectivistic national character that pursues conjoined objectives. It refers to properties that pluralities display in Meitei national communities.
In medieval times, the warlike states of antiquity, educated a race of Meiteis as soldiers; exercised their bodies, disciplined their courage. It was then possible to maintain the traditional virtues of the Meitei national character as a fit-to-fight and fighting-fit nation.
Meitei men who were trained for fighting in war and traditional farmers in peace time had no tolerance skills. Decreased tolerance or lack of self-confidence developed into aggression.
Meiteis have inherited this aggressive trait though it is scientifically incorrect to say that human evolution brought on aggressive behaviour more than for other kinds of behaviour. However, in the course of Meitei evolution there has been a selection for aggressive trait. Fighting for survival needs aggression.
This character accrued from a combination of dense intellectual quirkiness and their fighting talent, with an ever present desire to show how brave they were. It was the period of a more conservative idea of patriotism, a culture of sentimentalism and awareness in their perceived fighting ability.
The Meitei character and mind were often whipped up by frequent wars and skirmishes with the neighbouring nations and tribes. And because the population was sparse, the Meiteis, like the Spartans of Greece, were taught in their boyhood to be tough, and were trained to be good soldiers.
The Meitei nation was a historically evolved stable community of economic life, language, territory and psychological homogeneity and always ready for war like India is today.
Given the stringency of their fighting ability, self-reliance and self-sufficiency, the Meitei national character undoubtedly wrenched them into a new genetic unit, which eventually mutated by what is called ‘inversion’ producing a phenotype of Meiteis with arrogance and aggressiveness.
The forces needed in the handling of the central features of Meitei national character
were moral and physical courage and readiness for combat either individually or socially.
It would not be inappropriate to say that the Meitei is a well-balanced person, responsible and capable of recognizing his own true self- interest, in obedience to the law and co-operation with others.
In the inimical environment they lived in, also in such a small community, they evolved by natural selection into a fighting community for survival. Our biological trait of aggressive behaviour became inherited by natural selection as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers.
Natural selection acts on the phenotype, or the observable characteristics of an organism, but the genetic heritable basis of any phenotype which gives a reproductive advantage will become more common in a population like the ancestor Meiteis because of the milieu (Charles Darwin on Sexual selection).
The writer is based in the UK. Email: [email protected]: www.drimsingh.co.uk