Monday, 26 June 2017

The Absurdity of Masculinity -Anjan K Behera, Acting HoD, Department of English

                                                    






The problem of masculinity is not with the behaviour itself, but over what society interprets and shapes the term into. A superficial understanding of the term enables the subjugation of men who must adhere to certain behavioural patterns to be deemed “manly”.







                                                    The Absurdity of Masculinity

It had been an agreeable wedding, and while I did want to sit and appreciate the beauty of the newlyweds, the hunger pangs from my stomach dictated my exit from the colourful tent. My mind was particularly mesmerised by the faint whiff of the succulent mutton cooked with an army of spices, which drifted lazily through the crisp winter air. As the distance between me and the decked up plates grew shorter, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that my mouth contorted itself into an involuntary smile. It was then when I could realise sniggers and remarks. I had committed the unforgivable mistake of ignoring the unsaid rule of “Ladies first!” which had surprisingly found its way to a remote village in Odisha, to taunt me during the reception I was attending. “He can’t wait for the ladies to serve first?” “He thinks he is a lady?” I ignored the jeers, served myself a plateful, and sat to eat like a king. It was a win for menfolk everywhere, or so I thought!
This isolated incident made me wonder, how much of freedom do men really have today? The world may be patriarchal; our language, our traditions, everything; yet, aren’t men also being subjugated to several expectations and demands? By expecting women to have a “correct” existence, society has also placed several limitations on men. Take for instance the television ad for ‘Wildstone Talc for Men’ where a man is about to apply an unnamed “ladies’ talcum powder”. The voice-over for the ad taunts the man for using a ladies’ talcum powder, saying he is exasperated with the sight of effeminate men everywhere, which apparently is a crisis of epic proportions, and a contributing factor is the usage of women’s beauty products. In conclusion, the voice-over says, “Use Wildstone Talc for Men, Be a Man!”
This sexist ad almost portrays feminine behaviour as a disease: that one could ‘catch it’ and be ruined. It establishes the kind of masculinity our society has traditionally expected from men. However, one must realise that masculinity and femininity are just behavioural patterns, with fluid attachments to one’s gender. Psychoanalysts Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud both concluded that the divide between masculinity and femininity is more of a social construct. Male children are taught to be masculine as they grow up. “Don’t cry like a girl!”, “Don’t throw like a girl”, and “Be a man”; reinforcements like these automatically create the pattern for masculinity in young adults, and then the cycle is repeated when these children have kids of their own.
Anything outside the set norm is considered ‘deviant’. Biological males who do not fit the standards set for them are often deemed ‘unmanly’, a term used to justify bullying. A study conducted by Audrey Ruth Omar of the University of Iowa found that men who tend to be masculine, are more accepting of violence, and often bully men who aren’t masculine. This was depicted in the ABC musical comedy-drama series Glee. Finn Hudson (played by the late Cory Monteith) being the quarterback of the football team, is at the top of the high school social hierarchy. He is considered masculine and even participates in bullying others. Later, he himself gets bullied after he joins the Glee club and performs in the choir. His football teammates feel Finn is turning effeminate, now that he sings and dances, and call him ‘gay’.
This fan favourite television show portrayed a fundamental fact, that orientation is unrelated to masculinity or femininity. The fallacy of a correlation is propagated by the society, which leads to shaming and bullying. Men have to be masculine to be accepted and respected by the society. The obsession with masculinity is a leading cause of homophobia. Several studies show that a contributing factor to alcoholism in men is to fulfill certain social expectations of ‘manliness’, with college men being the risk group for this kind of behaviour. In a research conducted by R L Peralta of the University of Akron, it was found that 68% of college going men reported that they equated the ability to consume large amounts of alcohol without vomiting or fainting as a characteristic of masculinity, and the inability to do this was considered as a sign of femininity, weakness, and even homosexuality.
It’s not just alcoholism. Across societies, men engage themselves in several risk behaviours to prove their masculinity. I have several male friends who think eating large quantities of meat while avoiding vegetables is manly. Manly behaviour also includes engaging and boasting about sexual promiscuity, which is deemed synonymous with masculinity. Men are venerated by peers for their sexual conquests and treated like the alpha male. This leaves them susceptible to HIV and STDs. Traditional masculine behaviour encourages violence; from images of Beowulf battling a dragon, and of the ‘knight in shining armour’. Tattoos and piercings are also seen as signs of masculinity.
In popular media, especially in advertisements, the ‘macho man’ stays away from domestic chores at all costs. He is never shown cooking or cleaning but emerges as the one who must be served and respected. Certain colours, professions, expressions and words are off limits for the manly man. Our society adores the masculine man, and men have over the centuries striven to be identified as masculine. I agree that women have suffered more owing to social norms and gender stereotyping; however, it is also necessary to acknowledge that men are definitely not free from this vicious trap they have unwittingly constructed for themselves.
Maybe the first step in doing away with these absurd identities is not obsessing over what she/he should be, but rather appreciating the uniqueness of each individual.

