The Original Sin

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Sigmund Freud
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Source: Imphal Free Press
Those of us in the journalistic profession with the responsibility of covering events in a conflict ridden state and thus forced to grapple with the notion of peace, cannot but have realised that peace is a moving target. It coordinates are forever changing and hence, anybody who remains stuck with the idea of peace as a static phenomenon and hopes to have a grip on the notion of peace, is probably destined forever to miss the target. The question is important. This is also a question so many of us in the state have been asking, often in exasperation and not always with hope. What exactly is peace? Many, including this newspaper have been quick to point out on so many occasions that it definitely is not merely about the absence of violence. The loudest example why this is so is now a cliché: peace of the graveyard is no peace. No dispute about this at all, but is this the final answer? Unlikely!

The problem remains. All the semantics on defining peace have not resolved the million-dollar question: what actually is peace? What the semantic exercises have done is only to tell us what peace is not, but not what it is. Conceded, there have been attempts to define what it should be, but all these definition in some remote ways, and sometimes in not so remote ways, are dependent on the Christian theological notion of the “original sin” or something akin to it. According to this explanation, a grave wrong was committed in the past and the absence of peace in the present times is primarily because of this alone. The implication is, this “original sin” will not only have to be atoned for, but reversed altogether, before the original state of supposed peace and harmony is restored. However, the fact that such a peace has remained elusive in all these decades should itself be evidence as to how intangible the notion is. This is so precisely because the peace visualised here is a static phenomenon, which can be left behind, stolen or lost and consequently by the same logic, retrieved, recovered or found. The danger of this peace model is, those seeking it may eventually end up discovering that they have been crying over spilled milk. We are hence of the opinion that the sooner they (we) realise the spilled milk, though cannot be retrieved anymore and be back in the milk jar, can easily be replaced by fresh ones, the clearer a future of peace will become. In this sense, to be optimistic and hopeful is to acknowledge this reality of life as a perennial flux in which things good and bad continually happen, and that this flux has absolutely no sympathy for any lament of whatever has happened. Time and tide waits for no man. So the timeless advice is, if you happen to be in good times, enjoy it, but if on the other hand you fall down, pick yourself up as soon as you gather the strength and begin walking again. Don’t waste too much time blaming others for personal misfortunes, for time ultimately is not bothered. Instead seek a mutual consensus on just and reasonable reparation from the perceived offenders, and without further ado, move on. Refusing to do this can only mean one thing. Being left behind, possibly broken and ruined, in life’s constant flux.

In contemplating these thoughts, we cannot help returning to Sigmund Freud’s powerful idea of “Mourning and Melancholia”, as interpreted by Judith Butler in “Precarious Life: Power of Violence and Mourning”. The line dividing “mourning” and “melancholia” is thin, but nonetheless there is a distinction. “Melancholia” in the context of our current argument would be somewhat like unending lament and grudge for the “original sin” that supposedly destroyed the peace. The lament and grudge become ends in themselves, so that the condition of discontent is perpetuated. The lamenters begin to, in a narcissistic and perverted sense, derive a self-destructive sense of pleasure in steeping themselves in this state of “melancholia”. In short, this is about crying over spilled milk. “Mourning” is also about lamenting a profound loss but one in which there is an effort to acknowledge things change, as all things must. That even the loss itself would have changed its contours with time. The “original sin” too would have lost its original sting so that to be realistic would be to assess the transformed visage of the “original sin” and reciprocally change the nature of the lament. In short, this is about coming to terms with the loss and then looking the best way forward. This is about not crying over spilled milk forever but looking for fresh milk to fill the emotional vacuum left by the original loss.

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