24-30 April 2015 #755

Pointless Activity (Revolutionary)

When it comes to whipping up the masses to perform meaningless tasks nobody compares with the Maoists.
Foreign Hand
The Nepali New Year 2072 found your columnist wondering where this country might be if the last two decades weren’t lost to war and posturing by a gang of hustlers who still hold the country hostage. The recent banda, pointless as ever, reminds us of countless wasted days that turned into wasted years spent distracting the people with mindless pursuits.

Most ideologies, whether religious or political, encourage a certain amount of pointless activity to reinforce loyalty and distract from their failings, politicians from all parties try to divert attention from their incompetence. But credit where credit’s due: when it comes to whipping up the masses to perform meaningless tasks nobody compares with the Maoists.

Remember when the party mobilised thousands in digging trenches to save the country from invasion by Indian imperialists? The civil war itself was the most disastrous pointless activity in Nepal’s history: 17,000 dead, a society traumatised and the economy in ruins just so the Maoists could get a seat at the feeding trough that passes for government around here.

With peace came militant unionism, spouting ridiculous demands that shut factories nation-wide. What was the point of all that, except perhaps to create a pool of disgruntled unemployed to use for the endless parade of pointless demonstrations?

History shows where our comrades got their technique. Nobody beats Mao Zedong when it comes to mobilising millions, usually with devastating results. During the Great Leap Forward Mao ordered ‘backyard furnaces’ to produce steel in every village. Pots, pans and farming tools were requisitioned and melted in a feverish display of loyalty to the Chairman. To fire the furnaces turning useful implements into worthless pig iron China was deforested on a massive scale, leading to catastrophic flooding. Even after Mao visited an actual steel mill and realised the process wasn’t as simple as melting woks and pitchforks he refused to halt the campaign, being more concerned about maintaining revolutionary zeal than the impending famine.

Taking pointless to new heights, Mao exhorted the masses to kill sparrows in the Four Pests Campaign. Millions of villagers banged drums until birds dropped from the sky, dead from exhaustion. Suddenly without predators, a plague of locusts appeared and ate all the crops, whatever was left couldn’t be harvested for lack of tools. All this epic scale pointless activity created the Great Famine (1958-62) in which some 35-45 million Chinese perished. As a grand finale, he launched the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), quite possibly the most insane pointless activity in human history.

Though the scale is vastly different there is something eerily familiar in such tactics. Throughout Nepal’s conflict and beyond, countless campaigns were inflicted on society only to fade into oblivion, proving them pointless. The Maoist ban of Bollywood films was a personal favourite (the Hand invites readers to send in their faves) as cadres forcibly shut cassette shops to purge Nepal of insidious Indian pop culture. Without Bollywood our politicians were the only jokers left onstage, perhaps the campaigns’ secret purpose was to eliminate the competition and be the only show in town. Land seizure campaigns were another populist charade that went nowhere, considering all properties were eventually returned to the owners and many people still remain landless. Then along came the puritanical anti-alcohol campaign, ridding entire districts of booze. This concept never stood a chance, one could argue such pointless activity drove many to drink even more.

The Hrithik Roshan riot in 2001, named after a Bollywood actor who (maybe) made a rude comment, gets my vote as the tackiest activity. Mobs targeted Indian owned businesses in an ugly outburst of racist xenophobia, whipped up and manipulated by Maoist agents provocateurs. Similar was the orchestrated reaction to the shocking murder of Nepali workers in Iraq, manpower agencies were trashed and Kathmandu’s mosques shamelessly vandalised, all driven by a violent rabble that appeared out of nowhere and vanished just as quickly.

The annual shut-down campaigns against private schools were not only pointless but tragic, depriving innocent students of their right to an education. And we all wish we could forget the mindless destruction of infrastructure, for a solid decade the comrades were kept busy wrecking footbridges, health-posts and electricity lines, a pointless activity the country has yet to recover from.

One of the most forgettable campaigns of all was for something called Civilian Supremacy, launched after PM Awesome resigned because he failed to oust the army chief. Sadly, the forever delayed constitution has degenerated into yet another activity that can only be labeled pointless, especially since Nepal already had a constitution. The most inclusive assembly in history showed promise until it was blocked at every turn by the same old coterie of Brahmin ideologues, squabbling behind closed doors.

The country has suffered greatly to achieve very little, and one can’t help but suspect it was all a sham to keep the people off-balance while the leaders enriched themselves. In the late 1990s Nepal’s growth rate was over 7 per cent a year; the prosperity that never materialised because of all this nonsense would have freed millions more from poverty than any war, constitution or other ideologically driven gimmick ever has.

Cartoon by Diwakar Chettri

Read also:

The 2072 constitution, Editorial

Just justifying war crimes, Damakant Jayshi

Harder to forgive than forget, Qianyi Qin

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