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. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Anjan K Behera, Tatongkala Pongen, Nungchim Christopher, and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Naga Society: A Cry for Hope - Rukusheyi Rhakho, BA 3rd Semester (English Honours)

                                                           


What is the youth’s opinion about our Naga society today? Read on to take a deeper look into the mind of a youth, who strongly feels disenchanted with the way Naga society has progressed. Rukusheyi Rhakho voices out in downright frustration about the state of affairs in our State. It’s time we asked ourselves, are we giving enough hope, guidance and the right environment to our youth to believe in a positive future for Nagaland? Can we give hope to our future?

Naga Society: A Cry for Hope

Lately, I have been numbed out of my senses by the idle talks that my parents and elderly neighbours are engaging with. They seem enthusiastic to share and talk about the Naga Political Groups (NPGs); the stories of their exploits and the heroic sacrifices they made in the hands of the occupational forces.  Naturally, these narratives seem interesting and there is no doubt that some of them were real heroes. Yet, relating and comparing them to how much of a hero they were, and the counsel to never forget their sacrifices on almost daily basis seem to astound me. And so I usually stop paying any attention to what they say. However, on pondering, something strikes my head - a brainstorm.
Imagine them on the battlefield during the final moment of their lives. They surely must have thought or presumed that “I’m doing this for my country; I’m doing this so that the future generations don’t have to go through what I have gone through”.  And the notion “for a better future” must have emboldened them to sacrifice.  But sadly, somewhere along the way, the nation that they bled and died for has become so messed up. No doubt, our society has reached new heights and levels that things once unknown are within sights but sadly, not in a good way. Our society has gone down in terms of morality, integrity and values that the Nagas were once known for.
We have fallen to greed to such an extent that we have lost all our morality for the love of money and are ready to do whatever it is to get them. The new trend of trying to get easy money and become rich in no time has replaced our moral principles. Corruption has reached a new level that it is not only the government or the state that’s involved in it but the very nook and cranny in every level of the society. The love for worldly pleasures and comforts and declining morality (with topics I rather not mention) has taken root in our society. We were never this way so why now? The hypocritical extent of our society is that we are willing to sacrifice others even to the extent of killing our own brothers over petty differences but are willing to take and steal as long as it means profit to us. When we are the affected we cry foul saying “it isn’t fair, it isn’t right”  or that “ we should ban that or this”  but when the time comes we are in the forefront  indulging in it  (I have even seen people going  to the extent of  demanding tax on old age pension meant for the elderly). We need to know that we just can’t always get a ‘scapegoat’ for every fault done by us out there but need to own up responsibility and accept the fact that we have ourselves to be blamed for almost everything. Are we not responsible for degrading and destroying whatever little hopes we are nurturing?
We the Nagas have rather a subtle way of doing those things we claim we don’t do and so we fail to see the broader vision or the sight of what we are actually doing and as such we can always deny it on the pretext of one thing or the other. After all that has happened around us, do we ever think or realize that it all began when we decided to take that one wrong little ‘decision’? If only we could change what we did back then, not much can be said over the society that we have become.  Like me, I do believe, there must be lots of people who share the same value and resent what we have become. Yet, all hope is not lost as we can see people coming out and trying to change the society that we live in. Their endeavors to change what have been wronged are encouraging signs.  But the question remains can we accept the change? Can we accept that we too are at fault? If yes we are heading towards the rising sun if not we are heading towards the setting sun. As far as I’m concerned it would take a mammoth task to backtrack out of our mistakes.
Not that everyone has the foresight to see into our own mistakes and we seriously need one but our own ego and pride have stood as a stumbling block to everything. Have we become our own undoing? Are we the reason that our society is so messed up? Are we not the ones paying for the misadventure of some unmotivated idiot lost in his schemes? Can we hope in the new generation? Or will it be the same? To be honest, I have no hope on the present leaders in our society and on those who are in power now. Maybe the upcoming generation can instill the hope and endeavor and usher the will for a change.  On the ending note, if God could show them what would become of the cause of the nation our forefathers fought so reverently for, what would they say? What would they feel knowing that their dreams and ideals are degrading? Frankly, if I were in their place, I would have questioned everything.
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. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Anjan K Behera, Tatongkala Pongen, Nungchim Christopher, and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Who is the Right Leader for Nagaland? - Shitio Shitiri, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

   Image credits: huffingtonpost.in

Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore catapulted Singapore from a stagnant Third World backwater to the front ranks of the First World in just three decades of governance with his imagination, courage, political will, and benign execution of power. Similarly, in a State like Nagaland that’s desperately crying out for transformation, dynamic leadership is required for dynamic change.  


