Are We Democratic?

Are We Demoratics?

Every adult Chin has witnessed the fragmentation of our society religiously, socially, and politically, which is not necessary signs of undemocratic in nature. On the other hand, the existence of diverse opinions and ideas are an essential component of a healthy democratic society. In other words, the question on the topic addressed to the process, not the essence of such existence. Traditionally, although our fathers claimed to be choosing democratic societal administrative system evidenced by the declaration of the abolition of the western style feudalism during the Falam Conference in 1947, the ideological trend of societal leadership among our people is still in a transitional period, and its evolution being stagnantly cornered by the oppressive military dictatorship by the Burmese military regime. In the process of transforming our society toward a modern enlightened living community, our people, especially younger generation, are being challenged by today’s questions ofmodern democratic principles. Whenever and wherever one is involved, this question, one way or the other, applied to its respective social contract.

Democracy, although not a perfect system, is the best so far we human society reached along the progress of social evolution, which we can assume, the Chin people prefer over all other options available at hand. However, reflecting the recent social movement, we can also assume, in many areas, our people have acted against the basic underlining fundamental principles of democracy for which we claimed to be standing for, and willing to pay the price, so, victimizing our own potentiality, like a soldier shooting his own shoes. During the “Band Age” of human history, might was power, in other word- the best hunter ruled all the time, and in chieftainship society relationship determined everything at the will of the chief. In those ages, collective decisions were made at the will of the strongest or of the chief whether it violates or victimizes the will of the majority. Although part of such decision making characteristic still plays certain rule in modern democratic society,especially to civilized society, individuals’ volitional choices is assumed to make the best decision for the common good of all. As it says “individual choice,” those individuals in decision making position must have essential basic rational capacity to judge objectively if the collective decision would serve the best interest of all concerned people.

The western thinkers, having overcome all the process of the pains of being in a melting pot, say “nationalism is a threat to democracy,” therefore, categorized many of such nationalist political underground networks under “terrorism” when such group practice violence means to achieve their political goal whether to coerce their own people or against the standing government. Whatever the western, especially the U.S., says is their own national interest, not necessarily true or applicable to all political contexts around the globe. However, there are, in every society, certain substantial factors; lets say necessary social political evils that are threats to democracy or to the proper and healthy progress of human social evolution. Some say, ignorant or illiteracy is a treat, but not necessary. Of course, if one is to make a decision or be part of decision making process, he or she must know what should be the best for all the concerned people to whom his/her decision is going tohave impact upon, even to the surrounding nature, while lacking the essential rational capacity could result with the opposite of his or her expected outcome.

There are two social factors, out of many, that have caused our people’s collective decision making process staled: the undemocratic leadership philosophy, and the tribal mindset which are intertwined historically. To have these two things passed, our people have been paying the price, of course. As last known to all of us, our tribal leadership, since before the British rule, was chieftainship where the blood relationship played a major role and followed by head hunting skills, numbers of children, and property possession, etc. At its own time, lets say, it was appropriate within particular set. Some, if not many, still follow their traditional leadership model, such as in Jordan, Saudi Arabia where the hierarchical kings rule. And in some other places, today, those royal lines are set aside from active societal decision makings but continue to keep them in honor of their ancestry, such as in England, Thailand, etc. In Chin society, the bloodline of the chieftains no longeroccupy special place in the role of societal decision making and its negative impact has become minimal. One of the biggest obstacles our people face today is not the royal line or caste oriented social division, but, as there were no single chief who ruled the whole Chin territory, the segmented tribal settings that severely divides the Chins politically, socially, and psychologically.

Helped by ignorance about their own rights and lack of means to oppose, when the British imposed their administrative system, the Chins did not resist whoever ruled them. Likewise, during the earlier period after independence, although there was a democratic system of general election, the exercise of individuals’ volitional choice was minimal, while being influenced by pre-conditioned social structure. The worse came when the military controlled the whole process of societal decision making. The social and tribal settings of the Chin people throughout those periods remained unchanged, and as a result the social interaction of the people for social cultural, commercial, or politics remained insignificant. Therefore, the traditionally and historically deposited mental settings of the people uncompromised that underlines the basic understanding of “who we are.” Threatened by historical nightmares and hindered by the internal psychological walls, although our people superficiallyand politically declare we all are “one people”, the level of acceptance still remain low to have unanimous flow of movement as one people when individuals’ volitional choice access to such rights to choose and participate in a collective decision. Negatively, such psychological insecurity imposed a defensive stance within a smaller tribe not to accept a leader from other tribe or not embrace an idea brought up by other tribes. As a result, social political alliances become more segmented that hinders a collective unanimous action when such movement is historically demanded to meet the end good of all. Secondly, as mentioned above, the undemocratic leadership philosophy or traditional tribal leadership concept still plays a major role in most of, if not all, the minds the of Chin people. Traditionally, although still partially true in many areas, leadership was relationship-blood relationship to the chief determined the major portion of decision makings of particular tribal set, followed by strength of family, property possession and contribution to the chief. Although not necessarily to the chief but to one’s own blood relationship, such mental deposition still occupy the minds of many of contemporary generation that play an obstacle role to elect and follow an effective and outcome oriented leaders of the society whether the leaders belong to one’s own tribe or not, making the basic fundamental principles of democratic leadership vulnerable at the hand of extremism and segmentation.

Keeping in mind the above mentioned social factors, throughout the process of democratizing the Chin society, if one’s top priority is national consensus and unity, one should pay enough attention to the importance of the Chin people’s social political behaviors generated by such traditionally deposited mental stances. Undermining people’s belief system structured by such mental deposition has caused civic disengagement when such collective action is required as an essential instrument to maneuver the flow of social movement toward the collective end goal. Here comes the challenge of today’s generation, to rationally jump out of the traditional “boxes” and collectively move toward the common end goal without bypassing required procedural justice whole eliminating the traditional social political evils. For one cannot defeat gangsters by practicing means of gangsters, or have peace and freedom at the expense of peace and freedom.

March 11, 2006.