Editor and writer Narayan Wagle has emerged as an energetic civilian activist these days. Starting with the anti-rape campaign during the March 8 observation week, Wagle has been a key figure in the civil society movement that was sparked recently after the dissolution of the federal parliament. As a regular reader of Wagle’s writings from a journalist’s perspective, I gained a new insight by reading reports about him as one of the main leaders who was involved in the civil society movement. Initially, he was asked to speak in rallies as a journalist. However, as per the news, he is actually now more involved in leading movements rather than editing or writing news. Reflecting on the current situation in the country, a civil society movement is the need of the hour. There is a need for a movement which will be able to make the policy-makers and the people aware of where we are failing as a society. Looking at the progress of the political movement in Nepal during the last few decades, it is clear that systems have changed but the mindsets of the policy-makers and the people have not changed. Earlier there used to be monarchial rulers but now there are elected “rulers” who can hardly be called honest elected leaders whom people look up to.
Social revolution There is a real need for a social revolution in Nepal in order to change the mindset and the thinking pattern of the people. The monarchy was overthrown and replaced through the political movement and the republican set-up was introduced. The monarchs of yesteryears are now leading a carefree lifestyle as commoners but are slowly and steadily gaining popularity not only among the royalists but surprisingly even among the youth. The leaders who led a war against the monarchs are now being questioned on their own anarchical governing styles moving towards oligarchy rather than establishing a democratic system where people’s values are developed to foster a safe and violence-free egalitarian system. According to Andrew Heywood, who is the author of several books including the best-selling textbooks like Politics, Political Ideologies and Global Politics, the term ‘civil society’ refers to “a realm of associations, business, interest groups, classes’ families and so on.” The civil society includes all the private organisations of the people The general feeling of a civil society operating outside of the governmental and for-profit sectors is now being questioned. The contemporary definitions of civil societies according to Professor Michael Kenny of Queen Mary University of London, is a “dense network of groups, communities, networks and ties that stand between the individual and the modern state.’ Kenny opines that this definition of a civil society has become a familiar component of the main strands of contemporary liberal and democratic theorising. The civil societies are influenced by a series of ethical and political aspirations and ideologies. There cannot be just one civil society. There are many civil societies that are led by certain concepts of what they think is the correct way of leading communities. When the people’s movements are supported by the civil societies, there is bound to be tussles between the civil activists and the government apparatus. In any democratic set-up, the government comprises of people who at some time in their careers were active civil society campaigners. It is therefore ironical that once these campaigners come to power they engage in activities which has the potentiality to spark off the civil society movements. If time after time such sparks keep coming up, it could be an indication that we may need to question on the overall global political systems that we now have. The association and combination of civil societies in the West are typically affected and shaped by the ideas, traditions and values that are present in the economic sphere. Coming to the eastern cultures in countries like Nepal, the civil societies are strongly influenced by the religious, traditional and cultural values of a society. In fact, in households that are still in a joint family system many individuals still do not have the capacity to make their own decisions in their day to day activities. They look up to the seniors in the family to take decisions which they follow blindly. The country has witnessed several changes in the systems and laws, but the lifestyles and the thinking patterns have not changed much. With education and awareness, there are women and people from marginalised communities who have been empowered enough to take their own stands, but they still face discriminations with remarks such as: “…being empowered women and people from marginalised communities now you have started opposing the civil norms….”
Eastern values Now people, including women, and people from marginalised communities have access to education and have excelled in their professions and find high-earning jobs, but the society still wants them where traditional values and practices want them to be. We now, therefore, need to question why this is happening and to reflect on why we have failed as a nation? The western value system is very much focused on a capitalist mindset. The eastern value system is based on tradition and culture. The intellectuals in Nepal now need to consider our roots and to launch the current civil society movement by undoing all the wrongs in the past and set new goals that will lead our future generations towards developing a mindset which will facilitate in incorporating a value system that is based on respect of all on an equal setting. It cannot be denied that there is a deep fragmentation in the civil societies. The time has now come for the new leaders and activists to work towards a social revolution in the country which is non-discriminatory with regard to gender, caste, class or creed. This has to first start from home and then move towards the communities and the nation as a whole. So Narayan Wagle and others do consider this.
(Namrata Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights advocate. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter handle: NamrataSharmaP)