Political participation, what is political participation? Maybe, something to do with participation in a political act! But what is a political act? Well it is said by Aristotle that “man is by nature a political animal”, so I might add that political acts are inherent nature of man. Anything that anyone does, from speech to sight, from thoughts to the movement of the body is a political act. To stretch the line further we have come to live in an era where “the personal is political”, the personal has always been political but it makes much more sense when in our times we are constantly becoming, since the day of our birth to death, the living embodiment of a very dangerous and evil beast called the “state”. Let us not be mistaken the by actually thinking the state means the government, government is just a part of the state. State is an institutionalized form of power management, hierarchy, authority and domination and we have multitude of states in the becoming as well, in the case of Manipur. So, I shall leave it to the readers’ imagination all that they can think about. Every personal act is highly political and deeply connected to much more people than just our own body and thought. In the so called “modern days” of 21st century, we are living in a web of interconnectedness through power relations that the state has been able to conjure up with its sophisticated techniques of control and discipline. All acts of life are political acts and non participation actually means a greater participation by choosing the status quo of power and domination.
In fact the state may have structures but that is for analytical reason, in practice the body of the state is actually the collective body of its subjects, the population. Therefore, the state is a living breathing eating feeling body. But the power of the state is derived or rather practiced through letting die parts of its body, in fact sometimes kill parts of its body. But unlike the individual’s body where chopping off a hand would mean amputation, a loss of ability; the state rather grows a stronger by chopping off, most parts of its body. So when it lets certain section of its population die, it in fact grows stronger, increases it ability to govern, it exercise its power of life over death to remaining population. Therefore the state must be taken into all accounts when talking about ourselves, from taking a dump in the bathroom to walking on the road. It has reached beyond all bedroom doors and beyond any bathroom walls, to underneath our very skin.
In 1960’s we saw students worldwide up in arms caught by the fever of revolution to overthrow all exploitative social order and economic order. From the Black Panthers in United States to the May 1968 revolution in France, the University which is another form of prison became a place where the inmates were fighting against the established order and they were actually winning. University has always been the prison for thoughts, there is has not been any university across the world where education was meant to free the mind and challenge the established order. There has only been varying degrees of disciplining of the mind. The university has only given just enough knowledge to maintain the circulation of hegemonic ideologies. But those where the
rare times, the “would be intellectuals” or better known as university students used the very knowledge that they were given by the system to revolt against the system.
Now with the coercive state that we experience every day in our lives (yes the readers of this article and including me) know the experience of the brutality of amputation practiced by the state i.e. killing of its section of the population through various techniques like the AFSPA, moral policing, encounters (call it fake or real) and many of it structurally inherent violent techniques of oppression and war on the section of its population. What this particular technique of the state does is give life to the living population and make them realize the value of live over death. This strengthens the state, as now it seems the state gives life by simply not killing them, but rather taking care of them with employment and security; we think that like a fish needs water to survive, we now need the state.
If there are certain domains through which the operation of power by the state could be fought back, they are the universities because the state itself values it as it maintains it ideological circulation. But as in France, or elsewhere, the students have shown that they can fight back by actively practicing knowledge for liberation of the body and mind. Now what seems a strange case to me is the fact that in Manipur, it is not the “would be intellectuals” of the university that has taken a major role in political participation. Throughout our pasts, we have popular resistance by the students, in fact sometimes bringing the society to the brink of an exploding revolution that may very well challenge the order around e.g. the ILP movement or the anti ILP movements in the hills.
But it has mostly been the High School students that have taken the lead up front in Manipur. Now comes the interesting part where questions are raised on whether they are conscious about their actions. Some even say some misguided leaders are misguiding the students. A terrible judgment I must say, by the standards of a political act. The personal is political and man is political or women are political (not to be accused of sexism), every political act is a conscious act, in that it takes certain cognitive intelligence to even practice physiological movements let alone highly complex abstract thinking like participation in resistance and revolts.
It is a personal yet highly political and conscious decision to get out among the flying bullets and tear gas cells. Anyhow, to take part in the revolt against the operation and oppression of power is enough of consciousness, while the dumb “would be intellectuals” of the university hardly could take that decision to participate led alone lead. So, in a way the high school students are more conscious than the “would be intellectuals” or certain members of the “enlightened educated people” that raise questions about consciousness. While their consciousness is only in their mind, the High School students of Manipur are beating down their consciousness to a bloody pulp. They shout, protest and rebel against the autocratic state and its machine guns, the students invoke conscious decisions on themselves, on others and the movements they take part in. The rebelling class is thus in Manipur’s case is not the university buffoons or the “conscious case of the enlightened educated watchers of the movements” but the high school students. Do not ask me why? I just told you how.
Thus, it seems the fighting chance of the inmates of an institution winning might be the schools (and all institutions under the state are varying forms of prison, in that they look to indoctrinate state ideology, discipline, etc). But here lies the real revolutionaries in Manipur. The will to act upon or against power is itself liberating and “liberty is a practice”. State may be able to chop off a part of its population and strengthen its hold but cannot definitely chop off the high school students altogether or demolish the institution called schools. The only thing the state can do is strengthen it ideological hold by schooling the students more.
The high school students are too much of an important body part to the physiology of the state; they are the recruits who will later on after being ripe from the universities and colleges will circulate its ideological practice. Sadly for the state, the High School students in Manipur are deschooling themselves and the society by refusing to submit to the men in green and their automated guns, they are refusing to the disciplinary techniques of the state in the streets and elsewhere, let alone the classrooms. And as mentioned in the beginning of this article we are living embodiments of the state interconnected by web of power relations the state has been able to conjure up. And we all know how connected our bodies are when a bullet hit on a student’s body means a bullet hit to the body of the whole society.
Schools are where the state has maximum grounds to convert the body of its subject into the most docile body but it is loosing. Much section of the population thus has fighting chances in reclaiming their docile bodies, and so unbecoming the embodiment of the state is thus quite possible. And we have what France can only give to its elite university recruits, a revolutionary section of the population that is too important for the state to dispose altogether: the underrated revolutionaries called “High School Students”.
If we are to imagine better days of our lives, then the peasants or the proletariats in Manipur have a less fighting chance then the High School students (if there are even actual proletariats in the conventional sense of an industrial worker). In Manipur, the state is much more experiential than the landlord’s rent or the drudgery of labor, and who better than the High School students to fight the state. It is to say simply if anyone is looking for a revolutionary potential in the state’s subject it is the High School students in the case of Manipur. But it would be a mistake to recruit them into another class or group, imagine what you may, may be the “insurgents” or civil society organizations. Even when they get recruited to the university or colleges they are turned into parrots to sing song and they loose their liberating political will to act.
The point precisely is that their revolutionary will to act lies in being the High School students because they are where that state has yet to penetrate its psyche despite constant institutional efforts to make their bodies completely docile through schooling. But with emerging elitist, exclusive and exploitative form of school systems in Manipur, they are about to loose their revolutionary will. The new privatized schooling system (we are well aware of what schools we can imagine here) is in fact the technique of the state. And we are about to loose our fighting chance of overturning the existing order of our society as they are. The very nature of the field that produces the revolutionary class is changing, and what we have now is the excessive production of petty bourgeoisie ideological fountain heads whose personal yet political act lies not in the will to revolt, but to submit and to reform. And as for reformation, it never challenges the status quo; it only perfects the technique of subjecting the population. The “system” as many call it, is not broken to begin with, it was built that way; and as Angela Davis says “radical simply means grasping things at the root”.
The writer is a freelance thinker, just a nobody, a voice among millions who is against all exploitative economic, social and political order