It is only two centuries since the Naga people came into contact with the British and with modernity. The most notable was the introduction of Western education and the gradual conversion of the Nagas into Christianity. These two were the two major factors that affected and brought monumental changes to the Naga society. The very reason why at present, the common Naga narrative still cannot distinguish whether Christianity or Western education brought about this enlightenment. The Nagas who were once head hunters and proud of their trophies suddenly shifted their objectives especially in the field of education and their new found professions.
Gradually everyone became a pioneer in some field or other. A scenario- the first matriculate from a village was celebrated and the person who achieved it was respected, and so on and so forth. However with the passage of time it became more like a rush for power and influence. The Naga tribes had some experience with the royalty in the neighbouring areas. With the stories and legends of kings and queens becoming more common it might have looked achievable to all with some form of title. The individual worked hard for the titles but their kind worshipped the titles for the power it wielded. For the sake of brevity, the Nagas finally learnt even to get titles not through hard work but by craft.
The rush for the ‘first’ continues in the 21st century. This is in no way to discourage it because it will continue as long as human society exists. However, the focus of such achievements needs to be clear. All achievements clearly are related towards personal growth and the welfare of one’s immediate kith and kin. Still, one’s achievement also propels the creation of opportunities to serve the people, which are sought after by most. So if one’s achievements are used only for one’s growth while in a profession meant for serving the people, it is wrong.
Nagas also need to differentiate between the first and the best. At times these two terms are indistinguishable but many a times the first may not always be the best. Quantitative and qualitative benchmarking is still new for the Naga public. Moreover in real world, pioneers’ work becomes failures if there are no innovators in the future. For example, there can be many singers, the first from every section, but few musicians and composers. So along with the objectives to be the first, refinement is needed to be the best. Else, stagnancy creeps in like the present state of Nagaland where mediocrity is being celebrated.
Finally, along with the need to be first in academics and one’s profession, Naga society at present direly need individuals who will be the firsts on matters of principle and integrity, where it is lacking. Unfortunately, honesty and integrity is being branded as a virtue only for the foolish. For example, electoral reforms or Clean Election Campaign is one of the most discussed issues at hand. This campaign also needs the long list of pioneers like the first convert; the first baptised; the first signatory, the first village, the first clan et al. The land need such pioneers at present.