Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Narcissism involves among others a loss of the sense of shame and propriety

Narcissistic Public Representatives Devoid of Conscience or Shame is a Danger for Manipur Today

In 19th century western Europe, when modernity was gaining its momentum that led to profound upheavals in Europe, people were faced with the simultaneous existence of a paradoxical situation of both hope and despair. Sociology is said to have emerged as an attempt to resolve these paradoxes. Though these changes bring chaos and despair which sociologists labelled as the crisis of modernity, it does have an optimistic side for advancement and progression of human society. But if there was only desolation and despair and no hope available where future seems to be blocked and appears gloomy, probably people may have committed suicide in masses.

Logically it occurs naturally to the mind being a responsible citizen to ponder on the idea of whether “Manipur has the same paradoxical situation where both hope and despair exist simultaneously?” If the answer is “yes”, then probably, we can still be optimistic and anticipate a good future to arise but if it is “no”, then possibly the succeeding generation will die out of frustration where the future seems to be pitilessly blocked and no lease on life available to ignite hope to look forward.

These thoughts come to mind in the backdrop of the recent political phenomenon that surfaced where we once again witness the same old ruts running over and over again forcing people to experience the same outdated old movie playing over again as if the one who is running the movie theatre is kind enough to offer the same old track to watch over and over again.

Political parties and elected politicians seem to have a typical hereditary gene amongst themselves shields them from showing any sign of shame in switching parties and resorting to unapproved techniques of political horse trading in the legislature. Interestingly, more often than not, the same politicians who happen to switch parties are people who once badly criticized the same party which he/she ends up switching loyalty to. It is as if watching some animated cartoon characters on local cable TV.

At present, it seems that we are more in a state of despair rather than hope. And it has been continuing for many decades and still on. Political representatives in Manipur do not seem to find it inconvenient to shift from one party to another. On the other hand, people go on to feed the “ego” requirement of such representatives by electing them continually. Hence the “pride” and “ego” of such candidature go on mounting and the “value” of the electors begin to be taken for granted. And the beauty of democracy appears to breakdowns and collapse when people unwisely elect the same person over and over again.

If we pick up any fundamental text of political science, the political representatives are referred to as slaves and the masses as their master. But it seems that this relationship has conflicting reality in real time and space. The king maker seems to have taken the place of a servant where they are required to step aside whenever they come across the so-called VIP and has a sensation of irritability or untouchability resurrected in its modern form that naturally pull themselves back to approach them. But it is unlikely that a genuine king would think or consider himself as a king even though people may recognize him as a king. And if a king begins to think that he is actually a king and should be treated differently from others then we are in serious trouble.

Politics seems to have been reduced to no less than as if it were a family business enterprise to earn easy wealth and wield power as a means for self-aggrandizement to exaggerate and promote oneself as being powerful and important. And at time it is surprising how the political worker/party spokespersons of respective parties engage amongst themselves in unhealthy criticism and start a blame game amongst themselves with self-righteous attitudes in TV studios just to please their masters and be in their good books, even if it means misleading the masses or their masters in his/her judgement.

Looking at such political trends and culture, it feels worthless and cheap to stand for long hours in queues, facing the scorching heat, sacrificing time at a polling booth during an election for the sake of such a representative to be elected, sweating out for them just to uphold their family business and their personal wellbeing.

There is something called “conscience” that pulls back and deter an individual to prevent him or her from acts that are shameful. And we as humans experience this moral trial consistently at any given life circumstance and situation to choose options before us and that power of choices to eliminate the false and choose the right ultimately decides who we are as an individual. But it seems that politicians today neither have ethics nor self-respect.

On the other hand, there is a political culture emerging in Manipur where retired ex-serviceperson at the dusk of their life, when they are supposed to have a lesser degree of worldly attachment begin showing fresh interest in politics as if it is a bridge to the road which would lead them to means to satiate their selfish greed and desires. Is there any hard and fast rule carved on the rock that says that in order to serve people we must join politics?

But we seem to go at the face value. People strike their hands together over and over again for certain people being placed in bureaucratic setup. What are we celebrating? Are we celebrating because they had/will get a huge pay check and enjoy luxurious lifestyle for their own wellbeing? Or are we celebrating because they have performed/done their duties and responsibilities with a sense of unwavering moral ethics and honesty during the course of their service?

It appears that there is a serious flaw of value judgement penetrating in the psyche of people where we celebrate outward superficial identities over ethical humanely values. It is better to celebrate honesty and truthfulness and not some individuals for being placed in certain positions in bureaucratic organizations or getting some salaried jobs.

We may read the entire holy books in the world but that doesn’t mean that we will become a holy person. Understanding the path and practicing the path are not the same thing. Knowing that honesty is good and practically practicing honesty in reality belongs to two different categories. And it requires a tremendous amount of courage to single-mindedly pursue the path of truth and knowledge or information alone is not sufficient if it is not put into practice. If we are of the opinion that becoming a civil servant or being placed in a certain position in a bureaucratic organization is an implicit mark of a good character person or say honesty then we are foolishly ignorant. It is better to be an ignorant but live a life of honesty and unwavering ethics than to be a genius and selfish

It is demoralizing when people say statements such as “houjik matamdabu achumba chatnaribane”, “matamgi chatanabisu khra khangba tabani”. It reflects the lack of wisdom and a manifestation of a weak mind.

