Nepali Times
Here And There
Global Kaliyug


Nepal is not alone. There is a gloom and doom settling over western countries that is every bit as pervasive and challenging as the fog of fear over in the Himalayan kingdom. It's a kind of post-11 September traumatic stress syndrome, a sense of burnout, frustration with violence and the failure of the political elite to deliver the goods. Whether it's the American-lead coalition being unable-so far-to really track down anyone directly involved in the destruction of the World Trade Centre, or the fact that the certainties of the 1990s were mistaken and arrogant, people are becoming genuinely worried that the future holds even worse in store.

Consider the events that have been in the news lately. In France, neo-Nazis lurk close to power. Le Pen's men polish their jackboots as a restive population prepares for confrontation. The rallying around by mainstream politicians against the fascists is window-dressing. The French will be fighting this fight for years to come. Next door, a German high school is awash with blood. A humanitarian and just society forged in the aftermath of the 20th century's worst racist outrages is questioning its underpinnings. There has been also the relentless drip-drip of pessimism and mayhem from the Middle East. A region considered sacred by three of the world's main religions is now a no-go area for all but the ideological fringe or the heavily armed.

Not all the bad news is about bloodshed. Look at economic collapse in Argentina, Turkey and possibly even Japan. A globalised economy links us in failure as well as success and wealthy westerners may soon share the pain of the Argentines. Certainly they will suffer if Japan implodes financially. Not that I think it will do so spectacularly but the loss of Japanese financial exuberance is troubling everywhere. The media has never seemed more disconnected from reality, even as it touts "reality programs" as the Next New Thing that we cannot do without. An institution of society that's supposed to inform, enlighten and entertain seems capable only of the latter, and only then once standards have been so gravely lowered that any old dreck will do. So long as we can close our minds and escape into the dreary oblivion of junk culture. Even the BBC has to defend itself against accusations of "dumbing down" its usually world-beating programming.

I wonder if what's happened-in Nepal and around the world-isn't just a general collapse of certainties. In the 1990s, we believed in perpetual good times with all the fervour of the self-deceiving convert to a religion that we now feel exists only to take our money. We build up our hopes and aspirations, begin to see them as certainties and then lapse into gloom and doom when they aren't met. Self evidently, that's been the case in Nepal.

The democracy that came from so much sacrifice hasn't lived up to expectations. Similarly, the vision of Clinton and Blair in the last decade of the 20th century, that you could have a humane society and unbridled free market capital, now seems unrealistic. Throw in the horrors of 11 September and you have a heady mixture that's beginning to resemble the foaming hemlock in Socrates' cup. Kaliyug is upon us and the convulsive unpredictability of events has banished our once beloved certainties. Woe is us. Sell up, move out, get away, escape, get drunk, depressed and give up. Is that all there is?

Well, no, if I may be so bold. I truly believe that the gloom which shadows our every move is misplaced and more harmful than the deadly events that inspire it. It may be a truism, but the vast majority of us, within Nepal's borders and beyond, are people of goodwill who only want things to work properly so our children can prosper. Losing our grip right at the time when our kids need us is a crime against the future of far more impact than any terrorist act. It's time we learned to stop worrying and love the bomb as they used to say in the 60s when a US-USSR nuclear war was everyone's favourite fear.

It's time to connect with reality and take up our responsibilities to simply get on with it, and learn to laugh. Black humour sustained the people of Eastern Europe through the soul-destroying Communist era. Bring on the comedians to point the way out of our current crisis. One step at a time, we can tear up the calendar of Kaliyug if we use our goodwill-rather than our fear-to bind us. I have seen the enemy, and he looks a lot like me. And you.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)