By Dr Pramod Dhakal
The English-educated and Internet savvy Nepalese have started a number of mailing lists that pour emails at a rate that there are not enough hours in the day to read them all. Involved in these groups are some self proclaimed “intelligent” and “educated” cyber-friends who love to edify the self. Although they mostly do superficial and self-serving discussions on the name of the people and “the motherland”, still I go there to get some fodder for the brain when the mind wants a break from usual work. While doing so, I came across some pitiful emails proclaiming a survey about the “uneducated” and “unintelligent” politicians of Nepal. However, despite my strong grievances towards the failed leaders, I found the kind of criticism done by these propagandist friends to be in poor taste. Therefore, I would like to write some words in defense of those politicians and to point out the hollowness of the thoughts of our “intelligent” friends.
Before going to the subject matter, however, I must also tell that I find Nepal’s old political leadership lacking vision and wisdom, predisposed to corruption and ineptitude, attached to power, and holding sway in the parties, and the country, due to a culture of impunity in the parties and in the government. At the same time, it would be unfair to ignore their contributors to the positive developments that have happened from the time of signing the 12 Point Agreement of November 22, 2005 to the formation of interim government of April 1, 2007, which has presented a new opportunity to build democracy, peace and security in Nepal. Therefore, they deserve their fair share of credit along with all the criticisms that they have earned.
Coming back to the topic, the conclusion of the emails under discussion was that “our good brains do not involve in politics/parties”, “Nepalese politicians are in lowest grade in global ranking”, “the majority of politicians are criminals, chor, fataha, thag, daka, murderers, smugglers, and corrupt”, “the rejected brains have been ruling over the cream brains in Nepal, a great reason for failure of the country”, “80% of key political leaders belong to the rejected brains group”, “most TU students are in centre of politics and not students of highly rated +2 and A level private colleges, who rather are abreast in the politics of the First World”, “Girija, Prachanda, Makune are no superb graduates like Tony Blair from Oxford and Bush from Yale”, and so on.
Well, criticisms can be eye openers and forces of positive change if done properly. However, the manner used in these criticisms is neither fair nor constructive but rather indicative of the intellectual bankruptcy of the appraisers. These criticisms are presented with numeric figures as if they were the result of scientific and objective studies, and the authors claim to be non-political, but any thinking person can figure out that they are manufactured for biased and purely political agenda. We all know that doing “politics” was illegal in old Panchayat Raj and Rana Sasan, and their keepers threw political opponents in jail, banned political literature that opposed them, and even executed political leaders as “non-political” acts. Students of government sponsored Swatantra Bidyarthi Mandal were paid and trained to carry out “non-political” activities against those who participated in “politics.” So much for the non-political politics!
However, the most annoying part of it is the labels like “cream brains” versus “rejected brains”, where the appraisers think that they belong to the “cream” category and politicians opposed by them belong to the “rejected”, and thus completely failing to do a fair and balanced assessment of the reality. The ridiculousness reaches its peak when assertions are made that +2 and A level private school graduates and Oxford graduates are intellectually superior to other humans. Further our “intelligent” friends found example like George W Bush to be indicative of Ivy League genius! Have we forgotten how the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was proved to be true in the UN? Was not it that everyone in the world who questioned that assertion was labeled either brainless or a supporter of a dictatorship?
The most famous leaders of modern times like Churchill, Gandhi, Lenin, Mandela, Mao, Martin Luther King, and Reagan, attended ordinary institutions. Even Albert Einstein, a man noted by Time as Person of the Century, would be a “rejected brain” for the first 30 years of his life if our “cream” friends were to appraise him. The most famous inspirational leaders of all time, like Confucius, Buddha, and Chanakya, did not attend any illustrious universities like Oxford, MIT and Harvard; despite that, top intellectuals around the world admire those thinkers with awe. Qin Shi Huang, one of the most famous rulers in history credited for feats like Great Wall and Terracotta Warriors, was hardly literate and Genghis Khan was an illiterate man raised by a destitute mother. Our Ivy League PhDs are still studying to date to figure out how those men might have built up organizational, technological and visionary capabilities so rarely achieved by anyone else in the history of mankind. Even Nepal’s Maoist movement is worth noting. How did those leaders, once ridiculed by even failed leaders like Deuba, develop and manage such a large and complex organization against all odds with capability to fight an army trained and sponsored by superpowers, and managed by top Generals? It could not have been possible if talent was present only among the elite Nepalese. The feet of our “cream” friends would have shaken if they had to develop and manage a system with a fraction of that difficulty and complexity. The moral of this is that books taught in Oxford and Harvard do not have pre-fabricated solutions to Nepal’s problems; the solution can be found only from within and implemented only by harnessing our own human potential.
Our “cream” friends seem to not question the intellect of Gyanendra or Paras while they are busy blaming every other politician. They are blinded due to biasness and, therefore, cannot see the counter productive role they themselves are playing. Further, Nepal was ruled by virtually illiterate people of Shah and Rana dynasties for two centuries. They ruled without giving anything back to the people, only collecting taxes from the self-reliant people of Nepal who lived off the natural resources that existed in their surroundings. These pathetic rulers kept Nepalese people in complete darkness but, fortunately, did not know how to destroy the resilience of our people. Then, there came an era when our foreign educated PhDs landed in Singha Durbar to engineer Nepalese economy to modernity.
