Forthcoming

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

Nepal and democracy? Please Donít Disturb My Himalayan Holiday.

2013-11-19

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Do we need an ex-US president to observe today’s election in Nepal to make it noteworthy?  Or will violence attract outside attention?

Either way, international media has all but ignored Nepal’s aspirations as a republic. A major democratic struggle is underway in a nation needing its hard-won and gallant uprising, a revolution that started in 1990 and has been stumbling along since then, to become relevant to the Nepali people.

Dismissal of today’s zoo porn election is widespread among Nepal’s citizens. The same applies to our international community, it seems. Whereas Maldives Island with a voting population of just 240,000  received extraordinary global attention in recent days, Nepal’s 12 million voters are essentially overlooked. Could that be because the major contenders are Maoist or Marxist-linked parties? In what little news we have in the international press you’ll find excessive attention to Nepal’s Maoists in all their manifestations, while the real issues confronting this Asian nation of 27 million are largely ignored.

Especially Britain, India and the USA have essentially abandoned democratic aspirations there, first with the guerrilla war that led to the fall of a one party Hindu monarchy, then with multi-party elections that gave Maoists the leadership in two out of five governments since 2006.  (Britain and the USA armed the king in his ultimately unsuccessful fight against the insurgency, with possibly half of the estimated 13,000  Nepalese victims of the conflict killed by Nepal’s troops.)

To be sure, six years after they entered government, the nation’s leftist parties and their leaders have squandered political opportunities afforded by the rebel successes. The public is justified in its disappointments; many people I spoke to on my most recent visit to Nepal say they’ll not vote. Voters declare they are confused by the number of parties and disenchanted with new candidates as well as present leaders.

Public disgust may doubtless be behind some of the violence preceding today’s election. But more than squabbling parties are to blame for the languishing state of the country and the despondency of its people.

First let’s recall the extraordinary efforts that paved the way to this democracy. Starting in 1990, tens of thousands of Nepalese erupted in opposition to injustice and misrule. Costly protests led to important reforms: —multi parties, freedom of association, an open press. But those remarkable transformations left the nation with neither essential economic changes nor a constitution. A suffocating class system remained undisturbed, gender inequalities stood, the monarchy was still the final arbiter, and corruption continued.

The successful guerrilla insurgency led to a cease fire in 2006, the inclusion of Maoists in the political process, and, finally, astonishingly, the end of the 240 year old abusive (Hindu) monarchy. A republic was created and Nepal seemed to be destined for better things.

Those early accomplishments were never really welcomed by the very powers who champion democracy so vigorously elsewhere. Nor by their ally India who helps shape regional geopolitical strategy. India’s grip on its landlocked northern neighbor with its history of weak leadership and corruption is more frightening and oppressive than any left-leaning Nepali administration.

Western interests behave as if nothing changed through the early years of protest, the Maoist movement (it prevailed across rural Nepal) and the anti-monarchy push. Income from tourism was only marginally affected, allowing foreign trekkers to still satisfy their needs undisturbed by political turmoil. So could tens of thousands of NGOs (domestic and international) personnel based in Kathmandu. While they justify their existence with ideals of alleviating poverty and inequality, development agencies work against real revolution, they hold tightly to their privileges while turmoil swirls just outside their gated communities.

Nepal’s huge NGO community is less essential for change among the poor than to maintain a middle class; they offer the appearance of progress, they patronize businesses serving them, and they absorb educated Nepalese who cannot or do not depart for even more lucrative posts abroad.

The top heavy, often superfluous, and not very effective NGO establishments in Nepal may be a major barrier to effective governance as well. When Nepal’s  administration confronts a problem, NGO’s quickly arrive to address issues, even if they rarely facilitate solutions. Overdependence on NGOs and the role of these charities in fostering and maintaining corruption is part of the nation’s dysfunctional state. That is an issue which needs to be addressed by courageous and sober leadership.

Today’s election cannot offer any hope of basic economic reform. Underlying the impotence of the revolution is the absence of a constitution for this infant republic. Essentially Nepal has no government; it still awaits guidelines from a constitution. Today’s election is to elect 601 men and women, representatives not to parliament but to a Constituent Assembly. The last CA, in place for four years, failed. And no one I met in Nepal believes that a new body of 601 members can be effective.

Nepal needs brave, really inspiring leadership. If he or she appears-- and it won’t happen in an election, it will become a model for many struggling nations worldwide.

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