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: firstname.lastname@example.org”