Getting small things rightI have been repeating that politicians don’t come from Mars or Venus. They are a product and a reflection of the society we live in. Therefore, if we want to see politics and politicians changing, we have to get some of the basics right
I have been repeating that politicians don’t come from Mars or Venus. They are a product and a reflection of the society we live in. Therefore, if we want to see politics and politicians changing, we have to get some of the basics right.
Politics represents society
Ad nauseum, I have been repeating that politicians don’t come from Mars or Venus. They are a product and a reflection of the society we live in. Therefore, if we want to see politics and politicians changing, we have to get some of the basics right. For instance, we have the habit of running to the homes of winning candidates—the same ones we criticised in private—with congratulations, while at the same time shunning unsuccessful candidates. Why is this trend prevalent? We do not care about the fact that we need to build a strong opposition to ensure there are check and balances. Politicians are known to be opportunistic as it is part of their profession but should not citizens think twice on whether it is right or wrong to be similarly opportunistic?
Social media has been flooded with pictures of people showing off their acquaintance with winning candidates. This is a reflection of people’s own aspirations to grab power and be a part of a privileged class that is not accountable to society. It reflects their aspirations to be drowned in a maze of garlands and scarves with their faces painted in red. If people did not like this practise, they would not adhere to it or advertise it on social media. A society where a large section of people aspire to use politics and political connections as a means of achieving their own definitions of success will never witness a positive political change.
This is a society where people who do not segregate waste at home are chosen to speak on the segregation of waste at different functions. Institutions that seem to support, and do indeed conduct, sapling plantation programmes for reforestation never care whether the trees grow or not. We can find dozens of tree plantations across the Valley that have company logos pasted on them but have no trees growing within. We are also part of a society in which the people who do not have open spaces in their own homes—the same ones that fight their neighbours for every inch of land available—are the ones who are supposed to be supporting the establishment of public parks.
People who have built ugly structures on land leased from schools and public institutions are feted for their work on protecting the environment. The ones that had never played a single sport are tasked with handling sports institutions. Institutions have advertisements in broadsheets that boast about their English teaching skills, yet the advertisements themselves are peppered with improper language usage. A society where hypocrisy is accepted will only breed politicians who are hypocrites. Therefore, the election manifesto becomes a sham, and the politician’s smiling face becomes a good act.
If we are to take advantage of the fact that we now have a Constitution and an elected set of representatives at all levels, then we need to work hard in building a credible society. This can only help to make the leaders accountable when they stand for re-election in 2022. Otherwise the people who lost this time around will lobby constituents for their support in 2022. Here are just a few things we can do to build this credible society for the future.
First, we need to find like-minded folks in each field to be able to build pressure groups to lobby for the betterment of that field and to ask important questions. For example, we need to ask whether it is important for a minister to inaugurate every event and whether it is important for the minister to speak. We need to ask ourselves whether a minister’s attendance actually raises the importance of an event. This practise of inviting ministers to every programme began at a time when Nepal only had one TV channel, and inviting someone from the Cabinet guaranteed media coverage. This is not the case anymore, and events do get coverage based on merit. We need to understand that we can exact the change we want by simply doing things differently.
Second, we need to build credible institutions that will not be impacted by changes in government. We need to have think tanks that conduct research, analysis and produce useful information and chart trends. We need stronger educational institutions that will not rely on political patronage and union power, but the rigor to inculcate values in the students. I watch parents looking out for the bus that will take their child to school from their second floor window; they bring the child down to the street when the bus gets to the doorstep amidst growing, snarling traffic. If the child learns to walk to the bus stop to get to the bus, it will demand less privilege in the future.
Third, we need to ensure that the youth learn what is right and what is wrong from their parents first and from school later. Which means that we need to have parents who have learnt what is wrong and what is right. If you think it is okay to serve alcohol at birthday parties to the friends of your 15 year old child or you think it is okay to give thousands of rupees to your 16 year old to book a table at a dance club, then you cannot complain when your actions result in trouble. In Nepal, with so much money coming from an increase in the value of assets that one has inherited rather than the hard work that one has put in, easy money finds easy ways to be spent. But perhaps social pressure on heavy inheritance taxes can change this culture.
It is not the big things that we need to change in Nepal, it is the smaller things in the world around us. Perhaps then we will not always blame politicians for all the things that don’t work in Nepal.