Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Malady of Unemployment - Daoharu Basumatary, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics

Why is there extensive unemployment, absence of socio-economic development, pitiful living standards and over all lack of opportunities in our society? These are some of the questions we may have as concerned citizens. We may even be aware of the many contributing factors to these problems, such as corruption, overloaded government sectors, heavy reliance on government, etc. Yet, apart from these social and political factors we also need to understand the economic factors contributing to the existing socio-political problems that hamper economic growth and development in our society: absence of production, inefficient use of resources, unused resources, among many others.

                                             The Malady of Unemployment

The term ‘employment’ is understood in different ways by different people. However, for a layman, it is understood synonymously with having paid jobs; whether in private or public sector. Employment is the ultimate goal of education. In today’s world of cut-throat competition, getting employed in a job which meets expectations is a Herculean task. One of the burning issues in today’s world is the problem of unemployment. Every country has this problem, even powerful ones like the United States of America is not an exception. Employment is required and sought after because it brings income and financial security to the people. A person who is unemployed is very likely to have a hard time fulfilling obligations to his family. Development ceases. Unemployment is like an unwanted guest; every country to do away with it. The modern age brought in advances in medicine and science, but at what cost? Now the rising population stands as an obstacle to fighting unemployment.

It is generally observed that populous countries of the world are the ones which have high unemployment levels, however, there are exceptions to it. Japan, which has a high density of population, does not have a serious unemployment problem. Countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc. have high growth rates of population and correspondingly high unemployment rates. Unemployment is always the cause of many social and economic problems.

The term employment if understood from the point of view of economics will mean using available resources or putting the available resource in use. As such, the concept of employment envelopes within it, and terms like self-employment, employer-employee, employment of resource, and the likes fall under these dynamics. Employment levels as such determine the level of income and income disparity among and within nations.  The way the developed nations of the world employ available resources is one of the important reasons as to why their income levels are high, and why job opportunities are also higher when compared to under-developed countries. They have the resources, and most importantly, the technology to utilize it in a productive way. For them, the different sectors of the economy are so connected that they are able to generate employment and income.

To take an example, the farmers and cultivators of developed nations use machineries and equipment which have been manufactured in factories within their own country. This way both the agricultural and industrial sectors move on and progress together, one supporting the other. In under-developed countries, there is very little or no connection between the various sectors of the economy. It has been observed that unemployment levels are relatively higher and income levels are comparatively lower in these countries.

India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world but this statement skips many of the facts. Some states are way ahead of the others when it comes to employment and income equality. In this regard, the North-Eastern part of the country is lacking far behind. States like Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, and Maharashtra have made considerable stride in various sectors owing to strategic planning and maximizing the utilization of available capital. Hence, it is no surprise that their employment levels and income levels are much better compared to those of the North-Eastern parts of India.

Diamonds in our backyard, yet a trip across seven seas in search of fortune; that’s what comes to mind when one considers the plight of the North-Eastern states. Our resources, in the form of agricultural output, land, crude oil, tourism, textiles, food processing, etc. are lying idle. Yes, there are many roadblocks to fully utilizing these but we need to understand that this is one of the reasons as to why the unemployment problem is so acute over here. Since production involves utilization of resources and of course, since most of us here are satisfied with dead-end government jobs, we have a long way to go. We are left dependent on other states where production does take place. Is then meticulously planned entrepreneurship an answer to unemployment?

What strikes me is had the available resources been utilized efficiently, the problem of unemployment could have been under control. The irony is such that our region is endowed with many natural resources but we are yet to actually start using it to our advantage. Perhaps someday in the future this would be a possibility. To some extent, the cloud of political instability which looms over this region is also to blame.

Resources by themselves are like caged up birds who could have soared the azure skies otherwise. The system and situation that is prevailing in this part of the country is more or less like that of caged birds. A land which could be extremely prosperous and soar, is not, and dealing with the ever rising rates of unemployment. Is our government doing enough? And most importantly, are we aware of the various provisions made by the government?

It is an established fact that idle resources don’t generate any employment or income by itself. They have to be employed in an efficient manner. On the other hand, we cannot argue of simply exploiting the available resources and employing them. Rather, we should think of optimal utilization of our resources. We do have many entrepreneurs coming up in our state, which is a welcome change. Employment opportunities are thus being created with the initiative of these few radicals. We need more of these radicals. In these small steps lie the prediction of the coming of better days. Nagaland does have a bright future; the only question is how long is it going to take for that ‘future’ to become a ‘present’?  We have to look beyond our petty issues and understand ‘the diamonds’ are in our backyard.

