Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Corruption: Another form of Headhunting? - Bokali Shohe, Assistant Professor History

Not too long ago, the most respected Naga people were the ones who could hunt the most heads. The more kills a warrior had, the more respect he had in his village and it translated into everything from the ornaments he wore to the shawls and the house decorations that could be displayed. Headhunting is a tradition that has died out but there seems to be new modern ways where Nagas can earn respect at the cost of others.  

Corruption: Another form of Headhunting?


Headhunting practice was not a practice unique to the Nagas but it was practiced in other parts of the world as well. It was a culture which existed in parts of Oceania, South and Southeast Asia, West and Central Africa, the West Germanic peoples, the Norse and Scynthians of ancient Europe. It also occurred in Europe until the early 20th century in the Balkan Peninsula and to the end of the Middle Ages in Ireland and the Anglo-Scottish border regions. In this article, I look specifically into the Nagas practice of headhunting and the responsibility of society after its discontinuity.

Head hunting was practiced among the Nagas before the nineteenth century. The sources we have today for looking into the culture of head hunting among the Nagas are the colonial and anthropological sources and the material remains in the form of ornaments and head skulls which are still preserved in some villages. Head hunting is referred to the practice of taking a persons head. It was, however not just a barbaric act of violence but an act deeply associated with religious, traditional and cultural connotations among the Nagas.
A number of colonial writers have viewed the practice of head hunting as barbaric and savage as the heads taken were not just of men but of women and children too. Headhunting was also conducted not just during the period of war but was often done in the form of surprise attacks on enemy villages. They were encouraged and rewarded because they checked and kept their enemy villages at bay or avenged their mates by attacking these villages. The heads of women and children were also collected and these heads were considered to be of more value as it proved that men had been successful in reaching into the most protected regions of a village.

Attempts have been made by various Naga scholars to do away with harsh comments and notions made on their history and rightly so because looking at the time period and the circumstances one cannot term the practice as ‘evil’, ‘barbaric’ or ‘an act of blood thirsty savages’ because the reasons for men taking part in this activity was actually quite reasonable for the men at the given time frame. On the other hand, some Naga scholars have reasonably argued that killing in any form was evil be it through headhunting or through bombing and shooting in wars.

The reason why I suggest that headhunting was not a barbaric or a savage act (though killing in itself is a strongly unacceptable crime in any society) is because the factors that led Naga men to participate in head hunting almost justified their not so pleasing tradition of taking peoples head as trophies. The practice of head hunting among the Nagas was a means to achieve honor, prestige and respect in the  society and community. There were a number of attractions for Naga men to participate in this activity of headhunting as he could achieve new status of a warrior in his village (the Konyaks had a special term called ‘Naomei’ for men who took heads during raids). He would be privileged to wear special ornaments to symbolize his valorous deeds, also specially designed clothes which were woven could now be worn by him and his wife gave him a special position in his village as a head hunter. The Nagas could on two special instances earn great individual prestige: one was by taking of human heads and the second by giving of Mithun feast. The prestige, value and meaning of these ornaments and special woven clothes lost its meaning and significance with the coming of Christianity after which headhunting was discouraged and people began to have a new perspective on this practice. However, before the arrival of this new religion people who wore these special ornaments on village festivals were greatly respected.

Public admiration and respect is a thing which humans will never tire of. The approval that they earned from their deeds encouraged them to continue this tradition of taking heads. However the special significance of the ornaments began to lose meaning around 1900’s as people started wearing them without much thought. One reason for this was the coming of new religion Christianity and the discontinuity of the practice of headhunting. When we look at the benefits that a man and his family gained through head hunting, we realize the significance that head hunting had for a young Naga men in his village.

On taking a closer look at this tradition of headhunting, although it appears violent, barbaric or savage,  the subject is actually merely a responsible act by men who were looking for approval from the society. They were not only responsible for protecting their village through headhunting but were motivated by the special honor and prestige that they would achieve through their valorous act of merit. And the men for one were not at fault for taking the lives of people. The tradition of headhunting was continued in the society as long as there was approval and encouragement from the village community.

