Headhunting is a practice of beheading, displaying, and in some cases preserving human heads for various reasons. The practice of headhunting originated in some cultures from a belief in the existence of a more or less material soul existing in the head. The headhunter sought, through decapitation of his enemies, to transfer this soul matter to himself and his community. Headhunting is thus sometimes found with certain forms of cannibalism as well as with human sacrifice.
The practice of headhunting was prevalent not only among the various tribes of the Nagas but also in other countries like China, Nigeria, Nuristan, Myanmar, Borneo, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Micronesia, Melanesia, New Zealand etc. It could, therefore, be considered as practiced worldwide. ‘It has been associated (1) with ideas regarding the head as the seat of the soul; (2) with some forms of cannibalism where the body or part of the body is consumed in order to transfer to the eater the soul matter of the victim; (3) with phallic cults and fertility rites intended to imbue the soils with productivity,’ (Britannia Encyclopedia) and (4) with power, prestige, fame and glory. In short, it is associated with mortification of the rival, ritual violence, cosmological balance, displaying of manhood, cannibalism and prestige.
Headhunters were well trained in the field of headhunting. They were not only the bravest and the most courageous persons in the society, but also skillful and specialized in the specific field of headhunting. The specialized headhunters were very difficult to find in a society. Due to their specialization, experience and their prowess, they were crowned with power, highly respected and honoured in a society.
We see in history that every revolution does not burst out suddenly but evolves and takes shape over a long process. The rise or fall, merits or demerits of an event or revolution or reformation lead to a bigger one, a more complex event or happening, complicated yet better. So does headhunting, the old practice of headhunting - beheading the enemies’ heads, having emerged into new complex forms, which I would like to call ‘Neo-Headhunting.’
The complex forms of ‘Neo-Headhunting’ could be examined from two perspectives- the negative and the positive. The former is reflected and explained by the present social conflicts, factional clashes, tribalism, nepotism etc. that exist in our social fabric. The latter is reflected and revealed in our day to day experience of modern society, where human beings stop at nothing enslaved by the spirit of competition, greed for wealth and power, desire for position and status, abduction of person for monetary gains, ‘stealing’ of skilled and professional persons by agencies or corporations to throttle competitors and maintain monopoly etc. The underlying spirit is the same as that displayed by the old custom of headhunting: gain power, status and glory. While the old practice was rooted in social values for the good and protection of the society, the present practice is the reflection of deep-seated human selfishness and unquenched greed leading to gradual destruction of the society.
Gone are the days when our great grandfathers took part actively in beheading the heads of their enemies for countless reasons. With the advancement of modern science and technology, the age-old practice of headhunting is crystallized into neo-headhunting under various forms of seeking highly specialized personnel in every walk of life in the modern society. It has taken the most complex form in the corporate sector with the growth of various companies, associations, organizations, etc - both public and private. An agency or agent specializing in the recruitment of executives or highly skilled personnel in any field or job is neo-headhunting. No effort is spared in grabbing the best through offering of unreasonable salaries and incentives so as to weaken the competitor.
Specialized personnel seek for the highest post of office in any sector making the work easier for the modern ‘headhunters’. In modern world, agents, agencies and even companies become ‘New Headhunters’, seeking for specialized personnel for their growth and sometimes for their survival in the competitive world. This ‘New Headhunting’ has been experienced in every walk of life - education, research, business, industry, arts, games and sports etc. Every company or sector hunts for the highly specialized personnel for effective and smooth functioning, to maintain high status symbol and popularity, and finally make sure that the competitor is either weakened or made to close shutters.
Today’s world is a world of competition. Competition, whether healthy or unhealthy, constructive or destructive, has come to stay. One competes with the others for one’s own benefit, fame, glory, power and popularity. Various forms of competitions, especially the unhealthy and destructive ones, are nothing but the residual of the past practice of headhunting. Today, with headhunting firms are focusing on the domain of specialization and expertise in a particular field that increases one’s market value. One company tries its best to over power the other, or weaken the other or tries to become more popular than the other through new techniques and innovation, thus displaying the strains of the old headhunting. Today’s competition is rightly called ‘cut-throat’ competition where one tries to put the other out of business, just like finishing off the person by cutting one’s throat. Definitely, headhunting in the modern world!
The enemies’ heads are replaced by getting or grabbing of high position or posts, seeking money and power, wean away professional persons from competitor etc. In the olden days headhunters were crowned with respect, glory, honor and fame. Today’s ‘new headhunters’ are too crowned with money, power and position. The more a person specialized, the more he is crowned with and is sought by associations, companies, organizations etc. Such persons literally become a ‘prey’ to be ‘captured’.
Examining the present world will show us how the ‘New Headhunters’ hunt for the heads - for professional persons in every field. Football star C. Ronaldo is hunted by almost all the world’s biggest football clubs or associations; M. Dhoni in cricket, Angelina Jolie in Hollywood, Sharuk Khan in Bollywood are some of the examples of persons in great demand or persons who are ‘hunted’. Companies and agencies or clubs hire professionals and highly trained persons to hunt for talent and skill, just like the olden days warriors who were trained to be headhunters.
Despite the recession, the world keeps moving and companies are all still hiring, especially for the top positions. In a tough competitive economy, companies still need quality head-hunters. If you run a big company and need someone to do the high level work, say, a CEO, how would you go about recruiting for that person? You go searching, seeking, scheming. Exactly what the headhunters in olden days used to do! We have evolved from headhunting stage to that of ‘Neo-Headhunting’ stage. When rural illiterate people are ‘hunted’ to work in urban areas for a meager salary and living in inhuman conditions to satisfy the greed of the rich, truly the body is broken and the spirit crushed, as used to happen in the practice of headhunting of olden days. Belief in an ideal dies hard but takes new forms with the passage of time with new meanings attached. I am of the firm belief in this new web of headhunting that has become a part and parcel of our way of life.