Nepali Times
Here And There


Predictions are, of course, a mug's game. But you have to be a bit of a mug to give your opinions in print every week. So for what it's worth, here are a few whimsical thoughts about how things might look 100 years hence, in 2104 CE.

Nepal will still be with us. Yes, all you doomsayers in the aid sector, diplomats, experts, elitists and so on, you're all wrong. This country, sovereign, beautiful, stubbornly unique, will be around and probably thriving. It may be part of a larger South Asian Union, modelled on Europe. Perhaps Kathmandu will be the Brussels of the SAU. Whatever the format, Nepal will be there.

Why am I so sure? Because almost every young Nepali I meet is impressive, savvy and aware of what's wrong with this place. I won't insult the current generation by questioning its intelligence but guys-choice of gender deliberate-smell the coffee. And, if the current crop of under-30-somethings-urban, rural, Hindu, Buddhist, rich, poor etc-is so bright, imagine how much better things will get when the cult of age finally releases its bony grip on this place. The sooner the better.

India. It doesn't take a very clear crystal ball to see that our vast southern neighbour will be, within half a century or less, an engine of the world economy in much the way America is now. India's current role as software sweatshop will expand its middle class hugely, unleash creative and entrepreneurial talent and turn today's under-development into prosperity on a grand scale. Again, I'm banking on those incredibly impressive young Indians that I meet every time I go to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata.

Well before 2104, European society will be more than half Muslim. This is going to be one of the most startling demographic changes in history and it's already well under way. Traditional Europeans, that is to say 'white people', can't keep up. Their birthrates are low and they're too fond of holidays and short working weeks. People from underdeveloped lands in the Mahgreb and West Asia are making their way in droves to fill in the gaps. Even nasty immigration policies won't stop them. And I, for one, think a Muslim Europe would be a fine thing, for both Muslims and Europe.

People from dictatorships like Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia will increasingly learn democratic skills. Europeans will finally stop giving such immense status to the Roman Catholic Church, and learn that true secularism means tolerance, awareness and encouragement of integration on important matters like democracy. Needless to say, France will no longer ban headscarves.

As for America, oh boy will it be a vastly different place in 100 years. The president will not be a white lawyer from a corporate background. Most likely, she will be of mixed race, Latino-Asian perhaps, or African-American, an environmental campaigner or television personality. Perhaps she may even be a Muslim, married to a Jewish agnostic or a Buddhist. And there will be so many pressing domestic challenges that foreign adventurism will be impossible. By 2050, there will be 500 million people in America, most, at best, third generation descendants of immigrants. They will need education, health care and jobs, not appeals to patriotism. Cosmopolitanism will be essential to get elected. Today's high security follies will be replaced by tomorrow's tolerance. America's new culture will be in tune with the world, not at odds with it.
Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But why not? Why not?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)