TODAY -

Where Are You Civility ?

Jodha Chandra Sanasam *



Election fever or election melee is not what we need. What Manipur needs today is ample electric supply, domestic as well as commercial, adequate water at the houses, a network of suitable roads for all kinds of vehicles, controlled traffic and parking lots, adequate food, but most of all is civility among the population. We had had so many elections and changes of leadership. Did any of it make any difference?

It is amazing how Manipur, for that matter any place in the world, modern or semi-modern, plunges into a weird kind of frenzy brouhaha, ruckus, rumpus, brawls, whatever synonyms there are, eventually leading to build-up mobs, gun shots and deaths whenever election melee enfolds the populace simulating a viral epidemic or endemic engulfing a territory or region. For Manipur it is all the more innate for such eerie behaviours among the milieu because civility had disappeared in the thin air of Manipur long ago, and scornful violence has pervaded instead in its thick air that has hung low in the ambience of this land for the last three decades or so.

This reminds me of an incident that happened only a fortnight ago, worth to cite as an anecdote. That afternoon I was on my way home; I leisurely swerved my car from Hatta road towards Minuthong. Moments before and while doing so, I saw no vehicles in a radius of about 100 metres or so. I was out of my wits when a red Hyundai car suddenly appeared from nowhere; possibly, of course, from Khurai-Telipati side, dashing hurriedly onward about to plummet headlong on the right side of my car's belly.

I deviated to the left and the red car screeched and skidded, deviating from my car, towards the middle of the road. We were lucky that the traffic was thin; otherwise, a severe damage to our automobiles or loss of lives could have occurred. I got so terrified; the chill gripping on top of my head, my pulse ran fast.

A more shocking thing was the T-shirt boys, five of them, in the red car that had hurried ahead like a bullet, some of them stretching out their heads and arms through the windows, glowered back at me, shrieking obscene words and showing signs of threatening.

I let it go totally upset though. I did not know how it could possibly happen; however, I was pretty sure that it was none of my fault. The matter did not end there. When I had crossed over the bridge, I found the red car pulled over at the roadside, engine still on, and again they yelled at me to stop. I did not stop, drove on leisurely. Of course, they did not chase me further. However, I felt like crying out, 'O Civility! Where are you!'

My remarks may turn negative to many; but I would like to assert that election fever or election melee is not what we need. What Manipur needs today is ample electric supply, domestic as well as commercial, adequate water at the houses, a network of suitable roads for all kinds of vehicles, a controlled traffic and parking lots, adequate food, but most of all is civility among the population. We had had so many elections and changes of leadership.

Did any of it make any difference? All of them there are to it have been turning out to be so bleak all the time. You are a hypocrite; yes, I am also a hypocrite, the whole world is a hypocrite. This hypocrisy is the major product of politicians and religion men. All the year round, we keep hurling libels at the politicians, administrators and executives for the backwardness of the state and lack of infrastructures; but at the time of election, we are just like cattle that race towards their owner when he shows a handful of fresh grass in his hand and call them 'laa-laa, laa-laa' .

Infrastructures it is beyond our capacity to do something about them on our own. In fact, these areas too the public definitely should be able to do something if we are determined. Incivility, no, we cannot blame the government entirely for it. Of course, for many individuals certain actions of the government meted out to them may be the cause of their incivility. However, to develop civility among the children, it is almost entirely in the perspective of parental or guardians' care, the surrounding atmosphere of the neighbourhood or the land, children's schooling and a few factors of similar nature only.

What is civility anyway? There are many ways of defining it. However, in short, one can say 'civility is a civilised conduct, courteous expression or polite act showing regard, deference or respect for others.' Others say 'it includes characteristics like courtesy, politeness, consideration, gentility, and respect, as well as dispositions like caring, looking beyond selfishness, or seeking ways to help those in need' (Hinckley, 2000). Civility may also be defined simply as decency (Peck, 2002), or as the consideration of others within interpersonal relationships (Ferris, 2002), or as the quality with which individuals comport themselves in each other' company, reflecting the degree to which each individual is polite and courteous (Keyes, 2002).

Civility is essential if society is to exist. Degree of civility among the population is the identity and yardstick for the degree of finesse of civilisation of a specific nation or sub-nation with or without modern technical infrastructures.

Manipur grew up with a protocol of a king and his subjects. The king, in a general sense, might have inherent traits of a dictator. However he always acted under consultations with his courtiers and there was hardly any room for individual gross tyranny. Democracy crept in the milieu of Manipur before the people were fully ready and prepared for the new option. People elsewhere across the world have visions for wider spectrum and look forward to changes and redresses.

However, conservative Manipuris hate changes; they want to stick to their inherent culture, beliefs and traditions. We want to stick to the age-old code of dress during ceremonies and festivals although nobody elsewhere would like to imitate our culture and traditions except for the performing arts of great heritage and legacy. Good thing; but, for this we are bound to incur heavy expenditure, and wastage of time and energy. Ultimately, we Manipuris do not know where we stand. Perhaps this confusion and agitation in our minds are the causes of this incivility among us.

Added to this is the fear that we will lose our age-old identity with the flooding of external culture. In a way, it is a true and natural feeling. Among many sections of people worldwide, a fear is lurking in their minds that with the coming of globalization the identity of their ethnicity or racial or national characteristics and their small markets will be lost and their economy will be jeopardised. It is something like the obliteration of the picture of small tributaries whereas the big river will retain its physical appearance when there is an expansive flood. Again, it is true because all the smaller tributaries will be under the deluge; but the banks and boundaries of the big river will still be visible.

Here it comes true to say that, civility is what humankind needs to foster the posterity. The greater or dominating nations or races of the world should have enough civility to see to it that they do not act in a manner of cultural, lingual and literary invasions, interference with the traditional norms of maintaining economy while participating in the common good of globalization.

There is enough visibility of lack of civility among the Manipuri youths, and there is enough visibility that the cause of this incivility is their fear and anger that they are losing their identity. This break down is a threat to democracy, not only in Manipur but also in everywhere else across the world.


* Jodha Chandra Sanasam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on April 10, 2014.


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