History’s excess baggage

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There is a tendency in Manipur of everything to always return to square one. The avenue for a way out of this depressing stagnancy eludes the imagination of one and all, including our leaders, intellectuals and the numerous NGOs in the field of social works. The shared obsession seems to be to analyse, dissect, scrutinize and rubbish selected chapters of the past compulsively and then blame each other or else some external agency or the other for all the misery and misfortune that is everybody’s fate today. Maybe there is some truth in this vision but it certainly cannot be the whole truth. To think this is so would be to reduce the social organism that we all are part of, to a collection of simplistic equations of stimulus and responses only. And this we know cannot be, for the being and the soul of any society is far more complex, and we would even contend, infinitely so. The difficulty in sizing up a society or its mores completely lies in this complexity and not to any attributable flaws of the past, as the current intellectual tradition in social analysis in the state seems to suggest. If social issues were so clear cut, and there were no ambiguities about remedial measures, most social problems ought to have disappeared by now everywhere in the world. Just as the greatest thinkers the world has known discovered, or others after they are long gone too fathomed, this cannot be ever so.

The linearity of our social analyses had had some very serious consequences. For instance we seem to be a society which sees salvation in the past, at the cost of even ignoring the future. From the point of view of this limited linear vision, this is totally understandable. For from this vantage, at least in its structure as a chronological sequence of events, there is a definiteness about the past and this makes it seem comparatively simple to grasp, or at least not out of grasping distance. We would not say the same thing about the substance that gave form to this structure, but even here the same definiteness associated with past events thins out the desperation to get the diagnosis right. The unfortunate thing is, this approach in our effort to come to grip with the past, is often extended to our quest for an understanding of the future. This, we would contend is flawed, for one thing there is nothing linear or definite about the future. All our problem solving efforts have seldom acknowledged that the future is about discovering what is possible. The foundations of our mainstream as well as the numerous prevalent alternate politics today have never been built on any such broad platform, negating in the process the wellknown one line definition of politics as “an art of the possible”. Unlike the past which is dead and circumscribed to the realm of memory only, the field for the future is wide open. We cannot erase the Chahi Taret Khuntakpa chapter in our history, but creative vision of the future can prevent similar historical catastrophes.

While we cannot possibly forget our past, or ignore what we have inherited from it, we do feel there is an urgent need for our society to tone down some of its claustrophobic obsession with the past and develop a vision for the future that is not everything about undoing the past but envisioned precisely as “an art of the possible”. Only when this understanding becomes the standard, realistic terms for resolutions to most of our conflict situations, both internal and external, can begin to dawn. If the question is about past wrongs and their impacts on the present and the future, surely as creative, autonomous beings that all human individuals are, we can overcome these impacts. In structural terms, democracy guarantees this possibility. In spiritual terms too, the prison of colonial modernity of formerly colonized worlds, has never been able to contain this same creativity that gives the individual the capability of sizing up his predicament and affect the changes necessary to overcome that state of mind. It is depressing that our public discourses seldom have approached the future without the past as the sole measuring tape. Let our future go beyond the status of being just a response to our past.

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