Is Tangkhul society today globally utopian and locally empty?

Let me begin with a poem.

Ukhrul; hustling-bustling life;

On the path of infinite corruption

The Jackals chant the story of truth, pride, and freedom.

Imprisoned in the hunger for money and power.

Have some doubts, murmuring for a change!!!

Injured feather stuck in the tower of money and power

Truth and rights are on sale- buy one get one free.

Twisted our arms and surrender

But the children beam in innocence and romance with their future

TRUTH BE TOLD, I do not claim to be an expert on our Tangkhul society. This is the closest I have ever gotten to sharing the sad realities of My Tangkhul. Today, I want to tell you one sad story. That is it. Just a single story. These are simply hapless truths. Tangkhuls always boast of a glorious past, and her history is prominent among the tribes of Manipur and is admired by various communities and the people. Her story has sadly gone awry today. Contemporary Tangkhul society does not think very well, yet pretends and play-act. Certainly, in my considered opinion, our minds are behind the times. We are guided largely by intuition and shaped by an orthodox adherence to tired interpretations of narrow and selfish individual interests. All this must change if Tangkhul wants to out-think its enemies and be secure, safe, and free in the future. One sad development which I see among the Tangkhul population, is that the majority of the population is selling off their rights and shunning cardinal duty and allegiance. The danger signal is the poison that is sought to be disseminated by greedy jackals in the name of political change and socio-economic development. The haystack of hatred has caught fire. In places, it is burning fiercely. The underworld and the lumpens have jumped into the arena to settle their scores. The question is whether society cherishes the uniqueness of its history or is about to fragment along the lines drawn by clans, regions, and the haves and the have-nots? We seem to be trapped by dogma, which means living with the results of other people’s thinking and letting the noise of others’ opinions drown out our own inner voice. We are wasting our time by living someone else’s life. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true.

An undercurrent of fear and unrest resides in our community today. Perhaps this polarisation is not to the extent it is made out to be. Many people are suffering from a sense of insecurity and are losing their faith in the current dispensation. The harmonious societal fabric has suffered because of factors like the mushrooming of local power groups, a lack of unity, and a lack of willingness to listen and accept dissent as a part of democratic deliberations. We are uncertain about our future but are determined to rough it out. Sadly, the leaders and the intelligentsia are not repentant and are busy stoking the fire of suspicion and even hatred. The anxiety of people about the future iswrit large on their tired and hollow faces. It is as if the salt  has gone out of society which may not return: innate dignity and tolerance, and her tradition, the capacity to experience the full depth and breadth of life’s pleasures and pain without losing a nobler feeling of respect for one another. The youth are restive and even somewhat desperate; their determination not to follow the present dispensation is unflinching. It is not clear why the current policy paradox has emerged- why emotions so often trumps rational analysis in an era when our analytical powers have reached such unprecedented heights.

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It is perhaps not surprising that intellectuals and storytellers are besting other forms of analysis. Leaders and intellectuals have done a very poor job of preparing for the future. They crave drama and often create drama. One thing they always do is speak and write in a dramatic tone with a wide range of foolish and heavily loaded language. They miserably fail to notice one critical point, which is the proliferation of ‘show business.’ No gimmick, no fame. No matter how irrelevant and non-sensical the writing is, people will always pay attention to it and recognise it instantly. This becomes the ‘new normal.’ Rational thinking has been supplanted by emotions as the cornerstone of decision-making principles.

Most Tangkhuls today seem to have reverted to the most primitive stage of philosophy, that is, emotionalism, factionalism, and reactionism. Beg to differ? Turn on your television and social media platforms and see one image and one sentence that is not intended to hypnotise you with emotional resonance and theatrical monologues. Everyone in Tangkhul has all of a sudden become an expert, a specialised theorist, and a theologian who sees religion and politics either as superstitious gimmicks or great powers. Thanks to the dominance of a few groups in the show business, this group in all social media domains is now portrayed as simply the backbone of society, regardless of what happens.

We always throw in critical punches and expert opinions or comments. Only a few could calm their overheated brains and contemplate with clarity. The wisdom of intelligence has been downplayed in favour of emotional jingoism. Intelligentsia, the last remaining faction, are all labelled ‘reactionary’ This is majorly due to the  infusion of self-proclaimed WhatsApp and Facebook scientists, scholars, and experts. The current social media information overload serves hardly any purpose other than to entertain us with information that is irrelevant, impotent, and incoherent to one’s actual life. Why on earth do we need to know so much garbage, anyway? We could use it to boost our smugness at a social event or public meeting and impress our date. Using our hunches, emotions, and hearts to feel the world looks way more appealing today. This may explain some of the reasons why we end up with such lousy emotionalism as the predominant doctrine in our society. Everyone suffocates in this information landfill. We should ask ourselves whether our full-blown embrace of emotions thanks to social media platforms is indeed such a good thing. 

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While the internet and other social networking tools facilitate conversation, debate, and storytelling on a global scale, the information age provides an unprecedented capacity to tackle tough problems in different ways. It also allows opinion-makers to spin better, more compelling stories faster and more widely. What is needed in today’s Tangkhul society is a better balance and more representation of diverse and dissenting voices in the arguments presented in the virtual public square. Have we marginalised rational thinking and reasonable discourse to such an extent that the only way we can get our point across is to yell, pugnaciously scream, cry, be theatrical, or kee ranting nonstop? The challenge we are facing today is that decisions are being based on misinformation and fake news. This is happening more and more. From the young to the old, supporters to leaders, poor to rich, everyone suffers from ‘attention deficit syndrome’ and is frequently preoccupied with ‘headline management’ and ‘limelight grappling.’ We often indulge in emotional outpouring and expert comments with no substance and no understanding of the fundamental concept of what we are encountering today.

The response to the problem is to create institutions and a professional ethos that exploit multidisciplinary public policy analysis and create room for a certain amount of creative discussion in the Tangkhul public sphere. The room has to be made to allow new ideas and methods to reach decision-makers. If we fail to act on time, then we could well sacrifice the key advantage of our time. Developing a capacity to identify and exploit new means of analysis for informing public policy-making could be the key advantage at this critical juncture. Knowing what is out there and what is coming is an important part of ‘thinking about the future.’ Equally vital will be to establish sustainable knowledge management to change how we discover, innovate, and adapt to new ways of knowledge creation for the task of sound decision-making through ‘glocal engagement.’ It enables us to take action by proposing change through critical review, dialogue, and meaningful engagement.

Dr Pamreihor Khashimwo is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Delhi. Views are personal.

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