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The wind of Revolution

January 6, 2002

Nepal news


Every night millions of Nepali citizens are given their daily dose of propaganda. It is not the simple type of political control that is practised in many other developing nations. The streets are not littered with huge statues and pictures of ruling political leaders. There are no particular books or texts that everyone must read and commit to memory. But Nepal is still subjected to intense political and economic propaganda that is directly influencing the course of the whole nation. Everyone who lives and works in Nepal is directly affected by it. It is the creeping cancer of the modern age and it infests every home that has a television set.

Almost certainly you will have seen this propaganda yourself. The wash powder or chocolate advertisements that run for several minutes every hour on Channel Nepal are wonderful examples of it. Nepali actors are dressed in smart western style clothing and placed in American style homes with every facility and convenience. Fathers come home from work in their gleaming cars and greet happy wives and smart educated children in comfortable living rooms with luxury furniture and clean carpets. One advertisement even features a private swimming pool where the children play for many happy hours between gifts of large chocolate bars or fashion clothing. It is a glamorised vision of society that bears no relation to average Nepali life at all.

Much the same can be said for many of the popular programmes that fill the spaces between the advertisements. A regular drama series about young social life in Kathmandu suggests that students and young professionals have both the time and money to meet in Western style coffee shops. They also wear smart Western style clothing and think nothing of ordering expensive food and drinks as if money was no problem for them. A bombardment of Hindi films perpetually show beautiful Asian girls covered in make up and jewels spending their lives dreaming about rich handsome young men. In short our entire television system is filled with ridiculous fantasies.

Perhaps you may feel that such false images are entirely harmless. Perhaps millions of impoverished Nepali people actually enjoy watching illusions that can never become reality for them. But I can see no value in promoting false hopes and dreams when the average standard of living remains among the poorest in the world. Most Nepali people have never experienced a hot shower in their lives. They will probably never own a car or go on a foreign holiday. And they certainly will never live in an American style house with a private swimming pool.

The real purpose of this style of television is to promote the taste for Western style products and culture. Both the advertisements and the popular programmes they finance are designed to make ordinary people spend their hard-earned money on products they would not normally buy. The hero does not wear trainers and a baseball shirt without good commercial reason. Those who own the television stations work together with those who advertise consumer products. The result is commercial propaganda.

There is nothing we can do about this reality. I write only to warn you of the inevitable consequences of it. For many centuries Hindu culture has placed learning and philosophical understanding above all other achievements. It is the basis of the entire caste system. But now that material goods are rapidly becoming the symbol of success and social standing our old culture is facing gradual extinction. Those who will lead society in the future will not be wise educated people but simply the most commercially successful. It is a process that is already happening. For the past ten years our politicians have prided themselves not in national achievement but in the quality and expense of their personal cars. And their example has been copied by every successful businessman.

So we must prepare ourselves for considerable social revolution over the next few years as the effect of these changes becomes greater. Events will probably follow the same course as they did about 40 years ago in the West. Television first became widespread in Europe and America during the early 1960's and within a few years millions of young Western people became disillusioned with their family and society. They began to see a world beyond their hometown or village and wanted a different life from their parents. They took on new values and philosophies that created a huge generation gap with their parents. Old religions were abandoned as an entire generation searched amongst new ideas for a better life.

Much the same is now happening in Kathmandu. Young people are gradually rebelling against their parents and many traditional values. As the media shows them more of the outside world they become restless and determined to lead different lives. But although some may find success, their brothers and other relatives may not. And those that become financially successful often abandon their religion. It is a recipe for the destruction of the traditional family system and the whole of Asia must be prepared for the consequences.

Only time will tell us exactly where these changes will lead the world. The social revolution in the West has not yet ended and we cannot know what lies ahead. But we can see that many factors are leading to social revolution in Nepal. Not only are we experiencing the same media revolution of the 1960's but our culture must also face the inevitable changes that will occur through the equality of women. At the same time we must also handle the same type of industrial revolution that took place in Europe over two hundred years ago as our economy gradually moves away from an agricultural base. And we must also deal with the new technological revolution that is sweeping across the whole world.

It is time to be flexible. We must all accept these changes and cope with them as best we can. But if your children are becoming increasingly distant and your family appears to be falling apart, I can only suggest one remedy: turn off the television set and tell them stories about your life. That will certainly be far more real and rewarding than anything they can experience through the popular media.

With my best wishes to you all,