Watching the news on television is a painful experience. Listening to the World News and a series of disembodied voices is like fleas biting the ear. It’s full of ‘sturm und drang’. The bombed out ruins of the Middle East and its famous cradles of civilisation make a pitiful picture. Will we remember the history of the human race? It began with a ‘big bang’, is it destined to end the same way? Let’s hope not!
Then, on reflection unless we change our approach radically, it seems certain that the final big bang just might be waiting. I really hate to get over critical but we have our own 12-year experience of the ‘People’s War’- much glorified by Western reporters and ,indeed, others among us who should have known better. In true rigid fashion—or should one say following the dictates of Leon Trotsky, much of what was built up was destroyed. ‘Destroy everything and build anew’--- but then who does the building? Are we, indeed doing it now by ripping up the roads over and over again? Did the earthquake arrive to help in this wanton destruction? Will we ever restore the glories of the temple Pagodas of our Valley in the Himalayas? Where will the next Shangri La be? Who will destroy that?
What a dreadful species we are! Everything we touch crumbles: the most powerful among us destroys most! We are at a terrible turning point and unless we turn in the right direction, I truly fear we will shatter everything we built with such pride.
Many of the world’s famous feminists had hope that women could change all this if a given a chance. But chances don’t come along so often and I have to conclude, witnessing our own progress, that men have to change rather than women. Women who are well educated and well off have let us down time after time. Preaching to the rest of us, for example, against menstrual taboos, they go home and practise those very same taboos, a sign of their spiritual superiority. To follow these taboos is a personal choice and to prevent anyone’s personal choice is unpalatable. Better to begin at the beginning and dismantle illogical practices one by one. We should do so with open minds . Things illogical today- for example certain food taboos-may not have been in the past unser different environmental conditions.
Can we change in time? Can our treatment of the Earth and other creatures who share it change in time to save everything that makes life on earth so wonderful and fascinating? Changing human behaviour is a daunting task! Look how long it took for women to get the vote
This brings one to the question of whether the women of Nepal were desirous of change or not? One would almost be prepared to believe that they were not interested in a dynamic way, not interested enough to bear the discomfort of leaving that little security they had. Not only did they have the problems of the oppressive social environment but they operated within an environment of extreme poverty. Given the background, it would have been extremely easy to persuade women that it was not worth rocking the boat. The dangled plum of membership in the UN did the job for them! Has this set the sceMne for a continuous pattern of women’s projects and looking for aid?
Men are the slowest to change , and, indeed, why change when everything is going your way? The blame for this can be put on archaic methods of socialisation that encourage men to hide behind images of superiority which are substitutes for the development of any real personality. Strong laws that are not prejudiced against women will make it possible for women who are oppressed and abused by men to extract themselves from such situations. Out-moded traditions use sex to relegate women to the status of ‘objects’. Men might break sexual taboos and be forgiven - women never. The prostitute is despised because she is a constant reminder that taboos seek to couch the sexual vulnerability of men not of women into religiously-sanctioned structures. The prostitute is a professional `object' for sex. Liberation of women means that men, too, can be sexual objects. This very basic primitive instinct, procreative for women but not predominantly so in the male psyche, has set the scene for the relegation of women to an inferior status. Attitudes to women in Nepal today can be traced logically to environments in which practices of polygamy meant that mothers had duties not privileges or rights. Mothers encouraged feelings of superiority in male children because they were the key to security in old age, and still are.
It is a multi-faceted problem. In fact, one dare say it is not only a problem that has never been approached from the perspective of the socio-psychological discipline but one that social psychologists would hesitate to tackle. In societies where literacy is low, it is so easy to terrify people with superstition and call it religion. It is so easy to persuade people that if they do not conform , circumstances more dread than the ones currently existing will occur. If outside agents of superstition do not persuade women of such things, they will eventually persuade themselves. This is because they are amongst the poorest of the women of the world. The circumstances in which they are born, grow up, work, marry, have children, and nourish could not be tolerated by women elsewhere. The country needs deep economic changes that can only be sustained by social changes, massive inputs into education and health, a more comprehensive political involvement, and will to alter the quality of life in a meaningful way. Can it be done at all?