TODAY -

Deconstructing "THE Thoughts"

Rojendrakar Nongthomba *



Confession: This piece of write-up is just a stream of thought. I humbly confess I am neither a professional columnist nor a scholar of any discipline of academics and also by way of this write up I do not mean to offend anybody's sensibility or challenge the intellects or authority of any individual or organization. I am simply trying to express what my "thought" dictates.

First thought : To Michelle Foucault, the knowledge (s) of humans is/are deliberately created by those who are at the site of power to suit their dealings. To him power and knowledge are synonymous. Perhaps, he was not happy with the then existing institutions or those who were at the helm of organized social institutions. Certainly, his ideas have impact on a person like me because I am concerned about how the mighty ones (minority) impose their ideas of truth on the weak ones (majority). I can't help but admire the mental faculties of intellectual giants that the world has ever produced and to whom the history has given credit for bringing about political-economic and state affairs which were different in form and contents from that of preceding ones.

When we talk about 'Change' I always feel it should be something which should be perceived desirable by the powerless amorphous lot (majority), or else we shall better remain static. Many disciplines of social science took birth at a time when there were social crises all around the world, especially in Western Europe. The scholars of these disciplines must have thought they would do all the necessary research works and find ways to improve the lot of the society as a whole.

They had propounded many socio–politico and economic theories and concomitant methodologies for studying and analyzing the socio-politico-economic upheavals so that social change could be directed. Though there were differences/debates among themselves about which research epistemologies and methods were best suited for analyzing human social world, they took the painstaking job of studying the social world with the sole objective of making a better human society.

Just as any other common man, I am ambivalent on the topic of whether the physical (natural) sciences are able to contribute to the welfare of the humanity. Scientists may claim that they are able to make so many remarkable scientific discoveries or scientific inventions which have ameliorated the sufferings of the humanity or increased the material comforts of the humanity. But to me, whatever achievements/innovations, the scientists claim to have made are nothing more than illusory magic.

The fruits of all sciences and technologies are being reaped by or are meant only for few privileged sections of the society though I do not have a sound evidence to prove my contention. However, one can cite innumerable number of instances that one sees day-to-day all around the globe. Please collect all the instances if you are aware and share with me too. For making the readers think, I am not citing any instance here.

I am not aware of too many true intellectuals our society has produced who ,let alone making mark in the intellectual firmament of the world, have at least produced kind of original intellectual products , which the intellectual giants(of the relevant fields) of the world would find them worthy of critical review. Sorry to say! Poverty of intellectualism, I feel, still characterizes our society. It is known to us that knowledge can be created. Then the moot question is why not we should create a 'knowledge' which has the quality to change the impression that the world has about us. We should not remain idle intellectually rather we should strive hard to match the best among the bests of the world of intellectuals.

Second thought : Construction of Knowledge, I feel, should not be allowed to be confined to the powerful few, who use it to justify their acts or keep larger sections of society under their control. This is the ontological stance (social construction of facts) I personally advocate, though my stance may be contested by the other scholars who follow the different epistemology of constructivism to study human interactions.

Forgive me, if it seems high sounding when I say that collective Social attack( violent or otherwise) brought about against the perceived unjust system by the marginalized and underprivileged sections of the society is a mode of manifestation of their knowledge (praxis). However in many occasions, due to lack of organization and requisite mobilization or imperfect knowledge such action could not bring the intended changes.

Herein lies the importance of understanding the twin concept of intersubjectivity and reflexivity. The construction of strong shared knowledge can be made possible only through the processes of intersubjectivity and reflexivity (influencing one another and using the reactions of one another and their own life experiences (exchanges) and to modify their thinking and actions accordingly) among the members of the group. This (understanding, mobilization and knowledge creation) has to be taken up at a micro-level (small group level) and, a sort of chain reaction of interactions among the small groups has to be established. In this way the sharing of knowledge can be brought up at macro level (majority level). And when, armed with "shared common world and appropriate knowledge-construct", I believe, the marginalized majority atleast can withstand, if not destroy, the perceived unjust system or individuals.

Third thought : There are common men who believe in the "make-believe objective knowledge" purposely produced by the elite (mighty minority) i.e. by virtue of their possession of enormous amounts of material (wealth) and power in the society. There are also among the common men who have intellects but because of non possession of political powers and materials, they are reduced to the position of insignificance in the society. When the claim of existence of "truth" is vehemently contested or when the idea of the absolutism of "truth" is being subverted, it will not be surprising, if the ordinary people start playing the role of the elite (mighty one).

However this is easier said than done. For this to materialize, one cannot have the leisure (liberty) of remaining "uncritical "or continue practicing "double standards". I have personally seen common people trying to produce "shared understandings" among them which seem to be perfect when their shared world (shared understandings) does not concern them directly. For instance, the poor want the rich to be generous and wish the wealth of the rich to be distributed equally to all but they (the poor) would surely show hesitancy if they are asked to do the same when they become the rich.

