Peace building has become one of the priority areas of good governance. The course of peace, however, is not pre-set. The imperative for generational balance has emerged as a decisive factor of Nepali politics. The patterns of communication and interaction are geared to tone various layers of life and overcome the antinomy between peace and justice. Those engaged in peace engross their inquiry in identifying the causes of conflicts, promoting various approaches and offering mediation so as to ward off the falling of human lives into pre-civilised form. Peaceful communication across ideologies, religions, cultures, gender, identities and sub-national divides sets a context for understanding each other’s nature, perception and expectation and builds a trust for shared security.
Lack of it rears anomie arising from selfish desire of certain leaders who believe that governance is a rule of technical majority rather than representation of popular sovereignty inscribed in Nepali constitution. Those who refuse to acknowledge other’s legitimate interests and identities disrupt systemic ties and subordinate each other. Justification of evil acts has left the human rights struggle of Nepalis for liberation, entitlements, recognition and dignity undying. It can impair the public's hope for stable peace, rendering them petrified and driving them to various directions — migration abroad, populism, discontent, passivity and radical longing for compensation. Each conflict in Nepal has created its own leaders, allies, supporters and spectators.
Unless the critical mass of the nation becomes suitably decisive to exert pressure on the core of the decision centre about transforming the taproots of conflict, peace communication cannot shape leaders’ peaceable learning behaviour. The pledge of Nepali government for a credible transitional justice system to the optimum satisfaction of victims has ignited a gleam of hopes to ramp up full reconciliation in society and avert the possibility of international jurisdiction to step in. The Nepali society has to dispel politics plunging into the abyss of doubt. In a situation of frosty calm, communication of peace is allied more with memories of loss and costs than opportunities. Leaders’ impious desire for power is no excuse if their higher will for peace and justice does not build any stake in them.
The use of the conflict situation as a bargaining chip to create leverage for power can unsettle the emotion of sensitive critical mass. It is voicing its concern to disclose truth, reparation to conflict victims and apology from predators. Its conscientious opinion, analysis and judgments can help break the vicious cycle of conflict arising out of wild manifestation of human nature, character of governance and verve of the international system. A conflict situation is driven by the desire of Nepali leaders to sanctify the status quo even if they suffer from the crisis of performance. The warmth of power is real, not just psychological. The conflict-sensitive lens of leaders can only be expected to prompt mutual understanding among the drivers and actors of conflict to consult people and allow them to tone as to how to unfreeze the political stalemate and generate the cavalcade of peace.
Klaus P. Horn and Regine Brick speak of “inner democracy” to learn from normative communication pattern requiring to “dethrone rational mind as the sovereign ruler in ways of learning, problem solving and innovation” through the use of “the emotional intelligence of the right brain” beyond linear-analytic method applied by social scientists and lawyers in enacting the law of transitional justice. The latter oblivious of the corruption of power discounts the feeling, sentiment, emotion, faith and the spirit of spiritualism in building peace within self. Passion and emotion, not scientific reason, drive the iron law of politics.
Communication of sensation, thinking and a sense of belonging to the frame of peace affirms Nepalis right to know and break the culture of silence underlying the belief that they are only the passive recipients of peace dividends, not its co-creators. By taking politics out of public life and consigning the Nepalis in passivity can fade the power of social communication to stir political relations and reduce the prospects for inclusive transformation. In poor nations like Nepal costs of conflict have become onerous to be mostly borne by ordinary people; majority of them are just battling for survival needs. Everyday critical mass detonates debates to inform the leaders about the urgency of caring human rights, reconciliation, transitional justice and public good. The rights of Nepalis to life-choices is a universal frame to prepare leaders for a pluralist sense of justice and fill a sense of fidelity to society acting like an organism.
Fair communication mends public life and repairs a condition that lifts up positive peace. Nepali leaders, intellectuals and policy wonks must know how peace accord is framed, who its stakeholders are, which sets its virtuous cycle and what the purpose behind promotion of peace indicators is. Use of a peace plot in revealing the spoilers and crafting peaceable means can help decision-makers to establish its conditions in society. Building multiple bonds of trust and a network of people acting in peace concert had fostered open communication, trustful ties and dependable working relationships in the past, thus setting free exchange of ideas and offering concrete options to an inclusive peace that is just, stable and participatory. Peace promotion largely rests on pulling together the “connectors of society” so as to link different groups in the national bonding, providing each an opportunity to air views, join and organise cooperative action.
