Interspersed in the early pronouncements from the throne of our new prime minister are hints of the ‘let’s forgive and forget variety’. Has he never heard the phrase ‘once bitten twice shy?’ It’s amazing the number of naïve letter –to- the-newspaper writers who write about this now being his chance to do something good. Hope springs eternal in the human breast as they say. Fingers crossed and perhaps we’ll get a nice surprise.
It should be recollected, however, that there are, in Nepal, people who never met a king or a prime minister face to face who for years ad infinitum made an art of belly aching to ex-pat experts about the horrid rule of the Rana ‘praim’ ministers and the kings and the unspeakable wrongs they are purported to have inflicted on people over a century and a half ago; and all taking the advantage of ‘cocktail talk.’ In fact, Jung Bahadur, to name one of the despots, is often blamed for absolutely everything and given credit for nothing.
A serious reappraisal of historical research is needed here, plus a deeper understanding of the times as they were--pre mobile phones and all the joys they bring. Quite often we are trapped into judgements that we are least qualified to make. Past histories of most nations are full of nasty people. In fact I can recommend a whole series of novellas on ‘Vicious Vikings’, ‘Brutal Britons’ and ‘Rude Romans’ that throw a 21st century perspective, tongue in cheek, on the European past.
Looking back with a clearer eye we can appreciate, perhaps, and should (given current incarnations on the PM’s chair) that Jung though shrewd, was also dynamic; and not such a despot when it came to his legendary ‘soft spot’ for the poor – probably a result of his father’s influence. All that aside, earlier versions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica dubbed him ‘ the Napoleon of Asia’. He codified the laws too, which act the Nepal Law Society honoured. So what’s to blame? I’ll tell you.
He bequeathed successive generations of male politicians with a craving to be ‘praim minister’. It is such a strong icon in the Nepali male psyche that our politicians can think of nothing beyond the moment they get to sit on that particular ‘gaddi’. Once on the ‘throne’ it becomes the sum of all achievements. It still goes on today. In the past it was probably the reason for tensions between palace and parliament. A proper Constitution would have solved that problem.
We’ve never, however, had a proper Constitution in the last half a century. Let’s not deceive ourselves with ‘best in the world’ and such vacuous comments by those who seek to flatter. To hammer a point home, the PM’s we’ve had ‘in situ’ after the latest version of the Constitution seem to have commenced by acting outside it!
These are my memories and so I’m guilty of often dismissing, without study, enthusiastic letters to newspapers that chirp on about ‘second chances’ to this or that leader. There are no second chances for politicians who have burned their boats so thoroughly and sunk this nation into despair and failure. They have stolen our chances; and their own.
This brings me to the alphabet soup coalition, SPAM (seven party alliance and the Maoists). SPAM should have been SPECTRE, as in the James Bond movies- the shady alliance behind all that was wrong with the world! Nevertheless, SPAM is an apt acronym (AA) because it is the name given to bogus ham, a kind of combo of bread, spices and ham scraps- a substitute for meat given to the ‘cannon fodder’ – frontline troops in WW2. On leaving the army at the end of WW2, most former combatants wouldn’t give it houseroom. But then, what to eat? In a continent ravaged by war in which even the knickers women wore had to be purchased with a coupon from a ration book and in which Wrigley’s chewing gum, one small packet, was worth a whole week’s sweet coupons, SPAM came to stay no matter how much it was disliked. And that’s exactly where we are right now!
SPAM treated us all like cannon fodder and continues to treat us all thus. Prices soar, the rich complain, the middle classes are finding it hard to cope, the poor are back to nettle stew and dhiro perhaps and yet it’s all hail the next in line of supreme leaders.
This is how SPAM has treated us and how the inheritors of this alphabet soup continue to treat us makes us truly only ‘cannon fodder’ for them. Unless we take the bull by the horns, we’ll be forever on the frontline of despair!