Monday, May 23, 2011

Nepal's Facebook Revolution?

In Greek mythology there is a recurring theme of the young rising up and overthrowing the old order. The mythology is based on what was in the past the natural order of things, where one generation rose up and challenged the generation before them. There comes a point when the younger generation see the entrenched powers before them not as something paving their way to prosperity but instead as a barrier to it. It is often said in half jest that my country is in fact a geritocracy, where the old rule over the young. A look at the eyebrows of most of our senators bears this out. While there is certainly wisdom that comes with age, their is also vitality and fresh insight that comes with youth. When one side of this feels completely shut out of the system, then discontent begins brewing and left long enough it is only a matter of time before the young rise up against the old.

Recently the uprisings across the Middle East serve as an example to this. Not that it is strictly seen in this light, in many places it is people of all ages supporting the Arab Spring revolts, but look at who is organizing it, and how it is being implemented, it's almost always the youth. Tools such as Facebook and Twitter, along with the support of hacker groups like Anonymous are working to bring people together, get information out and transform the structure of society...maybe. In Nepal recently this same phenomenon is starting to take root, as the country inches closer and closer toward the status of a failed state.

As the deadline for the constitution draws near yet again the political parties are putting on a song and dance to show that if they give them just one more year they'll really get something done...really this time. While public dissatisfaction has been simmering for some time there has been a sense that the public had run out of ways to express their unwillingness to go along with the status quo. Then the bandhs started up again, people had enough, and the rallies against them over the last week or so seem to have been larger and more energized than the rallies of those enforcing the strikes. Today word came that some 300 leaders of the strikes were arrested, and despite the call for a bandh today, Kathmandu appears to be bandh free.

Most interesting to me though has been the rise of groups such as Nepal Unites on Facebook that have been pushing for Nepalese to come together and demand something better. It's call for the people to not wait on their "leaders" but for the people themselves to come together and put positive solutions to the problems that the country is facing is inspiring and is exactly what Nepal needs. Some groups have been calling for the suspension of pay of those that are serving within the Constituent Assembly (the body that is supposed to have drafted the constitution this time last year and whose term is set to expire Saturday unless they all decide to extend their term yet another year), while others have been calling for new elections. What is clear is that through social media the younger professional generation of Nepal that is in fact deeply concerned about their country is finding a voice, a place to pool ideas, a way to come together, and most importantly possibly a way to affect real change in their country.

If Nepal wants to move on and move toward something better it would be wise to embrace the vitality and forward thinking of its younger generation of entrepreneurs and professionals. Relying on the same old politicians has clearly yielded no fruit, and a little fresh blood, energy and fresh insight into choosing how this country moves forward could only be a positive thing. It will be interesting to see if these movements continue after Saturday, that the people's energy will remained focused on something better, or if this is just a flash in the pan and after the expected theatrics all things will slowly fall back to the status quo following Saturday's predictable extension of the Constituent Assembly. It seems we will all be able to tune into social networking to find out.

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