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5 Types of people who are against MCC

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MCC has been quite a divisive hot topic in Nepal where both, for and against, are hell bent to prove themselves being right. Facebook wall and twitter are flooded with opinions regarding MCC with everyone expressing their points of view. Likewise, from newspapers to tea shops, everyone is taking their stance on the topic. In a democracy, it’s a beautiful thing because public discourse is indeed part of democracy and it actually strengthens and revitalises the democracy and its fundamentals. Moreover, what gets established after rigorous and robust debates and dialogues tend to last longer. Discourse and critical thinking are essential tools when it comes to securing progress in a democratic society but for all that to happen, unity and engaged participation is the first thing to be created. So, I personally, don’t see anything wrong about the ongoing division regarding MCC.

However, dialogues and discourses founded on misinformation, prejudice, superstition or conspiracy can completely change the game if it wins the argument pushing the democratic society further into a chaos and self destruction. Thus, public discourses and dialogues are a double-edged sword which if done right will come home with glorious and rightful victory and if done wrong will come home with chaos and destruction.

Here in this article, I am not in the mood to take any side for now. As I said earlier, I am all for healthy debates and discussions, but while saying so, it is very important for everyone of us to realise who we are as a person in this ongoing debate. Are we among the following types or are we being the genuine critical thinker who could build the view on solid ground and reasoning without any prejudices or biases? You should be always the latter one and not the following ones.

Type 1: Against because someone s/he trusts is also against.

Per the theory of two-step flow of communication, most people form their opinions under the influence of opinion leaders. Opinion leaders are someone who interprets a story or incident or message and passes down their views or opinions to people who rely on their opinions to build their own opinions on the topic. Like for example, there is a Person A who builds his opinion for or against MCC and posts on his social media. Then his followers pick those opinions and make them their opinions. Psychologically speaking, we tend to agree with who we like, admire and respect and thus we are prone to get influenced by the opinion of people who we have considered as “worthy” to listen and trust.

So, one of the types who are against MCC are lower-end media users, sold out to his/her opinion leader who is against MCC. These type of people have not read or researched the topic much. They have simply taken their position plainly based on the position of his/her opinion leader.

Type 2: Against because does not like US

Nepal has some quite strong groups of people who don’t like the US or say the US government and anything they do; or the principles and values they carry. Their understanding of the US government and their values is based on the perception of the US being a country of imperialist, greedy, cunning, selfish, cold and manipulative government and agencies. They have such a deep-rooted distaste and hatred towards the American government and its institutions that they doubt anything the US government or agencies propose. This deep-rooted lack of trust and confidence towards US have been entrapping them in confirmation bias and prejudice that whatever they are told or shown they will still think MCC is a trap and hold a strong reservation.

Type 3: Against because likes China

There are also few groups in Nepal who have a soft corner towards China for whatever reason. They value China’s interest and well-being more than that of any other countries, and show utmost loyalty to China. If they have to choose between the US and China, they are quick to choose China. These types think MCC is part of US strategies against China and they don’t like to see Nepal joining hands with the US. They strongly believe Nepal should not be doing or engaging with the US (or any other countries) over anything that may jeopardise the bilateral relationship between Nepal and China.

Type 4: Against because afraid of change

It may be hard to believe but it is true that there are also people in this country who fear the MCC and everything that comes along with it may change or shift the privilege they are enjoying. These people are also working on vested interests of some other powers who like to see Nepal being deprived from any kind of such collaboration and partnership with countries like the US, so that they can keep their hold onto this country as it works for them. They think Nepal should be micromanaged, maintain the slow growth and progress, and maintain the status quo to not spoil the regional dynamic and other various things.

Type 5: Against because thinks could be done better way

Last but not the least, this type of people are not really biased as such but have a sense of being better than those who drafted and signed the agreement. Their mind works with “If i were…” and they are all up for giving their views and opinions and constructive feedback on what should have been done or what they would have done if they were to do that. These people are mostly talking about certain amendments and clauses needed to incorporate. They are not completely against MCC as such but somehow put themselves in line against the group just to position themselves as being better than the MCC team.

