The Moral Test: The Death of Morality in Chin Society

The Moral Test: The Death of Morality in Chin Society
Hre Mang
December 2003.

Abstract: It may be easier to write praising people’s goodness and
achievement, but also is necessary that someone volunteer to point out the
negative aspect of the people that might be devastating against the well being of the people. This article describes the moral aspect of the Chin society and its negative impact on the people. For anyone who does really care about the moral well being of the Chin people, it might be interesting to read it and digest it and come up with his or her own thesis on the issues. And any comment, argument, and reflection is most welcome for further development of thought and knowledge.

Samuel Johnson once said, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” There is always a powerful force that moves the people to act or not to act in a certain way and when that force is lacking the people move along any direction where their conditionally  motivated emotion lead them, just like the fallen leafs and the dust on the ground flying wherever the wind blows them. Likewise, when human society faces a moral destruction and when the standing moral trend is completely destroyed by any kind of historical pitfall, the people wonder like sheep
without a shepherd in the jungle. Moreover, when such moral accelerator is
lacking, a person acts or not act like a sick person that left an individual
hopeless becoming alcoholic, self-abuser, and obsess. On the other hand,
loosing a moral control opens the exploration of human explosive stupidity
that can cause an enormous moral setback in human society. And it is, like a
cancer illness, very dangerous and painful for the healthy growth of the
society as well as for the individuals to be grown up from such sick social
environment. Moreover, its recovery is more difficult and painstaking than
political and economic reconstruction. It’s also worth to mention people’s
saying, “When money is lost, nothing is lost. But when character is lost,
everything is lost.” When political rights are lost, national sovereignty is
lost. And when a moral trend is lost, human dignity is lost.

Looking back to Chin history, since before Christianity was introduced
by the western missionaries, although there were necessary social evils, our
forefathers were well known in moral courage, moral dignity, honesty and
diligence. The belief system of the society was solidly founded that
thoroughly dictated the individual’s moral decision-making. In a social
outlook, fear, shame, and honor were the driving force of every individual in
the society that every body acted in accordance with the unwritten general
moral norms of the society. The “fear’ here does not mean timidity, but the
fear of the society’s condemnation for stepping out of the common
norms. “Shame” means, shame of the society’s humiliation for stepping out of the common norms. And “honor” for good work and courage was also a powerful
driving force that motivated people to act or not to act in a certain way.
Mostly, Chin people believed in the existence of the law of nature-the
absolute truth. And breaking the law of nature was believed to be punishable
by death by God or by the super natural being. For example, adultery was
believed to be absolutely wrong and was punishable by death: death by a
Tiger’s bite. Likewise, murder, stealing, telling lie were believed to be
condemnable with serious punishment. Not only the fear of the humiliation of the society, there was fear of punishment by God or supernatural being. Every action was judged by the moral standard of the commonly accepted principles and by the law of nature. After the introduction of Christianity, the Chin people’s underpinning moral principles were not destroyed but transformed into
God-centered belief, eliminating many of the previous system’s social evils.
As the civil war had been continuing until the British colonization, when the
British first came to the region, there was no much outside moral influence
among Chin people, but the traditional and ancient belief system underlined
the standing value system.

As a result of the lost in war and the British colonization, Chin
people lost their national pride and their value system was changed into self-
diminishing under the influence of the powerful western colonizers, believing that whatever the westerners had or believed was superior to theirs.  Of  course, due to the civilization gap and differences in human development, they were socially, politically, and economically inferior to the westerners, but
probably not in human essence. It was unfortunate that Chin people’s land was divided into three political regions: India, Burma, and Bangladesh that
minimized the human power of the great Chin society. Although the British must bore the political responsibility and blame for dividing the land into three, the westerners’ sacrifices in christianizing the society was a historical
paramount that has saved the Chin people from racial and cultural
assimilation. It is assumed that due to the civilization gap, the westerners’
cultural intrusion was insignificant as much as expected. On the other hand,
the British rule opened opportunity for many Chin leaders to interact with
neighboring people group, that was when the cultural explosion begun among Chin people.

Although there were political alteration and social moderation during
the British rule and the Burma democratic rule, the traditional value system
had not been completely destroyed until 1970s and 80s. The leaders of 1940s,
50s and 60s were raised up within the Chin traditional society with
traditional value system that the social cultural exchanges simply modified
the societal norms and enhanced the better part of the societal elements. They were economically poor, but rich in moral character. However, the later
generation suffered the moral intrusion of the Burmese Burmanization-a
systematic racial cultural assimilation program. The Chin society was
politically, socially, and culturally unable to prevent the moral intrusion of
the Burmese Burmanization, especially since the rule of the Burmese regime
(1960-current). As the Chin societal leadership system was destroyed, the
social system was also completely destroyed as a result of the perils of the
regime government system. The value system, the moral underpinning principles
and the whole belief system no longer exist as the moral foundation for
individual decision-making. The Chin people’s moral trend was forgotten and
replaced by the compromise and uncertain self-centered human curiosity. The
traditional sense of civic duty and moral obligation were replaced by the so-
called “Myanmah-Ni-Myanmah-Han” that overwhelmed people with bama-centered
self-gratifying thought. The most precious elements of the societal propriety-
the intrinsic moral purity-was replaced by a contaminated thought system.

