Thursday, 29 January 2015

Priceless - Tatongkala Pongen, Asst. Professor, Dept. of History

We talk a good game about our Naga identity and preserving our culture. We all claim to be proud to be Naga and some even refuse to be labeled as Indians. Yet, when it comes to actually preserving our culture, we are not doing enough work. We need to develop our libraries and Museums, if we are actually serious. Our government run museums need to be properly funded and the youth need to visit these places on a regular basis for learning and exposure.


When we hear the term museum, most of us would imagine it to be a place where some artifacts belonging to some ancient civilizations are kept. We go to a museum, see the objects displayed, contemplate on how beautiful or old it is and then come back. The role of a museum is more than just the displaying of the objects. It is educative and entertaining at the same time. The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has defined the term museum as a “non-profit institution, in the service of society, which acquires, conserves, communicates and exhibits for the purposes of study, education and enjoyment, material witnesses of evolution of nature and man.” Museum gives us a deep experience of our cultural evolution. People have different opinions about the role of museum. Some may find it boring, while some find it entertaining and educative at the same time. Museums can teach people about history, culture and many other aspects of life.

From the antiquarian stage till the present day, the role of museums has been changing. Modern ideas and methods have been introduced in the museums to keep up with the changing milieu and also to make it more attractive for the visitors. Museums these days have become a place of tourist attraction. For the tourists, visiting the museum will help them in understanding the history and the culture of the place they are visiting. A house of collections with closed walls have now extended to open air museums where the objects are now displayed in open spaces where the visitors can get the actual feel of the environment. There are different types of museums like anthropological museum, archaeological museum, craft museum, doll museum, natural history museum, eco-museum, tribal museum and so on. There is a museum of toilets as well which is located in New Delhi. I had never heard of such a museum before but when I first visited the museum in 2010, it was interesting and unique to me. The museum has a rare collection of facts, pictures and objects detailing the historic evolution of toilets from 2500 BC to date. It also displays the various toilet designs used in different countries at different points of time. Who would have thought that the French king Louis the XIV actually had a commode built under his throne. The replica of the throne is now being displayed in the museum. My visit to the museum was a unique experience, not because it was a museum of toilets but because I learnt something which I never would have known or thought of. Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak the founder of the toilet museum has rightly said, “The toilet is a part of the history of human hygiene and a critical chapter in the growth of civilization.” Museums have so much to offer then we could imagine.

In a small state like Nagaland we have a state museum in Kohima which people hardly visit, and some small private museums maintained by some private collectors or private institutions which people hardly know about. This is because there is a lack of awareness among the people. Museums can be used as a tool to bring awareness among the people to protect our cultural heritage. A nation’s past is reflected in the museum through its collections which represents the rich cultural heritage of the past. There are so many things to learn yet so little interest. One way of making the people aware on the importance of museum is through schools and colleges. Museums in educational institutions will help educate the students through informal learning. One of the main aims of a museum is to educate, and therefore educational institutions can be the right platform to fulfil its objective. The students can be encouraged to actively participate in the museum activities whilst learning about their past cultures.

The identity of a community is reflected through the museum. Nagas have a rich cultural heritage- what we live with today and what we can pass on to our future generation. The cultural materials that we have, can be collected, preserved and displayed in the museums. Many a times we neglect or destroy our cultural heritage because of our ignorance. Museum is a culture centre, a medium of life-long education through which we can create awareness on our historical, social and political developments. A visit to the museum is an education in itself because you never know what you might find and learn. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Waiting for Superman - Kvulo Lorin, Director-Administration

“You don’t have to wait till your party’s in power to have an impact on life at home and around the world.”
BILL CLINTON, speech at Campus Progress National Student Conference, July 13, 2005

Waiting for Superman

We have had an overdose of politics for the past two weeks. Everywhere you turn, whether it’s social media, the newspapers or a normal get together of friends and family, conversation invariably veers towards what is happening in the government. We seem to be in an interesting predicament. Friends have turned foe and a party governing Nagaland for more than a decade has proven to be its own worst enemy blatantly exposing its inability to govern itself. Along with the Naga People’s Front, legislators are the supporters of the two rival camps who are now happily shaming each other vigorously and loudly as they each claim to be the real NPF.

The funny thing is, in the online world, the majority seem to prefer President’s rule more than anything else. It’s probably because the public have been promised the moon too many times only to see the promises disappear. Looking at the current situation though, it is not just the credibility of the NPF party that is at stake here but the credibility of our Naga politicians.

