We have said it before, but it is our opinion that it needs to be repeated every now and then still, considering Manipur continues to be hopelessly trapped in an unenviable blind alley. A seemingly simple suggestion in problem solving strategy runs like: “when a certain proposition does not seem to have an answer, or else the answer gets far too complicated to be answered to any reasonable degree of satisfaction, it is an indication that the time has arrived to change or reframe the question itself rather than the answer. The conflict situation tearing at the very fabric of the state, moral and temporal, is one such question. Come to think of it, half a century has gone by, and the original question that led to the conflict still remains unanswered and unresolved. Under the circumstance, should not it be considered time to reframe the question so that some hope of an answer can be visualised. What needs to be kept in mind is, even what is popularly deemed as a just cause, unless it is contextualised against the constantly shifting backdrop of reality, can prove tragically futile.
This is not a debate about whether the future is preordained and that destiny is given and not made, but it must be admitted that although there is no way of knowing the future totally, it definitely is possible to assess or else at least make intelligent guesses about what shape it might take. If this were not so, a lot of academics, especially in the humanities stream, would lose much of their relevance. Why even business speculation, an acumen which is a chief determinant in distinguishing good from bad businessmen, would disappear too. Indeed, subjects such as economics, life sciences, environmental studies etc, are at their core, about efforts to evolve models to visualise the possible predicament of man and society in the future, immediate as well distant. It is also because of the mystically uncertain element of the future that there has never been, and there probably never will be, a grand unified theory that can summarise absolutely and accurately, human nature or society’s destiny, regardless the rhetoric of “End of History and the Last Man” of the Francis Fukuyama kind. True Fukuyama was put on the back foot ever since he “awed and shocked” the world with his book at the end of the Cold War, including at the India Today Conclave two years ago, saying he did not mean a literal “end of history”, but a metaphoric one. After capitalism (which mischievously these authors often try to project as a synonym of liberal democracy), Fukuyama did concede that society would still progress, but only within the broad frame of liberal democracy. If not for the mischief of equating capitalism with democracy, Fukuyama’s point is interesting and indeed strong. This acknowledgement of the strength of Fukuyama’s central proposition, would also fall in line of the original argument of this article: that although there is always an unpredictable element about the future, there are also trends that make it possible to extrapolate and have a broad picture of what it might look like.
This being so, it is essential for all of us to sit back and ponder from time to time whether the future that we seek at any point in time is anywhere near the intelligent extrapolation of what the future might shape up to be from a study of current trends and thoughts. This is especially important so that we do not end up being drawn into the impossible and futile prospect of fighting the future itself and not for the future. Or in more familiar parlance – barking up the wrong tree. It is then in everybody’s self interest, and by extension of the same logic, in the self interest of the larger society as such, for us as a collectivity to be able to make honest probes and come up with honest answers, however painful, about what these intelligent guesses say of what our future would be and could be. For while the dictates of the heart are important, everybody also need to listen to and be moderated by the mind always. Unfortunately, maintaining this balance between the heart and the mind is where our society has been the weakest. Hence, many of our conflict related issues, including the AFSPA, remain unresolved. Alas, so many of us remain unperturbed and unwilling even to acknowledge popular verdicts on these issues arrived at by the democratic norms of “one man one vote” cast through the secret ballot.