There are certain vices which are prevalent in our society today and other societies as well, which we need to get rid of. One such vice is in the form of corruption. It is present not just in our state but everywhere else. The difficulty that I see in removing this vice in our state for one is the continuous support that has been given to our corrupt officials and leaders directly or indirectly. When these corrupt officials bring in their huge booty in the form of lakhs of rupees as donations to public organizations or churches, they are celebrated and welcomed without being questioned as to where the money has come from. In this way, we are encouraging people to be corrupt and sometimes by asking them for donations we even force them to steal from public treasury. Can we as a society encourage honesty by not giving honor just for the sake of money? If we as a society reacted differently we will be taking one step towards removing this growing tradition of corruption. Before corruption becomes an imbedded tradition we need to remove it from our society. Change is not impossible but is in fact the only thing that is permanent so we need to have a positive mindset and put in all the effort we can together to bring about positive change in our society.

 Society has the responsibility of removing traditions or continuing them, as we see in the case of headhunting. The moment society turned away its approval, headhunting became history. There is great power that society wields in forming traditions for a society. We as a society, with our approval, can remove or lay foundations for traditions.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Holding Ourselves Back? -Hewasa Lorin, Director Student Services


Habits have to change along with the times. Recently, a local daily carried reports on the mass hunting of endangered animals in Nagaland. One of the reasons for this may be blamed on our Naga tradition of hunting more than anything else. While it is imperative to preserve and have knowledge of our traditions and practices, some of those traditions and practices may actually be the ones holding us back. For example, our practice of head hunting or the morung education system have been done away with or replaced for the better. With the world becoming flatter, we must adapt and while there will be transitional hiccups, we need to make sure that it is not our societal mindset that serves as our stumbling block.  


Holding Ourselves Back?


Society has a way of dictating our lives in both conscious and unconscious ways. In every society, codes and norms usually determine how we live. From the decisions and choices we make to our responses and perceptions, we ultimately become who we are because of the society we belong to.
As a result, we find that some societies are more sensitive to some issues than others. This could explain why for us Nagas, our nationalist struggle has made us more sensitive to questions of belongingness to a community or could be the reason why we have such strong community values, unlike what we might usually come across in different cities in India. A friend of mine from West Bengal would always tell me how much she appreciated that Nagas were a very strong-knit community, because of the presence of Naga Christian fellowships and Student Unions in different parts of India.

For the Nagas, our close-knit community life creates a higher dependency on societal notions of acceptance, some of which can be positive and sometimes even negative. We can ask ourselves: Is what our society propagates always right? Do we have the right ‘mindset’ that will help push us forward or are we sometimes too set in our ways that we restrict ourselves from progress and development?  

Examples can be drawn from different areas in our society. In the education sector, we continue to follow traditional practices of teaching and learning, some of which although they might have seemed to be the right strategy before, have however become hindrances towards quality education. Today, in Nagaland, education still involves a lot of rote memorization and even spoon-feeding notes and answers. Since this has been the norm for so long, these practices continue to prevail supported further by the system or notion that strictly writing only the classnotes of a teacher is a sure-shot way of securing a good mark when it comes to the final exams.

The practice of not questioning a teacher is another problem that exists in some classrooms. While there are always exceptions to the case, if one were to compare a Naga student with a mainstream Indian student, I think we all know too well which of the two is more likely to raise a question in the class. No doubt, different strategies work for different students and every individual is unique, but considering the lack of response in our classrooms amongst the majority, it is possible that there exists a greater problem caused due to a prevailing mindset or system that prevents a student from asking a question in the class or expressing one’s opinion, either due to fear of being laughed at by his friends or ridiculed.

Looking at the classroom example, if there has to be a mindset change, it has to be one where students or society in general feel safe to break away from previous misconceived notions. In order to do this, we need to promote a progressive and positive environment, the kind where there is room for questioning, for experimenting and even going against the norm if necessary, based on changing needs and times. While this is not a radical call to rebel against norms in society, rather, it is a suggestion for introspection of old practices which have become outdated compared to the pace at which our society is developing in other areas; resulting in an imbalance of both advancement and stagnation rolled into one State.

The challenges in the education sector are just one area that could be pervaded by misconceived notions. Another very popular example is the scramble for Government jobs and preparation for civil exams. For the Nagas, it has long been the ultimate label of what it is to be successful and as they say ensure lifelong “security”. It is true that there is an earnest desire among some to secure prominent administrative positions from where advancement and change can be brought into effect, and even serves for others as the only means for achieving economic security in a State such as ours, but there is no denying that there are also many, except for a handful of honest and well deserving ones, who rely outrageously heavily on securing a Government job and seek to attain it by hook or crook. Breaking away from this mythical Naga mindset has been a challenge no doubt. The intention is not to discourage individuals from trying for Government jobs but rather widening our aspirations towards other possibilities and opportunities that may actually be achievable otherwise. Our problem seems to lie with our mindset that leaves little room for thinking beyond other than what our societal norms dictate.  