This is what I have been noticing going through the profile and background and attitude of people voicing against MCC. As said earlier, there is nothing wrong to be against any idea or proposal, and there is nothing wrong to drag those ideas and proposals for open debates and discussions. See, everyone has the right to agree or disagree with anything. However, it’s very important to be honest with yourself, where it is coming from. If it is coming from existing prejudice, predisposition, like or dislike, or biases, then you should be asking yourself are you doing it right? Because with prejudices, you will not find the answer. You will only find validation to your predisposition.

Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. 

Kofi Annan

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Opinion

Why you should be participating in surveys

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You must have come across surveys while surfing websites or social media or while in streets or malls. Once in a while even government or NGO visits you to collect surveys. They ask you a list of questions, that you sometimes may feel too lazy to participate in. But you should know that you should not be lazying. We will tell you why.

A survey is a list of questions aimed at extracting specific data from a particular group of people so that the surveyor can gain knowledge and insights into various topics of interest and then mostly generalize the result.

Say, for example, a survey is conducted to know what percentage of high-school students do smoke. Out of 1000 participants, if 100 say they do smoke, the conclusion will be drawn stating something like “10% of high-school students in Nepal are smokers” or say “1 in 10 high-school students (+2) smokes cigarettes.” Thus, the survey is – first they collected the day, with the question like “Do you smoke?” Yes/No and then they generalize.

Before coming to why everyone should participate in surveys, let’s first start with what happens before and after surveys. There are basically two types of surveys, one by students for assignment purposes. We are not talking about such type of survey. We are talking about surveys conducted by businesses or government or NGO/INGO or media or independent researchers. Or say, surveys conducted by those who are genuinely into finding out something, not for sake of submitting a college assignment but to analyze and understand and act accordingly.

Every survey that comes to you comes from humans who have well thought and crafted list of questions to frame their conclusion. Hours and hours are spent behind to formulate those questions. There are reasons for why those questions and the purpose behind them. Then happens data collection, which is when you will be answering those questions. Post-survey, there happens the data analysis, where they will gather all the data collected and interpret to reach to a conclusion.

Why do people do surveys? The simple answer is because we humans are biased and our judgment often comes from keeping ourselves in the center of the Universe. Say, for example, I may think almost every Nepalese drinks because I drink. I will only know the truth about what percentage actually drink if I go asking everyone. Since this is my website that I am so used to with, I may think this website is super cool but reality can only be known if I ask everyone about what they feel. If your job or business or activity is people-oriented, you cannot keep yourself in the center to decide what others like and dislike nor you can ever find out what people are thinking or wanting. So, people do surveys to find out the truth so that they can take the right measures. Businesses do surveys to understand customers’ needs and desires; NGO/INGOs do surveys to understand people’s problems and issues; governments do surveys to formulate the right policies, etc.

Coming back to the question, why everyone should be participating in surveys:

Because you don’t want people making wrong judgment or conclusion

Let’s say a researcher comes to you to survey about domestic violence in Nepal. You despite being a victim of domestic violence chose not to participate in the survey. In your locality, the survey was conducted among 10 people and you were missed out.  All 10 happened to never experience any kind of domestic violence.  The conclusion will be made that there is no domestic violence in your locality.  A false conclusion has occurred because you chose to skip the survey. As said earlier, based on the survey, a generalization will be made, based on which actions and priorities will be set. A wrong conclusion will set wrong priorities and actions.

Because you need to be heard

The sole purpose of a survey is to know what others think or feel or experience.  When someone is out there to find out, they should be knowing what you think, or feel or experience as well.  Your voice is equally important to them and you should be heard and considered.  When they are drawing a conclusion and setting up actions and priorities, making policies or changes, if you are heard then only they can consider your wishes and desires, needs and wants. By y skipping to participate in a survey, you are choosing to not be considered or counted in their decision-making or conclusion.

