Humans are born within the walls of their families, societies and the nation-states. Their knowledge and experience have enabled them to see beyond these walls and allowed them to lift them up and beyond the walls, even to stellar scale. Agricultural revolution has liberated them from nomadic life and fostered the civilisation of nation-states. Industrial revolution has pushed them from villages and farms to factories in the cities where the alchemy of modernity and civic life flourished. Now, technological, informational and knowledge revolution is shifting them from inherited communities to self-chosen societies and linking them to global society of peoples, communities, nation-states, regions and the world.
It has widened their horizon of thinking, organisation and action and provided them an opportunity for social mobility. This is the fact of life. But this fact is without values and perspectives, without any reference point as this mobility has liberated elites from the social responsibility to the society of their origin and the burden of its unsightly consequences. This has separated their knowledge from the sense of traditional wisdom thus opening the repulsive contradictions in life, competitive violence and regression into geopolitical conflict, a clear manifestation of the un-socialised instinct of humans and nations.
The atomistic worldview articulated by disciplinary knowledge has added more elements to these contradictions and cloaked the potentiality of knowledge to universality seeking the convergence of civilisations, not their clashes. The inability of disciplinary knowledge to grasp the entire feeling and desire of the life-world in the policy realm is the reason for the challenges Nepalis are facing today.
The incentive for social mobility is only the money and opportunity. In the pursuit of wealth, Nepalis have lost their knowledge dripped by forefathers whose faith in the sovereignty of true knowledge disciplined power. Therefore, the responsibility of knowledgeable persons is to spread knowledge into the masses and prepare people to change the society for better disposition.
This separation of the current generation of Nepalis from the wisdom and sacrifice of forefathers made them smarter and clever, but less experienced and wise to affirm the Vedic mantra of Barya Rastre Jagriyam, engage in national awakening.
Experience refined and socially validated knowledge can shift Nepalis’ contemporary belief to concrete understanding of self and the world and update worldview to cultivate its ancient ideal of education to produce the sublime Jagrit manyshya (awakened citizens). The full meaning of life is often found not in isolation, but in interconnection and corresponding responsibility to the divine, human and cosmic web of life.
Yet, a narrow path to knowledge imitating rationalism and positivism driven by disciplinary canons has neither cultivated Nepali schools and colleges to civility nor guaranteed the sanity of culture, insight and tradition of freedom. Even not the trained votaries of Nepali professionals, legislators, judges and bureaucrats socialised in the Hippocratic Oath to serve the people honestly and readily. They are ready to forget the oath while dealing with practical affairs considering it karma kand (only rituals) with no utility to a normative guide. Policy wonks need to surmise as to why Nepal only borrows policy substances and frame without gaining insights from its own continuous failures and inability to assume social learning.
It is important to uplift the standards of Nepalis often aspiring for a better life, liberty, progress and social peace and reclaim the long genealogy of knowledge for socialisation, education and freedom. One must know what human life is for to resolve the predicament of their unlimited aspirations and limited ability to attain them. This aspect of knowing self with a sparkling clarity has been abandoned in the formal education of Nepal as intellectuals seek to understand this world through the canons of reason, science and logic. They have done great injustice to spiritualism, ethics, morality, feeling, sentiment and emotion as articulated by Nepali poets, journalists and literary critics.
The reconciliation of two sides can alone ensure human maturity. Gurukuls and some historians are keeping this tradition alive. Now, Nepal’s education system, both private and public, is geared more towards career enhancement through technological mastery of the world than knowing the deeper meaning of self as a human person and performing corresponding responsibilities to other humans and nature upon whom all species nourish their vital life force - prana. Oblivious of this common sense shared by all human beings is the mark of a great human folly, vanity and arrogance.
This is the reason Karl Marx said, “Educators must be educated” so that they talk about the creation of a fairer society where equality of opportunity for all exists in theory and practice and hidden relation of capital with labour is divulged to know the meaning of history for the invocation of freedom. This is also the reason the Upanishads have sought to liberate humans through the separation of knowledge from rituals as knowledge gives one freedom while rituals obscures it. Sensible scientists, humanists and spiritual persons sharpen up their inquiry in this field of what constitutes human and what they stand for.
But they have not been fully successful to entirely move humans from belief to knowledge, consciousness to conscience, groupthink to individual creativity and acquire potential for harmonious human development in Nepal. Great persons have the best virtues and follow the just path of progress without harming nature, culture and other humans.
The continuity of violence, denial of rights, war and abuse of human persons indicates that the deep human nature has not been properly socialised much as per the caring norms, laws and policies they developed to aid the doctrine of freedom against necessity, fear and domination. In this sense, the role of experience, feeling and ideational faith in education articulated by Nepali sages is vital.
It combines both reflective experience of the context and ever-evolving theoretical knowledge refined and validated by inclusive Shastrarthra (critical discourse). The deterministic and orthodox knowledge are animus to freedom.
As a result, individuals continue to face the tyranny of the powerful and majority. Freedom entails the distribution of intelligence in the entire society, mass education and active people ready to counter the false consciousness they are submitted to and acquire will and courage to act like ancient Rishis who drove human existence to freedom as they dared to speak truth to power and sought just distribution of welfare in society.
Nepalis can leave to their posterity the ontological fullness of life through the discovery of true gyana, (knowledge) and ways to liberate self from constraints.
This requires the need of support from diverse intellectuals who are engaged in pursuit of knowledge for freedom and to improve the family, society, nation and the world so that posterity does not blame the predecessors for all the wrongs but takes delight from their insight, contribution and pride in making themselves better for their children.
In Nepal, unprecedented forgetting of the insight of the past, even history and keeping life only for the present without intergenerational accountability is the major source of a dilemma.
Most of Nepali elites, conditioned on the virtue of utilitarianism and hedonism of Charvak, readily argue that wealth and comfort are their prime aims of life.
Their life devoted to private ends blurs their inquiry into the need for social consciousness of the nature of the world and finds no means to escape from the petrifying gaze of the necessity of the oppressed so that space of freedom for the posterity can be well preserved. So far Nepalis organised society through the creation of hierarchy, power, authority and coercion, not freedom of individuals articulated in Vedant with the echo of existentialism aham asmi. It is now facing precarious and vanishing preconditions. Mahatma Gandhi also says, “A nation that wants to come into its own ought to know all the ways and means to freedom.”
Concept of legitimacy
The concept of legitimacy derived from human rights does not justify any means if they are devoid of popular consent, public opinion, constitutional law, elections and careful consideration of life-enhancing impulses. The invention of democracy, social justice and peace are precisely couched in these areas and any effort to strip them off Nepalis individuality and reduce them to groupthink of excessive party-mindedness, class, caste, gender, ethnicity, religion, region or ideology amounts to the dissolution of their human integrity and freedom and leave not a cross-cultural civic Nepali nation to the posterity rooted in democracy and human rights but only a clash of culture, solidarity and rights.
What is the meaning of citizenship certificate or national identity cards if loyalties are reduced to primordial consideration, not the Nepali state? If the new generation of leaders is remembered only for their troubled achievements, social unity, peace and democracy can hardly flourish in the nation.
Professionals as enlightened people and critical masses of Nepali society must become an organic part of the nation and share their knowledge and skills, vision and perspectives to the less professional ones for lifting the society to reasonable standards of sustainability of progress. Only then people do not lose their hope in democracy for its abstract principles. Knowledge, mediated by experience and wisdom, can alone illuminate Nepalis’ freedom and lift leaders from the blind passion to bear the burden of public accountability.
(Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues.)