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Self-conscious manhood: Finding the true self

by IT Web Admin
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Kh. Ibomcha
Anyone who reads W.E.B Du Bois’s Magnum opus ‘ The souls of Black Folk’ would have come across the idea of ‘double consciousness’ connoting how the racialized, in a racialized society, feels like to live as the racialized in the world of racializing people. This consciousness looks at one’s self through the eyes of the other making him or her feel a sense of twoness within his/her body—two souls, two thoughts and two cultures tearing him asunder.
Why do I begin my write up with Du Bois, when my real interest lies in decolonizing the Meitei mind as always cracked at it in most of my published articles? Simply because, the syndrome we have now is pathologically pretty much analogous to the one which the American blacks had after the civil war, wherein every aspect of black life — education, politics, business, religion and even the right to life— revolves around the white culture. Like us, the Meiteis, they literally won freedom, but still had very few political rights or freedoms.
What is evidently observed now is the fact that we, as a group of people, have been driven by a concept of twoness. Here the idea of being twoness can be understood as the feeling of being both a Kangleiyeit and an Indian which we quite often see in how our politicians do politics. This will be best described by phrases such as ‘two souls, two thoughts, two unrecoiled strivings and two warring ideals in a body, our body.
For instance, few months back our current chief minister said, “we worship cows, we preserve them” while we really are lovers of beef meats supporting BJP’s Hindutva, where the consumption of beef has been dubbed as serious offenses against religious or moral law. His political behavior is driven by his inner core, an abode of two souls—one, an Indian, and the other, a Kangleiyeit— of which the former is lording it over the latter.
This political behavior can also be understood in the light of Greek philosopher Thucydide’s views on ethics which takes political behavior as something driven by fear and self-interest. Here it is worth recalling TAPTA Jayenta’s popular song ‘sak-udabi telephone da makhol phaira nik-e” (Having cold sweat whilst picking up calls from Delhi mandarins). As always perceived, fear of losing power is what made them a puppet in the hand of the racializing subjects. So to make sure he is still holding the reins of power he will do whatever things it take to clench the power although it misrepresents his people’s collective being.
Even some politicians, without doing any critical thinking, are heard of saying “if we want to survive there is no way other than joining RSS”. If we cut into what they have said we will see the existence of a veil skilfully crafted by Indians within which we are made to exist by measuring our soul by Indian tape. It is within this veil we experience oppression, but this oppression is made invisible by our so called leaders to serve their personal interest that slowly annihilates our collective being. This Vail structures the lived experience and perception of the world for both the racialized and racializing subjects.
Here to understand our situation we can invoke Plato’s allegory of cave describing this kind of life behind the veil as being imprisoned in and cut off from what is being real. Thinking to join RSS as the only option left for us to thrive is like looking out from a dark cave and assuming the shadow figures of things remaining in the dark as something real. We are like those people imprisoned in Plato’s cave that symbolizes ignorance meaning it prevents them seeing the truth.
Thus, being the racialized, we do not have the option of taking positions in the identity formation work; instead our self-formation has been trapped between two adversarial positions where we have been put— the racializing subject’s position denying our humanity and own position, which is impotent, powerless and hog-tied.
Now what we need is, in Du Bois’ word, the second sight or rather our potential ability to see the world behind the veil. The life we are living now, existing behind the veil or cave, is like living in a world that yields no true self-consciousness, but letting us see ourselves through the revelation of the others. This veil not only creates a barrier of recognizing one’s self, but it leads one to misrecognising his or her self like Plato’s prisoners in the cave rotting there with a distorted view of themselves.
Inability of to see the world behind the veil, that is misrecognizing ‘the self’ will lead us to risking the annihilation of our existence as a distinct people rooting out elements constituting our being-in-the world. Now, it is certainly time to say: let’s stop defining ourselves looking at ourselves through the eyes of others. Yes, we must stop measuring our soul by the tape of a world that looks at us with amused contempt.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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