THE CULTURE OF MINIMALISM

 

By Barnes Mawrie

If you ask me what is the cause for Meghalaya’s lack of development, I would say that among many other causes, it is the culture of minimalism that is corroding the system of our State (I am not discussing minimalism here as a philosophy but I take it at its popular parlance). Something becomes culture when it is habitually done and has become a way of living. Minimalism instead would indicate the attitude of doing the least or at a nominal degree. Minimalism is just the opposite of perfectionism and so a minimalist is a person who does not aspire for perfection but has the habit of doing the least possible. Thus a culture of minimalism would imply “a way of life wherein performance is minimal and that is taken as a code of life.” It is a culture typical of our country but perhaps more rampant in our State.

Turning to our State Meghalaya, we see a strong culture of minimalism pervading in every department of the Government. It is enough to observe the way most government employees go about their duties. They reach their offices late, work very little but spend their time chatting and drinking tea or chewing kwai. With such habits how can one perform with efficiency? When we turn our attention to public work/construction, we see the same attitude. Our roads are shabbily made and there is no finishing touch in them. It is not uncommon to see roads which are half done and left so for years to come. In fact our roads are made to last for a season unlike roads in other places which are made to last decades. Look again at the so called beautification of Khyndailad (now commonly referred to as PB)!  What a miserable picture it gives. The manner the project has been carried out speaks volume of the culture of minimalism. When we compare PB to the MG Market in Gangtok, there is a huge contrast. One reveals a decrepit mindset (PB); the other (MG Road, Sikkim) shows that a lot of thought has gone into planning and execution of the work, perhaps supervised by the CM, Pawan Chamling himself. He does not hesitate to pick up the broom and sweep this place whenever there is a cleaning drive and that happens quite often! The PB project definitely has been done haphazardly, tiles are badly laid, drainage system has not been meticulously done, lighting system is nil and there is no provision for tourists or shoppers to sit out and enjoy the evening.

Again look at the footpath railing project all over the city, what we see is again “poor planning and poor execution”. Many of those steel railings are already broken or have peeled off the cement path and there is hardly any aesthetic sense about them. If we observe the manner our phone cables or electric wires are laid we will realize a poor workmanship. The way the Municipality is going about its garbage disposal work is another manifestation of a minimalist attitude. The other day I witnessed a municipal truck carrying garbage on the way to Marten through Polo Bazaar. The garbage was so carelessly loaded that all along the way packets were falling off. What an ugly sight it was to see patches of garbage along the way. Probably the New Shillong Project is the most revealing aspect of a minimalist attitude affecting our State. Minimalism is a virus that has affected the entire state right from the top to the bottom. There is hardly any effort seen to get out of this mentality.

The culture of minimalism is a “losing culture” because it abrogates all desires for excellence and progress. Minimalism is a close kin of corruption because it lends itself easily to manipulation by those engrossed in the practice. Take for example, our city roads could have been excellently done once and for all if given to a company and they would have lasted for decades. But as of now, PWD is doing a shoddy job and roads are bumpy and above all they last but for a season. Perhaps if we dig deep into the matter we will not fail to find traces of corruption in the process. It is not a secret at all that in most cases of government projects, the expenses projected in the bills are always higher than what is actually spent in the work. A lot of public money remains unaccounted for and goes into the black money loop. The consequence of this is poor infrastructure and backwardness in the State. As long as this culture afflicts those assigned to carry out public utility works there can be no progress in our State. Unfortunately, the young are unconsciously assimilating such negative values and so we see a minimalist mentality among our youth in the manner they perform in schools and colleges or in other activities. The quest for perfection has seldom crossed the minds of our young people except for a few.

The need to overcome this culture of minimalism is as important and urgent as rooting out corruption. This virus is contagious and it has a debilitating effect on the lives of individuals and of the community. There is need to excel in everything we do starting with those at the helms of State affairs. There are indeed some examples of public servants who demonstrate a lot of professionalism in the execution of their duties, but for the majority there is much room for improvement. Perfectionism in itself can be a mania but to aspire for a certain degree of perfection in whatever we do, is a virtue we must all cultivate. Developed countries become so, because the citizens in the entire hierarchy have a certain sense of professionalism and perfectionism in their approach to life and duties. I wish our schools and colleges, families and churches inculcate in the young this sense of perfectionism so that we could nurture leaders in the near future, who would strive for nothing less than excellence. Then only can our State move forward and become the pride of India.

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