Ideologies on T-shirts
If you wander around Pulchowk Campus these days, you will see many students in white and red T-shirts supporting three different ideologies for upcoming FSU elections. BP Koirala and Che Guevara have their faces imprinted while Donald J. Trump has his slogans plagiarized on the T-shirts. One can easily guess which personality is used to promote which student organization. To remove any doubt, BP Koirala adorns NSU’s, Che Guevara ANNFSU (Revolutionary)'s, and “#let’s_make_pulchowk_campus_great_again” ANNFSU’s. I liked the idea of the hashtag. Because Donald Trump is almost synonymous with the personality of their mother organization’s supremo KP Oli. Only that Trump is thousands times more powerful and richer than Oli. However, both are equally radical in terms of their thinking.
It is always easy to wear a face/slogan on a t-shirt and shout chants of “change”. The time when student organizations make the loudest of noises is when petrol price goes high. Not because they fear the commoners' pocket will become lighter, but because it is their opportunity to fill theirs. I have hardly seen, in my two years at the campus, student organizations rallying for any educational issue. If there has been any such event, they were probably not as noticeable as those agendas on their priority lists. When their priorities are broad topics like nationalism, international relations and others how can we expect them to raise a small issue of education, right? And not education but nationalism builds a country, am I not right ANNFSU folks?
There was a time, during Panchayat system, when student politics was the only legitimate way to practice politics in Nepal, because the political parties were banned and termed unconstitutional. Student politics was, then, more “value-oriented” than “norm-oriented.” Philip Altbach has distinguished between a “norm-oriented” movement, one concerned with specific goals and generally the product of a specific limited issue, and a “value-oriented” movement, which is concerned with broad, ideological issues. There was need for it to be “value-oriented”. Is the need same now? No. The parties are free to work on issues they like to raise, run public awareness, movements. Students need to revert back to “norm-oriented” movements with more focus on student issues, like they had after the establishment of democracy in 1951.
“Student politics should be done by students”, said one of my friends, who is himself involved with one of the student organizations. This statement came when we were talking how the party high command influences, to put it politely, the student politics, and picks the candidates who have a better track record in serving the personal interests of the people in high command, not the ones who are bright deserving candidates. If student politics is to be the grooming ground for future politicians, the focus should be on leadership skills, communication skills, debates on agenda etc. But for easiest and guaranteed success, what one needs is to master the art of bootlicking. And when the young bright minds of country are reduced to mere puppets, it is good neither for the students nor politics.
It is not that students should not inherit ideologies. They should choose whichever ideology appeals to them and modiy that ideology in accordance to time and situation. But instead they are just wearing them on a T-shirt. In a country where no political parties run on ideology, how can we expect their sister organizations, like student organizations, to run on ideology? That is the major part of the problem. The ways of the youths and the elderly are alike. When the boundary of thinking of the youths and the old ones blurs, the “change” is sure to be delayed. It is the nature of the old people to support status quo. They are systematically against change, because it challenges their whole existence. A revolutionary is never old, it is the revolution that keeps him young, fresh, alive. Similarly, a person opposing change cannot be called a youth. In current context, the student politician are seen seeking blessings from their party leaders. Blessings in terms of money, power, and authority. Not ideologies or student issues. Because their leaders are as unaware and uncaring about them as they are themselves. It is very difficult to disagree with someone you seek blessings from. Now they are just like their leaders. Old and corrupt. Adjust and you are old, or revolt and you are a youth.
Revolution is often seen together with blood. There have been many instances in human history when a person’s or a group’s madness has been called revolution. In my opinion, Buddha was a great revolutionary, as was Einstein. Anything that challenges the present way of thinking about life is a revolution. In student politics, when it comes to revolution, the only blood I want to imagine being used is that flows into your brain and comes out energized with new ideas with every heartbeat. I often get replies like the things I talk are impractical. In the 15th century flying was impractical. It is not now. It was same for reaching the moon until that was achieved. Even if impractical, I will choose impracticality, any day, over corruption, over “popular” thinking, over adjusting with the old. At last, I will reiterate my appeal to all of you, do not just imprint the revolutionaries on your T-shirts, bags, head/arm bands, but wear them in your thoughts, your hearts. Else the students might end up fighting among themselves in the same college they want to make great again!
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