Post Mortem

A New Year’s resolution for Nagaland

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/2/2020 12:51:24 PM IST

 We make decisions on New Year’s eve to do better things or to stop doing bad things; the purpose behind these resolutions are to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. But can we make a collective decision to make a single resolution which will improve the lives of everyone in an entire state? The answer, in the case of the State of Nagaland, is a resounding “YES”. So, what can the People of Nagaland do to improve things in our state? We start by deciding to bring back the sense of “SHAME” into the collective consciousness of all the citizens of Nagaland.

The sense of shame is, arguably, the most powerful tool in any social group. But the intangibility of estimating its effect on its victim, makes it the least understood. Excommunication, banishment and social ostracism are common ways in which a society shows its displeasure to individuals who, it believes, have acted in unacceptable ways. The overriding desire of any member of a society is social acceptance. We act in ways which we believe will be acceptable by fellow members of society, and we strive to excel so that society may honour us. Corollary, we try to hide deeds which we know or believe to be unacceptable to society; in a normal society, we trumpet our achievements and hide our crimes.

The problem arises when we start applying collective glory or shame. Collective glory or shame is when a society assigns glory or shame, not to the deserving or guilty individual, but collectively, to his social group; be it family, village, clan, tribe, religion or race. Assigning collective glory or shame is useful, as long as it inspires other members of the social group to excel or forces members of the social group to bring its erring member in line with society’s acceptable ways, respectively. But it becomes a menace when members of the social group start hiding the crimes and misdeeds of its members, for fear of collective shame. 

What everyone has to understand is that collective glory or shame are misplaced emotions. Every individual is responsible for his own achievements or misdeeds. Only those who have contributed to an individual’s achievements may take collective pride in his success, not his entire social group; similarly, unless one is an accessory to the crime, guilt is assigned to the individual, not to his entire social group. What this means is that as a member of the Sumi Tribe, unless I am directly connected to or have contributed to the success of another Sumi becoming a Chief Minister, top bureaucrat etc., any pride I take in it is misplaced pride. Similarly, just because a Sumi happens to be a thief, any shame I feel is misplaced shame; neither I, nor the Sumi Tribe asked him to be a criminal, nor did we aid or abet him in any manner. No court of law in the entire world is going to find the Sumi Tribe guilty because of his crime, so why on earth should the Sumi Tribe feel ashamed because of the misdeed of one of its members?

The more primitive a society, the greater the sense of collective pride and shame. We Naga Tribes have, time and again, shown our primitivity in the manner in which we glorify the achievements of members of our tribe; but this is harmless and beneficial in that it can be a spur for other members to achieve greater heights; what is dangerous to Nagaland is the way we defend the corrupt members of our tribes and hide their crimes for fear of collective shame.

We worship our corrupt politicians and government officials, we idolize anyone who possesses money, regardless of how he earned it, we hang on the lips of anyone with a degree in anything and consider them, “intellectuals”, ignoring the fact that all they do is spew garbage in their quest for self-glorification and monetary rewards and we regard anyone with a theological degree as God incarnate.

All this has come about because of our misplaced sense of collective shame. We know exactly who these people are, their ancestry, their private lives and how they have come to attain their positions and their money. Yet we remain silent because we fear it will bring shame to our family, clan or tribe. Our silence is construed as acceptance; it emboldens them and makes us accessories to their crimes.

Punishing crime serves a dual purpose, the primary purpose is to punish the guilty, but the secondary, and more important purpose, is to deter others from committing the same crime. Punishing a guilty person sends a message to other members of a society that such crimes are not acceptable and that society will not condone them. An unpunished crime sends a clear signal to members of a society that society finds that crime acceptable.

Nagaland has become a haven for criminals and we, its people, are helpless because, in our silence, the criminals have managed to control or co-opt all avenues of justice. They flaunt their ill gotten wealth in the luxurious lifestyles they and their children lead; while the honest walk with heads bowed in shame because they cannot afford a tithe of the things these crooks and their children boast of. 

But we hold the power of shame in our hands, so, let us start shaming these thugs and their offspring. Stop admiring or envying the things they own, stop giving them places of honour in our tribal councils and churches; ostracize their wives and children from social groups. Make a New Year’s Resolution to shame the people who deserve to be shamed.

Kahuto Chishi Sumi, Akukau, 

Hevishe Village, Khaghaboto Range, (


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