How to Destroy a Civilisation in the Most Civilised Ways

The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.
― Sigmund Freud
Zhongdian in Yunnan: A slightly edited image, originally accessed from Wikimedia Commons

In history, an unrealisable factor, more of a pain in the ass, has ever been creating resentment among our folks. Briefly, an 18th-century Manipuri king denounced the native faith system while imposing Hinduism as the official religion of the kingdom. To make it more formidable, with the help of Hindu preachers, the king burnt almost all the Puyas—a number of holy books that elaborates and explains the stuffs that our existence is made of. What we cannot realise is the number of books that had gone down the drain with extreme proselytisation processes.

So many things were gone with the flames: our perspectives and records on history, philosophy, belief systems, knowledge, and science, among so many other things. It means a lot in a society where mostly oral tradition was widespread, until the days of the Imperialists. Now the only way to forget about them is to move forward with a couple of steps backward for every score of steps. That’s how we are supposedly doing though the results are another story. We cannot simply un-fire a Puya; yet, we can still feel the sight and scent of the agonising ember. In such  little ways, we should have to recollect. 
A piece of Puya image, accessed from

I doubt there would be anyone to question if we compare the burning of Puya with a ruthless genocide. Despite the allergy of this dastardly act that manifests whenever we talk about history, we have been learning to live with it. We know the pain will linger as long as we exist as a people. But mere victimisation will do no good but make a fundamentalist out of you. And to tell the truth, we never want to become one such obstinate prick. Apparently there are so many other important things in life.

So here it is, one civilised ways to destroy a civilisation. Fool the impotent leader and make a fun out of him and let him know not, how he is treated like a puppet. Above all, let him look like a wise man and fool all the people, all the time, with extra help from the seemingly wiser men of religion, and even better with those who are hell-bent on proselytisation.

Is this different how in our generation, the elected representatives are nothing but stooges who are remote controlled from New Delhi? There is a term called the marionette (See An Ode to the Marionettes - Such a fine name!

The Partheon—Fotografia del Partenone di Atene: the epitome of western civilization.
Image from a public domain site.

The Solidarity

Recently, I found that many other societies have gone through the same route of plight and upheaval. Comparatively, we are much smaller than the Maya civilization, for instance. In a very similar way to ours, a Spanish Bishop, Diego le Anda burnt all the Maya manuscripts in the 16th century. Jared Diamond, in Collapse, refers the act to cultural vandalism.

Most probably, this kind of vandalism is just the way of human evolution. A couple of the most obvious examples are wars and conquests. If we observe, it still continues today. This is probably a reason why, back in my hometown, some people and groups are up in arms for the introduction of the Inner Line Permit system in Imphal and elsewhere.   

If we re-look into the burning and firing issue, it is much worse than genocide and cultural vandalism. Such destruction breeds criminality, hatred and all things bad.

And if the collective disaster is not enough, in the world of books and literature, there are censorships, bans and even death threats, when we observe it from the individual level. The broadness of this issue can be further extended with the likes of Salman Rushdie—I have never read his books though in college I had bought his pop-ish Midnight’s Children—and fatwas and things like that.

And thus the story continues.

There’s always a fire to ignite human imagination, no matter how much cold the object is and regardless of the consequences of the action.

We Didn’t Start the Fire

Fire is one of the five elements that form life. In a Newtonian way, we see it can be bloody destroying as well. A quick search on the Internet gave an endless list of book-burning incidents across the globe (See the list below).

We are more concerned with the factor that people have been executing these kinds of bestiality so intentionally than why the miscreants are roaming around angrily with lighters and match boxes. Some of them are even armed with Molotov cocktails!

Political literature is considerable depending on which side of the fence you are in. However, the balance is highly skewed when people start burning books that are so close to the story of a people. It is no wonder, though, the Nazis and the Talibans are on the top of the lists. And we are no lesser souls. In protests to officially adopt the Meitei Mayek—our native script—in schools, colleges, universities and official dealings, a pressure group burnt down the main library of the town. It is already a pity that there have been very few readers in the first place in the neighbourhoods.

Will it be hard for you, say if you are a Hindu, to group you along with the Nazis and the Talibans? The Nazis had the Swastika too! But this is not the story of the Hindus.

We are more concerned with our future. For that matter again, we are even more concerned with the most civilised ways to destroy a civilisation—not necessarily that we are gearing up to tear down one or two of them, but rather in understanding how the world is such a bad place to live. That would give a room for creating a new space too.

Another piece of Puya from

Maybe we can as well start taking the books on Zeus and burning them on Jupiter. That would be a giant leap in the name of all the animals on this planet. First, rockets and missiles symbolise a highly developed society. Second, we are mortal animals who have become slightly wiser than those lesser living things dwelling in jungles. 

“Civilization will not attain to its perfection,” to quote Émile Zola, “until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”

Regardless of the action of other people, we have to get up and stand on our own feet. We are glad that there has been destruction because, as mentioned earlier, it offers a favourable ground for creating a new collective life. We need the change desperately. We know all is not lost with ungodly acts of religion. Isn’t it funny religion plays a very civilised role to destroy a foreign civilisation? That’s perfectly understandable. Then again, we have a world to produce what we consider is essential to our existence.



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