On some level, maybe we are gradually breaking away from these deep rooted notions and our traditional mindset. But it’s also very easy to slip back to old notions and what we’re already too comfortable with. To counter this, reminders are often necessary. This is where our younger generation plays a vital role. They need to be reminded, encouraged and advised about societal notions and wider possibilities that exist beyond.  

What’s important to draw from this is that there are certain notions we need to rethink instead of being stuck in mindsets that inhibit our progress and there are others that we need to seriously consider putting into action, to prevent us from falling into habits of hypocrisy. The objective is to produce better citizens, where we are all continuously striving to be better than before.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us.Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org”

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

English: A Global Language - Veduvolu Khusoh, Assistant Professor English


Today, it is possible to be sitting in your home in Nagaland munching on Korean noodles, while watching an American TV show, dressed in European brands like Zara or Mango while chatting online with someone from Mexico. It has been made possible because people across the world are collaborating and working with each other. They can work with each other because they can communicate with each other and usually that language is English. As the world becomes smaller and distances become shorter, English, as a global language, has become one of the reasons for our globalized world. 

English: A Global Language

Today with the fast paced development of the economic sector and the phenomenon of rapid globalization seen in the last few years, there has been an enormous expansion in the field of English language learning, and there has been a massive need to learn the language. Learners set themselves demanding goals. They want to be able to master English at a high level of accuracy and fluency. Employers too desire that their employees have good command over English.

In this competitive age, a person striving to achieve success either in business or in life must always be at the cutting edge. One has to be thoroughly equipped with communication skills. In other words, the idea is not just learning to speak correctly, but also learning to speak with clarity, precision and in a winsome manner so as to affect the decision making in the marketplace. This calls for English language, the importance of which in the international market cannot be overstated.
As an educator, we need to often ask ourselves, how connected we are with the world today, connected with what is happening around the world, and what is happening around us. Let’s take an example of China. During the preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympic, millions of citizens-from official games staff to taxi drivers to ordinary citizens-got into action by brushing up on their English skills. It is said that during this period English was spoken more in China than in U.S, and now the demand for English teacher continues to surpass supply. The China daily reports that more than 60,000 foreigners are working as English teachers in China, excluding tens of thousands more as part time teachers. Competition with their fellow citizens is not the only thing in the minds of Chinese English students. They are also guided by the patriotic but somewhat anomalous logic that China “needs to keep up with the rest of the world, therefore Chinese people need to learn English.” Knowledge of English language has indeed acted as a powerful tool for development and advancement throughout the world, and fluency constituted a huge step forward in many people’s (countries) struggles for self-sufficiency and success.

While I was working in South America as an English teacher in Colombia, I had this one student who would attend my reading club every day. She spoke almost perfect American English. I was amazed to know that she learnt how to speak English through the internet because she couldn’t afford to go to English Institutes as learning English from school was just not sufficient for her. She spent 2 hours every day on rigorous online English study. From what I’ve observed over a couple of years, there is a large difference between our students and those from South America. The competency level is basically the same, but the differential question is this: what makes the Colombian students more proficient and successful? It’s because they are motivated. They know the value of time and they are driven by set goals. Be it an engineering student, lawyer or a painter most of them attend at least two or three months English course besides learning it from schools or colleges. English is increasingly becoming a “must learn” for those who hope to rise above low-level employment in their country. On the other hand, most of our students are relatively casual and ignorant about what is happening around them. Most of our students are too indifferent to see the enhancement aspect of English language in life and career.

Nagas, in comparison to other non-native English speakers are appreciated immensely for comprehension of English language, as a majority of the younger generation is not excessively influenced by the mother tongue. Most of the young students have grown up surrounded by media and pop culture which glamorize English. It is encouraging to see that they are gradually becoming aware of the fact that English plays a critical role in this “globalization” phenomenon. To use a stronger expression, English has indeed become the de facto language of choice for communication between different nations in the world.