We could be at a tipping point. There are many people frustrated with the long drawn out Naga political situation, taxation, bad roads, prohibition, and now the blatant opportunistic pursuit of power by our politicians. Reading all the political news reminded me of a cousin of mine who has probably changed parties more often than some people change their bed sheets. Every election we would see him at his busiest, fluttering from one relatives home to the next and exhorting all to support his candidate. He would tell anyone who cared to listen, how well he understood the political environment and how his candidate would win. Unfortunately, in the last three state elections, not one of his candidates ever won. When he was with Party A, they lost twice and when he finally switched to the rival camp and joined party B… party B lost. I haven’t been in touch with him and am not sure which camp he is in now, but I sure hope he is in the right camp this time. So, whether we have President’s rule, NPF (Kaito) or NPF (TR), as one journalist aptly labelled it in the 18th January 2015 issue of The Morung Express, let’s see who wins this “Game of Thrones in Nagaland”.

Jokes aside, politics can be dirty. According to a YouthNet report, ₹ 937 crore was spent during the February 2013 Nagaland Assembly Elections which was almost double the amount spent during the 2008 elections. Though we think we have the right to vote and choose our leaders, the reality is very different. We profess to uphold and practice democracy, but booth capturing and villages or clans forcing all members to vote as a mass block reveal the lie. It’s ironic that in the national stage we see BJP commanding an overwhelming majority comprising of members from so many different tribes, religions, languages, castes and yet able to provide what looks like a stable government and proved it knows how to improve the economy. The year 2014 actually ended on a buoyant note, with the benchmark indices, Sensex and BSE showing a marked appreciation of at least 30% over the year even though other emerging economies like Brazil and Russia are floundering. Sadly, even though Nagaland has only a few tribes where the majority of its citizens follow the same religion, the overwhelming majority of the NPF in our state legislature is actually creating more instability in governance.

While our politicians play musical chairs with their portfolios, actual work towards solving the numerous problems impeding Nagaland’s growth is not happening. Governance is not easy. And to develop a culture of good governance is going to be a tall order for whoever occupies ‘the throne’. But if our state has any hope of climbing out of the current deficit on its own without help from the central government then it is going to need to take some bold and tough decisions. Decisions that make economic sense and not ‘ism’ sense. It’s going to have to enforce rules and punish crime and tackle the problems confronting society head on instead of maintaining a muted silence over controversial matters like prohibition, corruption, taxation and crime. Nagaland is just the right size and has just the right population to bring about quick and effective change if the WILL is there. But it needs our leaders to first swallow their egos and sit down together.

For too long when elections are fought, our politicians have adopted an "us" vs "them" argument. Each and every election we see one group telling us that "they", the rival party are the problem, not "us." But the funny thing in this case is that it’s not an us versus them issue. In fact, all the politicians were actually from the same party and some of them are still referring to each other as their best friends.  So as they bicker among themselves like children wanting a toy only for themselves, I guess, if things don’t change, the rest of us will carry on with our lives and go on to blame our politicians for all our problems, while conveniently forgetting Joseph de Maistre’s statement that every nation gets the nation it deserves. But with all the problems around us, I think we need Superman more than a CM to rescue us now.

“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. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Listening Wisely - Imtitola Ao, Assistant Professor, Department of Commerce

There is a lot of noise around us. We need to be wise to figure out the right signals in order to create the right values for ourselves and those around us.
Societies which are smaller tend to be more close-knit, and thereby one can get a lot of unsolicited advice and opinions. Not to say this is bad, but we need to be wiser about what we choose or who we listen to. The fable about 'The man, the son and a donkey' is very telling.
Listening Wisely

A man and his son were going to the market with their donkey. As they were walking along, a countryman passed them and said: “You fools! What is a donkey for but to ride upon?” Hearing that the man put the son on the donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.” Hearing that the man ordered his son to get off, and sat on the donkey himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.” Hearing that the man pulled up his son and so that both of them were sitting on the donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey with you and your hulking son?” Then the man and boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to the market bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he drowned. “That will teach you,” said an old wise man who had followed them and then said “Please all, and you will please none.”
The point is we can't please everyone. We have to figure out what we have, in what context, and accordingly make wise decisions. There are many factors that affects our lives, either directly or indirectly. Be it from individual choices, family, society, and leaders (political, economic, religion). The question is, are we putting our efforts to better our society or are we creating our own brand or are we trying to please others for your own benefit?
What is something that we can change today? As responsible citizens we can do something and commit to making a positive impact in our own circles. There is so much that we can change. But the first and most important one is the change from within instead of trying to fit in. If we do that we can change the society as a whole. As we enter a new year, do we continue thinking about and trying to solve social and individual issues using the same pattern and tools, or do we rediscover or redesign or restandardise the way we think? One way to do that is to apply the marketing discipline to social issues and causes and use it as a framework for developing innovative solutions for social issues.
One of the important functions of marketing is to understand the consumer and satisfy their needs and wants. The key tenet of marketing is really about listening and understanding the consumer. You cannot be a responsible individual, an honourable political leader, a dynamic church leader, a noble teacher or a successful entrepreneur without knowing the power of listening. We cannot bring changes from what we do if there is no value, what you preach in the church if it is hypocritical, what you promise if it is just words, or what you teach in the classroom if there is no substance. And to deliver the change what we really need to do is listen.
To solve issues and to move forward, we should agree to a common framework so that we can (i) analyse and evaluate our own duties and responsibilities, services and behaviors that will improve individual and social well-being, (ii) realign incentives and costs to facilitate behaviours for the individual and social goods, (iii) create opportunities and improve the services that encourage and support. Besides everything, what we should be is audience-centric.
Until every individual shares common frameworks for understanding and communicating with each other, we cannot expect much beyond a blind man describing an elephant.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Happiness Doesn’t Cost A Thing - Namsurei Thomas Kamei, Head of Department of Economics

