Saturday, March 13, 2010

Discussing the "C" Word in Nepal

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
-Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

And no I'm not talking about that "C" word, I'm talking about communism. The above quote is most applicable here, because although many of the major political parties claim to be Maoist or communist or Leninist or Marxist, when you talk to people about it here, or when you see how Nepal operates, all you can think is that there is a giant disconnect between what communism or any of its derivatives are and what is practiced here. As a quick brush up on where Nepal currently is, it is the worlds newest Republic, with the end of the recent civil war the King was deposed in 2006 and the country ceased being the last Hindu Monarchy and became a republic. The rebels, or Maoists, have since joined the political process as the CPN (Communist Party of Nepal), and they are joined in parliament by the CPN UML (Communist party of Nepal, United Marxist-Leninist) with other parties like the Nepali Congress and a Royalist party. There are a number of smaller communist based parties with a few people representing them too. I find it humorous that there is CPN (Unified) with two parliament members in it. All I hear in my head are people in the Life of Brian (may favorite comedy) yelling over at them "Splitters!".

To be sure I am a newcomer to Nepal, and will always be an outsider. Aside from reading a few books and the news my reference is not from a similar point of view as the locals. All this said, I know communism when I see it, and Nepal doesn't have anything that I can see that resembles it. I won't spend any time berating my own country, it's kind of bad form, but we look like the People's Republic next to Nepal. Nepal seems like it is highly stratified by class and ethnicity, something most communist driven countries at least in theory are looking to avoid(though they usually create a political superclass). Another point, aside from people complaining about rampant corruption in Nepal, which I haven't experienced personally but am told it occurs with frequency, the government just doesn't seem to have the power to really enforce it's will on the people. As Pradip once told me, "the problem with Nepal is that anyone can do what they want."

This may be viewed as a problem, but to be entirely honest, it is one of the things I love most about Nepal, the sheer freedom. While there might be boatloads of red tape and paperwork, things seem to in reality flow much like the traffic, whatever seem to work and dictated by people as the circumstance arises. This has its ups and downs, but over all this does not seem a society like China where a bureaucrat is telling everyone how to make the bed, or put a building together, or what to eat. Nepali's are left to their own devices to decide for themselves what is best for them. It is one of the most open market places I have ever been with every corner having vendors and it doesn't appear that people need some special licence and training just to sell veggies and fruit on the corner. Because of the free market here and plenty of talented people that aren't hindered by government overlook, services have been quite cheap and actually very good for the most part. Whatever they want to call this I'm not sure I'd call it communism, and judging from most peoples attitudes here I don't think that is what they are looking for.

The place where you do see most of the resentment and discussion seems to have to do more with perceived social equalities based on caste and ethnicity. I, as a foreigner, pay higher prices and am just expected to do this because of who I am. The flip side of this is that I can walk into any hotel or store and no one asks me why I'm going there or denies me entry etc. Much of Nepali society seems stratified in a similar manner, and I can see where a system like this, regardless of how deep and ancient its roots were, would cause frustration and anger in people. Maybe this is where the want for some aspect of communism comes in? I don't know to be honest. I really don't know a whole lot about the whole thing, but what I do find most ironic is that a country that has so many communist parties and members in parliament, this is about the furthest thing from communism that I have ever experienced. I'm not sure that word they keep using means what they think it means.

1 comment:

Related Posts with Thumbnails