Identity and nationhood
This is in response or a follow-up to Dinkar Nepal’s article (http://nepalitimes.com/regular-columns/Connecting-dots/the-ideation-of-nation,877) on nationhood where he rejects ethnic national identity and sought for a more practical identity.
There is no better way to know about identity than reading the great medical doctor, neurologist and science writer-Oliver Sacks. For instance take one of his section on his book “The man who mistook his wife for a hat”, where he describes his patients with loss of visual perception, loss of proprioception and even loss of memory. These patients are human beings who have lost certain mental faculty but even then could build their own “identity” around their losses described in beautiful prose by the author. Oliver Sacks writes “There is always a reaction on the part of affected individuals to restore, to compensate and to preserve his or her identity”. In short, to build our own identity around circumstances is to be human.
But how does buildup of a nation and identity relate to each other? Whoever says nationhood is not important would be lying. For example, belonging to a particular nation may give certain advantages to a person that one belonging to another nation would not get. A person of British nationality may be able to travel a lot of countries without restriction, and may get free health care under NHS that a person from Nepali nationality may not get. These all things ultimately will have an effect on the psyche of the people.
Let us take for example division of nations. No doubt division of India, Korea and Germany during the 1940s should have a profound effect on the psyche of the citizens of those countries at those times. When a nation disintegrates and a new nation is formed, it can create a sort of chaos in the mind especially if the belonging is strong. The Indian American author Siddhartha Mukherjee, in his book, “Gene-an intimate history” blames the partition of India for the mental illness in his family. In the similar note my own mental illness could be related to the instability occurring in Nepal. As we grow up in a country, it determines who we are.
But we build up our own identity with our own circumstances. Rene Descrates, the French enlightenment philosopher, once said that a devil cannot fool him into believing that he no longer exists because he is a thinking being thus the dictum “I think therefore I am”. But our thought changes every day. In the near future we could experiment with the theory that self is changing itself or not because so much is stored nowadays. I once read my old emails and could not believe that I could have written those things. The central gravity that holds our self and identity could indeed be a changing entity that changes according to circumstances we face in life.
My own sense of being has been profoundly affected by what happened in my country while I was growing up. The change of Kathmandu, as I grew up, from a relatively silent city with less traffic to a modern cosmopolitan and noisy and dusty metropolis it is today, made me realize the arrival of modernity in Nepal. I am witness to the days when King Birendra was regarded as Lord Vishnu, to Maoist insurgency, to the change to republic and ethnic conflict that happened while I was in my 20s and travelling in and out of Nepal. No other generation of Nepalis has witnessed such massive amount of changes as the millennial Nepali generation has. We are still trying of to make sense of all this. There is certainly no black and white answer to the question “Who is a Nepali?”- a question once asked by the NGO-Code for Nepal. Although I do not live in Nepal now, I could say being witness to the events that happened in Nepal in my youth, worrying about the country- all of which has an effect on my psychological wellbeing, makes me a Nepali.
Let me take a short detour to ethnicity. Actually ethnicity mixes with national identity. But in Nepal, the topic of ethnic identity is getting so political and heated up, that it is better we avoid it while we are talking about rights of certain ethnic groups. When identity is mixed with political activism, it is a bad mixture. To say that you have same opinions as others simply because you belong to a particular group would be a wrong suggestion. Why should a person belonging to a Kirat ethnic group have the same opinion on solution on poverty of Nepal with another Kirati? Facts do not change simply because you belong to a certain tribe. We should talk about specific issues rather than being bogged down by politics of identity. And furthermore identity politics feeds on narcissism. Tribalism and narcissism are indeed the worst outcomes to come out of identity politics. It is better we avoid that.
Dinkar Nepal, in his article in Nepali Times, says that we need a more practical definition of being a Nepali. Actually we do not need that. In his brilliant paper, “What it is like to be a bat?” (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/iatl/activities/modules/ugmodules/humananimalstudies/lectures/32/nagel_bat.pdf), the philosopher Thomas Nagel creates a thought experiment on what it is like to be another being. For Nagel, it is impossible to imagine what it is like to be another being because we are bound by our subjective experience. Science and advance philosophy may answer that question someday but it is indeed a very difficult question to answer. The answer to the question “What it is like to be a Nepali?” involves similar philosophical complications. The matter of fact is we should just keep on living and brain will create itself of what being a Nepali or a Canadian feels like. For now without going into the philosophical conundrum, we can just say being a Nepali means a being whose favorite dish may be Momos, who may eat rice and curry daily, who speaks Nepali or any other ethnic languages,…and we can go on and on.
The Doklam dilemma
Being a buffer state between the two giant neighbors, Nepal should conduct its foreign policy vis-à-vis China and India in a very sensitive manner. Nepal has always maintained that it would not allow its soil to be used against any neighbor. At the same time, Nepal should make sure that its own national interests are never compromised.
Gaurab Shumsher Thapa
Effect of monetary policy on risk, stability and financial crises
The crisis of 2008–09 has reignited a new interest in understanding money and credit fluctuations in the macro economy, and the crucial roles they could play in the amplification, propagation, and generation of shocks both in normal times and, even more so, in times of financial distress. This may reopen a number of fundamental fault lines in modern macroeconomic thinking between theories that treat the financial system as irrelevant, or, at least, not central to the understanding of economic outcomes, and those that reserve a central role for financial intermediation.
The return trip
It took us over five hours, drenched in rain, walking through treacherous ratomato sluggishly. It should not have taken more than two hours in a normal day. It was the cruellest irony that no sooner did we reach Panchkhal and sat at the Pipal Chautari to rest, than the bus we had left behind, arrived with people in the bus bursting with laughter on seeing us.
Prospects for Nepali talents in the Diaspora
When Indu, a Nepali American teen studying in Virginia, asked Panta whether she could inspire Nepali youngsters into music industry and convince their parents to consider Nepali music as a path to professionalism, the female heartthrob of Nepali music could not fully convince her.
Traffic Police in Kathmandu
As busy and hassling as the traffic system in Kathmandu is, the Traffic Police here have to handle an equally strenuous job. Over 1,400 traffic officers in and around the Kathmandu Valley battle against the pestering traffic and air pollution each day.
Menstrual taboo outdated
I have seen my sisters and friends isolated and treated in discriminatory manner during their first menstruation cycle. They were not allowed to look at the sun, to touch water source, flower, fruits, any male family member, nor even hear their voice. The activist may claim the situation has changed and I do agree but still during every month my loved ones turns into untouchables beings.