Immortality, Power and Sleaze

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By Dr. Ksh. Imokanta Singh
Looking like a character, downloaded straight from folk tale, he walks with a constructed aura of power and sleaze, heaving his chest, in the midst of thousand crawling creatures. We find such modern Parasurams in every nook and corner of our lives. For them, sin and boon; heaven and hell are just hollow names. But then we (including these people) need to remind ourselves that we humans are just bio-degradable creatures and remember what Percy Bysshe Shelley (P. B. Shelley) wrote of Ozymandias, the once famous Pharaoh:

… And on the pedestal these words appear: ‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away. Birth, growth, decay and death. Defying these universal truths is something which most of us desire and nurture as dream to be translated into reality, if possible. Man becoming ‘God’. This is not for all of us but for a few selected ‘immortal’ mortals. Oh, what a despair!

Immortality may be conceived in three broad categories. Firstly, physical immortality, secondly immortality through one’s name, deeds and fame and the third one is the one arising out of ‘false consciousness’. The first two categories are quite understandable and religions, human histories, mythologies, legends and literature are replete with people, ‘man-gods’ attaining and seeking for the two. Believably, in none of the known human histories we get to witness humans attaining physical immortality though there are many who claimed to be one like Leonard ‘Live-Forever’ Jones who finally died in 1868. But then are we going to record the impossible in the register of the near future with the formidable help of science and technology? This may be a reality if we go by the news of research and the investment being carried out by some scientists and billionaire like young Dmitry Itskov, a Russian billionaire who dreams of making humans immortal by 2045. Notwithstanding this, if we do not go by physical immortality of a whole person but immortality of the genetic constituents, we may probably say that humans can attain immortality. For instance, I may say, ‘I am because I am a carrier of age old genes of my forefathers which will be passed down (O! already I have done that) to my children and the journey may continue for eternity.’

Here we are more concerned with those who sought/seek immortality and crash landed/land and with those who live a life enchanted with the false consciousness that they are living an immortal life, unable to perceive what lies beneath the surface. Most of us fall into this category. World seems to be living with false consciousness where we try to justify what we say and do irrespective of the overarching law and customs which seem to be binding us. This is mostly coordinated with the power. Power whether big or small is really infectious to most of us but especially to those who suddenly acquire it when he/she was a non-entity before. This may be found everywhere starting from local panchayat member to our office peon to officers (military, police and civil) of all ranks to school, college and university teachers to ‘social workers’ to civil society members to insurgents to politicians etc. These tribes indulge in all sorts of sleaze so as to prove that they are masters of their own trade and den and try to pain others as much as possible. The list of manifestations of such behaviour is long, starting, may be, from cutting of wages from job card holders to lying to the visitors that the officer is out of station when he/she is actually inside his/her chamber to thrashing of innocents to amassing as much wealth as possible to molesting, raping and murdering etc.

For them tomorrow seems to be non-existent. They live in the present, for the present, and from the exploits of the present. Let us remember what Wittgenstein once said, ‘If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.’ These people are immortal in their own world of false consciousness. They hardly see what will happen when they lose the position, status, chair and the power which is associated with them. They try to bend and blend the laws and customs as per their conveniences and some of them even think that they are laws and customs in themselves. They suffer from what I humbly term as Step-Mother Complex (treating someone as if a proverbial step-mother would treat her step- children) which I discussed somewhere in some point of time. There are heroes who served the humanity and made themselves immortal in the history pages and the conscience of fellow humans. Then there are fallen heroes who turn into villains when their times are done. The classic and very hot example from the contemporary time is Pervez Musharraf. It was so amusing to see him running away to avoid an inevitable arrest and lawyers shouting, ‘Look who is running! Musharraf is running!’ The man who was formidable during his time and who made others run is now on the run and holed up in his own mansion converted into a jail! What a disgrace and heavy fall! We come across such innumerable stories from our time on daily basis. The past is also crowded with such people too. Some of the majestic crashing stories are those of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin who used all their resources to justify their tyrannies and sleaze through propaganda and to immortalise their body (probably turning them into mummies!) and stories. But it is a lesson to be learned how Stalin’s numerous statues (which he himself got them erected as icons of his grip onto the psyche of his ‘subjects’) were toppled down with sneer and jeer. The empire he built during his life time is gone with his statues. Are we seeing a next Stalin in Mayawati? To be very local, we find such disgrace and ‘status crisis’ in our midst. People, mostly government employees often seem to be forgetting that they will retire from their jobs and positions one day. The maxim seems to be that ‘do whatever is possible to benefit when you are in power’, oblivious of the aforesaid fact. They boast around, bully and traumatize the visitors and customers thinking that they are the torch bearers of immortality.

I know a retired policeman in our locality who grumbles a lot these days saying that people do not give him any respect. Once he went to his old office and the staffs did not give much attention to his unfinished papers for pension. Now he seems to be realizing the results of what he did when he was THE big policeman much feared by people. And there are some others who are very dramatic and show that they are social and benevolent in the ‘front stage’. When they are in the ‘back stage’ they indulge in all sorts of intrigues, whims and fancies, and favouritism investing their callous minds in designing ‘lou and techniques’ to bring down and defame people better, fairer and more intelligent than them and misusing their power as if others are ignorant about their sordid plots. How long this kind of ‘impression management’ will last? They themselves are ignorant since they are people with false consciousness. For them there is nothing like ‘false consciousness’ since they are so immersed in their comfort zone. We humans hardly learn from our past and history keeps on repeating since the power of power is so powerful, tempting and contagious which make us forget what had happened in the historical past. We are living in the flux and this flux often makes us consummate and voracious species of power and sleaze. Future will unfold many such stories of holding on to this ‘fluctuant immortality’. My final words to these immortal mortals (as if they will heed) will be in verse:

Fly, fly when your juvenile wings flap, Beyond the air, across the horizon, But that is not the place you belong.

The earth beckons you. And this is where you belong and return.

(Ksh Imokanta is in the Manipur Finance Service and is currently working as Sub Treasury officer, Moirang.)

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