How valour dies
Manipur today is ceasing to live. On an incremental basis, it is simply learning to be content with merely existing. Much like the state of the post-World War II German army as described by an article in the International Herald Tribune, the international edition of the New York Times, some time ago where it is said the perceptions of the essence of grand values such as bravery and valour in war have been blunted to alarming extents. The once coveted Iron Cross, the country’s highest badge to honour an individual military man’s bravery, according to the article, has lost much of its significance and sheen, so much so that for the German soldier today, soldiering is devoid of all the romance of patriotism and courage, and is more about routine attendance and the salary that comes at the end of it. There is little motivation left to win honours in this army and as the article suggested, this is naturally worrying the nation’s leadership. A campaign to revive the lustre of the Iron Cross is nonetheless facing an uphill task, for it remains as a constant reminder of the fanatical Nazi Germany in the average German’s subconscious. The campaigners were even rethinking of redesigning the medal to take care of this problem. A collective war fatigue, tinged liberally with a sense of guilt at having been the cause of so much violence and bloodshed in the 20th Century has effectively deprived this army, once considered one of the most formidable fighting machine in the world, of its spirit. In a very profound way, this could be the demonstration of how even a nation can suffer from what is normally referred a post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, the kind that made Vietnam war veterans in America give up living and retreat deep into themselves as incorrigible recluses.
Manipur could be heading for a similar future. The mindless violence unleashed in the present times, and the almost absolute lack of governance which is making the situation even worse, is already beginning to have its toll on the psyche of the people by and large. Daily doses of intimidation, threats, humiliations, brutal assaults and even murders, have made the average man and woman cower, with their spirits battered beyond recognition. Their minds are no longer free, their spirits no longer open to take on new challenges. Notions such as living life exuberantly and courageously as it should be lived have receded as distant dreams. The only option left for them is to recoil into themselves and see no further than feathering their individual nests. When the conflict in this land ends, as it surely must one day or the other, we shudder to think of the possibility that it may be left facing a morally devastated human landscape – a people without drive or ambition, trudging along drearily on life’s long highway. A resilient people can handle physical devastation, but spiritual dwarfing can make life vegetative. The resurgence of Vietnam contrasted with the failure of many Arabian countries brutalised not so much by outsiders but by themselves, are examples before us.
Too much of anything, even good things, is bad. But too much of bad things can traumatise. Nobody will deny Manipur is having too much of lawlessness of all hues and degrees happening everywhere, from the unruly streets to the exalted corridors of state power. Silence against such atrocities cannot be a sign of respect of rights or rectitude either. Difficult to swallow it, but these lawlessness are the nature of overt and implicit crimes unfolding daily in today’s Manipur. Let us heed the writings on the walls. The ordinary citizens have been benumbed so much that today a day with no news of scandals or bloodshed has come to be considered dull. The profile of politics in the state has only added to this emerging picture of chaos. Politics indeed has long ceased to be about grand visions and hard-nosed strategies to actualise them. Instead it has largely become a game of former government contractors and carpetbaggers jostling for turf control. The brightest still to stay away from politics, and the field continues to remain the monopoly of the most unscrupulous. Values such as loyalty, valour, honour, dignity are alien and political back-stabbing has become an accepted norm. Although the last word remains to be said, the hope that the new government would alter this image of politics, and usher back in respectability seems to have already begun eroding. With public faith in politics and politicians unrestored, it is unlikely there will be any change for the better in the days ahead. Manipur’s prolonged trauma it seems is not destined to end just as yet.