Monday, January 24, 2011

Lest We Slip Into a Slap Fest…

CPN-UML chairman Jhal Nath Khanal was stoic about the slap heard across the state, but the political class is drawing all manner of lessons. The people, for their part, are lionizing Devi Prasad Regmi for giving such force to their frustrations. In detention on a public-offense charge, he has seen a surge in moral and material support.
Khanal and his fellow politicos made Nepalis believe that they were the best people to take care of us. Or, at least, better than the rest. Enough people took to the streets in the spring of 2006 inspired by a nebulous vision of newness.
King Gyanendra had wanted a little over a year and half more to complete his agenda of handing over power to an elected government capable of building peace and stability. How many of the far more numerous Nepalis who had stayed home during those tumultuous 19 days did so because they refused to buy into a palpably contrived alliance between the mainstream parties and the Maoist rebels will never be known. But the people who did come out led their leaders, who had seemed ready to accept the first royal overture.
In a sense, our politicos are mere reflections of us, equipped with the same fantasies, fears and foibles. But there seems to be something more. For all the arrogance and indifference so famously attributed to them, it is hard not to admire the vicissitudes these individuals are capable of bearing. (Between Singha Darbar and Nakkhu, UML leader Pradeep Nepal once described his tribe as being precariously perched.)
It is hard to believe that even the seemingly most abominable specimen really entered public life with a malignant motive. Are they prone to aggrandizing themselves before others? More likely than not. But deliberately destroy the nation? Come on.
As any sovereign people, Nepalis are free to harbor expectations. But if a politician – to use that worn adage – promises to build a bridge where there is no river, the people cannot be expected to go far with a gullibility defense. When leaders who had long insisted that a constituent assembly would only open a Pandora ’s Box came around to supporting the Maoists on that count just because of the assertiveness of one monarch, we surely could have asked them for at least two more good reasons.
Today the box continues to spew all kinds of things, with control slipping away from the ruling class. For them, prolonging the day of reckoning has become the measure of progress. Nepal Workers and Peasants Party chief Narayan Man Bijukchhe, who sees presidential rule as the only way out, insists the leadership does not want to say so openly for fear of admitting their collective failure. Surely even Bijukchhe – and his college pal, President Ram Baran Yadav –knows we cannot keep going on knocking the head of state’s doors every few years without expecting to inaugurate a new blame game.
As an individual, Devi Prasad had every right to be angry at this hopelessness. Not everybody has it in him or her to smack the leader of a major political party. But the cheerleading is getting scary. The national putrefaction is systemic, only feeding on the individual predilections and prejudices of leaders. In their collective wisdom, the people are expected to redeem them.
If the minister who slapped that government official or the legislator who slugged the finance minister is moving scot-free, the outrage should not be allowed to inaugurate an all-round slap fest, therapeutic though it might seem. There are enough of those outside our borders who want prove how failed we have become as a state. The least we could do is to avoid becoming a collective failure in spirit.