On Social Development: Part 1
FROM THE SERIES ON RADICAL DEVELOPMENT COMMUNICATION INITIATIVE
An idealistic consideration of development in Manipur with a belief that knowing the fundamental nature of a problem can offer some solutions
We live in a world of change. It is always certain that ten years ago, we might have only buses as a mode of land transport but in the next ten years, we will have a railway transport system. What was once used to be a single-lane highway can be transformed into a four-lane route. However, elsewhere in the world there are already bullet trains and 100-lane highways and at home the snail-pace change can create problems galore ranging from political instability to social revolutions.
Change is inevitable but we cannot ignore the undercurrents that allow change possible, that accelerate change and that make change as slow as the process of continental drift. In essence, this back-breaking slowness—which characterises our life and society—is the rationale behind writing this piece as well as to see if there are possible solutions. This takes us to the concept of social development.
Social Development 101
According to the International Institute of Social Studies:
Social development is about putting people at the centre of development. This means a commitment that development processes need to benefit people, particularly but not only the poor, but also a recognition that people, and the way they interact in groups and society, and the norms that facilitates such interaction, shape development processes. (Source: Indices of Social Development www.indsocdev.org)
It is essential to consider the politics, society and culture when we study about social development because all of them are inter-related. It is inherently human nature to grow and develop. However, it requires more than mere aspirations to realise the goals. Social development takes place when there is collective motivation and direct action, which in turn depend on mass consciousness.
This crucial foundation, or rather the lacking, explains how a backward state like Manipur is caught in a time warp. When it is normally a month’s work to build a bridge, it consumes ten years in this state and further on its completion, it is celebrated by decorating the bridge with garish and tasteless lights. Wish there was a mechanism to block stupidity at a certain tolerable level.
A long time ago, Plato professed that a society is an individual writ large and that the elements that make up an individual also corresponds to the elements that make up a society. This understanding is significant in social development because consciousness plays a crucial role in development and the consciousness is a product of our subconscious and awareness—and the more the consciousness, the more is the development.
It is often said that to be lucky, an individual needs to work hard, or work smart if we listen to the smart-asses. Again, the wisdom applies to a society, which is left with few options but to be venturous. As in writing when overflowing ideas make for easy yet more meaningful kind of writing, the diligence of a society should allow itself to be flooded with constructive forces that can stream across and wash away the rotten mores and rituals of a society.
The ideas and forces might be spilling over but that’s the way a society can make its elements coherent and balanced and very less distractions. That’s also the way a society can place itself on a cycle of growth and development. Unfortunately, for us, the elements are not only incoherent but also contradictory to each other that push us into an abyss of backwardness.
To take an example, development experts have been advocating about the indispensable and firm foundation of organisations and institutions in a society. However, we are fragmented on the lines of ethnicity and political disasters that are most apparent from the ceaseless armed-conflict issues.
People, Power and the Path
Under the fourth and fifth points of Article 1 in the UNESCO’s Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, it is noted that:
All peoples of the world possess equal faculties for attaining the highest level in intellectual, technical, social, economic, cultural and political development.
The differences between the achievements of the different peoples are entirely attributable to geographical, historical, political, economic, social and cultural factors. Such differences can in no case serve as a pretext for any rank-ordered classification of nations or peoples. (Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation http://en.unesco.org/)
The statements are quite a solace because it is true that we are underdeveloped but it does not mean we have been destined to be this way for good. It is also true that we are this way because of underutilised ideas and resources; yet, those meagrely used ideas and resources have been transmitted in destructive ways.
For instance, mass protests against the incompetent establishment are our annual affairs. On other occasions our ideas are channelled into mindless violence and destruction and all sorts of unrest that seem to know no end. How are we supposed to imagine about the comfort of living at home or flying by air when we are in a sinking ship? We are consumed in thinking just about reaching ashore or any other way to stay alive.
As vast as our unlimited wants and desires, there is still a room for development. We know the inevitability of concrete organisations and institutions; we know the possession of ideas and forces; and we also know the possibility of endless development. Then, subsequently we can somehow maintain that we know the initial destinations and all it matters now is the discovery of a path.
Social Attitudes and Social Development
This is where social attitudes come in. It is related to consciousness that was mentioned earlier in the piece. According to Psychology Dictionary (psychologydictionary.org), social attitude is: (i) a person’s outlook on social issues and responsibilities; (ii) a person’s general disposition towards others; and (iii) an opinion shared by a social group.
In the Journal of Applied Sociology, EB Reuter explains that:
Whatever the nature of the social values—the content of the culture complex—the members of the group are responsive to them. The values are objects of human desire. This appreciation of the social value is an attitude. If it is general in the group, as a result of communication, it is a social attitude. (Source: Brock University www.brocku.ca)
Three years ago in China, the National Institute of Social Development (Source: http://www.china.org.cn/index.htm) conducted a survey on the country’s social attitude and social development by ‘observing its people’s subjective feelings and social attitudes’. It was found that, amongst others, a ‘lack of opportunity to participate or express their demands, part of residents gain low economic and social status. The lower their social position, the fewer chances they get to participate or express their demands’.
Social attitudes impact social development directly. But it is not only the mere opportunity to participate that will count but rather the opportunity to participate with transformed, positive social attitudes. Then it will be just a matter of time that, for example, we can dig for gold when we are thrown open to the Asian transnational highways; else we will exist merely as we are even if we get connected to a global road network.
No part of this world, including the highly developed, is sufficient on its own. None of us have all the resources. It takes a combination of people and their resources and ingenuity, in this order, to make the chops out of potatoes. In another word, development can be funded or supported but again the end result lies on the natives; and the scope, as we know, is unlimited.