Print Edition - 2017-09-17  |  Free the Words

Political stimulants

  • In Nepal, money has suddenly become political Viagra that makes people active and agile
- ABHI SUBEDI

Sep 17, 2017-Suzanne Moore, a brilliant columnist with admirable candour and humanity in her take in the “Guardian” of  October 20, 2016, comments, “Fear of foreigners is political Viagra for our limp leaders”. The word Viagra is eloquent in contexts other than what it is used for, which means, Viagra is also used as a metaphor. She used Viagra as a term to describe the sudden spate of energy experienced by certain leaders when they see some people as bogies, because by doing so they would get the strength to act politically. This lexicon no longer warrants the rigmarole of looking up its definition in Oxford Dictionary because it is the most overtly and overly used stimulant in the world. But Moore’s semantic juxtaposition of this word with politics generates special speculations. Inundated by news about the perfidious behaviour of those on whom we have pinned most of our hopes, I too am tempted to use this in a different semantic category—money is serving as political Viagra in Nepal at this juncture in history. Something is wrong in Nepal now, despite positive political transformations. 

Breach of covenant 

The metaphor ‘something is wrong’ evokes another literary context. The very opening of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet introduces the statement—’something is rotten in the State of Denmark’. Visiting the 16th century Elsinore Castle of Denmark, the setting of the play ‘Hamlet’, with the late famous satirist and novelist, and a pioneer journalist of bold journalism Keshavraj Pindali, in February 1991, brought to mind this particular metaphor. Awed by the panorama and the rare beauty of the castle and its surroundings, Pindaliji asked me, ‘How do you think Shakespeare would have used the expression to describe such a lovely place?’ I attempted to answer that question saying, ‘It is not about what we see around this scenic place, and very little about the great Nordic democracy of Denmark; it is about what goes on in the interiors, among the powerbrokers. It is about the dishonesty that happens at the personal level’. But since then, the world has begun to see the breach of covenant between those who lead countries, managers of economies and the common people who are supposed to benefit from them, between the people and the political systems and the elites of different hues who systematically and subtly make common citizens increasingly powerless. 

Like Pindaliji, I too am torn between being the proud citizen of a land 

that is so beautiful with multiple cultures and tremendous scenic effects 

of geography, not least the cultural artefacts and the natural wonders. But the same sense of euphoria makes me sad when I read and hear about the scandals and the dizzy rounds of money grabbing and corruption narratives each day. My faith in the Nepali political achievement is in place, because after a long struggle and moments of necessary resistance, Nepali people have established a democratic political system that has opened up the constitutionally warranted possibilities of functioning in the days to come. The rounds of elections that are happening now and will also be held on November 26 and December 7 of this year, will establish a constitutionally guaranteed political system. But worries remain at a different level.

Our worries concern the way corruption and perfidies are not being considered unethical and dangerous for a nation trying to grapple with political, economic and psychological problems all at once. The most alarming part is the daily exposure to  corruption scandals and the conundrum they create through the involvement of those who lead historical processes. There is no point in parading the details of cases involving money due to the connivance of political actors who are in power; these actors are also adept at dodging punitive mechanisms. This only complicates the situation. Money is utilised in all networks as a stimulant for the fulfilment of needs and wants. As such, in Nepal, money has suddenly become political Viagra that makes people active and agile. Money also pushes people to plan relentlessly at the cost of ethical conduct and ideals.

New hope

But my trust in the creative power of the new generation is increasing day by day. I look at the activities of the youths, their voices and their 

confidence in building a future with little hope of receiving any assistance from the state. Their zeal can be seen at youths’ activities at group and individual levels. How they have been responding to the questions of the open breach of covenant made with the people by the government and the political leaders, and how they produce creative works are perfect examples of the independent and rebellious mind sets of the people of the young generation in Nepal at this moment in history. 

I was delighted to see the paintings exhibited at the Arts Council by artists of different generations, which ended on September 11, 2017. Almost every painting executed by the familiar artists looked fresh, innovative and challenging. I was impressed by every painting for a few important reasons. First, the artist has radically departed from her or his familiar style. Second, motifs are new, and the application of the colours and the treatment of the space in canvas is entirely fresh. A woman’s paintings struck me as phenomenal. As I was drawn by two of her paintings and contemplating on the new ebullient power of them, a Nepali woman came and booked one of them. That was a very impressive process that added to the confidence of the artists and organisers. I saw many ‘sold’ tags on some of the very brilliant works on display there. The painters have used figurality and charming colour combinations to give an ethnic aura about the motif on the canvas. They have used abstract expressionist forms too, which are charming and well done. But on the whole you could see a new energy, a freshness and confidence in nearly each of the paintings on show.

As usual, I felt that there is inexhaustible energy working in arts, hope and working systems of the people. I remain deeply optimistic about the inner dynamism and minds of the people of this land.

Published: 17-09-2017 10:23

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