Everyone wallows in talk of doomsday and a failed state. Many fellow Nepalis in LA- mainly parents attending their children's graduation- are grateful to be in a place of optimism rather than in their own despairing country. Collective loss of hope actually kills recovery. On the other hand, collective hope of economic recovery in the US may just get the financial sector back on some semblance of a track later this calendar year.
The political history of Nepal since its formation 240 years ago has been turbulent. Economics were never a priority for the Shah kings, Rana rulers or the political parties under the constitutional monarchy or under complete republicanism. The myopia of egocentric politics and of crying foul when not in power has killed economic development. In the US the importance of the economy prevails. Just look at the circulation figures for the Wall Street Journal compared with the New York Times. People care about the economy.
The US is a meritocracy. Regardless of their background people earn success, be it in education, business or even politics. They are not just born successful or wretched. Narayanmurthy, one of the founder members of Infosys in India recently launched a book of his speeches (A better India, A better world). It's a must-read for Nepalis because it is as applicable to Nepal as it was once to India. He talks about India being a country that was a far cry from being a meritocracy- where people fought with each other to prove who was more underprivileged.
In Nepal too people want reservations for jobs, education and social benefits not on the basis of merit but on the basis of language or belonging to a disadvantaged group. In a world where all societies are competing to be more advanced and developed, we don't want to shed our under-developed tag or move on from protectionism.
Good politics is not a pre-requisite for economic development if societies start migrating from protectionism to meritocracy- as we are seeing in India. Despite the political players not having changed much and the mud slinging at the elections being ever constant, the Indian economy moves on as people believe that merit in a competitive society leads to prosperity.
There is little we can do about our politicians, 10 years of people's war, the loss of 14,000 lives and the trauma of the thousands that survived the war but lost their loved ones. But if as a society we start building our own little spheres of influence around merit, then maybe we will one day be able to establish a political system based on merit. Let's give it a try before politicians squander all Nepali aspirations.