Ethos of disillusionmentA state of general laziness is taking over the culture of awakening and resistance.
We can explain the ethos of disillusionment that is increasingly holding sway in Nepali society by attributing it to the socio-political situation and our fight with the pandemic. The prolonged condition that requires people to refrain from making group gatherings; strictly abide by the mask-wearing mandate; reduce mobility; close in-person schools, colleges and theatres; and shut down small businesses and other establishments, large or small, gradually and quietly makes the mind too feeble to cope with the self-same situation. This condition will make people disillusioned with several things necessary for us to keep going. The other kind of disillusionment is more pervasive and complex. In this short article, I want to address the second kind of disillusionment shaping our activities and our patterns of everyday life.
We should carefully trace the second kind of disillusionment directly related to political, ideological, ethical and psychological questions. If we carefully follow the visual or audio outputs of news portals, we hear people expressing their disillusionment with the political functionality and the government's styles of working. I noted down via some news portals in recent times the frequency of people’s opinions about the working style of the governments and political parties.
I must confess I was alarmed by the general response of the people sampled at random by TV journalists. Though the respondents do not form a cohort or a carefully selected group by the media people, it was shocking to find a consensus about the governments they do not trust. They consider successive governments and political parties have been working in tandem overtly interested in distributing perks and taxpayer money only among the members of their parties. The other more concerning part of the response that can be gleaned from such reactions and the articles written by intelligent and consummate critical analysts, columnists and news reporters is that politics as a culture and working force has perhaps become moribund in Nepal.
Any culture or ethos contributing to this kind of belief does not bode well. As a believer in the multiparty system and the parties' need for social transformation, I would see something troubling. I firmly believe that politics is not dead. People too have always believed that politics has always remained stable in Nepal, and the ideologies espoused by the parties are guiding us from on high, as in Robert Browning’s poem, "and everything is all right with the world". Now they have started getting disillusioned with all that. That is a serious subject because people feel that the elected governments have breached their trust. That is why youths and some active elders seek to express their disillusionment in a new and unconventional language. It is this same language that the people, mostly youths, had spoken during the people’s uprisings around April 2006. We have begun to feel the repercussions of that today.
Nepal has gone through critical political modes of transformation. But we have begun to see that a state of general laziness is taking over the culture of awakening and resistance. I find that very alarming too. There is a general loss of enthusiasm for the so-called political ideologies. The political parties’ adherence to their ideological principles is losing its principal energy. Theories appear to be losing strength to sustain or save the entire culture of the political activities. The ideologies that are supposed to show the boundaries of the parties’ political principles are getting fuzzier.
It is interesting, if not entirely amusing, to hear the political leaders of the communist parties of Nepal trying to pronounce the same terminology differently after their multiple divisions. The result is that those who follow the leaders and their langue do so from a position of disillusionment. The democratic political language that the founder of the Nepali Congress BP Koirala has bequeathed is the very essence of that party’s ideology. Some sceptics, who are academicians, have said that the Nepali Congress is no longer a unified political party.
Elected factions or legitimate groups continue to operate within the same party. Curiously, the same umbrella continues to open above their heads. I was very impressed by BP Koirala’s foresightedness and his Zen kind of faith in the power of the simplicity of democratic politics while I was working on his early and very crucial diaries for the BP Koirala Memorial Trust. It is published under the title BP Koirala’s Diary: Story of Courage and Freedom (2020). His diaries are confessional, visceral and guided by political ethics. Interestingly, that is the spirit of the young generation who espouse new trends in politics today. That is the subject of a separate article.
The culture of disillusionment has a global character. The disillusionment experienced by the youths of the late 60s and the early 70s of the 20th century had a global character. Such disillusionments occur whenever faith in political ideologies gets weaker. We can remember the clash of utopia and dystopia experienced by the youths. But today’s visions of dystopia have become global and are bolstered by influential political leaders through the medium of post-truth or the ethos of lies.
Lack of enthusiasm
The effect of that has become global. Corrupt political machineries and the praxis of lies are responsible for the general culture of disillusionment and lack of enthusiasm for action among the people in Nepal too. The overt political interest in everything at the cost of economic growth stabilisation of human, artistic and academic developments has created a culture of mistrust and doubts in Nepal. The long struggle with the pandemics also nourishes such inertia and disillusionment. The evidence of the conspicuous turn against the political leaders makes it more evident. The psyche of looking at people as mere voting raiti is having a corrosive effect in society, which can be seen in the people’s growing disillusionment with the ideologies and the very architecture of the political system.
The constant demand of the political parties controlled by the statesmen of the older generation to promote a culture of sharp polarisation by undermining the rules of constitutionality has helped to generate the feeling of disillusionment among the people that I alluded to earlier. That the student wings affiliated to different political parties should come out in concerted moves of resistance while their political leaders are using swear words against each other shows a unique mode of the ethos of disillusionment in Nepal. Our cultural and literary studies present even more eloquent examples of the ethos of disillusionment in Nepal today.