Money affects our lives in many different ways. Practices such as corruption, extortion, and taxation that are prevalent in our land are all about money. The power structures dictate that the wealthy are more powerful and influential, tipping the scales in their favour, and suggesting what we prefer to deny that with money comes power. Yet, we ask ‘does money actually guarantee us true happiness’? While it may be a necessity to survive, how much money do we really need to be happy?

Happiness Doesn’t Cost A Thing

Happy New Year 2015 to all the readers! It’s a common practice to make resolutions for the New Year, which we don’t keep most of the time. This New Year I have made a resolution not to make resolutions (except one which I intend to disclose later). It is also common that during Christmas and New Year, Christians all over the world become more Christian. For some of us, it is time to visit the church even if we haven’t done so for the whole year. We all do these in the hope of finding happiness.

 Many of us will agree that we saved up money for these celebrations. Extra shopping makes us feel that we are ready for Christmas and New Year celebrations. Most of us feel that if we have shopped enough, we will be happy enough. This is distantly the feeling among many of us around this time of the year.  We equate happiness with what money can buy. We frequently equate success with the amount of money we earn. For most of us, money has become central to all important events in our lives.

Looking at the society we live in, the most respected person in a community is, almost all the time, the highest earning member and the highest contributor to, most frequently religious or church related activities. Someone who takes the final decision seems to be the person who controls the purse. Someone who can sway things is a deep pocketed person. Money is occupying a central position in our lives. But is money the most important? Does money merit the importance we attach with it? Does money gain us real respect? Does money buy us happiness? Shall we limit our lives by taking decisions which are always money based?

In my opinion, there are higher human values that money can’t buy. Human beings as we are, we need love, respect, honour and security and above all we crave for happiness. Does money buy us all these values?

Traditionally, money has been in use as a measure of development, growth and even happiness. It is commonly understood that money is a means to growth, development and happiness. So we have countries of the world classified according to their level of income. We have countries with high income, with middle-level income and low income. The progress and development of a nation is judged by the amount of income it generates during a time period, usually one fiscal year.  Accordingly, we have the so called developed countries, the developing and the under developed countries. It is perceived that higher level of income ensures higher standard of living and higher level of happiness. The differences in these categories of countries are limitless. But surprisingly, there is no single parameter by which we can measure development. Income or money isn’t a sufficient measure for level of development. Money can’t define development. It can’t define progress. Certainly it can’t define happiness. If we are to go, purely by the level of income, the country with the highest per capita income (PCI) must be the country where its citizens are almost in the state of perfect living conditions. Often, this is not the case. Factors like environmental conditions (pollution), law and order problems, political instability, and availability of social overheads determine the level of wellness of the people of a society.  Thus, money isn’t everything.

If I am new to any place in Nagaland say, Dimapur, and ask someone to take me there; I wonder where I will be taken. There are localities, villages and khels. But there is no single place which defines Dimapur once we reach there. Happiness, progress, growth and development are something similar to the concept above. Centralizing money as everything is incomplete. There are more things to life than money.

Economists define “money as a matter of four functions; a medium of exchange, a store of value, a unit of account and a standard of deferred payment”. Money has been serving us with these important functions. It has also solved the problem inherent in barter system. In short, it has simplified our life’s activities, but it has never served as a source for happiness.  For some of us, money, which is just a means has become the end itself. As humans, we strive for so many things. For all who are striving- let us strive for happiness.

2014 is gone, 2015 is here and 2016 is what we will be looking forward to. What is done can’t be undone. The future is uncertain. The present is all that we have. The moment at present is all that matters for us. We all want happiness certainly. We all need money. But how much money do you need? Which is a better option? To have lots of money but no happiness at all in life or to have some money and all the happiness in life. Surprisingly, both happiness and money can be earned. It is ironic that we tried earning money to find happiness but in the process we missed little things that make us smile. How much time do we devote to find that happiness in a simple way? Do we forget those moments that lighten our lives in our mad pursuit for money? How important is happiness in your life? How important is money in your life?

This year I will give my 100% in everything I do without worrying too much about the outcome because that is my simplest way of finding happiness. This is my resolution for the New Year. What about yours?


Friday, 2 January 2015

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. 

The Missing Principles in Naga Society - Zuchano Khuvung, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Moral and ethical values as social categories are crucial for generating a sound culture in any given society. However, people tend t...