Dismantling the Political Nihilism of Nepalese Youths: A Perspective on the Nepalese Development Cycle and The Larger Picture

by NISCHAL SHRESTHA, Daayitwa-Fusemachines Fellow 2022

It’s no surprise to us that, when it comes to politics and governance, although the latter constitutes vast differences in meaning, implication, and form of the word, is generally seen as a zero-sum concept largely by the younger generation of Nepal. If we tune into any TV or Radio Stations, social media, and communication platforms especially those that are popular with the younger groups such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Tiktok. The winds of discontent, disenchantment, and exasperation are all too familiar and poured towards the older cohort of representatives, their track-record, and rap-sheets.

Although the benchmark that has been set is nothing to be proud of, and frankly in some cases, the circumstances that were endorsed at worst or tolerated at best have been appalling. But perhaps, as the baton of leadership, headship, and authority gradually diffuses towards much of the state’s younger population. No matter whether the new generation finds itself in place of social impact or not, it is very much imperative for the coming generation as a unit to reorient, take a moment to hit pause, and contemplate critically for the task at hand rather than merely indulging in the binary notion of Who to blame? Or what to blame? The much more important question here seems to be Why? And how to make sure that we as a state never find ourselves in a similar situation ever again? The larger picture seems to be much more central to the argument. 

If we take a breather or moment to absorb the larger situation and circumstances of the baton that is to be passed and fall upon our shoulders, we can easily see that the road ahead is no ordinary feat. The world seems to be stuck in a crossroads, with a multitude of disruptive changes playing out now and just around the background which has more than the potential to transform all of our lives. Development discourses are increasingly shaped by green/sustainable development and are likely to be fueled by more clean energy. Asian economies seem to be resilient and on the rise. Radical technologies like AI, Gene Editing, Nanobots, and Autonomous Vehicles seem not to be sci-fi but very much real with deep-rooted implications and practice already. The very way we interact and communicate with the world has changed. The human population in its East Asian Half has begun to peak. Whilst the demography dividend & working age has begun to shift towards South Asia. And in places like Nepal the window is poised to end not too long in the future, in fact, post-Covid-19 the birth rates have already begun to shrink significantly.

See, when we observe the development cycle of Nepal, it is not groundbreaking to claim that this is not where we started as a state and for much of its history, way before even the concept of the Westphalian state emerged, the history of Nepal existed and can be traced back to antiquity exercising sovereignty as a state albeit in different forms, definitions or capacity. As matter of fact, when we look at the economic output relative to the rest of the world no generation today might be the furthest from all the grandeur of Ancient Nepal, the inclination being the Lichhavi (400-750 CE) and peak being Malla Era (10th Century to 18th Century) owing to the geo-economics of the region among other things, which will be most paid attention to for the sake of argument.

Notwithstanding, what could be, and possibilities, time is indeed a beast of its own, which changed the course of state and largely the region. As the Malla Dynasty in Nepal, which started out strong and peaked across centuries gradually saw an explosion of economic growth like never before, from flourishing trade routes, Ancient Nepal began to marvel. The reminiscent of which can be seen via, The eloquent Durbar r Squares. Regardless, as the region not only Nepal largely began to lose sight of the larger picture, and as Europe began to steam ahead gradually from Renaissance to the Age of Enlightenment and later The Industrial Revolution. The whole power parity of the world from security to economics to politics and trade began to change. The inland routes that took centuries to peak, that Malla rode off to splendor were no longer consequential, and thus Nepal’s cycle of development hit reset and she started to look inward, isolated to most of the world as a proud state stuck in the past. The new rules of the game were very much different, the world indeed had changed, from the invention of internal combustion engines to the processing of goods, factories, the telegraph, steam engines, and mechanical sewing machines. The very concept of who we are and what we can achieve as species were changed, challenged, and hence shaped for centuries to follow. Now, the new playing ground for states had a much wider gap, and states on the losing side of things, like Nepal, had much catching up to do. The deeper the traditional heritage and the more isolated the state, the more difficulties it seemed to entertain, for the process of reorientation with newfound realities.

Nepal began modernization and industrialization in the 1970s. It was around the same time our population began to increase strikingly, starting from the 60s. For the ancient state that had barely begun its reorientation process, the sudden population surge did mean that it faced considerable challenges for development. Perhaps, when we examine this dynamic multifaceted process of reorientation that Nepal as a state seems to be stuck in, structurally it might be justifiable why the previous generation has largely failed in the transformation of the state, as they were not only versed in these new rules, realities, aptitude, and proficiencies and but because of the fact that the country after the unification had mostly been looking inwards, isolated, unmechanized, as a proud state of the past stuck in dilemma. 

In between, the start of industrialization in Nepal and now much has happened, politically speaking that for the sake of larger argument not paid much attention to, but if we examine other case studies of Asia that were also on the losing end of things, a similar pattern has emerged. Asian states post industrial age, began to catch up by starting their reorientation process, for example, Japan, a mercantile power that was more or less among the first states in Asia to modernize during Meiji Restoration in the second half of the 1800s began rapid Modernization only after the second world war in 1950s kickstarted with Korean War that saw heavy demand in production and marked the advent of economic miracle, but it was only when its population started to produce more working age cohort from late 1980s to early 2000s, until its peak, its economy truly reached astounding heights. An almost similar picture can also be seen in China, which began its reform process under Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s but was only able to reach true economic potential with large swaths of the population entering the working age starting from the early 2000s, that was also when China joined WTO. Today’s, Nepalese population has just begun to enter its peak stage producing the largest working force and the strongest demographic dividend the country has ever seen. And albeit, the new generation is furthest from the glory it once enjoyed and to be fair has been through many things at home and abroad from the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Start of Globalization to Insurgencies and instability at home. But as history will witness the new generation has only begun to impose its will on the state. There seems to be a structural chance for the next generation to move forward if they are able to grasp the development cycle, understand who we are, where we come from, and where we are going, whilst not losing sight of the larger picture. 

For An Enterprising Nepal