 Richer countries have more money to spend on education, resulting in better English training. This in turn results in more economic opportunities at the global level.
In light of the current global scenario, the younger Naga generation has a bright future if we are committed to nurturing and guiding them in the right direction. Nagas need to seriously work on the vision towards equipping our students with better English to take charge of their future, to open to new economic, cultural, and educational opportunities.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

What is Economics? - K. Keren Swu, Assistant Professor Economics


In the Nagaland University Exams of 2012 the number of successful economics major graduates  was 108 out of 1,428. Economics is a critical subject. According to Prof. Shabbir Ahmed Gondal, “A nation’s fortune is determined not in battlefield but in economic field, and it is the study of Economics, which ensures supremacy in economic field.” Our lack of economics graduates in key areas of planning could be one of the factors hampering us from thinking like an economist. The right mindset is needed for our society to progress. Economics might just help towards making that happen.  

What is Economics?

Most people think of Economics as a mind-numbing and difficult subject but I would not be wrong to say that it is an important and indeed one of the most fascinating subjects. Economics is not just a subject but a ‘way of thinking’. Learning Economics gives insights into many areas which are crucially important. It has an extremely important place in our educational system. Amongst the academic subjects, its curriculum consists of one of the highest and most pertinent life skills that will help students in choosing their career.

Economics deals with the laws and principles which govern the functioning of an economy and its various parts. An economy exists because of two basic facts - unlimited human wants and scarce resource available to him. Economics decides how to make the optimum use of the limited resource in order to satisfy human wants. Among the scarce resources, there is also an alternative use for most commodities. Economics teaches each individual how to be rational in choosing the services and goods he consumes. Right from the time of birth, everybody becomes part of an economy as a consumer, and later on becomes a producer, distributor or simply a consumer. Economics also helps us to understand other subjects like History, Political Science, Sociology, Mathematics etc. It gathers facts from all these subjects, which have direct and indirect effects on analyses of the subject matter.  

Studying Economics offers us an interesting opportunity to maximize our potential in both the school and workplace. Practically everything we do impacts the economy. In order to find and perform any kind of job we also need to know why and how the economy works. It would be unwise to blindly jump into any kind of job or work. When looking out for any job, it is always important to know the nature of the job, its economic scope, how the system works, the repercussions etc.

Economics as a subject also plays a vital role in planning. Economics helps us to know the status of a country in terms of its growth and development. Realizing the economic condition of a nation or a state is important because without the knowledge of the past/present status, planning for the future cannot take place. Planning and development strategies, budget, monetary policy, fiscal policy etc. are the major concerns of the Government, and the Government heavily depends on economics for decision-making. Studying economics also broadens the mindset of the people and helps them understand the problems faced in a society, thereby providing solutions as well. Economics also make us realize that man is interdependent and we need each other to meet our economic and social needs. Thus it leads to cooperation.

When it comes to career options economics has a lot to offer as well. Services of economists are needed in corporate firms as well as other independent state/private run services. Economists work in different fields like marketing research, financial services, rural development, demographic studies, formulation of economic policies etc. Globalization has also increased the demand for economists as the firms involved in international trade need to undertake a serious study of the international market and trade policies of different countries. One of the best examples of the importance of the role of an economist is that of our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. He will always be remembered as the economist who totally changed the face of India’s economy from a closed to an open economy and also brought India out from the financial crisis of 1991. Prof. Shabbir Ahmed Gondal rightly said, “A nation’s fortune is determined not in battlefield but in economic field, and it is the study of Economics, which ensures supremacy in economic field.” The significance of the study of economics is undoubtedly high. The scope of economics keeps widening and one can never go wrong in opting for economics as a subject of study.

It is known to all that economics is the study of mankind and his activities in relation to his environment. Economics rules our lives and the affairs of the world as a whole. As remarked by Wooten, you can never be a citizen in the real sense unless you are at least to some degree an economist. In our own small or big way, we are all economists. It is always interesting to learn about ourselves and the activities we perform and how it affects the environment we live in. Economics is not just a thought-provoking subject but also imperative for the well-being of our society.

It is disturbing to know that for most of us (Nagas), economics is a very boring and tough subject. I suppose it is because the notion of economics being a dull subject is already imprinted in our minds right from the start. If you have the same notion, then you should probably alter the way you previously thought and start considering that ‘TOUGH’ and ‘BORING’ are simply a superfluous label given to the subject and that there is a lot more depth in learning and knowing the subject. The immensity of social skill imparted as well as intricacies of mathematics challenges and intrigues the mind. I sincerely hope to see more students taking up economics in Nagaland. 
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org”

The Reality of Primary Schools - Inaholi Aye, BA 5th Semester, English Honours

Image credits- morungexpress.com Charles Dickens in his famed novel Hard Times critiqued M’Choakumchild, a Victorian era school te...