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 recognized Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Dr. Salikyu Sangtam, Nivibo Yiki, and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Mental Health and Its Misconceptions -Amenla Jamir, Assistant Professor, Department of Education

Marilyn Monroe is considered to be a pop culture icon. Known for her 'blonde' persona, Monroe enjoyed immense success in the 1950s and was considered to be an embodiment of the American Dream. However, people disliked her for her frequent outbursts and mood swings. Crew members and fellow actors of her 1959 film ‘Some Like it Hot' were severely annoyed by her unprofessional behaviour as she needed more than 40 takes to get even the simplest of scenes right. What no one understood was the agony of a woman struggling with depression and paranoia. Ostracization from the film industry worsened her case, and at the age of 36, she is believed to have committed suicide. This week's article addresses the stigma associated with mental disorders.

Mental Health and and It's Misconceptions

Our Naga society has a rather disapproving outlook towards those who suffer from mental disorders and conditions. The negativity builds a stigma around the subject, which results in hushed conversations in marketplaces and raised eyebrows of people who know very little of what the issue is about. People who are in need of professional counselling are thus denied of the same. It is important to stop treating this as a stigma, and develop a well rounded opinion of what mental health is all about.

Mental health is defined as a state of wellbeing in which individuals realise their own potentials, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make contributions to their communities. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being that affects how we behave and relate to others. 

But, before we talk about misconceptions that exist in our society, let us first try to identify what ‘mental illness' means. Mental illness is any condition that makes it difficult for an individual to cope with the daily functions and stresses of life. It affects one's studies, relationships, job, etc. Some general symptoms that may suggest mental illnesses in children and teenagers are changes in school performance, falling grades, inability to cope with daily problems and activities, changes in sleeping and eating habits, skipping school, stealing, frequent outbursts of anger, withdrawal from friends, intense fear of gaining weight, etc. In adults, the symptoms include confused thinking, strong feelings of anger, long lasting sadness or irritability, increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities, excessive fear, worry or anxiety, and abuse of drugs or alcohol. Mental health problems can cover a broad range of disorders, but the common characteristics is that they all affect a person's personality, thought processes, and social interactions. Unlike physical disorders, mental illnesses can be difficult to diagnose; as a result, our society views these problems as inconsequential. 

There is a misconception that mental illness affects only few people, but according to a research published by World Health Organisation (WHO), it was found that 1 in 5 people suffer from a mental disorder severe enough to affect school, work, or other aspects of life. In other words, mental illness is common. Another misconception is that mental illnesses cannot be treated. However, if these were true, therapy and treatment would be pointless. In fact, telling people ailing from depression that their problems will not go away, can deplete their already dwindling motivation to seek help. It is essential to remember that even though we don't know how to cure mental illnesses, it is possible to treat these ailments to the point that a person afflicted with such maladies can lead a happy and fulfilling life.

In recent years, Nagaland has witnessed an increase in mental illnesses. One misconception I have come across in our society regarding mental illness is, ‘MENTAL ILLNESS' means the person will be ‘VIOLENT' or ‘DESTRUCTIVE' for the society. In some cases that might be true, but not always. Many people with mental disorders are often stigmatized and discriminated by people around them, and they are forced to live in shame and suffer in silence, which in turn acts as a barrier for them to seek appropriate help and treatment.

Anxiety, depression, alcohol and sexual abuse, and bipolar disorders are some of the most common mental illnesses especially among the Naga youths. It is imperative for us to identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness at an early stage and try to treat it with proper care. When we look back to a decade ago, Nagas were not well aware of mental illnesses and their basic symptoms; however, there is a considerable change in public attitude towards people with mental disorder. And this improvement in the attitude of the society can be attributed to public awareness programs and formal education. Nevertheless, as far as I know, in our state, there is only one recognised mental health care facility, State Mental Health Institute-SMHI, located in Kohima. As a result, in our society, when persons are afflicted with some serious mental health problems, we prefer to go to prayer warriors, or traditional healers. Certainly, I am not against such methods, but what I am getting at is that as of now we don't really have well trained doctors or psychiatrists in our society to which patients afflicted with mental illnesses can go to, to get appropriate help and treatment. And so, we revert back towards the traditional methods of treating mental health problems.

Ultimately, the need of the hour in our state is to establish more mental health care facilities (at least one in every district) with well trained counsellors and psychiatrists. Additionally, it is also essential to include mental health education in our education programs with special emphasis on mental disorders, its causes, and treatments. Such inclusion of mental health in our educational syllabus will help increase public's awareness of such ailments: how to identify signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, how they can be treated, and where they can be treated.