Many want "ideal things" prevail in all sorts of interactions but this will not happen until the "ideal things" (wonder how "ideal things" come into existence!) are practiced first by those individual themselves, who want "ideal things" be practiced by the "others". Everyday many of us must have seen ladies gossiping about "wicked things" perpetrated by the either 'in-laws' (mother and daughter in laws) on the other. They judge the 'in-laws' quite value neutrally from the "social-textbook" point of view and they want "ideal things" prevail in between the in-laws and the relations work out accordingly.

But when these "wicked things" are perpetrated by the ladies themselves they do not bother to apply the formula from the social-textbook, they devise their own formula which justifies their wicked things instead. Let us analyze inter community or ethnic relations in the light of above instances. Apparently these kinds of practices seem to be happening in the relations among the various ethnic groups. But this is not going to give any dividends to any group. It's high time all the groups stop churning ethnocentric 'knowledge'; practice of which guards only one's interests at the expense of the other or pits one group's interests against the interests of the other.

Rather we should strive for producing 'knowledge'; practice of which binds the members of all communities together as 'love birds'. In the always-fluid- social interactions it is better for us to live as organic whole (where all the peripheral organs play an equally important role as that of the soul) and try bringing the intended change for the better collective whole. Let us remember always: "THE CROW REVELS, WHEN THE EARTHERN POT BREAKS" (chafu kairaga kwakna harao ee)" and take collective oath not to allow this to happen.

Fourth similar thought with differance (Derrida's Differance) : With the rise of the era of postmodernism, many institutions, ideologies and values which characterize the period of the era of enlightenment should have perished but this has not happened. However, many people like me who used to believe in the value of progress i.e. the science and its product (technology) would serve humanity, have started feeling disenchantment with the application of reason and the science. The advancement made in the areas of Science and Technology has not been able to minimize the human miseries and sufferings proportionately.

As time passes the very existence of our both natural and social environments have become threatened. The human brain cannot remain idle but it has been witnessed that the more humans explore the more they become insecure. The more Science develops, the more religious and para-religious practices/beliefs have taken prominent place in peoples' lives. I think, in recent years, the number of religious violence and religious fanatics or number of deaths in connection with religious related affairs have increased manifold all across the globe.

However, despite contestation to the merits of positive science and its universal humane outlook, the values of modernism and rationality continue to dominate. And people are expecting happiness out of the existing setup. Perhaps 'the might' has devised very powerful hegemonic mechanisms to control the feeble minds of the ordinary mortals. The Solution lies in creating new knowledge by the masses themselves for their own happiness and to counter the hegemonic devices of the powerful few.

Let the Structural Marxists accuse a person like me of downplaying or undermining the "structures" underneath, which has enabled the powerful few to exploit the underprivileged ones, who do not own the means of production. Let them also accuse me of "playing around with words or language" and produce "things", which, they feel, are inconsequential to the lives of the exploited. But I could not care less about what they may assert because, I also strongly feel, none of "sweeping systemic grand structural discourses" (social) has been successful to eliminate the miseries (economic) of the humanity at large either.

History is the witness to the contention that none of the meta-narrative epistemologies of 'structural truth' analyzing "structural deformities" has been fruitful. People have been made believe that the dominance of one type (which appears on the left side) over the other (which appears on the right side), in the innumerable sets of binary contradictions in social life such as… democracy vs individual freedom& choice, strong nation vs global citizen, reason vs religion, center vs periphery, unity vs fragmentation, objectivism vs constructivism, universal vs contextual, god vs devotee, center vs periphery, speech vs writing and so on… is irreversible and also the "superiority and inferiority relation complex" in the binary opposites is natural.

At the same time the privileged people, (in terms of wealth and power), not wanting to lose their privileged/advantageous positions, are also making efforts to make it appear that they also vouch for the equal and free play among the binary opposites. On the other hand the dis-privileged masses, when they do not have either countervailing mechanisms or knowledge(s) to confront the devious mechanisms and machinations adopted by the powerful, they (the powerless) remain believing the make-believe narratives of the powerful and surrender themselves to their destinies.

But my reiteration is that "Common men" (powerless masses) too possess abilities to decide their own fate; to create their own knowledge and happiness (both material and spiritual, which they experience only in their dreams) from the available resources at their disposal. For this, they need to harness their resources and work to make their cherished dreams become realities and vice-versa i.e. free play of dream and reality.

Caveat: However, this cannot be made materialized as and when they want. They need to wait for appropriate time and place. In the meantime, it becomes necessary for them to dismantle their 'obsessions imposed upon from without' and realize that there are alternatives. Be it career goals, life goals, nothing is ultimate. Even death is not final. The profession of a priest or a porter is much as a profession as that of an IAS. All professions are equally good or bad. The Nobel (prize) is still novel in Manipur. Why not we aim for that?


* Rojendrakar Nongthomba wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 16, 2017.


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