Sex, normlessness and political economy
- Part I -
If we look back to the ancient folklore, we will find it clear that society was developing with the different stages of production and the social norms and value systems were built.
Evident existence of normlessness, as a product of rapid and distorted historical social change and bundle of contradictions with which we are living with now, can be traced to our absolute inability to cope with political, economic and socio-cultural breakdown manifested even now in our own conceptions of the world. Hence, we now seemed have distorted ideas about almost every beginning with politics, ideology, economy, arts and culture and even social mores. The bundle of contradictions has also been equally responsible even for your youth's idea of sexuality and vulgarization of the same.
As of now, ours is a society where we cannot tell with certainty in which transitory phase we are in as there is inadequate or rather severe lack of studies linking our politics with economy. This lack has also made us handicapped in assessing the level of changes over the last one hundred years. While there will be unending debates on the topic of contradictions, what I would basically be dealing with here would be something not so new but something have often ignored to understand it from a different perspective.
Sexual desire is a natural feeling of every human beings and it becomes all the more prominent when youth attain puberty - a stage of growth. It can be called the base which determines the forms of outlet of the basic human instincts whether it is normal or abnormal depending on how we have understood the same. Here, it is worth mentioning that while trying to understand the constant occurrence of sensational reports/news of young girls and boys indulging in sexual mores not accepted normatively or going away from the ideal norms, we can also refer to the dialectical relationship between culture (superstructure) and mode of production. This can be one of the many ways to understand and also can be used to diagnosis the maladies of sexual perverseness in Kanglei societal set-up. The purity of culture here has been rather filled with illusions not anchored on to the actual progression of our socio-economic life.
Take for instances, the rapid increase in the incidents of the 'restaurant culture' where many of our youngsters take shelter for engaging supposedly prohibited sexual activities can be understood from a historical point of view. The shift from jhum cultivation to a period of advanced wet land cultivation had given Kanglei society a form of sexual relation which could not be termed as aberration. The social relationships based on different stages of development had produced different forms of relations between young boys and girls with parental sanction.
We had Likkon Saanaba where young boys and girls get to know each other through a local game of dice. We had Thabal Chongba dance, again a rendezvous for our youth. The Khulangisei (folk song often sang during rice transplantation and harvesting season) was also another form of letting out sexually driven desires of youths where the youth expressed whatever they felt to their opposite sex using the song as the medium. They worked and spent time together in a socially accepted way avoiding aberrations and also having a profound impact in the conception of Meitei sexual morality.
Here it is important to understand that morality is not exclusive to just sexual orientation but also all forms of ethics driven by the core of human beings-the self. The Likkon Saannaba gave the unmarried man and woman a platform to know each other and develop relationship between them in Kanglei society. They used to play the game in a Leikaimangol or a sanggoi under the supervision of leikai elders. Do's and don'ts were given to them by the elders in a loveable way that they could not deny the youth of expressing their desires never to suppress them. The liberal outlet did have a sanction which was based on socially accepted consensus. Thabal Chongba (dancing in the moonlight) also gave boys and girls the chance to acquaint themselves which was equally sanctioned with the acceptance of their parents.
When such socially accepted sanctions were given to letting out inners feelings, there were fewer chances of aberrations. Over a period of time, these mores have undergone tremendous changes. To understand the problem, we need to go through and analyze the different historical phases in our society.
We had seen different phases of an agrarian economy. The impact of the base (agricultural life) has always been reflected in the social set up .With the value system established on the reality, society was developing in the right course of history. Along with the production process a well-defined culture thrived on and it continued with the changing time adjusting with new emerging norms and sensibilities.
Umang Laiharaoba should not be taken as mere worshiping of forest deities. The whole concept had direct connections with the production (agriculture) and reproduction and tradition making. If we look back to the ancient folklore, we will find it clear that society was developing with the different stages of production and the social norms and value systems were built. There seems to be no deity who was not connected with our ancient mode of production, for example, Phou-oibi is also connected with the agrarian economy and so was the value system of the time. Imoinu (Chakhong Ngahongbi) is also connected with the Meitei norms of frugality and prosperity in the ancient agro economy.
Values could not be forcibly imposed, it came and thrived on the way of living or the means with which the society based itself. The political economy was the basis on which a definitive culture, including sexual mores grew and changed with the time.
TO BE CONTINUED.............
*Ibomcha wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on August 21, 2012.
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