Engaging native critical mass versed in indigenous wisdom and insights into peace education and using the constitution as a deed of unity can simplify the esoteric language of disciplinary experts, unreflective researchers and mind-muddling ideologues to make the message of communication lucid to the people and create manifold spaces for peace. The critical mass is awakened citizens having the ken to observe the overall state of society and spot vital questions in larger context and connection. Civic duties require them to formulate non-partisan, prudent perspectives on peace enhancing ecological, social, economic, political and cultural policies and activities beyond the rationalistic concept of politics that defines it as both an end and means to acquire more power.
This duty requires them to become daring to exercise freedoms, muster autonomy and integrity and learn from the people as to how they can work together to craft mutually satisfying solutions. The free flow of communication makes for a strong community of peace rooted in the normative values of equality, social unity and cooperative action. Value objectivity, aloofness and a claim for experts’ privileges and prerogatives absolves them from public duties to the society. The basic challenge of Nepali critical mass now is to bring back the mutilated public into normal life and switch the society of interest groups, free-riders and spoilers that are not communicating to each other into a deliberative public reflecting the exigency of peace.
In the chrysalis period, the critical mass can define the framework condition of communication and discover insiders’ shared desires and sentiments. In the phase of overall normalisation it can increase the circle of peace and enlarge people’s confidence in the economy of peace that can revitalise production, exchange, balance import-export ratio and cut crippling debt and dependency essential for liberty. It underscores the material benefits of peace. Nepali critical mass has a major duty to defend civil liberties, spur robust debates and criticism of the spoilers to energise the public zeal for peace existing beneath the surface of society since ancient times. It can offer support to the aggrieved persons to get justice, educate them about human rights and flesh out alternative approaches beyond the canon of rational, positivist, fragmented, ideological and disciplinary domination.
In a nation where leaders, scholars and bureaucrats see peace only through logic, rationality and utility, it is important to instil people with a spirit of inquiry so that they can create public opinion relevant to its physical, moral and political imperatives. Ignorance of the public implies the failure of communication and innocence about its right to know about the condition of peace. Whatever people think about peace and communicate to others does not spring naively. Social and political facts are derived from the local context. They are laden with the mode of their language, feelings, thoughts and culture and are drawn from life situations where the display of power, resource, identity and resistance gyrates the cycles of causes and effects.
If facts are interpreted according to the values, preferences, knowledge and skills of people, Nepalis can shape positive perception of progress and peace. In a situation of chilly political polarisation, the responsibility of critical mass lies not only in framing facts in the name of objectivity that may sometimes stir up events but instil in the main actors certain normative values that are useful for the enrichment of peace indicators. Freedom of Nepalis from fear and basic needs deficits can minimise the rage of violence by means of communication and enforcing the accountability of rights abusers to the public and keeping them in a constant state of vigilance.
Juergen Habermas says, “The spiral of violence begins as a spiral of distorted communication that leads through the spiral of uncontrolled reciprocal mistrust, to the breakdown of communication.” In this sense, critical mass can pass judgment whether communication is distorted or fair. Nepali critical mass needs to anticipate the consequences of information various sides set to flow and harness social efficacy of people. At a time of turbulent geopolitical situation, human values and national perspectives are elan vital for decision making. There is always a perceptual gap between leaders’ definition of the situation and more objective reality communicated as accurate judgment.
Maintaining a balance between perception and judgment is vital. Similarly, when the lives of Nepalis are really at stake, communication should not be decided by profit logic or political imperative of power calculus, but by social utility of protecting the general public and national interest. Only then, communication of knowledge can serve as instruments of human solidarity and bring Nepalis back into a normal life. The more the people communicate effectively to others, the better they develop understanding, trust and cooperation and shape peaceful lives. Peace with self is bliss, nirvana. It is also communicated and accepted by others as the highest goal of politics.
(Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues.)