POWER TO IMAGINATION Framing Vision

Backed by the emergence of the social media, new ideas are coming up everywhere. A group of panelists discusses this in La Nuit des Idées (the Night of Ideas)

Feb. 6, 2018, 1:27 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL.11, No.14, February 02, 2018 (Magh 19, 2074) Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

Long before any Nepali intellectuals imagined a Republican Nepal, American scholar Samuel P. Huntington wrote in his book, Political Order in Changing Society, in 1968, the challenges before the Nepali monarchy to survive in the modern world.

He mentioned this looking at the rise of Islamic and clerical fundamentalism in Iranian society, which enjoyed quite a lot of modern values including freedom, democracy and social order under a monarchical system. In 1971, most regressive and authoritarian Khomeni and his followers thrown out modern monarchy and established theological state.

Nepal’s monarchy also introduced many modern values. However, the monarchy was swept away by this modernity as elaborated by Huntington.

As monarchy has gone, there is a rise of a communist ideology and now leftists are in a position to form six provincial governments and the government in the center with a thumping majority.

Nobody is sure how Nepal’s freedom and democratic credentials will be under an ideology which prevailed in only a few countries around the world. Although the social media are bringing change in political and ideological landscapes in the western world with the rise of young energetic president Emmanuel Macron in France and rise of Donald Trump in the United States, globally western political ideology seems to be shaking.

Are the five thousand year long western political ideologies close to an end? “No,” said Richard Werly, a journalist for Le Monde, Le Temps de Genève, Libération, TV5. This is just the end of hegemony of political parties and political leaders. “People want delivery and only young ones like Macron can deliver.”

Given the crucial transition from unitary forms of government to federalism and monarchy to republic dominated by communists, prominent personalities, including one French journalist, stressed the need for an imagination for better social and political orders. They discussed, among others, the role of social media and its implications in global order, including in Nepal.

Organized by the French Embassy, Nepal Economic Forum (NEF) and the Alliance Française de Katmandou (AFK), the “Night of the Ideas”, a worldwide debate event, featuring the theme “Power to Imagination”, revolved around Nepal in the global context. “How does imagination drive the evolution of Nepali society in a global context?”

The panelists included Aayushi KC, founder of Khaalisisi.com, Akhilesh Upadhyay, editor in chief of The Kathmandu Post, Richard Werly, a journalist for Le Monde, Le Temps de Genève, Libération, TV5 and Subina Shrestha, a journalist for Al Jazeera and a documentary filmmaker.

Moderated by Sumnima Udas, a TV personality, who was recently associated with the CNN, Ambassador of France to Nepal Yves Carmona gave the opening remarks before the discussion.

Attended by the Heads of Mission and representatives of various embassies Germany, United States of America, Switzerland, Russia, United Nations and senior Nepali Government officers, researchers, students, and representatives of media, panelists also replied to the queries from the audience.

Addressing the program, Akhilesh Upadhyay stressed that Nepal is an imaginative society and the imagination blossomed post-1990s when we were bombarded with information from internet and onset of democracy. He marked that we should be politically imaginative and underscored that Nepali people are waiting for the right leader who would fire their imagination of nation-building.

A young Nepali Entrepreneur Aayushi KC laid out the context of Nepali people being extremely courageous and imaginative in finding ways to overcome hurdles in setting up businesses in the presence of mafias, syndicates, and cartels. She highlighted that when we have imagination, it creates opportunities in business and indicated that until the government acknowledges innovative business models, it limits and discourages a lot of imagination to translate into a company.

Veteran French Journalist Richard Werly, citing the example of French elections, emphasized that the political sequence of the world has disrupted from being an ideological society to the current scenario where imagination comes first. He underscored that Emmanuel Macron was imaginative enough to understand that political experience does not matter; People want to elect someone who has real-life experience rather than traditional political experience.

Journalist Subina Shrestha marked that imagination in Nepal hit its pinnacle in 2006 when dreams of leadership were imagined from the disadvantaged group. She acknowledged that through social media, discussions that took place in dinner tables and private places, came to an open platform which is scary as technology is helping nationalism and populism to flourish. She emphasized that we need to go back to the imagination of 2006 on how the most underprivileged can benefit.

At the invitation of French Institute, the Night of Ideas was first hosted all around the world on January 26th, 2017. These meetings invite the public to come and hear researchers, experts, creators, artists, intellectuals from all disciplines, and to participate in debates.  The goal of the Night of Ideas ('La Nuit des idées') is to celebrate the stream of ideas between countries, cultures, topics and generations.

Given change in the political landscape in western society and overwhelming presence of social media and rise of communist alliance, what Nepali can imagine? “We hope to see a prosperous and inclusive society,” said Akhilesh Upadhyaya. Huntington said in the guise of liberalism Iran turned to a theological state. How will happen to Nepal’s future under the communists remains to be seen.

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