Ideas  and material infrastructure may  change but the fundamental existential truth of life never changes. Death never ceases to exist. Diseases never leave humans. Old age approach within the blink of an eye.  And ultimately time mercilessly consumes every creature on earth. And this great fact is sufficiently enough to stick to the path of truth.

It is often said that honesty is the best policy. But it is dangerously wrong. . If honesty has become a policy that needs to  be implemented then it is a sure sign that the society has begun to degenerate where we hardly find people who are genuinely honest. It is honesty that sustains friendships. It is honesty that holds the marital bonds. It is only through honesty that we connect with the divine. And most importantly it is honesty and transparency that connect masses with political representatives. Therefore, honesty is an obligation and necessity and not some policy or compulsion .

The google search engine shows that the average person lives 27,375 days on earth. And it is extremely unwise and funny to live life as though we are immortal.  In one of the episodes in Mahabharata, Yudhisthira was asked, “ what is the most wonderful thing that you notice in the world? To this, Yudhisthira replies that “the most amazing thing is that even though every day one sees countless living entities dying, he/she acts and thinks as if he/she will live forever”. And I find this statement very striking and true.

Leaders are supposed to present themselves as a  model behaviour to the masses and also have to make a suggestion that is acceptable to others. He/she must be the living example of what they say and suggest to people the way of life. She (he) has a responsibility to keep his hand on the pulse of the people and realize their aspiration and desires and qualities. Or in other words, s/he must possess the  inherent qualities of a psychologist. No leader can command respect  from people if he/she does not understand the psychology of people. There must be a natural affinity with  people where people feel identified with them and possess behaviour in a manner that makes people feel happy about his/her conduct.

The veneration that people give to them is   to encourage them to do more things for the benefits of people but not to feed their “ego” requirement that would promote “feudal mentality” and lifestyle and showcase themselves as occupying a certain place in society. This veneration is available only when the leader does things according to the wishes of the masses. On the other hand, a leader has a responsibility to correct the masses lest they start doing things that are wrong.

But observing the political culture and state of affairs that has emerged in recent times and of course since decades, it is difficult to locate and identify such people under the nomenclature of the term  political leaders or representatives. It comes with no surprise to doubt the credibility of such individuals.

What longing and yearning in them do politicians   motivate themselves  to defect from one party to another at the cause of public trust and mandate people have given to them? Is it a priority of social over  individual/family wellbeing or the self-centred narcissistic  individual aspiration over the social?

Political scientists might probably say that politicians are motivated by power and economic factors. But I think it is an oversimplification that detaches far away from the truth.

It is time to pose a deeper psychological question. If they are motivated by political or economic power then why are they motivated by political or economic power? Or why do they contest for election or want to join politics?

Accumulation of surplus wealth is good so long as we have an inherent tendencies to give out  in charity without any hope for return. Power is good so long as if we use it as a means by which we can serve society or do things that we planned out that will have medium to long terms benefits.

In helping others, it is wrong to think that we are doing favour to them but indeed we are doing favour to ourself by fulfilling   our obligation as a human. It is likely that those who genuinely love society  will never occur such thoughts for they did it as an obligation but not to earn some gain out of it.

If  politicians are more interested in publicity and to draw media attention  for performing public works and duties as if the resources were proceeded from their own pocket then we as a citizen are obliged  to remain watchful about the motives of their social actions.

In sociology, Weber called it “motivational understanding” of the social actions in which the social actions are observed through the lens of “empathetic understanding”. We cannot judge a political action from outside and attribute natural meaning to what we observe .  It is oversimplification in the sense that it is based on direct observational understanding. Or in other words, we cannot claim someone as a social worker just because he/she has contributed or donated some articles to help people.

In “motivational understanding” of social action, we try to interpret the underlying meaning and motives of social action. We established an empathetic liaison with the actor and imaginatively placed ourselves in the actor’s position on the basis of the data collected in the first stage . And we interpret the motives behind the act.

For instance, why do the intending candidates seems to appear so  generous unnaturally or deliberately ? Why such acts prop up only when the election fever is on? Or why do politicians  sometimes selectively  carried out black topping in certain ward no. or area to the exclusion of others ? With that we can build a sequence of motives on how one motives is connected to the next and link the sequence with the consequences of social action. Therefore  tracing the course and consequences of social action.

Giddens and Stephen Karlberg’s holds that when applying “verstehen” or “empathetic understanding” at the macro sociological level then we can look for shared meaning. And while applying at the micro-sociological level we can use unique meanings.

Therefore, we can derive at a causal explanation of its course and consequence. In the light of the unique meaning that a political actor attach to his/her subjective action taking account of the behaviour of others and through those meanings, the course of action must be explained.

Therefore it is time to go for superficial identification and generalization of social action merely through direct observational understanding. Narcissistic intent at work cannot be accounted for and considered as a social work that distorts the very idea of duty and redefines them according to their own conveniences.

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