Dr. Asangba Tzüdir
‘Nagaising’ a Dangerous Modern
Are Nagas here at home becoming modern? If certain facets like ‘lifestyle’ are to set the parameter, then, one may say yes. And without any doubt, it is a “Mistaken Modernity” as the noted Indian Sociologist Dipankar Gupta applied it to the Indian context. The rural setting has not changed much while the urban landscape has made ‘big’ strides. Today, the people have the luxury of having shopping malls with the spaces near the entrance flooded with ‘chaat, chow, momo and eating joints on cartwheels.’ The World of fashion and clothing brands has reached here to enhance Naga understanding of modernity. The idea of the VIP tag got to a sickening level and somehow managed to bring down on paper, but in continuation, the VIP’s are given the alternative Maharaj umbrella treatment. On the material pursuit, there seem to be nothing worth beyond money that Bob Marley serves a timely reminder – “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.” The Naga weddings are another testament where the preparation for a sanctified ‘I Do’ requires a lot of ritualistic glittering and food over the table. The electronic media too has come with its damaging effects. Leaving the root of traditions, the popular culture has taken a turnaround from music to anime costumes and leading the pack are the excited but innocent children. Arnab Goswami’s high decibel prime time News has manufactured more fights than insights and news perspectives. Among the many shows and sitcoms, ‘Koffee with Karan’ and ‘Ellen DeGeneres’ have, besides other things, seems to have reawakened Foucault’s ‘nausea’ who struggled with his own sexuality. In short, the land that is being held so dear is becoming mangled with the debris of the past because the Naga Caravan is travelling a “Mistaken Modernity.” This has happened because individual pursuits are engaged in the creation of their own space by willfully shrugging off both tradition and modernity of their larger ideological context and their value system. A re-mix is adopted which serves an interesting metaphor. Rather than re-living the past, it is stripped off of their moral authority.
A reawakening like that of Enlightenment seems desirable. Every individual shares a collective moral responsibility towards rebuilding the devastating structure of Naga society and moral values. The ignorant part being, the one controlling the changing system of the society. And so blissfully, within the changing times, Nagas have fallen in love with the existing social-cultural untidiness. To restore humanity and its associated values requires the conditioning of the values that once existed.
As the stakeholders of this society the youth at large need to reorient on the roots of Naga identity – a unique ‘Naganess.’ Besides, a reaffirmation of the status and function, and the meaning of being a human is needed in order to give a proper conditioning to the adopted societal and moral fabric, and for a social reconstruction within the ‘Naga being.’ To this end, a harnessing of self-consciousness is paramount to regulate the ‘Naga being,’ which then would be aimed at stopping the mass manipulation of Naga Socio-cultural identity and religious beliefs.
In context, the untidiness of modernity is a tribute to relativism where the individual conquers the space that the so called modern world offers unmindful of the roots that is being uprooted. The result is a mixed modernity that is short-sighted. It is not only a Mistaken Modernity but more so uprooting from the roots of Naga Socio-Cultural identity wherein Nagas are slowly getting reduced to “Imagined Communities” as envisaged by the political scientist Benedict Anderson.
To the question of whether Nagas are becoming modern, bluntly put, Nagas have never been modern in the true sense of the term. Rather, what we see today is not of ‘Modernising’ Nagas but the ‘Nagaising’ of a ‘dangerous modern.’
(Dr. Asangba Tzudir contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to email@example.com.