As the valued leadership system was destroyed, there has been no
commonly accepted leadership concept: who should be respected as leaders in
the society. Many are left to wait the resurrection of the death lion and
unwilling to accept any pop-up leader. At the same time, some are left with
their painful memories of the past. Especially after 1988, people fear to be
appointed by the regime government as the leader in the community. Because,
appointed leader in the community only means being the administrative agent of
the Bama armies, having no legitimate authority. In the moral aspect, at the
worse, the younger generation has been grown up with the attitude of hatred
toward leadership in the society, longing something better than what they
have: a democratic rule, without a chance to develop a democratic way of
thinking within themselves. It means, although many of our depressed people
sing “Democracy” like a beautiful song, in reality, they have been brought up
under an anti-democratic thought system. That means egoistic mindset, losing
the Chin traditional altruism, promoting antagonistic instead of civic
mutualism. That is true not only to the Chin society, but also to the whole
population of Burma. One of the weaknesses among the recent democratic
activists is that the activists themselves lack a democratic political
thinking: political tolerance without extreme hatred toward political
dissents, which is essential political nature for the existence and a healthy
growth of a democratic society. Overall, having no such moral underpinning
leadership concept within a collapsed system, people are forced by the power
of self-survival-necessity. That, generally speaking, in politics, economics,
and social, self-survival even with the expense of others’ lives or public
good becomes a very common practice, without any moral constraint, among the
Chins as well as among all Burmese.

Many people might have thought that the economic devastation as the
most destructive to the society what the Burmese regime has done, but compared
to the moral intrusion, all other impacts are much easier to reconstruct when
the political system is opened for such changes. However, the moral decay that
has erupted the people’s minds cannot be easily repaired. Because, society’s
thought system is socially constructed throughout the social evolution of the
respective society and when any particular thought system is permanently
fixed, hardwired, programmed, and gradually framed in people’s mind it is
impossible to reframe or reprogram within a decade or two, unless the
overwhelming social cultural revolution occurs, for which kind history has no
evidence of signs of such event to take place in a near future. Some might have thought that the academic learning
experiences in the western countries or any democratic society automatically
corrects the moral decay of a person. But that is not true, without a
systematic transformation of a person’s thought system; the superficial
intellectual knowledge simply develops and modifies the outward social skills. On the other
hand, without a true internal transformation, the superficial intellectual
knowledge simply makes a person cleverer to defense his or her stance even to defense a deadly erred action. There
are several examples among the regime leaders, such as Dr. Maung Maung, Bo Khin Ngut, to name a few. To change such fixed thought system in the mind of
the people, it is possible only when reconstructed socially and gradually that
takes time and requires intellectual and social capital. Therefore, it is
predictable for the people of Burma when a new system of thought is believed to be re-instituted when a democratic rule is implemented that the nation will face more troubles caused by moral corruption than political strategic issues.

The democratic fighters who have vowed to give their precious lives for the
sake of the people of Burma proved that they are patriots of this generation.
They delay no time to stand against the regime government and many have paid the price that they should be remembered with honor. However, what was lacking among the stronghold of the anti-regime government? People do sacrifice any
thing they have, but not their ideas, the ideas produced by their fixed
thought system that had been hardwired throughout the regime’s reign. Of
course, no doubt, there are some (or many) whose minds have intellectually
overcome such corrupted thought system and think democratically, and while others, whose ignorance leaves them slow to learn the crookedness of the regime’s moral
intrusion, if there are some, may have remain as honest as the people of Amazon. After having
been hardwired with such authoritarian thought system, it is almost impossible
to jump out of one’s mind and think independent of one’s own subjectivity.
Even among Christians and Buddhists, who have claimed to have beliefs in the
existence of the law of nature and of God, there are many who happened to make
moral decision in accordance with the law of subjectivism, and, sadly, defend
their own ideas and action even more than they would defend the interest of
the common people. In such a way, many have gained political capital, and
those capitals are spent for the defense of their own ideas and are willing to
defense their own stance even with the expense of the best of others and even at the expense of public interest. Sad, but true. It is
always true wherever there is no moral underpinning principles in the society
that every social, political, and economic capital are spent for the defense
of the interests of those who have controlled all chances and opportunities to exploit those chances and opportunities to serve the interest of a few. And it is always
very dangerous when an intellectually and morally untrained person is left to
make his or her own moral decision, especially when such decision would have impact on the general public.