In a short span of 50 years they have made the country economically defunct, environmentally ruined, and reliant upon foreign donation and remittance for feeding its people. Let us have a look on those top brains of Nepal like MBB Shah, Gyanendra Shah, Rishikesh Shah, KI Singh, Tulsi Giri, Prakash Chandra Lohani, Surya Bahadur Thapa, Pashupati Samser Rana, Tanka Prasad Acharya, Subarna Sumser Rana, BP Koirala, Nagendra Prasad Rijal, Kirti Nidhi Bista, and even Ram Saran Mahat. Their talent and education would be among the best of people but they could not find any mathematical magic for the fairness and prosperity of Nepal in all the books written in the world. It would not be an exaggeration to say that their failures are greater than that of the illiterate Ranas. The weakest of all – Padma Sumser – may have earned more touting rights than our Western educated talents! Note how Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani, a Board First student of Nepal, western educated and talented economist became a complete failure. Folks from Nepali Congress think Dr Ram Sharan Mahat is also a “tall” man but his failures are even more so spectacular! Look at the “American-style” corporatization of elementary schools to universities for “Singapore like fast economic progress” and ponder what fed the last 11 years of conflict in Nepal! By the way, it was not fed by the poverty most touted by “experts” but by the blatant injustices inflicted by such policies on poor and non-urban Nepalese. They only added new dimensions of corruptions on top of those already existed during Panchayat Raj and Rana Sasan. If another Board First and exemplary genius like Dr Baburam Bhattarai were to inherit this system of governance and start pleasing our Harvard-loving intellectuals, it is only a guarantee that he will be an utter failure as well. Unless we adopt different political and economic models and modalities that are responsive to Nepal’s natural and human realities, and are manageable by indigenously available human capital, Nepal will not see the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, these talent loving friends are not bleeding for what they call mother Nepal but are attempting to fool us with their self-serving logic. Let us not venture into what they attempt to bring to us for it is better to be poor with intact human dignity and freedom than stable Rana Sasan and Panchayat Raj. These “intellectuals” are worried that the big posts will now be handed over to the party operatives but they are so blind to not figure out that their party-less and bureaucracy-centric vision is thoroughly hollow and bankrupt. Their system is so corrupt that even sandal-wearing politicians become corrupt and start dejecting their own people if they ever enter there. Then again, if our “cream” friends are so superior to the rest of the public-school educated Nepalese, why don’t they come to the fore and lead?
Further, can any western education teach vision and wisdom? They can only produce mechanical brains with some statistical and mathematical abilities to attempt to implement something based on what the books say. But we need different mindset, unbound by books, one that has a vision in the first place and can translate that vision into reality. Only a leader that has experienced the ground realities of everyday people, is empathic to the pain of those people, has risen beyond self, has determination and confidence to lead the masses of people, and has management and organizational capabilities, can ever lead a country to greatness. This is not an easy feat for an everyday talented person but our book-loving friends are too naive to know that. Our Harvard educated PhD and non-PhD friends indeed attempted to build Nepal their way but they have only met failures. Many of them have already left Nepal in frustration and we know that they have no magic to solve the complex problems of Nepal and no persona to lead Nepal.
The challenge of Nepal is in finding a visionary leader who may come from the most humble of beginnings. But unless the system is restructured to make it conducive for new and better leadership to emerge past the old ones, all those potential leaders will die in the womb of Nepal long before they can display their mettle. There is severe need for transparency on how things are done from a household to the nation, from the individual political worker to the party. But today’s reality is that whoever happened to be at a high position will stay there till his or her death, even if the position was obtained by inheritance and not by inherent quality. Once in power, they are able to do anything with impunity as there are no checks and balances. But even if they were to exist, they would be ineffective when systems are too complex for them to be comprehensible to common people. But we have this notion that we could be masters of any complex system if only we had an opportunity to attend Harvard or MIT. But the unfortunate reality of the fact is that these institutions cannot teach any such magic to us.
Another problem to be understood is that our self-serving intellectuals seem to have too much free time, which they spend in bashing others and in writing loads of hollow complaints. When there is nothing better to do, everyone’s pastime naturally becomes petty politics (of course if they were real geniuses as they claim, they would have figured out the solution to the problems a long time ago). Until the day the system of governance is made simplified, resilient, self-sustaining, and self-improving, these problems will remain and the same talented people will use their brain to keep the system corrupt for their personal gain. Only a self-improving system can continuously enhance its capacity to deliver more service through the use of same amount of human resource. However, a system based on “natabad”, “kripabad”, “chakari” and “chaplusi” can never be self-sustaining and self-improving. In a corrupt system, our “intellectual” friends will never serve the “non-intellectual” and ordinary leaders elected by the people even if a fair system of electing the representatives were to be instilled. And, let us leave this topic of self-improving systems for yet another article!
(Pramod Dhakal is a former faculty member of Tribhuvan University and holds a Ph D in electrical engineering. He is Executive Director of Canada Forum for Nepal (www.cffn.ca) and lives in Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)