De-eroticizing Nationalism’s Desire

By: Kekhrie Yhome kekhrie@yahoo.com

A raging sense of triumphant celebration is overwhelming the mind of the Naga public. A public mind? By rallying around ACAUT’s call for rally without any guns or authority, there is certitude of fearless knowledge that the individual is also the public. It reaffirmed public conscience.
From a near distant, NSCN-IM monitors the rally’s attendance record. As the clock ticks, the number trickles in too. It was like waiting for an election result. The verdict is out: ACAUT’s massive rally is but an open war out to confront NSCN-IM. A cheerless mood descends Hebron. 31 October 2013 is one of NSCN-IM’s longest and speechless days. Silence was ruthlessly heard.
The successful challenge of sovereign power is an astonishing moment in any human history. NSCN-IM issues diktats, passes decrees. The public defies them, decries them. These events are not uncertain. These days are joyful times. The revolution has just begun, as many felt it.
A legitimate revolution can no longer be expected by violently replacing a power with another power (as envisaged in a proletariat revolution)—but only by decentering the bases of power that limits the enjoyment or the quality of life. It requires qualification of politics, leadership, thinkers, and vision.
Will ACAUT’s awareness rally mark an end (and a new beginning?) in Naga nationalism? The most educated faction understood this too well, in frustration. How will NSCN-IM respond, having issued a threat already? Are they getting ready with assassins? Ready to honour the pride of azha issued prior to the rally: “to initiate further necessary steps or measures to obstruct such anti national designs to murder the long struggle for the national cause.” Or, will they now retract their ego and listen more, mending their unquestionable recklessness?
While fighting the Japanese Imperial Army, Mao Tse-Tung wrote Guerrilla Warfare (1937). NSCN-IM leadership knows Mao’s use of the proverbial “sea” and “fish” more than any other factions. NSCN-IM broke its own golden rule: the “guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.” What happens to the fish when the sea is drained? What happens to nationalism when the very population they sought to protect or promote refuses to extend support or pay tax?
There is no joy in the life of fear. There is a thin discipline between tolerance and political correctness. The discipline that regulates the harmony of the social depends on the life of the political. The life of the political is simply to maintain human dignity. The failure to enjoy one’s own “sweat and toil,” only to be snatched forcefully, without any retribution, which is central to master-slave dialectics, is no longer an issue of freedom, or rights, but indignation. Indignity is a very strong emotion and real revolutions come through such nurtured shame: the old question of bonded labour.
In the name of the nation taxes are collected; a slice of individual labour is compulsorily collected for the nationalized collective. ACAUT’s ‘U’ stands for Unabated—it does not imply a refusal to pay tax. The meaning is self-explanatory because it stems from a fear and a reality that taxation is increasing in intensity, unabated, without reduction.
Taxation has increased because more factions have been formed in the name of the nation. Today it is 7-8 groups. Tomorrow it may be less or more, but the human psyche is trained to think only exponentially.
Politics has been guided without vision. Take an example. The common man in Imphal-Manipur is least bothered about Naga nationalism. In 2005, ANSAM-NSF launched the “economic blockade” of National Highways, spiraling inflation for months. Needless to say, it affected every Manipuri kitchen, especially the poor. Today, it is not difficult to mobilize the radicalized same in any anti-Naga movement.
Given the misplaced nostalgia of nationalism, the Naga public has tolerated its freedom fighters without any review for too long. That is—what has every faction not meddled in, or interfered in, in extreme excess, in every fabric of the Naga social and public life or individual life. The ACAUT story is a natural outcome of last-level tolerance. It is the ultimate movement because it is about labour and livelihood—and human dignity.
The notion of virtue that has been associated with the honour of fighting for the motherland is susceptible to change. The emotional sincerity guiding the ideological spell that shaped a particular generation (shall we called them pioneers of Naga nationalism?) is no longer alluring. Is any Naga youngster prepared to walk a thousand miles of dead-or-alive jungles for 3-4 months, in the name of Naga nationalism? The profiles of cadres who currently continue to join the various “underground” factions are predictable: from village chicken thieves to losers in life, with the exception of a handful.
