Editorial – Getting Over a Mindset

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The much hyped hill-valley divide, and the palpable animosity that exists between the various communities in Manipur, in particular the Meiteis in the valley districts who have chosen to be non-tribals and the tribals in the surrounding hills, probably of the same ethnic stock, need to be given a new perspective. At the moment the vision is closed-ended, inward-looking thereby have little scope for any out of the box thinking. The result is not just a perpetuation of a mindset, but of accentuating it. Indeed, what any observer gets of the hills’ attitude towards the valley is one of hatred, and that of the valley towards the hills one of patronising presumption of a relationship that can be easily saved merely by invocation of past fraternal ties. Because this is so, when nothing is done to address the problem, hatred will breed more hatred, and arrogance will make its victims more blind. There can be no question about it that something needs to be done fast to reverse the trend lest catastrophes cannot be ruled out in the future. The ground condition being so volatile and ignitable, a small motivated sinister spark can cause raging infernos. As indeed, the ugly Naga Crusader episode brought to the fore there are vested and sinister interests at work to wreck any chances of a reconciliation between the hills and the valley. Good sense, at least in this regard has prevailed so far, but at times, there is no gainsaying madness was only a step away.

What has also become discernable in much of the grievances each of these regions hold against each other has a lot of elements of what has been described in psychology as the inability to distinguish between “victim and victimhood”. The former exists in real-time present and has a direct cause-and-effect equation, so that it is actionable. To address this, all that is needed is to identify the condition that is leaving victims in its wake and then to attempt removing the condition. Much of NGO activities and advocacies, so too that of the government, on child rights, human rights, development, ecology preservation etc, are based on the presumption of certain policies or lack of it, which are causing victims or are likely to cause victims in the future, and that the situation is alterable. In the latter case of “victimhood” the situation is totally different. Unlike “victim” this one is not a physical condition but a state of mind. It also more often than not does not exist in the real-time present, hence are intractable. To a great extent, the hill-valley divide, and the animus built into it, seems of this nature, hence it has had no real solution all these long while. The challenges thrown up by their proponents for a solution also have been more in the nature of posturing than a real hope for a solution. Hence, here we are, stuck at square one for the past many decades. Since this problem does not exist in real-time, its treatment will also have to be in the nature of psychotherapy.

It would be pertinent to note here the Freudian notion of “mourning and melancholia”. There can be no doubt that for historical reasons there have been injustices in the relationship between the hills and valley. However, there is a finite certainty about what has happened, and there nothing much that can be done to undo them. It would be something like death claiming a loved one. The grief that comes along with it is something to come to terms with and not one which should be allowed to consume the self endlessly. In the Freudian sense “mourning” is about acknowledging the profound loss, assuring that its pain and grief will never be forgotten but at the same time keeping an emotional distance from the event: “I love you, I will never forget you, but I have to move on, and deal with life.” On the other hand, “melancholia” is a self-defeating, inward looking narcissistic engagement, in which you begin to take pleasure in a perverse sense, in the very notion of the grief itself. The victimhood syndrome is one not easy to get out of because it is a psychological condition in which the very fact of “victimhood” is itself a reward. This reflection is with the intent of calling upon the people of the state to rethink, retrospect and decide to come to terms with the reality of the times and not be caught in a time warp of the past. Only this can be their chance of discovering what Barak Obama called in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, the “spark of divinity” which unfolds solutions to problems not ordinarily visible to those caught in the mundane affairs of everyday drudgery of professions and other routine commitments.

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