need for radical social change in Nepal can no longer be ignored. That
is the fundamental message of this civil war. That is the reason why so
many people are dying every day across the nation. Over the past twelve
years we have adopted modern democracy and now our society must develop
to match this political revolution. Like a river flowing relentlessly
towards the sea, change is an inevitable process that we are powerless
to prevent. It is the necessary release of social pressure that every
nation needs to remain stable. And, because we are living at a time of
great global change, Nepal faces imminent transformation like any other
nation. The next generation will therefore witness a tremendous social
revolution and the process has already started.
Women today enjoy far greater rights and freedoms
than their mothers ever had. Daughters are given less pressure to marry
against their wishes. Our children are receiving more education and satellite
television is making more citizens aware of the outside world. But there
are still many other social changes necessary for stability in Nepal.
The immense divisions between different castes must be lessened for a
balanced community. Women must be given full equality in law. The nation
must adopt a bill of human rights that affords every citizen the same
freedoms that exist in Europe. And the tradition of nepotism that allows
individuals to use their family wealth rather than personal talent to
gain public office must also be terminated.
Although we need to face many changes over the
coming years, one particular change in our outlook might accelerate all
the evolution necessary in our society. For thousands of years Hindu culture
has been built upon the association of wisdom with age. Older people are
respected because we assume they have acquired more knowledge and experience
than their younger colleagues and neighbours. It is a central philosophy
of many Asian countries and for centuries it has benefited the region.
We cannot imagine a President or a Prime Minister who is not a grey and
faded. And we find it difficult to accept the authority of a younger man
however qualified he might be.
But this philosophy has become outdated and is no
longer true in modern society. Wisdom does not automatically come with
age, and neither does experience. Perhaps such ideas were relevant in
the past when change was slow and life did not alter with every generation.
But the sheer pace of technological change today makes it extremely difficult
for older people to keep up with the pulse of society around them. Our
energy to learn new ideas and techniques naturally lessens as we grow
older and the younger generation can acquire more relevant experience
in many important fields such as computer science, economics and even
general business. In today's world we simply cannot rely upon the older
generation to always know what is best and make the right decisions. And
so we must change our attitudes about age.
Our political administration is almost entirely
dominated by people who developed their ideology before the onset of democracy.
Elderly men whose own education took place in a totally bygone age control
our universities. The oldest members of our families are invariably the
most influential and the power of religious elders remains considerable.
In short Nepal is almost entirely controlled by a group of men whose average
age must be over 70.
This situation is bound to create serious problems
for our society. Older people are naturally resistant to change. They
will invariably favour the status quo in any dispute about future direction.
Indeed our traditional reverence for age may well be responsible for the
extraordinarily slow pace of development across the whole of South Asia.
It is possible that millions of people across the sub continent are starving
today simply because we maintain an ancient system that always favours
control by the elderly and is therefore always resistant to change.
It is because our system never changes that younger
people are now rebelling against the traditions and values of their elders.
And it is not only amongst the young cadres of the Maoist army that this
revolt is developing. The modern ranks of students and young businessmen
in Kathmandu also have a very different social outlook than their fathers
and predecessors. Satellite television has dramatically reduced traditional
Hindu social influence on them and they have been quick to adopt Western
customs and living styles. Under their influence many parts of our capital
city are gradually becoming transformed into Western style communities.
Western products have become extremely popular and the whole flavour of
Kathmandu is changing.
The main danger of a rigid society is therefore
the likelihood of an unstructured abreaction against it. If the Government
accepts the need and principle of radical social change, the pace of it
may be controlled and measures may be introduced to satisfy the popular
demand for it. But if an administration appears resistant to any change,
those social forces will become revolutionary and the direct cause of
further instability. This is effectively what is happening in Nepal. The
Government appears to be rigidly against the prospect of any serious social
and political change. It apparently supports a Constitution that was put
together by a group of ancient leaders who had very little idea of modern
political reality. And any demand for Constitutional reform is almost
considered to be treason.
Such political rigidity is a major cause of our
social divisions and even the civil war itself. It is the reason why Nepal
cannot make economic or social progress. We need more young people of
vision to help lead and administer the nation. Ordinary citizens must
be given a greater say in their local affairs and women must be given
assistance to enter politics. You can help these changes take place. You
can encourage and assist young political candidates. You can support those
political parties that field younger candidates. And above all you can
vote for them. Remember that change is inevitable. It is the like the
passage of water to the sea. It is only a matter of time.
my best wishes to you all,