Approaching the Future – Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Director-Student Services

New Year’s is the perfect time to reflect and look back at what has passed and also to look ahead and position ourselves for the future. Better days could be coming depending on what we do today.

Approaching the Future

The world welcomes 2015 tomorrow amidst great celebration and festivity. The month of December has been a busy month of social activities, night carnivals, entertainment and fun. Decorations and lights throng the towns and villages in Nagaland signifying the spirit of Christmas. And the celebrations are not over yet. Tomorrow is another reason to be thankful as Nagaland, along with the rest of the world welcomes the New Year.

As we prepare ourselves for this, it is a good time to reflect on how we can position ourselves for the future. Daniel Goleman in “Social Intelligence” narrates an incident that reveals the ability of the human brain to counter chaotic or difficult situations through social intelligence which is crucial to our survival. It was during the American invasion of Iraq when a group of soldiers went to a local mosque to meet the town’s chief cleric in order to ask for help in distributing relief supplies. As the soldiers approached the mosque, instead a huge mob began to gather. The mob feared that the soldiers were coming to arrest their spiritual leader or destroy the mosque. In no time at all, hundreds of devout Muslims had surrounded the soldiers, and began to shout at them. The commanding officer now had to think clearly and fast or the situation could become volatile. He immediately commanded his soldiers to kneel on one knee, point their rifles toward the ground and then “Smile”. At once, the mood of the mob changed and the people in the mob began to smile back in return. The commanding officer ordered his soldiers to walk slowly away backward, still smiling.

The quick wit of the commanding officer was a split second social calculation that averted a disaster from happening. It shows us that in life, there are many factors that impact the decisions and choices we make for ourselves and our society, some of which are based on our historical context, environment and cultural background, as in the case of the devout Muslim mob who saw an aggressive military coming to attack them. Remember, it was also a time of war. It was however, the response of the commanding officer that changed a hostile situation into a congenial one and probably saved a lot of lives from being lost that day. What the commander had seen was not an angry mob, but a mob that was afraid and protective of their stronghold. He was able to read the level of hostility of the mob and sensed what would calm them.

I wonder what many of us would do when faced with a situation like that. It is true, we may not be trained like the military or soldiers to understand exactly how to react to hostile situations or human behavior, but what we can try to do is learn how to adopt a smart approach to our own situation. It teaches us the importance of knowing what, when and how to respond, as we read a situation and react to it. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit during the Hornbill Festival this year elicited mixed reactions from different sections of society. Interestingly, many were heard applauding Modi’s decision to introduce policies that would promote Nagaland’s ‘natural economic zone’ and grant scholarships and national student-faculty visiting programmes, instead of being the ‘genie in the lamp’ and offer financial assistance to clear the State’s financial deficit. Prime Minister Modi’s decision to grant financial assistance by concentrating on the development of the entire Northeast and not Nagaland alone, actually left some of the public relieved that the practice of money entering the pockets of only a select population had been averted. Most importantly however, the decision is a strong indicator that Nagaland may need to do things differently now; plan innovative ways to do business and even to solve our political problem.

Economically, we witness the State struggling to keep its head above the water to meet the financial needs of its people. With the State’s budget deficit of Rs. 1234 crore and a frustrated section of people for whom strikes have become the norm, it makes one wonder how we are going to fix the mistakes that have been made to improve the quality of life of our people. We want a better State that we can be truly proud of and that can meet all our needs. A State that has the facilities, the infrastructure and a conducive environment for families to feel safe and secure, for children to study and for working professionals to succeed and thrive. Basic amenities such as medical care, education, water, electricity and consumer goods need to be top notch so that our people don’t feel the need to venture out to other States in India or countries in search of the basic requirements of life. Patients should not feel the need to travel to Guwahati, Shillong or other metros because the medical facilities are inadequate nor should students seek education elsewhere, if we have the right infrastructure and professionals in place.

Nagaland seems to be on the verge or is already on its way to emerging from its dependent state into a self-sustaining State through initiatives that promote Naga entrepreneurs and social groups that fight to root out problems directly and indirectly related to our State’s overall development. Or maybe it’s the increasingly felt urgency of the people taking matters into their hands to find ways and means to survive. Whatever it is, Nagaland is in the throes of change as we enter 2015. Each successive year has brought about changes which can be analysed and addressed by the concerned stakeholders and the public to ensure that our State progresses from what it was before. Opinions that are being voiced out need to be heard, at the same time a wise, constructive and progressive mode of thinking is required to prevent detractors along the way.

The unique culture and tradition we have can be used to our advantage. Instead of forging tribal divisions, it is our homogeneity and our Naga identity, which ironically appears to surface more strongly when in minority in other States or abroad, that should be echoed in our own State. For all of this, education exists as one of the strong-tools towards achieving the right frame of mind conducive for a better State. It  is not just educational institutions in our State but society as a whole that have an important role to play in developing individuals’ with the foresight and intelligence to think beyond petty politics. Educating and spreading awareness of the reality of our situation, the right approach we need to adopt and progressive thinking is required.   

A lot of times our idea of our State and ourselves depends not only on the way we choose to approach it but in the manner in which we respond to it. We may have misconceptions that influence our decisions, aggravating the problem even more. But at some point, we need to reach a point of consensus, where we can unite and work together to solve the problems we have. Doing the same thing we did 10 years ago might not work anymore. Having a right thinking society geared towards the common goal of creating a better State is what we need right now as we welcome 2015. 

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