Because you want to contribute in making the world a better place

Whether it’s a survey by businesses or media or NGO/INGO or government or researchers, ultimately the purpose is to understand the world from a much broader perspective and plan out what is best for all per the survey.  When you take part in the Facebook survey, you are indirectly helping them to figure out how they can make the platform better and greater.  When you take part in the survey by Media, you are helping them to understand things in a better way so that they create content accordingly.  The same goes for NGO/INGO or a government.  No one does a survey without any purpose.  Thus, by participating in a survey, you are directly and indirectly helping them get better with whatever they are up to which eventually will make this world a better place since the better world is nothing but a collective reflection of better decisions made by every group and organization by making right conclusion and understanding of their field of interest.

Because you respect and support people willing to learn and understand from others lenses

The world is filled with people who assume to know things despite never stepping out from their own biases and bubbles.  Purely based on self-reference, they brush off the whole world.  To them, what they think is what everyone thinks; what they feel is what everyone feels; what they like is what everyone likes.  People who do surveys are different.  They are here to build their opinion based on what others think and feel.  They are here to find truth through data analysis and interpretation and not through personal assumption.  They are here to draw conclusions, prescribe prescriptions, not based on what they think is right but based on voices of 1000s.  The world needs this sort of people who are humble enough to step out of their bubble and biases and seek truth by asking people, researching and analyzing, explore grey areas, understand layer by layers, understand variables, understand every little thing before reaching to a conclusion, before prescribing anything, before proposing anything. By participating in surveys, you are directly and indirectly supporting and promoting a culture of seeing truth and knowledge through research.

Because you are a human

Being human means we share knowledge, we share our experiences, we share our stories, we share our thoughts and feelings, our wants and desires; we share our perspectives.  No other species do as much as we do.  Everything that you see around is the result of sharing culture that over 1000s of years got accumulated making it possible for every human to know and understand things even without seeing or experiencing.  The internet, the books, the passed-down folklore and wisdom, idioms and proverbs, skills and techniques, you name it and they are all the acts of knowledge sharing.  Some way or other we always contribute to the accumulated knowledge that makes up our modern world and civilization.  Participating in a survey means an act of humanity.

There can be few other reasons but that’s it for now. Hence, whenever you are asked to participate in surveys, try your best to be part of it. Somewhere, someone will be looking into what you filled, what you said, what you recommended, based on which they will be setting their priorities and plans.  You may never get the credit but deep down you know, your 5-minute has played a role in shaping this world.  

Decision making is an art until the person understands the science.

Pearl Zhu

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Opinion

Legalisation of Marijuana for recreational use – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

This article is on “legalisation of marijuana for recreation use” and not about legalisation for medical or other lifehack purposes.

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Louis Hansel - Unsplash

By now, almost everyone agrees that marijuana should be legalised for medical purposes. They also agree that marijuana should be legalised for hemp-related products like clothes, beauty products, etc. Debate, however, remains regarding legalisation for recreational use. Or in other words, many are still wondering if it is good to let adults smoke weed like how it is legal to drink alcohol or smoke cigars and cigarettes. The debate has been taking over social media, internet forums and over coffees and classrooms. There are strong for and against arguments regarding legalisation of marijuana for recreational use, with both sides having strong points.

Most of us have smoked marijuana here and there at some point in life, and we know what it feels like. Those who have not smoked too have friends who do and they too know it’s not like snorting cocaine or injecting heroin. The demand for legalisation of marijuana came from the fact that many are being locked behind bars or had to face state-sponsored harassment for simply smoking marijuana or carrying it, whereas people drinking alcohol or smoking cigars are socially and legally accepted. Fundamentally speaking, it is a discrimination simply because marijuana being labeled as “crime.” Thus, the voice for legalisation have been getting louder. Marijuana users, for recreational purposes, want to be treated the same as cigarette smokers or alcohol drinkers. From this point of view, it is definitely not right. 

Cannabis was part of human civilization for many thousand years, so what actually happened in between that now it is almost banned everywhere? It’s because of “Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs,” an international treaty to prohibit production and supply of narcotic drugs, that include cannabis. Every country that has signed the treaty is thus obliged to ban cannabis, that includes India and Nepal. That is how cannabis became illegal in this part of the world, despite having the cultural and social significance of cannabis.

