Youth Entrepreneurship : The ultimate key to Self Reliance
- Part 1

Wungramthan Shongzan *

Introduction : In Jewish society, parents are considered to teach their children to become thieves if they fail to engross in a trade by the age of 13. So also in the west, a child ought to go his own way as he reaches 18 years and the parents cease their obligations (perhaps legally) towards their children as they graduate from schools.

In our society, a person seldom stands on his own feet, even at the age of 30 years or after university studies. You see not only the son asking money from his father for his wife's sandals, but you also see some couples still begging their parents to pay fees for their 5 children. Heaven knows how many such youths and families are there in our societies who still depend on their parents and/or others for their livelihood.

We need food, shelter and clothes, and other secondary needs including health, education, transportation, appliances, taxes, services, entertainment, and so on. For which 'I' as an individual and 'we' as community depend mostly on others for all these needs. And we are becoming dependants and liabilities.

Whereas, depending ourselves to be self-sufficient of all these needs is called Self Reliance.

Self Reliance redefined : The concept of Self Reliance was conceived in December, 1823, when [Ralph Waldo] Emerson was twenty and had been keeping his journal for four years, and he recorded a perception stimulated by Archimedes' famous dictum, "Give me a place to stand on and I will move the earth." From a philosophical standpoint, a place to stand, outside the self, where we can observe with an objective eye, is a powerful fulcrum in the world of thought.

The significance for Emerson of this new stance was reflected in the journal entries which followed. The journal Wide World 12 is entitled "A Place to Stand" (in the Greek) and contains the following powerful affirmation — "Who is he that shall control me? Why may not I act & speak & think with entire freedom? What am I to the universe, or, the Universe, what is it to me? Who hath forged the chains of Wrong & Right, of Opinion and Custom? And must I wear them? Is society my anointed King? Or is there any mightier community or any man or more than man, whose slave I am?"

In his essay of Self Reliance, Emerson defined the term as "Having the ability and courage to listen to yourself, and act yourself, rather than letting other people, things or events decide what you should be, do or have."

Chuck Gallozzi defined — "It is a strong belief that you are capable of successfully dealing with challenges life throws at you, taking your guidance from yourself, rather than from other people or other things."

In his book Freedom is not Free, Shiv Khera says Self Reliance is "To take charge of your own life and be in control of your destiny." He strongly appeals the readers to "Empower yourself and stop being a victim immediately, accept the responsibility to succeed."

Simply put, Self Reliance means dependence, confidence, and trust—on one's own. It connotes self-sufficient, self-contentment, self-determination and sure in oneself.

This sounds contradictory to team building and social life. Nevertheless, we need to understand Self Reliance as an individual and as a nation.

Man is a social animal. However, being an individual and being a member of the group is different. The condition of each individual determines the condition of the society. Whereas the society may fail because of an individual, chances are more for the society to be successful because of a person. Therefore, the success of the individual is vital for the success of the society as a whole. One's well-off at the cost of the other is a crime.

My richness while my brothers and neighbors are in want is not success for me. Covetousness in comparison with others is a great sin. Today, the world is in great crisis because of the differences. We have class, elite groups, the haves and the have-nots. And the gap is widening day by day. Self reliance is NOT "at the cost of, or not in comparison with" OTHERS. In fact, there is no "others" in Self reliance.

Self reliance does not indicate only on wealth; but the integrity which is a complete and wholesome life. I was once discussing on "what it takes to live a comfortable life" with one of my friends. Although we need balance diet, a cozy house, and comfortable dresses for occasions, the idea of 5 Star hotel, bungalows, fancy dresses, latest cars, etc demean Self-reliance.

It is not the extravagant, imitating and borrowed lifestyle. Whatever may be the situation, the confidence of an individual; and the contentment of the nation in any set environment; is self-reliance.

Why Self Reliance ? After all, why are we so restless? What is pricking you? Can't we go on just as we have been going on? Let us see why we need to think on this not-so-comfortable topic.

  1. 80% of what we need/use come from outside : Think about the Food you eat and drink, Cloths that covers your body from head to toe, materials you use to build your Shelter, Appliances you use daily at home, vehicles that carry you around, medicines that will save your life, equipments and gadgets that runs your office, . . . think of the things that you need in life, and rethink where they come from. They do not fall from heaven, but somebody is there somewhere, working hard so that you can eat and live.
  2. There is 3:1 Demand–Supply ratio : Whereas we need three, there is only one available. And the available ones are taken by some lucky few or by goondas. Two out of every three went un-availed. While these people are fighting for availability, the price continues to go up. You see your daily Rice @ 1500/- per bag, Dal @ 70/- per kg, Potato @ 30/- and Tomato @ 50/- per kg, Local Egg @ 10/- per piece, and it is expected to go even higher. On top of it, most of the suppliers are non-locals.
  3. 90% of the youths today are jobless : It has been estimated by the International Labor Office (ILO) that about 88.2 million young people between the ages of 15 and 25 are unemployed (Global, 2006). Even as President Obama is threatened by the recent cut-down in the corporate employment, we can recall back the Assam Police recruitment drive in 2004, where 14 people were recorded death during the chaos of giving out the application forms. This is the global scenario of employment, while the local scenario is even worse. @ 90% of our youths in the state find no jobs in their names.
  4. We live depending on others today : If the Government is kind enough to grant some schemes like the giant MGNREGS and some others, we are happy. Otherwise, we look for Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act (FCRA) registration to receive from others. How many self-sustaining Organisations are here? Can't we think of a project sponsored by our own community? Can we sponsor a developmental programme or service from our own pocket ?
  5. We are becoming slaves—slaves of others, money, power; and above all, slaves of sin. Because, we are empty, we live begging; we need but we don't have. Living on the mercies of others is called slavery.

To be continued...

* Wungramthan Shongzan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Director, Professional Training Institute (PTI), Ukhrul and can be reached at shongzan(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was webcasted on December 17, 2010.

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