Both in societal and individual level, the impact of the moral intrusion has
caused an enormous moral decay. The acquisition of power and wealth become the
central tendency of many individuals with the end goal for self-pleasures,
like ancient hedonists. Especially among the exiles, where people don’t feel
moral or legal accountability to the society they refuge, while leaving behind their moral restrain of their home society, there is more chances
to explore lack of moral constraint. There is no moral constraint not to tell
lie or not to do any immoral thing whatever would please them by acquiring opportunity or
social or economic means. As there is no moral system that closely watches
them, as long as anything is legally, socially, and politically undetectable
people would do anything to satisfy the curiosity of their human demand.
Politicians exploit any social and political capital to advance their
political opportunity, and even religious and social leaders would take
advantage on the goodness of their God and lack of societal moral force for
self-advancement. Although these are not completely bad, as all people have
similar kind of human natural behavior, it is very important to have a very
powerful moral underpinning principles for those people who have greater
national historical responsibilities and challenges for system change, and for those people whose
society is comparatively immature, lacking the contemporary intellectual means that would help individuals see things in the context of time and reason.

In individual level, many have become defensive rather than proactive and live
by the negative aspect of life instead of enjoying the best part of it. So
then, for many, life becomes burdensome rather than a privilege to enjoy and
to promote happiness for others. For many children of this generation have
been brought up within an antagonistic social environment where their seeing
and hearing from their families and from the society influenced them with the
negative mindsets and aspect of their social leaders, religious leaders and political
leaders, and the negative impact on their own family economically, socially
and politically. For, commonly among Chin people, it is mistakenly ignored
that when parents and elders let their children hear the badness of others,
the negative aspect of others, they are framing and constructing the mindset
of their children with antagonistic mindset which eventually builds their
whole attitude filled with cynical, hatred and angriness that mercilessly eats the most precious moral beauty of the souls of their children. And when they are grown up under such influence, they can no longer see goodness in others, and even cannot bear the goodness of others. It means when they see good things in others their internal faculty is filled with envy and disagree with what is supposed to be happening in others. In
that sense, hatred and anger becomes part of their human attributes. It is
unpleasant to see that many take mistakes as destructive for themselves as
well as for others instead of utilizing it as a learning privilege and self-
discovery and self-realization. On the other hand, it is also common that
defensive people lack acceptance about their mistakes for their internal
psychological inconveniency causes fear that makes them feel every mistake as destructive and unwilling to accept as it is. Moreover, as a result of
negative mindset, there is always a compelling force to tell or do something
about the badness of others. Many people do not aware of the danger of
angriness and hatred that consume the fat of human mental faculty which is
essential for an individual’s personal and intellectual growth that leaves the
individual with a pessimistic view on others as well as upon himself or
herself. More than hatred and anger, nothing disrupts the individual’s
internal mental and intellectual development. Nothing destroys the beauty of human soul than hatred and anger do. When a person’s mindset is
filled with hatred and anger, his or her mental faculty is impaired and
eventually loss capacity to judge any particular object with balanced.
Therefore, it is unfortunate and regretful that the regime government’s reign
has double impact on the people: the direct moral, social, economic, and
political damages and the consequential impact among the people themselves.

Here comes a moral challenge to the Chin social, political, and religious
leaders: where are you heading? Like Aristotelians, some leaders seem
believing in moderation as the best, which, they think, potentially please the
most. It is more important for leaders of the society, for they are special
persons to say “NO” when a person kills an innocent or when a person steals
that is not his or hers, and etc. And they are special persons to say “Come
on! Let’s go and do something,” while others reluctant to do anything unless
they expect something in return for personal gain. However, when leaders lack
moral force to direct people and themselves toward particular direction, and
lack moral courage to say “NO” to any destructive action in the society that
society is ruined or ruining. On the other hand, that is the expression of the
regime leaders’ moral behavior, to say “NO” when only their status quo is
threatened or potentially threatened and to say “Let’s do” only to promote the
goodness of their existence. So then, as everyone is a leader, leading at
least himself or herself, where are we heading? What force compels us do or
not to do anything what we do or we do not do? The most powerful thing that man can possesses is not guns
and bullets but the moral force that directs him or her toward a certain
direction and stands against any driving force and overturns history upside
down. And the most precious thing that man can loss is the moral force that
would leave him or her move along any driving force around her or him toward
uncertain end.

May the good and powerful force be in you to dictate your decision-making and
directs you toward a certain end.