In this age of globalisation of information, technology, culture, norms and even emotions, no region or community can remain unaffected by the changes. This is true for Manipur as well. In fact, we naturally observe the presence of new technologies and currency of new terminologies among the people of Manipur. The easy examples are the multiplication of the number of vehicles, use of mobile phones, and the circulation of terms like knowledge economy and social capital.
But We Forget: But in the process of adoption of technology, we have got all the other components wrongly conceived. Technology is much more than the machine or the process of functioning. Any new technology contains within itself a set of substantive exemplars about ethos, norms and other cultural tenets. This is why introduction of a new exogenous technology into any society always causes a certain kind of disturbance and uneasiness. It depends upon the level of education and general preparedness for scientific exposure whether the uneasiness is taken care of satisfactorily and without much lost of time. It is equally possible that the new technology may continue functioning in the new society even in the absence of the concomitant ethos. But this would be a very unpleasant situation.
It is this disconnect situation Manipur now passes through. In the beginning, it was only the king or a limited number of noblemen who would be travelling by the modern vehicles and people were mandated to give respectful way to the chariot or car. In course of time the use of modern vehicles has now been made a mass-based phenomenon not subject to the limitations of rank, social position and the like. Now the fundamental ethos accompanying the mass utilisation of the modern vehicles is that no unwarranted disturbance should be caused to the pedestrians nor should there be unnecessary nuisance to the fellow vehicle owners. In countries where the mass-based uses of modern vehicles were first started, this welfare principle too has been adopted by the population as an inherent social habit. But it is just the opposite in the case of Manipur. The people here just use only the machine component of the technology of vehicles without in any case minding the ethical component of it. This is why vehicles are such a nuisance to the daily social functioning of the land. People do not know the ethos of owning and driving, and the administration does not know how to govern the vehicular movements.
The same absence of ethical understanding of technology is visible in the case of application of artificial manures and other inputs to modern farming. People perceive the technology of fertilisers, insecticides and hormones as nothing more than the material application of these. We are not bothered about the limitations and the potential dangers in misapplication. The results have already started getting manifested in terms of health and nutrition outcomes.
These drawbacks are equally visible today in the evolving social sector debates as well. The most visible area is that connecting with the implications of the concept of knowledge economy. It is a concept which challenges the conventional assumption of rationality in Economics. Whereas it was earlier assumed that people act rationally, i.e., with the full knowledge of the things (the producer knows the market and the consumer knows the product), it has now been established that the knowledge is very limited. So knowledge economy starts with the assumption that our awareness is limited and there definitely is the inevitability of enhancing the level of knowledge individually and collectively in the society.
Now this enhancement of the level of knowledge each individual commands and the society possesses as a whole at any point of time is not something which can be achieved in a vacuum; it necessarily implies the conceptualisation of the areas of weak knowledge base and putting in place functioning policies and strategies to ameliorate those. These corrective and positive measures for knowledge enhancement are very different and much more than the distribution of doles by the “social workers” on the eve of democratic elections. These necessarily have to be specific to the region and people there. So far, there is no visible sign of any application of mind in this direction by the administration and the general public.
Moral Emotions: The critical issue here is that almost all the modern technologies come with some element of moral emotions expected of the practitioners. The most important moral emotions here are those relating to guilt and shame. The owner of the car should have a sense of guilt if he commits a crime of inconvenience to others in a situation where the others cannot be faulted for any indulgence. Whether the others fight back or not, he should also feel ashamed of himself for the wrong he had intentionally committed. This should happen without the law-enforcing mechanism entering into the picture. Similarly, the farmer should not only be knowledgeable about the application of artificial fertilisers, insecticides and hormones but should as well feel guilty, even if nobody becomes aware of it, if he had done something with potential health risk to the consumers. Here too a sense of shame should be dwelling in himself even without the need for intervention from any quarter.
In fine, we should all now be cultivating in ourselves a sense of guilt and shame so that our social manifestation of behaviour and actions serve the common good. This is what makes the civilised world stand apart from the non-civilised and new technologies only leads to higher well-being. Unfortunately in the case of Manipur it is as if people have only indulgence with no moral emotions allowing to raise their head. It is for the people in general and the people in the administration to decide if this is how we desire our society to grow.