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November 2018
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South Asia Peace Initiative

Building Consensus in the Nepal Peace Process

“This great ideological-political divide [between liberal democracy and socialist democracy] is so deep-rooted in Nepal that the prolonged impasse in the constitution drafting process in the Constituent Assembly basically hinges on this.”

This quote from Maoist Vice-Chairman Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s speech at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore on March 25, 2011 set the stage for dialogue at the tenth South Asia Peace Initiative (SAPI) sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation – Nepal. 

The first SAPI program was held six years ago in July 2005 in Lumbini. Since then ten events have been conducted, each specifically designed to support the on-going peace process. Thousands of leading diplomats, religious leaders, politicians, legal experts, businessmen, media persons, artists and intellectuals from Nepal and abroad have participated in these events. In fact, these occasions offer one of the few opportunities for people from all political persuasions to dialogue face-to-face in a non-threatening environment.

The 10th SAPI program at the UPF Peace Embassy in Kathmandu was held on April 28 with the theme “Promoting Human Security Through Transformational Leadership: Common Challenges of South Asia.” Members from seven political parties were in the audience of more than 120 guests. International guests from eight different nations were also represented. [For a report of the discussions, click here.]

Dr. Bhattarai correctly identified the problem at the heart of Nepal’s stalemated peace process — the great divide between liberal and socialist democracies. Dr. Kittel (the author) suggested that a new paradigm be constructed as both systems of government have deep-seated flaws that could not be easily brushed under the carpet and should be addressed head-on in order to build a new Nepal.

Mr. Ram Karki, a leader the U-CPM Party (Maoist) and a speaker at the program, responded by suggesting that the advantages of both democracies be integrated in order to find consensus. The purpose of this paper is to explore this idea more fully.

In review, some of the pluses and minuses of liberal (western) democracy are:

Advantages:

  • Rapid economic growth
  • Freedom of religion
  • Multi-party elections
  • Advocates human rights
  • More horizontal in nature, stressing equality

Disadvantages:

  • Extreme individualism
  • Rampant immorality (free sex)
  • Lack of financial responsibility (i.e., leading to the Great Depression and a global recession)

Looking at socialist democracy (Communism), a short list of pros and cons includes:

Advantages:

  • Centrally planned economy
  • More disciplined society
  • The interest of the State given priority above the individual and family
  • More vertical in nature, stressing conformity

Disadvantages:

  • Justification of force or violence
  • Lack of freedom of religion
  • One-party rule often leading to dictatorship

In order to find consensus between these two governing structures two things are need: 1) a clear vision or model, and 2) a mediator. The model for consensus will be considered first.

The requirements or conditions for that paradigm to work effectively are demanding: it must be both horizontal and vertical in nature; it must allow for economic growth and have a good measure of central planning; and it must advocate individual human rights and at the same time give priority to the nation-state.

Even more, this prototype should avoid the pitfalls of liberal western governments as well as communist dictatorships. It needs to effectively address extreme individualism and unbridled immorality and at the same time, remove the justification of violence and obsession with totalitarian rule.

Is there a model that can meet these prerequisites? The Universal Peace Federation believes the best model for good government is the extended, intergenerational family. Let’s look at how these stipulations integrate into the family paradigm of good governance.

Both horizontal and vertical in nature

The three-generation family—common in Asia—has both a horizontal and vertical component.

The vertical aspects of an intergenerational family bridges three time frames: grandparents represent the past, parents represent the present, and children (grandchildren) represent the future. This atmosphere provides an opportunity for children to be more directly connected with current history through the stories grandparents tell. (Grandparents love to tell stories!)

Studies in China show that grandparents acted as the primary caretakers of children in the three-generation families and played an important role in planning and cooking family meals, thereby influencing children's nutrition and eating habits.[1] In essence, grandparents “expressed love and caring through food.”

In addition the vertical dimensions of law are integrated with the horizontal dimensions of love. If law alone is emphasized, children will likely rebel. If children are loved without setting limits they may be undisciplined and spoiled.

The family is essential in setting the tradition when children see that the rules in a family are an expression of their parents’ love. This is important because in terms of economic development of a nation, living by the rule of law is far more important than democratic elections in building economic growth. [2]

Allows for economic growth with central planning

Numerous studies have shown the strong correlation between family integrity and educational achievements. This begins in elementary school and continues into college and university. Educational success, in turn, translates into opportunities for employment and financial security. Therefore, the institution of the family is directly correlated to economic well-being.

At the level of parental control (central planning), spending and saving habits are just as important in preserving wealth. Patterns of economic spending change dramatically and for the better in the family units where the husband and wife are married vs. the lifestyle of unmarried individuals or even cohabiting couples. Good parents plan and sacrifice for the future. They think of their children’s security and happiness before their own comforts.

Sadly the contrary is also true. When families break apart it is like a doubled-edged sword. In western societies research has shown that fractured families are less likely to contribute to the nation’s tax base; they pay fewer taxes. Divorced mothers with dependent children often become dependent on the state at least for some time. Simply put, they give less and take more. This is an unsustainable economic model.

Individual human rights and priority of the nation-state

The issue here is human rights vs. social justice. The center of this is the interplay between the individual rights and institutions of higher social order. In Robert N. Bellah’s legendary book, The Good Society, he states, “The most profound decisions about justice are not made by individuals as such, but by individuals thinking within and on behalf of institutions.”[3]

In the family justice is served when the institution of the family is placed above the individual. In fact, placing the family above the individual actually protects individual rights. If the family is dysfunctional, then rights such as health care, education and even free speech can be seriously harmed. How much free speech does an illiterate, sick child living in poverty have?

Our cherished social values include: free speech, private property, free enterprise, public education, gender equality, health care, equal protection of the law, and democratic elections to name a few. These are treasured virtues of developed societies.  The UPF, however, advocates that the institutions of marriage and family are just as important, if not more so.

Most of the United Nations Millennium DevelopmentGoals (MDGs) are directly allied to the well-being of the family. Unfortunately, the linkage between the family and the fulfillment of the MDGs has not been clearly spelled out.

Next avoiding the downsides to democratic and communist models of government will be addressed.

Addresses extreme individualism and unbridled immorality

We all have choices, preferences as well as social obligations. We prefer chocolate ice cream more than strawberry. Usually we choose our fields of education and employment. But in addition there are moral duties we all have. Paying taxes is one such social responsibility; respecting the property of others (i.e., not stealing) is another. Proper sexual conduct is also a moral obligation. These requirements are “Moral values… [and] tell us something about the way things ought to be—what we should and shouldn’t do, even if we don’t feel like it.”[4]

Sexual self-control is vital because, social expectations associated with marriage may be seen as restraints to “sexual freedom.”[5] There is, however, another angle to the story.

The marriage contract specifically prohibits sex with those besides the marriage partner. By making this vow, a couple changes the nature of their sexual relationship; they are no longer free to find a new sex partner who is more attractive than the old one. In exchange, each has more confidence in the fidelity of his or her partner, less anxiety about sexual performance, fewer fears of sexual abandonment, and less cause of sexual jealously. The benefits and constraints of marriage are not so much trade-offs, as flip sides of the same coin.[6]

In short, relationships among family members are a model for proper sexual conduct. Parents and children don’t have sex; wives are not swapped; unmarried children don’t have sex either. The only people in the family that have sexual relationships are married adults.

Removes the justification for violence and obsession with totalitarianism

Using violence is justified—sometimes. Force can be used for self-defense or to protect those who are weak or helpless. Importantly, the family is the model of how and when force can be used.

Parents should grab children running into a street of rushing cars. Parents can also discipline children as they grow up, using the teaching moment after disciplining them to educate them why their actions were wrong and ask for an apology for their misbehavior. But parents cannot use force all the time in raising children. Such parents would be labeled abusive. Their children could easily be resentful and rebellious.

Karl Marx, the Father of Communism, tried to explain that violence is not only justified on occasion, it is a social necessity. The theory of Communism developed several arguments to validate violence:

  • The philosophy of dialectic materialism: thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis
  • A view of history that explains social progress through class struggle
  • An understanding of the natural world that sees violence as part of the natural order (the chick cracking the egg shell to find freedom, Darwin’s survival of the fittest, etc.)

All of this was Marx’s attempt to show that violence was an essential principle of social development. Somehow this hostility would stop when a utopia is reached. But this is not clearly explained by Marx. In the Communist Manifesto, written in 1848, he states, “The communists openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” The purpose was to incite peasants to revolt and violently overthrow their oppressive bourgeois rulers.

It worked. Very well. But left unchecked, the ideas that were precursors to communism fueled the French Revolution that began with the Reign of Terror:

The Reign of Terror (September 1793 to July 1794) … was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, [it was] incited by conflict between rival political factions … and marked by mass executions of "enemies of the revolution." Estimates vary widely as to how many were killed, with numbers ranging from 16,000 to 40,000.…[7]

Alternative explanations to these points will be presented next.

Dialectic materialism

An example often used is that in a debate new ideas are formed. The mental fighting (i.e., the dialectic) between two opponents creates new ideas. However, it is not the mental fighting that creates new ideas; it is the intense mental focus and concentration. The debate is only the external environment. New ideas can be created even without being in a debate. Scientists will study and experiment for years before they get a breakthrough inspiration. Determination, experience and mental focus generates new ideas.

A materialistic view of history

Because selfishness is so deep-rooted in human beings, it is often true that violent revolutions are needed for social change. Selfish people exploit, hold on to power and refuse reforms. However, it is not an absolute principle. There are examples of non-violent social change, for example, the Meiji Revolution, a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868 after more than two centuries of feudal rule:

The Meiji Restoration ... led to enormous changes in Japan’s political and social structure, and spanned both the late Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji period… This period also saw Japan change from being a feudal society to having a capitalist economy.…[8]

Violence in the natural world

The egg shell is not oppressing the chick inside; it is protecting the chick. The shell holds in warmth, and the yolk nurtures the growth of the embryo. In the later stages of development, pushing against the shell strengthens the legs muscles through isometric exercises. Chicks need to walk when born. This is their only defense. In case of danger new-born chicks must run under the mother hen’s outstretched wings for protection.

Re-examining Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest reveals a different principle at work in nature. Charles Darwin wrote in Natural Selection, “The fastest wolves would have the best chance of catching a deer and of surviving, thereby, being preserved or selected.” This is only half the story.

Wolves hunt in packs. Deer graze in herds. So when the wolves began to chase the deer, as documentary films have shown, the deer begin to run away. Wolves focus on the deer at the back of the herd—the slowest deer. This is the one they catch. So, just as the fastest wolf survives… so too the fastest deer survives!

This sacrifice benefits both the wolves and the deer. The wolves get a meal. But the slowest deer that is caught by the wolves cannot reproduce anymore. This protects the gene pool of the deer. Only the fastest deer who survived reproduce.

So the law operating in nature is not survival of the fittest. Both the fastest wolves and the fastest deer survive. Restated, the principle of nature is mutual benefit comes from sacrificing for the greater good.

Equally important, the killing found in the animal world is fundamentally different than the massacres seen throughout human history in all civilizations.

Lessons learned

At the 10th SAPI one Maoist leader suggested that people’s revolution in Nepal was not a justification of violence but a reaction to violence. Given that this may be the case, the argument of self-defense is a defensible account for their uprising. And the Maoists were vindicated by the results of the 2008 Constituent Assembly election. Maoists are the largest political party, and the 240-year-old monarchy is gone.

