What is Change ?

Pakinzinliu Chawang *

It has become fashionable to utilize the term "Change." In every society today, "change" is demanded and popularized as a tool to remedy much of society's ailments.

Certainly, one cannot deny that 'change' is not needed. However, what is essential, first and foremost, is not what kind of change we want, which is quite easily answerable once we find the root causes of the things we want to change, but the need to understand what change is?

In other words, we first need to answer the question, "What is change?" It is only by answering this essential question that we can truly comprehend the kinds of changes we want and how to go about realizing such changes so as to elevate our community.

The change could mean many different things. It could mean physical changes, such as changes in one's appearance, cloths, hair colour, sizes, shapes, lifestyles, and so forth; or it could mean inner changes or transformations, such as becoming wiser, kinder, and virtuous, etc.

All these aspects are 'changes'; 'changes' as we usually understand the term. We can also equate change to the question of changes initiated from our own societal experiences, that is, changes based in accordance with the realities of one's society.

Or we can equate changes by mimicking that which is adopted in other advanced societies, which is what most of us usually understand by the term "change." The point behind what has been said thus far is, it is of immense importance for us to first understand the term 'change' and define it within the context of our own community in which changes are to be implemented.

Because if we are unable to define and understand this term 'change' within the confines of our own community, then the changes we initiate, instead of progressing and elevating our community, will bring forth many unintended detrimental consequences that further exaggerate the existing problems of our community.

If we define and understand change by proselytizing the same kinds of norms, values, beliefs, mores, and material things and conditions as we see in other societies, especially the advanced societies, then the question for us to ponder is, will these aforementioned aspects of change truly benefit and bring about the same results for our community as we had envisaged? Moreover, do we really need and want the same, and are we ready to usher in the same sort of changes in our own community?

Such questions are usually answered with a resounding 'Yes,' and this shows that a society is trying to mimic and follow the ways of other societies without taking into consideration what such mimicry will inevitable bring, be it good or bad. And from my experience, when communities speak of change, they usually mean the wanting of the same sort of changes and lifestyles of highly advanced societies. Now, is this what our community mean by 'change?'

Experience has shown all of us, in one way or the other, that when we speak of change and changing the society, we usually have in the mind the adaptation of western or other highly advanced societies' lifestyles. Yet, what we have constantly failed to realize time and again is that when we desire to change our society into a duplication of another society, a contradiction arises.

For instance, when our community, which is traditional and patriarchal by nature, desires to progress into modernity in a globalized world, we are held back by the fact that we are unable to give up our old traditional values, beliefs, customs, and practices. In other words, we want to modernize as well as remain traditional. This is a contradiction which cannot be sustained for long.

Advancement means letting go of traditional values, mores, beliefs, which are in total opposition to the values and beliefs of modernity. Society cannot be traditional and modern at the same time. It has to pick one of the two. If a society is modern, it cannot be traditional, and vice-versa. However, the irony is that one does not need to be 'bold' to desire such changes. Any person can support and propagate such changes.

Changes, of course, do happen. But the important question becomes changes in a meaningful sense. To desire change by mimicking other societies is unchallenging and unproblematic, for mimicry is a way to remain lazy and avoid taking courageous decisions and actions. While, meaningful changes are difficult, a road filled with un-surmountable challenges requiring courage.

The term "change" needs to be defined and understood within the contextual realities of our community's narratives, and needs to be something tangible which young and old, literate and illiterate can relate to. "Change'' should not be foreign to anyone in our community who hears it and desires it. Rather, it should be defined and understood within the cultural context of our community. For only then "change" becomes meaningful, and to bring meaningful changes, courage is required.

To give one simple example, one of the way to bring meaningful changes in our community require not some drastic transformation, but adjustments in some of our traditional customs and amending those values, beliefs, and practices inhibiting our community in general.

The importance here is that to make even the smallest of adjustments for particular sections within our community require courage it is more difficult than mimicry. Courage is required to enable some sort of evolution of our traditional customs and practices.

However, when such adjustments are made, meaningful changes take place bearing fruits for the community and progress the welfare of its people. Indeed, people favour for change without understanding what change entails; neither do they define the term 'change' within the context of their lived existential realities.

This is why we see lots of changes in our community with nothing to show for in terms of our mindset and progress in the welfare of our people. We are lured by the material and physical aspects of change not knowing the kinds of ruinous consequences they inevitably bring.

What I am trying to convey is that we need to define and understand "change" within the contextual realities of our society so that we may identify specific areas where changes are necessary. This way meaningful changes can be made that brings about concrete and positive transformation of our community.

Otherwise, if we ignore to understand "change" within our community's social, cultural, political, and economic realities, then we make blunders by making unnecessary and unneeded changes attracting more problems than they solve.

* Pakinzinliu Chawang wrote this article for
The writer can be reached at pakinzeliang(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 07 2019.

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