In Manipuri there is a saying `Angangdi ningthadagi khangbani` (the child is known from his nappies). The ring of Freudian foreboding is remarkable. In layman terms, in the Freudian personality dynamics, the infant is a bundle of raw instincts or `Id`. It responds to hunger, fear, pain etc, only. It urinates and defecates at will, cries when hungry or afraid, laughs when pleased etc. The first intrusion in its life of what Freud calls `Superego`, or the norms and traditions of civilisation, is generally in the form of toilet training: `No wetting while in the bed`. As the child grows older, the demands of the Superego too grow. The child begins to be told which behaviours are acceptable and which not, first at home, then in school and college. Consequently, the conflict between the demands of the `Id` and the `Superego` also gets progressively more intense, and in the negotiation between the two contrary demands, is born the rational `Ego`. Personality disorders of different hues are attributed to the inability of the `Ego` to effectively strike a balance between the two demands. Quite obviously, without the `Superego` there can be no civilisation. But when the `Superego` gets too overbearing, instinctual drives in the child would become dwarfed. This is why the development of the rational `Ego` is vital, and this is precisely what the Manipuri adage refers to, when it said the child is known from its nappies. It refers to the natural aptitude of the child to respond to civilisational norms without detriment to its own personal integrity. It is indeed amazing that this was said before Freud, but interpreting it the other way around, the unlikely congruence of traditional wisdoms and Freud`™s theory, is also because Freud depended in a major way on literature to construct his theory. The fact that his best known contribution to the lexicon of psychology, `Oedipus Complex`, is straight out of literature is evidence enough.
We dig up this discussion again in the light of the recent show of absolute degeneration of civilisational values in the incident in which the escorts of Speaker Th. Lokeshwor savagely beat up a man because he did not give way to the Speaker`™s convoy promptly enough. This is despite the fact that the Assembly was not in session and therefore there could not have been any urgent official business for the Speaker. But beyond these individual transgressions of civilisational propriety by those who wield State power, there is a larger canvas on which a disturbing paradigmatic change in the definition of a leader in sponsored economies like Manipur has been happening. Half a century ago, leaders who emerged were respected figures who earned their reputations through humility and dedicated service to society. Most of them were school teachers who endeared their communities with their service, thus the honorific `Oja` associated with the older generation of political leaders. In the decades that followed, a small transformation in the nursery of political leadership happened, and apart from the Ojas, there also entered a league of retired bureaucrats with sizeable purses. Although it is known that corruption is generally the way to wealth in a stagnant economy like Manipur, especially for government officials, these men were sobered by age. Although their contribution as leaders is hardly anything to talk about, as retired administrators, they at least were blessed with the grace of maturity. However, in the last one or two decades, things have changed dramatically and a new breed of political leaders have emerged. These are former government contractors in their 30s and 40s, who are stinking rich through organised plunder of public money in partnership with bureaucrats and politicians. Under the skin of a political leader, they essentially remain contractors at heart and continue their plundering ways. While as contractors, they were only given to brazen display of wealth, as politicians they also want to flaunt power in equally brazen fashions. What has evidently been allowed to wither is the civilisational pressure the `Superego` exerts on the infantile, instinctual `Id`. The `Ego` too has been overwhelmed by the primitive appetites of the `Id`. Greed, lust, need for dominance, are now the order of the day, resulting in a disorder psychologist Thomas A. Harris called `I`™m okay you are not okay,` in his seminal book I`™m Okay, You`™re Okay. This is the character of our new political leadership by and large. Fifteen years ago, when the late Chief Minister, Oja Wanghengbam Nipamacha bought a Mitsubishi sedan for his personal use, there were eyebrows raised that he could fiddle while Manipur burned. Today even the children of our new political leadership would not want these automobiles as toys.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam