Education and the 'cultural hegemony'

RK Rajeebsana *

Our decision making is implicitly shaped by the type of social and cultural conditioning that we have in a particular society in the form of ideas, beliefs and "shared value consensus" that run through the depth of our society which consequently form our psycho-social behavior impacting our socialization process and the path where we are heading.

There must be a sufficient degree of 'collective value consensus' that enhances social solidarity and social cooperation without which we cannot imagine the idea of collective life. And this collective conscience is reinforced and perpetuated by the medium of education.

As Durkheim put it, education reinforces the 'homogeneity' by fixing in the child from the beginning the 'essential similarity' which collective life demands. Apart from informal ways of learning, it is the formal education, which drives and transmits the values and norms to succeeding generations to come.

As we know, Manipur is a heterogeneous society and this fact should be the reason which we must take pride in because it is the evidence that we live in a very accommodative and flexible society both historically and hitherto.

Liberal and democratic ideas emerged only when we live in a very diverse society with a cosmopolitan structure and finding unity in the vast ocean of difference is the true essence of knowledge.

One of the biggest mechanisms to bring a 'shared value consensus' for collective life in our society is 'the teaching of history'. The streams of tributaries that flow in different directions ultimately converge in the ocean and that 'point of convergence' is our 'common history'.

We may have various religious or ethnic identities and we should be proud enough to admit with the acceptance of each other's identity and faith but the problem arises when we have a vague larger identity, that is to say, the idea of 'we-ness' in the larger context.

We can be a profound Vaisnavite, a follower of Meetei Marup, Christian, Buddhist or Mohammedan but simultaneously we should instill the idea of Manipuri consciousness or Manipuriness in the first place.

And this can be achieved only through the 'teaching of history', the only 'common stock of knowledge' which we share in common. We cannot have common political aspiration if we are ignorant about our history and a sense of patriotism cannot come out of a vacuum.

Functionalists argue that the knowledge of our history provides the link between individual and society. And if the history of our society is brought alive to children, they will come to see that they are part of something larger than themselves which will develop a sense of attachment and commitment to the society.

And we should go by 'academic' interpretation of history rather than 'activist' interpretation of history. If our historical narrative is influenced by subjective bias we are inviting an unending chain of conflict that will create more division in society.

Forget about the unity of hill and valley, subjective historical interpretation will create division even within the Meiteis considering the varying cultural and religious background. And in a State like Manipur where there is a divisive tendency in every aspect of life and particularly the realm of religion, we should be able to separate between philosophy of religion and sociology/politics of religion.

If the Meiteis get stuck in between Indian Nationalism and Manipur Nationalism, in between 'Saree' and 'Phanek', in between 'Eteima' and 'Bhabhi', in between 'Yaoshang' and 'Holi', then we are a bubble heading nowhere.

If the Tangkhul or Kabui , Mao or Maram is in a state of 'loyalty dilemma' between their 'own motherland' and 'substituted motherland', between kaccha Naga and pakka Naga, they too are heading a highway without destination.

All these symptomatic manifestations of a deep ailment can be seen as part of a consequence of our ignorance of common history. We did/do not celebrate the 'Khongnangpambi' near me in which we breathe, play, live and die rather we celebrate the 'Khongnangpambi' in Delhi which are completely alien to us.

Every child and adult will know the history behind Tajmahal, Rani Laxmibai and so on which have nothing to do with them but the large majority of us will not know the history behind 'Samu Makhong' which we commute every day. And this is a very sad tragedy.

This particular historical epoch had led to the development of a 'new discourse' which is patronized both by the 'metropolis' and the 'ruling regime'/satellite till date if wehave to go by the idea of Foucault.

And through this education and the 'hidden curriculum' which now have become a normal part of our thought process, shape and influence our psychological make up through the ideas and information without letting us know that we are being controlled.

Traditional authority uses coercive force to exercise control over population but the modern authority exercise power through persuasion and hegemonic tactics which is again substantiated and legitimized by the creation of 'new discourses'.

And in course of such social and educational conditioning we start thinking that 'Delhi da houba khongnangpambi' is superior to our own, 'Saree' is superior to 'Phanek' , calling 'Bhabhi' sounds superior to calling Eteima assuming that the former sounds stylish and fashionable, which actually is not the case if we think critically.

We should put our thoughts for a moment and reflect on, why do we think, the way we think ? Why do people act/behave, the way they do?

Sociologists would argue that we think or behave in a certain way not because we think it is true or normal but it is true because it is the dominant pattern of society. And any individual or agency that resists or rebels to this dominant culture of society would be considered deviant.

But the point to ponder is, 'Is the dominant pattern in society reasonable enough to rationalize'?

'In whose interest does the dominant ideology serve'? Is it pro-people; pro-corporate culture or 'Is it' just the interest to serve the ruling elite as traditional Marxist or post modern thinkers like Foucault would claim?

We cannot legitimize that being a 'gay' or a 'lesbian' is a punishable offence just because the dominant group in society disapprove such behavior. We cannot rationalize a 'journalist' being slapped under NSA just because it has become a usual phenomenon and normal part of our thought process.

The point which we need to reflect is "Are we able to freely admit our true selfhood" or "Are we just a puppet of the docile body" normalized by the system ?

*RK Rajeebsana wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a student of Sociology and can be reached at empathywheel(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on December 04, 2020.

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