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 recognized Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Dr. Salikyu Sangtam, Nivibo Yiki, and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Faux Feminism -Adit Pame, Assistant Professor, Department of English

Mahatma Gandhi once remarked: “Women will not make her contribution to the world by mimicking or running a race with men. She can run the race, but she will not rise to the great heights she is capable of by mimicking man. She has to compliment of man.” Has feminism lost its grip with its true essence by “mimicking” and “running a race with men”? Do feminists even have a cogent understanding of that which they claim to proselytize? Or has feminism been reduced to trite sound bites and fashion statements?

Faux Feminism

Feminism is the belief and aim that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. Feminism at its commencement by popular definition was to acquire the right to vote for women. But although suffrage could be rightly termed as the focal point which ignited feminism, the word has evolved to embrace multifarious beliefs deemed favourable for the overall elevation of women.

Feminism is about gender equality, and not gender sameness. Men and women need to have equal rights and privileges. Having said that, men and women are different, and have contradistinctive qualities and attributes, and that's something which we should revere and hold in respect.

If we reminisce about the wave of feminist movements in the past, the purpose was to get equal status as men which include the right to vote vis-à-vis the role of women in society. It also gave emphasis on the issues of gender and race inequality and the campaign for women's rights and interests.

Mary Wollstonecraft, the English philosopher and advocate of women’s rights in her 1972 book, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” strongly promoted the rights of women. She professed that men and women have the same capabilities or potentialities and strongly denied that women were inferior to men. One of the most revered feminist writers of the modern age, Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay, “A Room of One's Own” is a specimen of twentieth-century feminist musing where she stressed on the importance of how a woman needs to have a specific income, and also a room of her own. It is through independence and solitude that women will be able to create or produce something new and finally have their voices heard.

Today's feminism is sadly losing grip on the true essence and values which the feminist movements of the past entailed. It is more or less metamorphosing into a fashion statement that people want to follow, without actually understanding what feminism actually is.

The real problem is that there are so many self-proclaimed feminists with their own vested interests, much like the thousands of self-proclaimed god-men we have in India. They have no clear goals for empowering women.

Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski, earlier this year tweeted a picture of themselves, topless and ‘flipping the bird’. These self-proclaimed feminists defended their gestures by asserting that it was a luminous example of liberating their sexual freedom, thereby empowering women to be more independent.

As someone who believes in gender equality, I was petrified by what they were actually trying to do. To me, it didn’t appear empowering at all. On the contrary, it appeared like fame-hungry women desperately trying to get attention by flaunting their bodies. A woman’s sexuality should not be oppressed by the patriarchal society, yes. But celebrities posting nude photographs of themselves I feel qualifies more as an exhibitionist act. It is downright pretentious, and has nothing to do with fighting the cause of gender equality.

The feminist fervour of the past and present are in stark contrast to each other. Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British Suffrage movement in the 1920s, asserted, "I demand the right to vote". Kim Kardashian, while accepting a Webby Award in 2016 said, "Nude selfies until I die."  Young women have been brainwashed into believing that flaunting their bodies is actually self-empowering. They are following false ideals of feminism projected by female ‘role models’, many of whom call themselves "feminists".

It is downright tacky. Since when was feminism about complete narcissism? I am not against a woman dressing in a way that accentuates her femininity. What I do care about is women cheapening themselves into sexual objects. So many women claim to be feminist without truly knowing what it means to be a feminist.

‘Free the Nipple Campaign’ is a 2015 movement which claims to empower women.  This campaign promotes women's equal right to go topless in public— a right that men have and are freely allowed anywhere. It is also important to take into account the many women who are against literally exposing their breasts in public. Just because men are allowed to be bare-chested doesn't mean women should do the same. That's not how equality works. Women and men have anatomically different bodies, and each has varied attributes. Some women, who claim to be feminists, are in support of walking bare-chested everywhere. To me, this is where the campaign fails miserably.

It is also worth mentioning that many celebrities are using this campaign to gain publicity. This campaign, an example of everything wrong with current trends in ‘feminism’, has no clear cut plans and ideologies. It is only an excuse for women to cheekily post topless selfies on social media week in, week out, without actually doing anything to promote gender equality in the true sense. This campaign is not really necessary. Faux movements like these have altered what people think and imagine feminism is all about.

I firmly believe in the message sent out by Emma Watson, a UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador. At an event for the HeForShe campaign, she said, “The more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realised that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating.” Gender inequality is not an issue which concerns and affects women alone. It will come to an end only if men are given a chance, and do actively partake in dealing with this issue. It is this one sided faux feminism which is flawed, and has no clear goals.

