Print Edition - 2014-12-26 | Oped
More of the same
- We Nepalis desperately need some positive experiences to believe in ourselves and in our future
Dec 25, 2014-
The year 2014 is fast drawing to a close. In many ways, we will remember it as another traumatic year in Nepal’s history. This year too, like the years gone by, nothing significant changed, except added misery, hopelessness, and frustration among the population. The gulf between the state machinery and the people is ever widening, as the state and its representatives become further detached from their very purpose. People are beginning to lose track of, and interest in, who the prime minister of the country is, who the ministers are, or who their local civil servants are. Public trust in—and expectations from—politicians has hit rock bottom.
The neglect and inefficiency of the leadership and government in reducing the everyday traumatic experiences of the population is evident everywhere. The regular and rising death toll caused by road accidents, the exploitation and death of migrant workers in foreign countries, daily stressors of urban life (like loadshedding, fuel and water crises, fragile public transportation, unemployment), violence against women, a chaotic and crumbling health sector, and its impact on public moral and mental health are all issues we need to reflect on. We can diagnose these ailments as directly linked to political negligence and instability.
The collective result of such a political milieu is a demoralised public mentality (in the form of cynicism and skepticism) and a growth in various mental illnesses, emerging as a silent epidemic. In Nepal, this demoralised, cynical, and skeptical public mentality has bred a growing and unstoppable race among the young to flee the country—temporarily at least, if not permanently. The number of young migrants from Nepal, averaging a staggering 2,000 per day mostly in search of 3D jobs (Dirty, Dangerous, and Demeaning), is proof of the deadly impact of the hopeless mentality that rules the roost today, and the political and social climate that breeds it.
The roots of the criminalisation of Nepali society—political, social and economic decay—are growing stronger and branching deeper and wider by the day. It’s so bad that today, even talk of the rule of law, standing up against corruption, impunity, and nepotism needs be nuanced, and ideals are understood as being against the spirit of ‘realpolitik’—a spirit which accepts unholy alliances, criminal activity, impunity, and the lack of any due process as a simple reality in societies such as ours.
Different businesses, like those of petroleum traders, transportation, and construction companies, have been successful in protesting to safeguard their illegal interests to remain corrupt and monopolise their industries. But since that is the norm in Nepal, the people should, for some reason, just deal with it. Rapists and murderers have no fear of prosecution; in fact rape sentences are even decreasing!
The state has not only failed to curb the illegal interests of different commercial groups, but in the last year, it has revived state-sponsored terror in the name of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), whose role, let’s face it, is completely ineffective when it comes to tackling issues of transparency and corruption at the national and political level. And it is successfully serving as only a platform for political mishandling and a means to terrorise and further demoralise ordinary government workers and citizens. For instance, four or five family members of senior Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Paudel were appointed to important public posts in the last few months. There was a huge media outcry over this, but the CIAA never dared to question the process and transparency of such appointments with Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. Alas, more reason for us ordinary folks to feel more disenfranchised, more hopeless, and importantly, more fearful of our state.
March of the brave
By my books, Nepal has already entered a great depression. Not just on economic grounds either. The utter death of the drive to improve things for the collective good at the institutional level—political, bureaucratic, business, infrastructure and others —is clear evidence that the country is encircled in darkness. In such situation, it is natural that people stop seeing, thinking, talking, and acting positively. Because of the lack of a minimum positive drive and the ability to lead, our public and private institutions are deteriorating. We have stopped responding to injustice and are instead choosing a path of ignorance, acceptance, and in many cases, a path out of here altogether. The central reason for this is because we have stopped believing that we can do anything to change the situation, for our own personal financial and social gains and for the benefit of the wider community.
In such an environment, it is hard to imagine peace of mind, happiness, and hope for a better future for ordinary citizens. We cannot afford to repeat such traumatic years again and again. We desperately need some positive experiences to believe in ourselves and in our own future. Peaceful democratic means like citizens’ campaigning (which is almost dead as it stands), demanding the rule of law, sidelining criminalised politicians, supporting young and entrepreneur leadership, and public opinion building in support of non-violent and transparent political forces are the few options left for us to execute in 2015. Sure, there is a great deal of idealism in these suggestions, and they are in no way a reflection of ‘realpolitik’, but the march of a few brave, innovative, and enterprising individuals can indeed challenge today’s realities.
Lamichhane is global coordinator of the Movement for Global Mental Health
Published: 26-12-2014 09:17