Stigma or Ignorance?

                                                            By Dr Ininaki Naomi Lyngdoh

            Coming from a society whose stories were verbally passed down from one generation to the next and whose literary data have not been dated beyond the 20th century, I bring forth stories that speak of a culture which I believe is more advanced than we actually believe it to be. Epidemics are nothing new in these beautiful hills of ours. Our forefathers have had their fair share of infectious diseases in the past though little can be said of the nature of the disease. However, a wonderful character that has been passed down from them is this: our society has never spoken of stigma or discrimination. What of the behavior of the present generation?  Is stigma the social norm or is it simply ignorance?

 Stories of the diseases that the our ancestors faced spoke of a civilised society , whereby it was the moral duty of everyone along with the village governance to prevent the spread of these diseases. They tell of a time, when the so-called “Khlam” occurred. Those survivors belonging to that village made it a point to either remain in that village or to move to a faraway jungle to make sure that the neighbouring villages do not get contaminated. We are talking of a society which existed in a world with contemporaries who did not even know that men and women were equal. Is social stigma just an infamous word that is circulated in the media or is it mere ignorance?

In this present world of the pandemic chaos, we hear chants and cries, a crumbling society barely keeping its head above the waters. Amidst this, we hear echoes of stigmatisation. However, the social stigma that is ever so present around the world, I feel is but a new-word that we have simply embraced without actual scrutiny. Ignorance and irrational fear govern this society of ours! As the saying, “Little knowledge is very dangerous!” goes, let us open our eyes to the fact that this not only implies that it is dangerous to a single human, but to the society as a whole.

Physical social distancing maybe something new to us, yet mental social distancing is something that has been sowing its seed for many generations now. A professional refusing to use his knowledge to educate someone with limited knowledge on that particular subject simply because he does not choose to, is failure on the part of this social society of ours! Literacy, as per the textbook definition, talks of a person that has completed the 7th standard. But when educational institutions of elite status are private, what can we expect of this present education system? Have we the right to point our fingers at our neighbours? Are we not two sides of the same coin, as we are two sides of the same state! Is it not failure on the part of those who call themselves educated to live in the same state as those who live in phobia of the new and yet thrive together as parasites?

Irrational fear/phobia arises from a root commonly known to us as Ignorance! This may come from a thing embedded within us or from the basic lack of guidance on the particular subject. I recall a time in 2018, when the whole state went into a realm of dark clouds simply because of a new vaccine introduced by the government. Accusations of this being used as a murder weapon upon our innocent ones and other horrific untrue rumours! Does this not ring a bell in the ever so hearing but not understanding society of ours? If that was the reaction over a vaccine, how much more would be over a pandemic disease!

 As fits of anger and unusual sentimental rage overpower the social media, blaming everyone except ourselves, we come to a realisation that society comprises of every human being, not just the privileged! If we are to thrive and move forward, we are to strive together for the betterment of the future generations. It is easy to condemn another man’s action or motives, but to mould the minds of this generation for a better future generation should be the goal. Stigma or ignorance shows failure on the part of the society. The root of the problem lies in the way we shape the minds of the youth. After all, an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

In conclusion, a quick judgmental nature is not the ways of our society! Stigma is something circulating in the internet and the world, but has not taken hold of ours. I am dumb founded by the fact that we embraced this word by letting this air of social media cloud our judgement. Ignorance has made a dwelling amongst our people, be it in the city or the villages. When folk tales apparently are still a reality in our localities, what can we expect of this dim-witted nature of ours! Instead of reliving the past, together let us work for a better society, one that is not shadowed by irrational fears or one living in blissful ignorance.

As John F. Kennedy puts it, “We will go to the moon. We will go to the moon and do other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard!” Together, we will move forward, helping those in need along the way, that together we will finish.

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