As though we don’t already have our hands full this pandemic season, every other day, our sensibilities get shaken by some horrible news originating right from our localities and front yards. The stories, sadly and shamefully, range from sexual abuse, domestic violence, abandoned babies, rape, kidnapping, big time theft to cold and bloody murder. Is our Naga society turning sick? Are the dire occurrences, happening at such alarming frequency, indicative of some festering conditions that need attention and redressal? Is it enough to catch the culprits and put them behind bars? Does it suffice if a tragic incident gets sufficiently condemned by various groups and organizations and the perpetrators get mercilessly trolled on social media?
Perhaps we are at a juncture where our society is undergoing an acute identity crisis, not knowing where we belong or where we are actually headed. The gaps between the haves and the have-nots are widening visibly and with them, the frustration levels in many seem to be escalating. Can we afford to surge ahead and expect every stratum of our society to tag along, hoping things would fall in line in the course of time? Or, are we at a point where, if we choose to ignore or make light of the dismal situations that erupt every now and again, we are allowing ourselves to head for doom?
As a young nation, comparatively speaking, it is inspiring to see that we have the calibre to rise and stand on our own feet on many counts. There are numerous examples of Nagas, young Nagas in particular, achieving and making their mark even in the big world. Kudos to them! And as a small nation, we get to hear about almost everything that transpires under the Naga sky – the good, the bad, and all the rest in between. While applauding the ones that determine to swim against the current and still achieve, we cannot also neglect the ones who simply exist like they already missed the boat. In this case, we can’t throw away the rotten apples to prevent further infection and decay. Human beings are not apples for that matter.
In general, Nagas by nature and culture are courteous and hospitable. We live in community and thus, the values and virtues that bind a society together are held high. To our credit, many outsiders recognize and commend these values and virtues that are uniquely Naga. However, our community-based culture sometimes contributes unhelpfully towards making people fake it - appearing alright before others when things are not alright below the surface. Most community-based cultures are also shame-based. This characteristic unfortunately has the capacity to make people hide and hoard their hurts, frustrations, anger, and other negative emotions that can fester and grow invisibly, until a time comes and all hell breaks loose.
Like any other fast-growing nation, in our pursuit of upward mobility, it is possible that some sections of the society get left behind – those who find themselves in helpless situations with no means of seeking help and direction. This group of people need not necessarily belong only to those falling below the poverty line. They are not always young people either. Anybody with unresolved psychological and emotional issues, and a lot of times, lacking the awareness that they need help, could fall into this category. In most situations, what they show through their behaviour – foul language, drunkenness, unhealthy addictions, violence, disregard for authority, criminal tendencies, and such others, are only symptoms of a bigger malady that they carry within themselves. They say, hurt people hurt people.
Experts in human behaviour provide helpful pointers which could aid us in comprehending the ugly and tragic scenarios that unfortunately keep breaking out in our society. There are risky reactions that we notice in the young and even the old, such as numbing through the use of drugs, alcohol, noise, and frenzy; party excess which involves experimenting with hedonistic highs; overworking leading to workaholism and competitive achievements to attain self-value; relational difficulties and cynicism resulting in distrust and hatred towards others; withdrawal which takes people into a world of fantasy, movies, and lonely privacy; and unplugging referring to suicide.
These risky reactions are clearly not impromptu actions that a person resorts to in a fit of rage. They are accumulated over time and space. Undergoing a series of crises over identity, meaning and purpose of life, could easily push an individual over the edge. Several factors contribute towards making people take such a course in life. Some identifiable contexts and risks surrounding many, especially young people, today, are: unstable and incomplete family structures where parental stress and distress contribute negativity and insecurity to the children; reduced parental and neighbourly care and supervision, providing more access to peer influence; crisis of social, moral, and spiritual purpose being reflected in attitudes and behaviour; inadequate holistic cultural preparation for life; excessive exposure to media; political unrest and future uncertainty; and extended dependency on parents as the transition to adulthood is prolonged, particularly in Naga contexts where social and economic independence comes mostly only after marriage. These contexts provide ample breeding ground for chagrin and exasperation to take over individuals.
With too many disturbing and glaring realities staring at us in the face, we could go on talking about what happened last night in our neighbourhood or what social media headlined the other day, and wait for the next shocking story to hit the news. Anybody with or without a heart could easily do that. Or, if we care for our society’s future, we could take notice of the precarious drift our society is manifesting and choose to act or counteract in order to arrest the downward spiral that is so obviously taking place right before our eyes.
It is a crucial time for right thinking citizens to band together to combat the unseen forces and crises which are simmering underneath our feet. This is no time to be busying ourselves with simply talking about what happened, who did what and where, which tribe the demon belonged to, or watch with mute indifference. The diagnosis must begin now for remedy to take place in time. The need and urgency for each Naga Christian to look for every possible way and means to contribute towards the healing process of our society cannot be emphasized more. It is now or never. That our society is beginning to look sick is beyond doubt. Whether or not to make a much needed diagnosis now and address the gaping needs is a choice before each of us. May we choose to heal!