Who is the Right Leader for Nagaland?

One essential ingredient of a state is the existence of visionary leaders. Our state has a good number of aspiring political leaders, but sadly very few live up to the expectations. Whatever position we may find ourselves enmeshed, one thing is certain that the quality of leadership determines the destiny of a state. It is the deeds committed by us which degrade or elevate our standing in the society we live. If good deeds are done with actual labor, then nobody can stop us from attaining the much cherished goal in our life. But if we have sinister motives in our mind and heart, then the exact opposite will happen. To be honest, the prospect of our future depends upon how we choose our leaders. We first need to be responsible for ourselves before we can be responsible for others. American author, speaker, and pastor John C Maxwell has said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”.

Nagas at this point of time don’t need politicians, but leaders who think and live for the people. We need true leaders, one who can lead the state and its people out of ignorance, corruption, and all kinds of evil and wrong practices. Good leadership requires a combination of charisma and integrity, as well as the ability to assess a situation and make decisions based on what would be best for the masses. We need leaders with integrity. The people need a consistency of values.
Unfortunately, there is lack of transparency and honest politicians. The lack of transparency results in the lack of trust. The best leaders are the ones who accept blame when things are wrong and give credit when things go right. Leaders need to let go of ego and focus on the growth of the society. The lack of commitment, formation of new party or shifting of loyalties to another cannot change the personality of a leader. I wonder how politicians at one given point of time were best comrades and later turn out to be foes. Trust is immediately shattered impeding the flow of honest feedback and communication through the ranks and files. One needs to stop the bloody war of blaming or pointing fingers at each other. We need to focus on being a person of integrity, not a person who doesn’t make mistakes. I cannot believe the abundance of ego and pride among our selfish arrogant leaders taking Nagaland from bad to worse.
We have failed to recognize good leaders from bad ones. Our leaders have failed us because of poor and fickle visions and goals. They are happy within their comfort zones, satisfied with the status quo, and tend to be more concerned about survival than growth. Such hardened leaders succeed in passing the lie detector test and befool the people for a while, but the day of reckoning will certainly come. A leader who lacks character and integrity will not endure the test of time. It doesn’t matter how intelligent, persuasive, or savvy a person is, if they are prone to rationalizing unethical behavior, they will eventually fall prey to their own undoing. Nobody is perfect, but leaders who consistently fail are not leaders. If leaders don’t understand the concept of “service above self”, they will not win the trust, confidence, and loyalty of those they lead. We need leaders who are fluid and flexible in their approach.
“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). We need fresh and young dynamic leaders for the bright future of our coming generation. Leaders are born out of you and me. The present holds the key to the future. If we want our future to be bright, we should be prepared to choose the right leader who can work honestly and incessantly in the right direction. It leads to the logical conclusion that if we want to gain something with one hand, we have to give up or sacrifice something in lieu with the other. Let not ‘creed, tribalism, money, selfish corrupted individuals’ vote bank’ replace ‘merit, competence, integrity, and honesty’. It’s a vicious cycle and the problem is somewhere inside and needs to be fixed. This is perhaps the most challenging reality for us to accept.
Politicians often promise the moon on a stick. When they fail to deliver, voters end up feeling disappointed and possibly even betrayed. Are the public leaders, the main actors in this play, satisfied with the way the government is working? Can we make a positive difference in the state? Where do we start? First we need to change our thought, attitude and behavior to ensure a better future and progressive society.
Public opinion, debate or discussion on a larger scale would be instrumental in minimizing the special advantages of the various interest groups that have often negatively influenced most processes relating to good governance.  We need to engage in some self reflection on why there is lack of political, economic and social growth. Indeed, we can be the change if we can change our mindset- ‘so be the change’ to contribute to the long term growth of good governance.
Election 2018 is approaching, and here we can be as clean as a whistle. Major changes start at the grassroots level. Perhaps you can’t save the world, but you can at least save your backyard for 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. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Anjan K Behera, Tatongkala Pongen, Nungchim Christopher, and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Power of Purpose - Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Vice Principal


Image credits- thesacredscience.com


“Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon,” said the janitor when asked what he was doing. The janitor knew his role had a purpose towards the success of something bigger.





