Wednesday, 19 January, 2022

Critique Of Non-political Activism

Critique Of Non-political Activism

Prof. Bhupa P. Dhamala

We generally assume that politics is about formulation of government and rule. But this is by no means all. Politics is not simply confined to such matters as which party to vote in the election and whom to make the head of state or of the government. Nor is it simply to rule. It encompasses all affairs of life. Famous political writer George Orwell (1946) claimed,

“. . . in our age there is no keeping out of politics. All issues are political issues.” By this he meant politics is applicable to even the most ordinary socioeconomic affairs such as which carpet to buy and which film to see.
Simple though as it may look, purchase of a carpet involves a serious political principle – whether the carpet is woven by child labourers, whether it is legal to employ children to carpet industry, and whether it is ethical to use the carpet made by innocent children who otherwise should have been learning at schools. In like manner we may be labelled as sexist if we choose to see a film that portrays woman as a fetish object. Suffice it to say, anything that we call mundane has political nature. So Orwell’s argument about politics is still valid. It is impossible to escape politics.

Politics versus Non-politics
There should be clear distinction between politics and non-politics, however. Merely talking about politics cannot be called political. Involvement of people in promoting political values and principles is politics. Active involvement in politics without proper manner is non-politics. If politics is done improperly, that can be called non-politics in the name of politics. Undue activism in political affairs is non-political activism – non-political in the sense that we are engaged in the type of political activity that we are not entitled to.

Nepali politics today seems to go in the direction of non-politics for a number of reasons. In almost all state mechanisms we find employees who are members of particular political parties who tend to act in the interests of the parties they belong to. Furthermore, they go out in the street to support or protest against a particular party or its leader. This can be taken as an instance of non-political activism. I do not mean the professionals should be deprived of politics. What I really mean is they should be involved in due political practice. The responsibility of an employee is to accomplish the given task skilfully and sincerely without being biased in the interests of the people and the nation which indeed promotes political principles.

Another detestable instance of non-political activism is making rival camps within parties based on power centre, flattering a particular leader of their faction and insulting another leader of a different faction. To find faults in programmes and policies and expose follies and foibles of the leadership can be called political but to label a particular leader with such terms as “traitor”, “criminal” and “anti-national” without adequate evidence is non-political activism. If we look at the walls of social media these days, we can see them painted by activists with the ugly black marks of hate speech on the fair white surfaces.
Surprisingly enough, even the intellectuals including university professors have been divided into absurd camps that have been made by senior leaders to serve their political ends. Political though it may seem to many activists, this eccentric behaviour, on the contrary, is a non-political activism. No one is to blame personally. The decline of civilized culture is to blame instead. The leaders alone are not to blame for this to happen. Politics as such is not to blame either. It is rather the foul political practice that is responsible for non-political activism.

The word ‘Politics’ has now lost its value and has become a derogatory term. Many people are beginning to call politics a foul game. Politics should not be understood in pejorative sense. There are several reasons for such non-political activism. One of them is lack of political education. Most of the self-declared all-knowing leaders have little knowledge of what is happening around the world. They obviously know political tricks much more than others but they might be unaware of global political, economic, and cultural forces that impinge upon the powerless nations.

Another reason is the self-interest of the political actors – great or small, leaders or followers. It looks like we have lost patriotic sentiment which we once had. Tired of nepotism and corruption, most of the meritorious youths have fled to foreign countries to seek opportunities. Brain drain has been a national problem. We have fostered mediocrity in all spheres of life. Many are not accountable to their tasks. They are not capable, honest, and hardworking. The streets are strewn with mediocre activists with no vision to build the nation. This is also an example of non-political activism.

Fair Politics
There is no need to worry much, however. Politics is not as filthy a game, as many of us might think. Alienation from politics is all because of its mishandling which many political actors may not be conscious of. Fair politics has tremendously changed the world. We can see the examples of political contributions that have been made by the activists involved in American War of Independence, French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, and Indian decolonisation movement. Had there not been revolutionary politicians, the world would not have been as it exists today. Politics is thus as essential to society as breathing is to life. If politics is indispensible part of our life, we should all play our due role in politics.

The only thing that we need to do is to disorient the political actors, professionals, and intellectuals from the non-political activism. The youths should be involved in creative activities. The professionals should cultivate neutral attitudes and behaviour in state affairs. The intellectuals should have critical understanding of things and events. Only then can we see Nepal engaged in genuine politics.

(The author is the chairman of Molung Foundation.