Nepali Times
Moving Target



Astute readers may have noticed the Hand's absence from these pages of late.

Some might have wondered what could possibly silence such an opinionated meddler, while lively imaginations undoubtedly jumped to the conclusion your columnist was abducted and tortured by the YCL, an assumption all too logical these days. Others would have surmised the absurdity of recent politics defies commentary. Who wouldn't be rendered speechless by the latest treachery that culminated in elections being cancelled for the second time this year? Why dignify such deceit and duplicity with rational observation and analysis?

So far, my alias has saved me from the wrath of ideologues and it was purely in the interest of sanity-maintenance that the Hand took a sabbatical from paying attention to current events. Leaving town helped, saving me the trouble of reading about Maoist union members trashing printing presses.

This morbidly fascinating muse of charting the nation's self-destruction has become increasingly hazardous to health, inciting melancholia, ennui, binges and hangovers. Ultimately, raging against the fools wrecking this country is akin to banging one's head against the wall: it feels damn good to stop.

Alas, the muse is endlessly intricate and intriguing, inevitably luring us back into the fray for another round whether we like it or not. One lesson we've learned the hard way from the on-going national collapse is that no matter how bad the situation gets it can always get worse. Whenever logic interferes, dictating Nepal has hit rock bottom and the long-awaited recovery must finally begin, our leaders sabotage the process in their single-minded pursuit of self-interest.

The current catalogue of dismal set-backs began months ago when we noticed the Maoists had no intention of abiding by the peace agreement, the government had no way of holding them to it, and the UN didn't have a clue as to who they were dealing with. The Politburo simply shifted the war's venue to the valley, changed the acronym PLA to YCL, and set up Prachanda's cousin, KP Sitaula, as Home Minister and chief apologist.

The comrades' recent withdrawal from government and scuttling of the same election they initially insisted upon has stunned the nation. The lack of good faith in dealing with the other parties and population at large proves Maoist engagement with parliamentary democracy is a hapless charade to buy time at best, a nefarious ploy to seize totalitarian power at worst, or both.

As preparations for the CA elections were well underway, millions believed an historic opportunity was finally theirs and keenly looked forward to casting their vote. The Maoist about-face, due solely to the fact they were sure to be massively rejected at the polls, killed this chance along with the hopes of an entire kingdom cum republic.

The fact many Nepalis fatalistically accept such betrayal of their aspirations is equally discouraging. Expectations for the future are at all-time lows and concern for personal survival, the law of the jungle, now dominates life. No-one seems to think the situation is going to get better anytime soon; after being let down so often the best most can imagine is more of the same. As the incidence of kidnapping, extortion, and 'physical action' (i.e. arbitrary beatings by mis-guided youths) escalates so goes anxiety and fear.

Many valley residents consider the situation more insecure and dangerous now than during the war. With stress levels at record highs, 'depression' is a word that has entered the Nepali language. Unknown until recently, it's now an epidemic. If you're not depressed these days you aren't patriotic.

As things fall apart in ways we never thought possible one wonders when to give up wishing for anything at all. If the simple desire for stability and rule-of-law is denied us maybe now's the time to join a cult, retreat from the world of greedy politicos, and start chanting mantras. Compared to dwelling on the failure of our political class to get anything right this sounds attractive, and if it takes another decade to sort this mess out then donning a robe, funny hat, and a foolish grin ASAP makes eminent sense.

In the meantime, with Dasain upon us, let's forget all this nonsense, embrace the traditional pursuit of happiness, and concentrate on family, friends and goats. As we celebrate Ma Durga's legendary victory over the forces of evil let's hope she hears our prayers and somehow comes to our rescue sometime soon.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)