Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Revolution Doesn't End When Figureheads Come Down

There was a good article in Republica today about some Maoist leaders catching hell from supporters who had lost family members during the struggle of the insurgency (Maoist Leaders Speechless Before Martyr's Kin). Now I'm not sympathetic to the Maoist cause, but I am sympathetic to people who fought for what they thought would be a better world and had their trust betrayed by people who used their sacrifices to attain power and then discarded them. Politics in Nepal is not a game of appeasing the electorate, as next to no tax base comes from the people, it's a game of appeasing foreign interests and aid agencies that funnel tremendous amounts of money through various state and just as often non-state but politically connected entities. The result has been that it is very lucrative to maintain the status quo, of not making any political progress and certainly no social progress, or none at a meaningful level beyond what can be advertised as feel good programs for the various concerned entities.

Cynicism aside there are many people, and to some extent even foreign governments, acting with the best of intentions here, but the consequences of their presence and the general lack of any sense of civic virtue among Nepali politicos has created the political doldrums that Nepal now finds itself in. Public apathy, a political sector where corruption is not the exception but the rule, and a government machine that is not dependent on its citizens for funding has created a Nepal very different than the ones most had envisioned when the king was ousted in the mass protests of 2006. One where the words "load shedding" are used to cover up the fact that the government has mandated blackouts for most of the day in the dry season and waking hours with power are rare. It's a Nepal where politicians who achieve high office can't list a single thing they've done for their country, only rattle off ways in which they manipulated internal power struggles to achieve their new position. The revolution, by the real people of Nepal, not just the Maoists, lost its fire after the King a figurehead of the country came down, but then it was back to the usual. It's a lesson that the revolution isn't about just removing the figurehead, you've got to clean house and adjust policy to reality.

After the King left there was hope that the political parties would somehow move past their repeated failures and move the country forward. Hope isn't really enough, and it's slightly perplexing to me that there was so much outrage directed at the king, but that the almost five years of complete inaction and ineptness displayed by the political parties is somehow forgivable. What have these politicians done for the Nepali people to deserve their lucrative salaries and more lucrative connections afforded by their position, especially in a country where the average monthly salary even in the city is under $100/month? Why do the people who actually do want to work and run a business put up with a government that supplies next to no services but continues to demands paperwork, fees and bribes?

Now imagine you're a farmer in one of the villages and you lost siblings or a husband fighting for change to this corrupt system. The insurgency ends and the party that you have literally been dying for wins a majority and gets into power, and they quickly act like all the rest. They used Marxist propaganda and then walked into Kathmandu like the pigs of Animal Farm, where some animals are more equal than others. Are you just disappointed? Are you mad? No you're beyond both. It's amazing to me that party members are only getting slapped on occasion by their constituents.

Nepal though should also act as a warning to those protesters now overthrowing tyrants across the middle east and north Africa. The revolution doesn't end when the figurehead comes down, especially if you allow the same machinery of government to remain in place, it will have new leaders but will fall into the same old habits, treat its citizens in the same old ways. Keep their feet to the fire, throw out all the bums, revamp the system and don't just copy some system from the West in hopes that it will work for you too (also note it's not working that well for us). Create something that takes into account your social structure, how people behave, and make sure to make rules that do not restrain your people, but restrain your government from further taking advantage of them. Democracy isn't freedom, it's just a single form of checks and balances on power. Freedom is not picking your ruler, but choosing not to be ruled and putting government to work as a tool for the citizenry and not overlords who abuse them.

1 comment:

  1. I hate to say it, but I wish there was a "like" button for when I really don't have anything else to say. Good post.


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