Extraordinary times these are that Manipur is living in. But its tragedy is, these extraordinary times are being met by a general ordinariness of mindset all around. A mindset characterized by inward looking selfishness and obsessive narcissism. Almost by compulsion of circumstance, few if any are able to see, or are bothered to see, beyond the self and visualise the broader picture of what the future may shape up to be for everybody. An acute myopia has been forced on everybody, rulers and subjects alike, and life in Manipur has ceased to be about living but increasingly about surviving. Everybody is unto himself, and in such a circumstance, the obsessive self absorption which has become the general rule is understandable. After all, when the individual is left to fend for himself in a free for all situation, the principle of survival of the fittest would become the norm. An insatiable appetite for power and wealth, ill-gotten most of the time, is only one important consequence of this. What becomes abandoned in the process is the broad liberal ideology that liberalism is also very much about everybody giving up a little liberty so that everybody can have liberty together. Also ignored is the understanding that acute and widespread self-interest at the cost losing sight of the larger common good as it were, is not in anybody`™s self interest in the ultimate analysis.
There is another danger of ordinariness of leadership. It can have extremely grave consequences for everybody`™s future. This hypothesis cannot have a better illustration than in a particular counterfactual study done on the fortune of France and the French Army in the mid 19th Century which historians agree was the finest in terms of organisation and military hardware at the time. This army was at its peak at the time of the rise of an aggressive Prussia under Bismarck known all along for his imperial designs. James Chace, professor of international relations at Bard College, USA, writes in `What If?` a volume of counterfactual studies by military historians dubbed as some of the finest minds in the contemporary Western world, that given a wee bit more commitment, the French marshal Francois Achille Bazaine should not have had to surrender to the Prussians at Metz on September 1, 1870 along with 6000 officers and 173,000 men, as the French Army was far superior. Unfortunately the French leadership at the time was marked by a remarkable ordinariness. He laments that “¦ an inept, posturing nephew (Napoleon III) of the greatest military commander in modern times (Napoleon) became the unwitting destroyer of the primacy of Europe.` Had Bismarck been denied the runaway victory at Metz, there is unlikely to have been the First World War, consequently no Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which in turn led to the Second World War. There would also not have been the Bolshevik Revolution, no Soviet Union, therefore no Cold War either. The course of history for the next 150 years that followed, and horrors of the last century would have been irrevocably changed. If Europe was not thus destroyed, economically and in terms of human resources, the continent would have remained unmatched in economic prowess. But hundreds upon thousands of its finest minds presumably would have been amongst the millions of casualties of these wars, and for the good or the bad, the American Century too would have been delayed or perhaps even still born, he says.
The moot point is, what our leaders do or don`™t do today, will definitely have a profound bearing on the future of the place, if history is any evidence. The least that extraordinary times need is leadership inertia. When Manipur`™s being, physical and metaphorical, is eroding in a total administrative vacuum, it is outrageous that our leaders still have the leisure not to think proactively to meet the challenges, and instead continue to leave it up to the mythical healing power of time to mend things. Poverty, unemployment, bad law and order, sliding incomes etc, on the one hand, and piling garbage, run down roadways, drinking water shortage, sinking rural health facilities, decaying education system etc on the other, cannot afford to be met with fading government presence. Bribe givers and bribe takers alike, when the ship sinks as it definitely would if things to not change for the better, everybody will drown, and no amount of wealth in anybody`™s hand can save anybody.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam