Post Mortem

Nagas in a changing world

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/19/2020 12:09:26 PM IST

 What follows is an adapted version of an earlier reflection shared on the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Naga Student Union Bangalore (NSUB).

Bangalore has tremendously changed in every aspect of life, not least in the exponential population growth and the entrepreneurial initiatives especially in the IT sector. The history and experience of Nagas in the city is not different. We have seen growth in numbers and we note the excellent talents participate in different aspects of the city – economy, education, entrepreneurship etc. Apart from students, today, the city is home to many Naga migrants contributing to the different layers of the economy of the city. During the Golden Jubilee celebrations, we heard memorable recollections from former members of NSUB – notably from a current public leader, who recounted his ‘advocacy’ for Advanced English as a subject and his participation in a national parade representing Mysore State (the renaming of the state as Karnataka was in 1973).

Occasions like golden jubilee also beckon us to reflect towards the future as a people sharing a vision of common good and flourish.

We are living in a time of unprecedented changes, even as the global pandemic Covid-19 has shaken the security of economy and the fragmented progress made often oblivious to the fragility of the ecosphere of life.  Undoubtedly, the explosion of technology has transformed every aspect of life – communication, health, education, economy, even personal spirituality among others. We are living in the Anthropocene age, inaugurated by humanity’s thirst for progress, and control of the whole creation. The Anthropocene period has seen revolutions that have radically transformed humanity. In the words of historian-academic Yuval Noah Harari, “We have mastered our surroundings, increased food production, built cities, established empires and created far-flung trade networks….we have made real progress as far as human condition is concerned, with the reduction of famine, plague and war.” (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)

The tremendous changes have also ushered in immense challenges that affect quality life and contentment and threat to life such as the global pandemic of Covid-19 poses to the whole humanity. The signs of times today are marked by some the following realities: migration of labourers to urban centres (and the return to villages as impacts of Covid-19 uncertainties), growing wealth amidst unprecedented inequalities (according to an Oxfam report 26 billionaires own global wealth as much as the poorest 50% of the world’s population), an uncertain time for the way wealth is created (capitalism), the environmental crisis (as has been brought to global attention in the recent time by the Swedish teenager – Greta Thunberg), an impending health crisis caused by resistance to antibiotics, food insecurity, rising nationalist politics (often anchored on a regressive interpretation of religions), growing consciousness of minorities, rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with potential threat to labours (especially unskilled), threat of bio-chemical disaster and new strains of global pandemic.

Sketching the signs of times situates a reflection towards the future that should take into account the present realities. 

The giant leap of progress humanity has made is not without the darker side of threat to life and the whole creation. Again Yuval Harari sums up “we are more powerful than ever before, [but]… humans seems to be more irresponsible than ever….we are accountable to no one. We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction.” (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind).

Human selfishness and insatiable greed have not been overcome in the progress we have made.

Nagas also inhabit the modern world with all its promises as well as the malaise. Our reflection and action towards the future as a people should be anchored in the knowledge of the changes and challenges of the time. 

Another marked reality of modern Nagas is the invariable location of our history and culture on the resourceful mountains between ancient civilizations and modern rising global powers. Naga people reflection towards a future of confidence and flourish of every member should begin with this awareness of our strategic location and history as a people of the mountains that hold the land and its resources as sacred to be respected and stewarded for the next generation. 

With this as backdrop, Nagas in a changing world need to be aware of four defining marks as a people: Land, Religion (Christianity/Church), Gender, and Education. While the challenges before the Nagas are not limited to these four, these four areas are related and are crucial to the flourish of the people. 

“When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can’t eat money” is a saying from the Cree (First Nations people of Canada). Development, progress and wealth need to be balanced with sustainable stewardship of the land of our ancestors. If we bargain with our land today, our children will be landless victims tomorrow. 

Experience of Christianity and the role of the church among the Nagas is complex. Christianity initiated us towards the modern agents we are today, enabled to participate in the global world. And Christianity in its prophetic tradition can transform us to a just and flourishing society. Christianity that is critical of materialism as idolatry and Christianity that embraces the strange and the unfamiliar in a radical love remains resourceful to inspire Nagas towards a just society. 

If Naga society today is seen as a society with high literacy rate with women in every profession, it is because Naga women were not curtailed in acquiring the education Christian missionaries introduced. In fact, among some Naga tribes, women made up the first students of the informal learning class held by wives of missionaries. As Naga ancestors took the nascent step towards modernization, they were broad-minded in ensuring women to be educated and partake in modern professions. Equal participation of women in every aspect of Naga society stands to gain the whole Naga society. 

Nagasare known for acquiring education, which is evident today in the many young Nagas contributing in diverse sectors of the country – higher education, IT, central services, research, etc. Education that nurtures critical consciousness, builds character, equips for global participation, and helps cultivate virtues for the common good are the need of today. 

Nagas in a changing world are called to collaborate, beyond one’s familiar network and immediate relationship. Artificial barriers created by vested interests are challenges to the flourish of Naga people.  Nagas in a changing world need to cross the boundaries we have constructed to our own detriment. Our history and destiny is our own, we need to deliberately construct a future that is inclusive, and flourishing for all, rising above selfishness. 

In 1955Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the bus, an action that mobilized the Montgomery Bus Boycott during the Civil Rights movement in America. “Tired of giving in” Rosa Parks ignited a movement of freedom from segregation. Freedom and the good life we envision as Nagas. May we leave meaningful footprints and may God guide us with his eternal wisdom. 

Atola Longkumer, Bangalore


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