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To Forgive, But Not Forget: Understanding the Tuensang Fiasco From a Psychosocial Approach

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By EMN Updated: Jul 12, 2020 7:02 pm
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A. Preface and the Issue at Hand

Hearing of a statement like we are “forgiving but not forgetting” is a paradox, or contradiction. ‘Forgiven, but not forgotten’ is either a conditional or unusual utterance. The general public must hear them out well. We hardly get to hear of such words in ordinary social life settings, but such a statement is a reaction that usually comes from an aggrieved party in which the news informants and the recipients must examine that assertion and reason together. By now, all of us living in Nagaland know the ‘Tuensang fiasco.’ Suffice it to say that the Tuensang episode is a recent incident entailing the lapses on the part of the government officials for sending Chennai Shramik Train returnees from Kohima to Tuensang on May 26 “without waiting for the mandatory test results was allegedly a result of insubordination. By now, most of the people of Nagaland state know that repeated appeals were made by the state cabinet and medical department, and even the chief minister himself. A lot of negotiations took place between the govt. and ENPO leaders in the intervening weeks of the fiasco. The apology of the government was issued by State Health Minister, Pangnyu Phom on behalf of the government on July 8. Finally, the six tribal leaders from the eastern region of the state decided to bring the matter to a certain level of understanding but with a condition. Towards that end, the ENPO officials had a meeting on July 10 in its treasurer’s residence at Sovima village, Dimapur to deliberate on the apology of the government before coming at any final conclusion. Thereafter, the six organisational leaders decided to forgive the state government for the May 26 Tuensang fiasco. At a press briefing in Dimapur on July 10, the ENPO President, Mr. Kekongchim Yimchungru stated that the organisation decided to accept the apology of the govt. which was received two days earlier. However, the acceptance of apology came with a rider. The president said that this is “a matter of forgiving, not forgetting,” adding that the incident” has to remain in the hearts and minds of everyone.” All of us are aware that decision was a collective one. Therefore, we the onlookers must try to analyse the collective wisdom behind the organisational verdict and reason together for the future good of everyone.

B. Looking at the Issue from a Social matrix- Psychosocial theory

Herein, we take a quick but important analysis which tries to understand the statement made by the ENPO leader from a particular Naga social group and so it’s a psychosocial perspective. In his press briefing, the president of the six tribal organisations stated that this is “a matter of forgiving, not forgetting.” As crucial as the Tuensang episode, the assertion of the leader of a social and mass-based movement cannot be ignored. The underlying tone and message of the speaker – I feel – must be read carefully. From a social and community level, it requires us to apply a suitable social analytical tool, such as ‘psychosocial theory,’ developed by Erik Erikson who was a stage theorist (1902–1994). Psychosocial theory emphasises that the ego makes positive contributions to development by mastering attitudes, ideas, and skills at each stage of development. This mastery helps children grow into successful, contributing members of society. The derivative terms and meanings of such a theory particularly the “ego-level” of the aggrieved party is very important to understand the social matrix of the Naga society in particular and the larger society in general. The underlying message in the psychosocial approach relates very well to the “forgiving but not forgetting” statement of the Naga public leader.

By looking at the social, political and economic factors of the aggrieved party, it is needless to say that there is a long history of neglect of ‘our own Naga family members’ in the eastern region of Nagaland state. Added to the travails of neglect of that region, the Tuensang fiasco happened in May last this year. The incident happened too soon and too quick, but that episode has a lot of socio-political repercussions involving the spread of the coronavirus and more importantly the public health. Now the compromise-formula of the state government has been invented, applied but worked half-way. So, there is a half-way to go because the statement of the aggrieved party is conditional for which we can see the underlying message in their assertive statement made above.

C. Four reasons on Forgiving but not Forgetting

The assertive statement made by the public leader is a matter of ego and so of the heart. We now understand the sentiments and inferences of the aggrieved people better and so we must do our psychosocial reading from that angle. The issue at our hands is to see reasons at the paradoxical but assertive public statement involving the hurt-ego of that party. By considering both the present and future psychological and social interrelations of the people’s group, I infer that we take the professional advice of Dr Kurt Smith, who is a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPC), marriage and family therapist (MFT) from Roseville in California (USA). This American professional counselor deals with a variety of psychosocial concerns in American society – who goes on to share four important factors on the matter of ‘forgiving but not forgetting’. Looking at the aforesaid issue in the post-peace making formula of July 10, there is a need to give and take level of psycho-social dynamics. It does not appear to be a rhetorical statement but a reflection of a hurt-ego. Ventilating the people’s sentiments, I feel, will largely alleviate the history of neglect and a resolve of the affected lots to not allow others to mistreat them anymore in the days to come. There are four reasons that are central for conflict-resolution on the current episode:

