There was a time, not so very long ago, when one could answer the denigrating snipes on democracy by pointing out the instances in which power passed on in an orderly manner from one faction to another; how women not only had suffrage but many associate rights as well; how things were only going to get better and better under such well-ordered systems. And after the forming of the United Nations, to cite the Biblical:
“.And the lion shall lie down with the lamb- nation shall speak peace unto nation and no-one shall speak war any more.” Huh?
Admittedly, every system had/has its rebels, usually leaning to the extreme right or left, but then the youthful rebel makes for the orthodox middle-aged banker or civil servant, and so it would always be ----or so we thought----as long as everyone had democracy and human rights, as long as every nation subscribed to the same mantra.
Now one wonders where it all went wrong! Certainly one can find little to distinguish the loud, populist election campaign of the American Donald Trump from the loud dialectic of P.K.Dahal --- each of them aiming to be top man in their respective countries. If we find Trump’s plans to build a wall between the US and Mexico and ban people from Islamic countries an insult to modern diplomacy and fairness, then perhaps we should consider Dahal et al’s attempts to replace the incumbent prime minister of Nepal without the consent of the people an insult to we the people. When did the General Election take place, I wonder!
Since when did the Constituent Assembly become a parliament?
Did we all miss something, while our colleagues from the Fourth Estate filled our heads with the continual stream of garbage in and garbage out that drifted to us from Baneswar? And while the timid woman speaker avoided at all costs displeasing her bosses in the Party, not realising the power of the Speaker in a ‘parliamentary ‘ setting and that in her role she is supposedly neutral to all parties, what slipped by the rest of us? Was it the fact that people are still living under tarpaulin and clinging to hillsides while 200 billion rupees loiters in the budget because no-one wants to confront the real business of government: to look after the nation and its people.
I heard an American commentator making the excuse for the, now famous, plagiarised speech of Melania Trump by saying that not being a professional politician’s team, the Trump camp maybe didn’t realise where to draw a line. He should swing over here and observe our politicians who have mastered the fine art of loitering on the brink and then doing nothing. Some generations ago, a wit made the comment “ If you want to frighten an Englishman, ask him to make a decision.”
He could have repeated that applied that to Nepal’s politicians who will worry the bone of a decision until some ‘heavy weight’ comes along and pushes it down their throats. Do any of them ever tell it like it is? I wonder.
Not that the US Election is professional this time around. It seems to be collapsing into mayhem- at least on the Republican side. The vitriolic rage coming from the Republican camp aimed at the Democratic camp personified by Hillary Clinton was unprofessional and shocking and, frankly, reminded me of some of the most venomous outbursts of Edwardian men towards women suffragettes. Well, not quite because there’s wasn’t a hint of humour in any of the Republican diatribe.
So, one has to ask oneself whether there isn’t a great deal of mysogynism and racism in their rage? Has the glass ceiling ever been broken or are women of substance only kidding themselves?
Of course women feel safe in groups and can let vent their feelings and outrage about the poor hand they have been dealt in life among and together with other women. But how about that famous ‘when the door shuts behind the two of you’ warning of just about everybody’s grandmother? How safe do women feel then? How far do they still believe that to become angry and hit back is unseemly and unfeminine?
I have often had a sneaking suspicion that the rise of Da^esh has little to do with wishing to make the world a religious Caliphate and more to do with male chauvinism. After all, Islamic scholars have condemned them as Un-Islamic and unlike Donald J.Trump; I don’t think they are lying. After all they belong to a long line of scholars who protected the works of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas from the destruction of the Inquisition. As the world wanes are those who wish to beat on their masculine, hairy chests like King Kongs becoming more visible and finding the world too ordinary and unexciting?
Meanwhile women become hopeful that they are getting close to breaking the glass ceiling. Yet, that’s only one side, the side of the educated and privileged.
Forty-five years ago I began working in the remoter regions of Nepal. In those days it was difficult to persuade Nepalese women to do this, although I never had any difficulty in finding young women to come along. Menstrual taboos and birthing practices angered me, as they do now –and I stress this---. Menstrual taboos in particular were interpreted as tradition of a religious nature. Yet they are there in every major Faith, not just in this part of the world. From prehistory menstrual blood has frightened men. You can witness the origins and reasons for fear in the cave paintings of Lascaux, which are no longer open to the public. You can trace the different ‘traditions’ in the Golden Bough by Fraser. The Golden Bough is a work that puts forward the western scholar’s views of those far-gone days when to be white was civilised and to be any other colour or of any other origin was somewhat less civilised. All served up on a plate of comparative religion.
So, one asks whether there was a time when women were so powerful that they were feared? That would explain the misogynist jokes; the ridiculing of women’s bodies, and the boring tendency to portray wives as opponents – at least in the milieu of male camaraderie. Believe me, the answers are all there in the world’s oldest religious texts. I’d like to go into it further but it’s part of a weighty thesis I wrote many years ago. For now I’m just curious to know what happened when Melania Trump met Donald J. after her plagiarised speech! As for we, in Nepal, the glass ceiling is still there! It may not be as double plated as it was before but we’ll still have to keep prodding away!