The Power of Purpose
When Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, gave his commencement speech for Harvard’s Class of 2017, his message to the graduates was to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose. He said with technology and automation coming in rapidly, the meaning of purpose is changing with many people feeling disconnected and depressed, where the need is not just to create new jobs but to create a renewed sense of purpose to be truly happy.  
I don’t see why anyone would disagree with this, because having a sense of purpose is the truth of why we do what we do or even don’t do everyday. I think to take a look back at our lives, or a jump forward, is one way of measuring if we are able to fully live that sense of purpose.
Zuckerberg mentioned a story which corroborates the true meaning of accountability and having a sense of purpose.
“When John F Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”” The janitor knew he was part of a larger system, and that his role was integral to the success of something bigger - the man on the moon. He knew his purpose.
In the context of Nagaland, I think for some it makes complete sense, but for some others it might not at all. And it is that section of population who cannot relate, either because they really do feel like they are doing nothing at all – because of a number of reasons - they’re unemployed, they’re drop-outs or they can’t relate because they live on a hand to mouth existence, are frustrated with the whole system, feel a lack of equal opportunities, or are unsure if they’re in the right profession or aren’t exactly passionate about what they are doing.
To an observer, this already says a lot about the state of affairs in our State. If we were to trace back the reasons for having reached our current state, I think the magnitude of the problems would be overwhelming. It begins from the policies we already have in place to the way they are executed, where most times even the rule of law does not serve any purpose, and the checks and balances we desperately need to ensure efficiency. Then there are the tribal idiosyncrasies practiced in Nagaland, the power of brawn, might and money which we have just not been able to move away from.
How do we deal with this? Apart from some individuals breaking through the iron barriers, I believe it is so important to have leaders, managers, supervisors, visionaries who can bring everyone together to inspire, encourage, empower, and give hope to others that there is a sense of renewed purpose in why we do what we do everyday. It’s not that we don’t have any, it’s just that we need more, in every single industry; where we are all working together, supporting each other and not going against each other. Just starting from the grassroot is not enough, it is through the right advice, the right guidance and the right knowledge and information that actually reaches the grassroot that empowers everyone to start hoping and aspiring for something better.
And, not to undermine anyone here, but I don’t think it’s possible for everyone to perform that role either. Our social dynamics is complex in Nagaland. I believe that it is those who have the insight, intellect, ability and are also in a position of influence, are the ones who can create a greater sense of purpose for others too. But this also does not mean that the rest of us can’t and must sit and wait for our sense of purpose to be served on a platter either. But that these could be the first steps towards building a support system to be enablers for each other.
It is never easy that’s for sure. Adversities and challenges prevail everywhere. What Sheryl Sandberg wrote is very poignant - “The sad truth is that adversity is not evenly distributed among us; marginalized and disenfranchised groups have more to battle and more to grieve.” I think what she says is pretty accurate. But what’s equally important to remember is that what’s in our control is how we decide to respond to it - our attitude, our perseverance.
We can learn and we can grow. When we are growing we have a greater sense of self- worth. This is where I believe, education comes in, and not only of the formal kind. It is the kind of education that we learn from life’s experiences. The kind that can reason, critique and allow one to make sound judgements and the best choices. Mark Zuckerberg may have dropped out from Harvard, but the fact is that formal education systems across the world vary so that by the time we have reached a certain stage, some can thrive even on their own. It doesn’t mean that every student can drop out and be a Mark Zuckerberg. What’s essential are support systems too.
In Nagaland right now, the existence of different industries – commerce, education, and government functionaries, organisations, NGO’s and more are shaping the future direction of our State. We need all of these to be support systems for each other - working together and acknowledging each other’s ideas when credit is due or swapping them for someone else’s. Learning and growing together towards a common goal is so important to building that support system, so that we all feel a renewed sense of purpose; just like the janitor who helped put a man on the moon.   

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. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Anjan K Behera, Tatongkala Pongen, Nungchim Christopher, and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Special Economic Zone: Myth and Reality - Supongtemsu Longchar, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

As a Special Economic Zone, can Nagaland upgrade its existing infrastructure to not only utilize to its maximum capacity, but at ...