The appeal for nationalism is originally a desire for absolute power and authority. It has been de-eroticized for quiet some time now: firstly, changes in global perceptions after post-decolonization era and, secondly, after India’s liberalization. Ever since the collectivization of Naga community under the rubric of nationalism, there has been no remarkable progress in society, except for the inevitable birth of desire for the good life as an individual right and fatricidal factionalism. The old guards may zealously refuse to grow with change, but the image of a nationalist is no longer appealing to the public. By internalizing economic exploitation within Naga society, the so-called freedom fighters have become the bane of society. Joining the Naga movement has become the easiest and most convenient path to impunity from criminal activities. Everyone is on survival mode.
Once upon a time the Naga leaders gave a clarion political call for complete sovereignty. The objective may not have been achieved but the message was understood. One cannot deny that the Naga lot may have been much more miserable today had there been no political struggle. Nagas from outside Nagaland feel that “Nagaland people” has benefitted economically from the Naga issue, and it is with this misconstrued sense of betrayal that a share in the pie is strongly seen as an entitlement. The paradox however remains to say that even within capital Kohima itself, or its nearby villages (that is not to mention other interior parts of Nagaland), the signs of poverty and pathetic living are incomparable to the living standards in many non-Nagaland Naga areas. Alternatively, a misconception strongly circulated in the feelings of Nagaland Nagas is that Nagas from outside Nagaland are fleecing its resources.
Without doubt, the desire for self-improving economic and social status has become the present preoccupation. A pre-capitalist society is merging with neo-capitalism. This self-fashioning also stands the risk of social mobilization because the public can never be an individual. There is also a relentless anxiety of a middle class—capable and educated enough to improvise social engineering tricks of ‘us’ and ‘them’—with personal motivation to further their own aspirations of monopolizing what properly belongs to the ruling and exploiting class. ACAUT’s movement stands to audit itself whether it can sieve these elements of carnal capitalism within itself—and chart a socio-political consciousness that is premised in reengaging social harmony rather than liberal economic laws of self-interest. Not everyone can excel to the top and this is never a reason nor should it be ever used as a criterion for inciting social disharmony or generalizing evil.
The present leadership managing various aspects of Naga public life is questionable. The power that comes along with leadership is based on material dispossession of the other camp. The vision that is necessary in leadership is but informed by a lack of understanding issues and people, unfortunately anti-intellectual. The focus and priorities of leadership is no longer in sync with public desire. No political leaders have evolved a consultative regime other than drowning in their own three little kingdoms: of self-preservation, self-praise and self-righteousness.
Similarly, no political or social thinkers have sought to re-think the Naga situation, or soberly tried to capture the everyday routine of events that revolve around us and link it with a class of knowledge. The perception of thinking the present or the future has not moved beyond the polemical transient and the subjective boundaries. In exasperation it becomes easy to retort to “enough is enough.” A breath of fresh air is what a revolution proposes to create.
The desire for a good life and the desire to change the quality of life is the most joyless amongst the downtrodden, amongst those who have suffered deprivation from the machinations of powerful people and their policies. “All over the world,” Martha Nussbaum reminds us, “people are struggling for lives that are worthy of their human dignity. Leaders of countries often focus on national economic growth alone, but their people, meanwhile, are striving for something different: meaningful lives for themselves.”
The joys of today are definitely certain. It needs to be celebrated. There is no greater revolution than the joy of successful populism. In it, there is an element of scandal. The scandal of underdogs becoming victorious, or refusing the powerful, is bounded by an ethic in political life. Will it create a meaningful life henceforth?
From the ancients till the contemporary, every religion or philosophy talks about the parable of a good life, or the promise of a good life, which is always guided by identifying with the helpless and weak. The real presence of revolution begins with this ethic. The actual space of nationalism lies only in recognizing this temporality, in that humanity is bounded by such gentle kindness. And, above all, we do not have to bother the Good Lord, every time, praising glory over enemies! “The enemy,” wrote Jacobs Taubes to Carl Schmitt in 1979, “is the embodiment of your own question.”

 

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