i. Forgiving is critical to our Emotional Health. If someone refuses to forgive someone, the said person has chosen to hold on to all the anger and bitterness that their actions have generated. Such a decision will be irritable and distracting. One may not forgive others because they deserve it. The American psychologist maintains that “Forgiveness is not a justice issue, but it’s a heart matter.” So also our own brothers and sisters from the eastern region of Nagaland may be feeling the same right now. In other words, time is the greatest healer. Let time heal the wounded psyche of the affected people.

ii. Learning from the Past Experiences helps: It is said that one needs to take what an individual can learn, be mindful of the lesson, and move on. It means one has to move on with life with or without the person that has hurt someone. This is “a new knowledge” and yearning to go forward in life to a changed situation. That way, the affected lots will be in a better position to handle the future relationships and even for any untoward conflicts that may confront them. Learning from the recent mistake of the govt machinery of Nagaland will be an eye-opener both to the affected party and to the ones who committed the wrong.

iii. Forgiving can strengthen human relationships: All human relationships can be rebuilt, even deepened and thrived on, not in spite of what happened – including the aforesaid debacle – but because of this imbroglio. The act of ENPO citizens of Nagaland choosing to forgive their own government will strengthen their commitment to a healthy relationship. Choosing to forgive others – especially the government for their follies – means that the affected people are committed to “not allowing divisive and hurtful conflicts” to happen in the days to come.

iv. ‘Not forgetting’ is a safeguard against the repeat-offense: Nobody in the right

senses may like to allow the wrongdoer to do unjust actions on her/him again. So, the same and wrong modus operandi must be held accountable. Dr Smith concludes by stating that “just because we have forgiven someone doesn’t mean that we’ll choose to keep them in our lives. Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do is forgive them and then move on without them. It’s important that we don’t allow ourselves repeatedly to be the target of the same mistreatment.” The underlying meaning is that a party choosing to forgive but not forget is a safeguard or a defense mechanism to protect oneself/themselves for any possible repeat of the same offense. This is about human rights too. Any offense or injustice committed is not right. By taking this approach, it is to say that to repeat the wrong is detrimental to living in a cohesive atmosphere in the society. The counsellor and life coach as mentioned above concludes by saying that “It’s not OK to dwell on what happened and rehash it regularly. Instead, we need to remember what happened to us in order to avoid letting it happen again.” What it means by this statement is that safe-guarding against any offense in the future is an alternative mode of mental and social matrix or reminder. The people who were subjected on one or several occasions should be prepared to not allow a recurrence of the same mistake by the other party.

Any act of forgiveness is divine. But the people who were in the wrong need a reckoning to do! Reckoning or weighing up is something that is seen as recompense come upon the wrongdoer from the victim’s perspective. But it’s about not pay-back time, but it’s about being honest to the subjects by public/govt servants. It is a natural reaction from the wounded at the time of conflict resolution for the future course of actions. This posturing is considered to be essential for healing as well as a deterrent. Put differently, the same offense will not be repeated. A better approach on the part of the victims is to forgive them but not forgetting to move on in life without them. At this point, the American therapist states it by saying that “It’s important that we don’t allow ourselves repeatedly to be the target of the same mistreatment.” It is absolutely necessary that one learn from the past event, because that is important, but primarily one must focus at the picture that is ahead of everyone – that is the future.

D. Conclusion

The public utterance resulting in a statement such as ‘forgiven but not forgotten’ is not rhetoric but a psychosocial matrix. A public statement that has come through a collective wisdom needs to be respected. The peace-formula in the present social imbroglio must be an eye-opener for the long history of neglect of the aforesaid region of the state. The current episode must set the stage for the future social, political, and economic progress of the affected region, so that justice will be done to them. As a way forward, it is also time for introspection on the part of the successive and present state government. It is to take a relook at the history of neglect of the economic underdevelopment that has enveloped the citizens of all hues within our state. Take a similar vow and apology to the people of the entire state for hurting their egos time and again by not translating the development plans into reality. Till such time when the people of the state see the fruits of a progressive and welfare state, it is good to forgive their apathy momentarily, but not forget the neglect forever!

S. Temjen Imchen
Jorhat, Assam

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By EMN Updated: Jul 12, 2020 7:02:00 pm