Clash of dreams in politicsThere are silent communities in Nepal whose dreams are ignored in the hegemonic structure of power.
The clash of dreams in politics has begun to assume more meaning to me now than it ever did before. The reasons are several, some of which are discussed in this short essay. Here it would be appropriate to introduce the concept of a dream not least in the context of its semantics in relation to the idea of politics and the nation. Dream connotes both figural and quotidian meanings. Some countries use the term 'dream' more productively than others. I can cite the example of 'American dream' here. But I have begun to feel today that the American dream as epitomised in the character of the famous American novel The Great Gatsby was perhaps the genesis of the academic programme that we also introduced at university.
The somersaults of the values espoused and disseminated by America have left me a little bewildered today when I read and watch how America is putting those values to test. But I frequently come across the expression American dream even in these changing times. We can find the dream metaphor in American literature as well as political writings, not least in the memoirs of the politicians. The former American president Barack Obama's memoir is on my desk now. The title is A Promised Land (2020), which is, as claimed in the tome, ‘extraordinarily intimate and introspective—one man's bet with history'.
The evolution of political consciousness in Nepal intrigues me these days. It is getting confusing and almost bewildering by the day. Though the beginning was good, Nepali politics is showing signs of waywardness in recent times. Though such experience is not unique to any country, especially like Nepal, a few things indicate that perhaps the clash of dreams in Nepali politics is showing some quaint surrealistic order. The clash of dreams among the leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party is creating new confusions these days. The clash among the dreamers within the ruling party, and their efforts to define the dreams is thrown in patterns on the political screen of Nepal. Never have we realised that the main problem in Nepali politics is the question of the leadership or the existence of one or two persons who are reliable, trusted and capable of commanding the respect of the citizens. If you sample their rhetoric and the burden of their theories you begin to see that a certain burlesque is taking the better of the serious political debate.
A clash of dreams of those who come to power or aspire to come to power has always remained a very important but ignored factor of Nepali politics. In one sense the existence of multiple political dreamers is an indication of a plural, democratic practice. Different dreamers walk the streets today. The erstwhile king and his followers walk by scattering their dreams; the erstwhile revolutionary communists walk declaring their dreams of prosperity and the confusing utopian agendas; Nepali Congress has democratic dreams to scatter if they like; others who would like to see the revival of the traditional values too scatter their dreams. But there are silent communities the marginalised groups, poor farmers and workers, disenfranchised groups, women, Dalits and ethnic communities whose dreams are ignored in the hegemonic structure of power, do not find it easy to introduce their dreams let alone articulate them properly.
Dreamers who are in power do not necessarily command the people's respect and generate trust in their plans. Leaders in other countries of South Asia too are experiencing similar problems. To tackle that, they resort to various populist methods. For that, they use various ploys such as religion, nationalism, and even conspiracy theories of political order. Such is surely the order of the day. The trend has local, regional as well as global character. Quest of the icons or metaphors of a common dream is the order of the day. Big or small, rich or poor, all countries seek such metaphors.
To return to Nepal, what dreams, and whose dreams to follow, have posed problems for us. That is generated by a situation when no trusted persona is in the picture. Politics has lost its power to attract people. In this situation, political parties and leaders are making efforts to make up their images. But ironically, they are losing their faith among the people who are familiar with the methods they use—like creating factions, giving in to temptations of material gains, and creating uncanny networks with people holding crucial positions of power. What is at stake is the faith in the leaders who are supposed to generate trust and hope among the people. A general atmosphere of indolence, frustration and even anger pervades everywhere. What I find more dangerous, no lesser in intensity than the dictatorial inklings of the government and its leaders, is the general climate of mistrust and indifference.
It's certainly true to say that the Nepali political leadership cannot be characterised in the same way as Obama. Reading BP Koirala's diary of 1951-1956 that is published under the rubric Story of Courage & Freedom (2020) one could get the impression that it could be the story of one man's bet with history. But with the times, that no longer remained the reality. Except for some populists and elected demagogues, we do not find a leader that can lead the country to freedom and prosperity. That is the reality.
I want to end with a note of hope: Nepali politics has tremendous loktantrik energy, and that energy is with the people who can bring it back to track with their power of resilience. The other energy is that Nepali political parties, irrespective of all the drawbacks, are guided by a deep faith in the power of democracy and people's power of resistance. The media is strong, and people have a voice on equality, freedom and justice. The evidence is everywhere. There are strong writers who can analyse the situation. The level of awareness and freedom among the people is very high. Given these accoutrements, we can say with confidence that the clash of dreams will lead to the victory over the confusions created by that, and open new avenues of freedom.
What do you think?
Dear reader, we’d like to hear from you. We regularly publish letters to the editor on contemporary issues or direct responses to something the Post has recently published. Please send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line. Please include your name, location, and a contact address so one of our editors can reach out to you.