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Views & Reviews

Towards a Conscientious and Humane Society: A Reflection on the Pandemic

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By EMN Updated: May 31, 2021 10:32 pm
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On the Conception and Praxis of Development

Human progress has come to be mistakenly, yet increasingly associated with towering edifices or technology of comfort at disposal. From history, we learn that personalities of attained greatness are naturally tempted to immortalise their achievements by raising colossal monuments and other forms of preserving memories. However, the success of any genuine government in the present time ought not to be measured by the production of cognisable “objects of development” alone but, more so, by the measured extent of equal sharing of such.

A scenario of unequal development for the enjoyment of few at the cost of many is not civilisation; it is ‘exploitation’, to put it starkly. The ship of human civilisation ought to take everybody on board. The conception and praxis of development should be of the following form and shape: Instead of creating imposing infrastructures mostly enjoyed by the privileged few, say offices, or purchasing unnecessarily expensive vehicles for government official, create infrastructures in the social sectors accessible to all, say, quality education, public transport and healthcare facilities. Such inclusive capabilities creation approach is one espoused by the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen; and a model best exemplified by Government of Bhutan’s earnest quest to enhance Gross National Happiness characterised by accessible and quality education and healthcare. All these assume greater salience in the current context of pandemic.

On Authority and responsibility

Our highland state of Nagaland proclaimed as the “Land of Festivals” is also the “Land of Unions” as much. With a population of barely about two millions, our society is divided by and chocked up with so many organisations in addition to multiple governments, popularly elected ones as well as the unelected ones. As leaders and government officials exercising authority, do they inspire hope and confidence during this trying time? If they are for the people, why is it that we are facing such a crisis at this time? Many have left us even without decent burials and the last respect denied to them. To care for the dying and the death is the least we expect of our leaders. The Covid case in the whole of the state is less than some metropolitan cities of India. To be living in chaos and fear at such time is certainly, and unacceptably, a poor reflection of institutions or organisations in our state when most of these organisations, including the state government, are under the leadership of educated Christian individuals. To make it even worse, some seems to take more pleasure in exercising their muscle power rather than helping those in need.

More can be said about the side effects of increasing unions. It is true that there is an indispensable space for public opinions and activism in democracy. However, for every problem, real or imagined, big or small, in the society, leaders in the name of this or that organisations have developed this compulsive habit of issuing threats and ultimatums to the government on the one hand, and on the other, to the innocent public. Whose authorities are the public supposed to obey? Is this not a clear evidence of incompetence and disastrous failures on the part of the successive governments? Successive state governments give the appearance of being governed, as opposed to dispensing governance. A government ought to competently, proactively and effectively govern its citizens, and not vice-versa. As leaders, they are expected to know the limitations and resources of the people they lead and represent. We take pride in our rich traditional and Christian heritage and values. Why aren’t they leveraging on them to tackle the crisis at hand? “In calm water, every ship has a good captain.” It is the storm that distinguishes the good from the bad.

On the Nature of Response to the Pandemic

The government has extended the lockdown till 11th July 2021. It raises some urgent concerns. As the pandemic unleashes its ugly face, it has become a disruptor of a kind without precedence, leaving no sectors of the economy and no sections of the society unimpacted; it spares none – rich or poor and high or low – however, and consequentially, in varying degrees. Lives continue to be lost and livelihoods continue to be adversely impacted. Sufferings are compounded for whom livelihood can’t be sustained as “work from home”. Government employees, including some private sectors, can enjoy their salaries whether or not they go to office due to lockdown. But what about those who have to work daily just to survive? A cartoon picture circulating in social media is sure to make many conscientious persons to gasp for a breath (picture attached). It’s a crime against humanity to let someone go to sleep without food or worrying what to eat tomorrow. And we will be guilty of such a crime if we don’t do our bit today as individuals and organisations.

This is not just to point fingers at the government(s) and the unnumbered unions thriving in our state. This is also equally directed to prick the conscience of the people who elect our leaders, who claim to be educated and also called ourselves Christians. If we close our eyes to those who are in need, we will all be guilty of the ‘sin of omission’. For those who believe in the authority of the Bible, we are forewarned: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them (James 4:17); however, if we reach out to help, we are given this fulfilling revelation too: “Truly, I tell you, whatever, you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25: 40).

A society is a product of past experiences as well as the espoused future visions.  Our collective actions during the pandemic should, therefore, be inspired and driven by the kind of post-pandemic society we desire to arrive at. We must not forget that what we fail to do today will haunt us tomorrow. The voices of those who have fallen today or whose faces we shun today or may not see tomorrow, will not remain silent; they will continue to speak. What have we done on our part today for the worst-pandemic-effected lots in our midst? The choices that we make today will decide what kind of society we want to inherit tomorrow and, more importantly, what kind of persons we become. So God help us!

Dr. Tumbenthung Humtsoe and Dr. Venüsa Tinyi

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By EMN Updated: May 31, 2021 10:32:33 pm