Now the Maoists must be careful. There is the danger of being addicted to violence. Their revolutionary tactics were so simple, effective, and profitable that there is the danger they may try to govern by the same tactics. This would be a mistake.

Violence is not Sanatana Dharma [meaning eternal law, a phrase describing Hinduism]; it is not an eternal principle!

The use of violence has limited, very restricted, justification. (Ask any parent.) The continued and unrestricted use of violence as a tool to bring social change in Nepal cannot be justified! No one can govern effectively with intimidation, brutality, and impunity because no one wants to be governed that way.

To bring great change in the Nepalese society the Maoists have something even more powerful than military force (that is, the Young Communist League [the militant youth wing of the U-CPN Party, a Maoist group] and the People's Liberation Army [the armed combatants now in cantonments throughout Nepal, also a Maoist group]) at their disposal. They have the good-will and high expectations of the Nepalese people and the world community. They must protect this at all costs. If they craft the new constitution correctly, keeping in mind the economic development of the nation, even above their own political party, then Nepal’s future will be bright.

In summary, the model of the family incorporates many of the good aspects of liberal (western) and socialist (communist) democracies. At the same time using the family as the model of good governance puts in place a natural check-and-balance system for major shortcomings in both structures of government.

But the family is not only the model for integration; it is much more. The most important dimension of the family is not external structure; it is the heart and willingness to sacrifice for the happiness and well-being of others members of the family. This spirit is at the core of all relationships in the family. It is also the key to national development. Leaders must think like parents.

At the 10th SAPI program in April 2011, it was argued that there are no family-based models of government to follow. True and not true. The family is universal. Even CEOs of successful businesses are already using the model of the family, often without knowing it.

John R. Brandt, formerly editor-in-chief of Industry Week, was CEO of the Manufacturing Performance Institute, a research and consulting firm, when he wrote an article entitled, “Parenting Your Company to Profit” for Industry Week in March 2005.

He poses the question: What if… effective leadership is really no different than good parenting? Then he outlines four similarities between the good parents and good bosses. They both establish boundaries, coach with praise, push for success, and allow for growth.

As mentioned earlier, to implement this model of family-governance on a national level another component is required—a mediator.

  • This person must be well versed in the model of family government that the Universal Peace Federation proposes. History has shown that without a vision, people perish. A new vision based on a new paradigm is needed to create a “new Nepal.”
  • He or she should be a member of parliament; ideally the head of a party.
  • Most importantly, that person must have amiable, working relationships will all political parties, especially the Maoists, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML. This was the vital role that Girija-babu played before his passing.

If that person can be found and given the proper support, he or she can play a catalytically important role to move Nepal’s peace process forward to its long-overdue conclusion.

###

Dr. Robert S. Kittel is the Education Director for the Universal Peace Federation-Asia. He is also a photo-journalist for the Segye Ilbo daily newspaper. He has lived in Nepal for the past three and a half years and in South Asia since 1975.



[1] Influence of grandparents on eating behaviors of young children in Chinese three-generation families, Jingxiong, Jiang, et al., National Center for Women's and Children's Health, Beijing, China, retrieved May 5, 2011from http://www.sciencedirect.com

[2] Zywicki, T.J. (2002). The Rule of Law, Freedom, and Prosperity, George Mason University School of Law and ICER, p. 26.

[3] Bellah, Robert N., et al. (1992). The Good Society, New York: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., p. 13.

[4] Cole, D. D., Duran, Maureen Gallagher (1998). Sex and Character. Richardson, TX, Foundation for Thought and Ethics, p. 23.

[5] Waite, Linda, and Maggie Gallagher. 2000. The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially. New York: Doubleday, p. 23.

[6] Ibid., p. 24.

[7] Reign of Terror. (2011, May 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:36, May 7, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Reign_of_Terror&oldid=427415157.

[8] Meiji Restoration. (2011, April 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:02, May 8, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Meiji_Restoration&oldid=425835452.

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