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 recognized Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Dr. Salikyu Sangtam, Nivibo Yiki, and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Education in Nagaland - Dr. Salikyu Sangtam, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

What sets humans apart from animals is our ability to reason. Perhaps that is why we have been able to develop as a race, by questioning age old norms and doing away with traditions that avert progress. However, is our Education system training young minds to question and reason? Are we producing thinking beings or another Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchets?

Education in Nagaland

It is exam time in Nagaland. Across the state, as colleges under the Nagaland University system embark on the end-of-the-term semester exams, it is also a time to ponder on what the ‘exams’ in our educational system signify. It is worth reflecting on this issue because one will soon realize the problems intrinsic in the existing arrangement. Any astute person who bothers to do so will soon realize that exam times are when students tirelessly memorize the received information shoved into them by their teachers in the past four months. What is also interesting about such culture of preparations is that students completely disgorge the memorized materials from their mind, body and soul, that, after the exams, nothing of what they have learned remains with them. Now, is this learning? Is this education? Is this even sensible?

Surely, it would be imprudent to blame the students for memorizing the materials because such study-culture stems from the way in which the entire educational structure is organized in Nagaland. I believe that there is a threefold structural problem inherent in this arrangement: the syllabi, the state university system and the quality of teachers. It is also essential to note that these three problems are in concatenation and must not be viewed as factors independent of one another.

The syllabi of Nagaland University is obsolete and unnecessarily vast. Indeed, I encourage concerned readers to check the NU’s website to substantiate this claim. If one looks, for instance, at the curricula of our state’s most prevalent Honors such as Political Science, English, Sociology, History, Education etc., one will soon realize not only the obsoleteness but also the needless immensity of the curricula. Let me elaborate using some cases to illustrate the problem.

English honors students in their first semester are required to study a paper titled ‘History of English Literature.’ Here, the teachers and students are obliged to complete, in the space of four months, 800 plus years of English literature. The problem is, there are too many unwarranted facts for the students to digest. This leaves them overwhelmed and at the same time bewildered in the labyrinth of facts that renders this course useless. Of what use are these facts, hastily transiting from one period to another when the learners are given neither the time nor the space to retain and reflect on how these ‘facts’ are incorporated in the larger realm of their understanding of the English literature?

Another case in point concerns two papers in the curriculum of Political Science. In the third and fourth semester, Political Science honors students take the prerequisite papers on ‘International Organization’ and ‘International Politics’ respectively. The issue here is that the latter should be taken in the third semester and the former in the fourth semester. How can students understand international organization when they aren’t even aware of the basic fundamentals of international politics essential for understanding the theoretical and practical underpinnings of international organizations? This is equivalent to putting the cart before the horse! Furthermore, even some of the topics within international organization are superfluous such as ‘the League of Nations.’ I do not know of any educational institutions anywhere in the world where so much weight (20/100) is given to an obsolete topic.

I could certainly go on citing more examples but that would be needless. And mind you, these are not isolated cases. Cases such as these pervade Sociology, History, Education, and Anthropology. Additionally, each syllabus is permeated with the terms ‘nature, scope, meaning, and significance’ further solidifying the ‘learn-by-heart’ culture of education. What can be ascertained is that the curricula have been so structured that they, implicitly or explicitly, highlight the prominence of memorization stemming from the gratuitous enormity of the dated syllabi, where importance is given to quantity of facts shoved down the students’ throats rather than reasoning or understanding.

What’s more, when the state government, assisted by inept faculties of the state university, decides on a top-down basis on how education should be structured, operated and what curricula should be implemented, as is the case in Nagaland, then one must not expect such educational arrangement to be first-rated or even second-rated. Rather such is a breeding ground for mediocrity, for state government committees with their command and control structure, isolate and alienate both the teachers and the learners. And in most cases, learning and education altogether cease to exist.

Lastly, because of the curricula and the structure of education, quality of teachers becomes ancillary. Certainly, there is no shortage of qualified teachers; however, ‘qualified’ does not mean Quality. The issue here is, the present system in place to judge the ‘quality’ is faulty. Just because teachers have a Ph.D., M.Phil, NET, etc., it does not mean they have the ‘Quality.’ Rather they are products of a system where they’ve been trained to memorize and aver from reasoning. What’s more, this culture perpetuates itself unto the next generation and so on.

Readers would have realized that each problem feeds off the other. They are in cyclical relationship perpetuating the noxious system of education that puts an end to the hopes and aspirations of countless students. No doubt, aforementioned problems can be remedied, yet they nevertheless require concrete efforts on the part of the teachers, students, colleges, and society.

I hope readers will graciously forgive me if I have given any cause for offense, for that is not my intent. After all, this is just a pensive rumination of a concerned teacher on the future of his students.

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 recognized Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Dr. Salikyu Sangtam, Nivibo Yiki, and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

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...