At the U.S.’s insistence, cannabis was placed under the heaviest control regime in the Convention, Schedule IV. The argument for placing cannabis in this category was that it was widely abused. The WHO later found that cannabis could have medical applications after all, but the structure was already in place and no international action has since been taken to correct this anomaly.

But things are changing. Many people have started voicing against “total ban” on marijuana. They now are demanding for acceptance and recognition of marijuana for recreational purposes as much as tobacco or alcohol. They want legalisation so that no one faces legal consequences for smoking weed or carrying it. They believe the state should not be controlling people’s freedom of choice of living. And they believe marijuana is still much better in comparison to effects of alcohol or tobacco and thus should not be treated the same as heroin or cocaine nor its users be treated as cocaine or heroin addict.  

With all that arguments, here is our two cents on what will happen if recreation use is legalised – the good, the bad, the ugly.

The Good

Humans in general consider anything that is illegal as being bad and consider anyone doing anything illegal as being a bad person. Our moral and ethical lines are very much defined by what is legal and illegal. We humans in general are law-abiding citizens and that’s where the perception gets built. Criminalising marijuana has built a perception among people that marijuana is bad and anyone who uses marijuana is a bad person. It’s not the same for alcohol or cigarettes because they are still legal. So a good thing that will happen from the legalisation of marijuana is that no one gets judged as being bad or “waste life,” “bigreko manche,” for smoking weed. With the legalisation, the stereotyping will come to an end.

Secondly, legalisation means doors open for business, open for market, which means there will be tax revenues, which otherwise was not producing any taxes even though being traded.

Third being, studies show cannabis users tend to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol moderately, which means a drastic fall in the consumption of alcohol or tobacco, which will have a better impact on long term prospects, both on an individual and social level.  

The Bad

Since with the legalisation, marijuana will no longer be perceived as a “bad thing.” This will create a new world where you can find people publicly and openly smoking weed. Just like cigarette smokers, you can find weed smokers in every cafe, in every social gathering, even in the street and station. Getting high, going live, acting funny on YouTube and Facebook content will be the new normal, influencing more people to give it a try without fearing to be judged. Young crowds may get easily influenced by this “new culture and trend,” and there will be a rise of cannabis users.

Whatsoever, cannabis will alter your sense of reality, positively and negatively, affecting your cognitive ability on a functional level, that may someway or other affect your productivity and decision making if done so under the influence of cannabis. This can bring conflict at work, conflict at home and relationships.  

Since legalisation brings the normalisation, and it’s one of the easiest plant to grow at home that you can just dry and smoke, marijuana will be an easy escape for anyone going through hard times or low moods.

The Ugly

There are all kinds of humans out there and one of them being irresponsible, psychotic, incompetent individuals. The kind existed long before alcohol or drugs were born, long before they learned to smoke weed. But humans need to blame someone or something for every bad thing that happens. With the legalisation and normalisation of weed smoking, weed will get all the blame for husband being irresponsible, for a staff being unproductive, for a student not able to perform well academically, or for a psychopath murdering or sociopath destroying public properties.

As weeds get all the blame, those who don’t use weed will start developing hatred towards the plant, and they will start ganging up against weed users, will start demanding for banning the weeds, and will lobby against the plant. Basically, we will be back to where the US was in the 1930s. 

Bottomline

Humans from across the planet were using marijuana for recreational use for many thousand years but nevertheless, it never had a good name. Even in Swasthani book the relationship between “marijuana” and “mahadev” was presented negatively. Buddhism strongly advocated for mindfulness and its importance for healthy living and happy life, which indirectly was meant against any practices or substances that alters humans cognitive ability. There is a reason why it got banned. No it was not banned “to promote alcohol” or “lobbying from tobacco company” as many conspiracy theory believers like to think. It’s banned because the unregulated and untamed freedom to smoke weed had rifled the society then. If you ask many villagers from remote Nepal, who are far from media and internet, what they think of weed smokers, most of them will frown with disgust. They blame weed for their son being useless, husband being useless. Those perceptions are not going from media. It’s coming from generations and generations.

Hate towards weed has been there long before the international treaty, and will be there if it is let to be part of people’s life and style without any regulation, without any check and balance. The thing with the weed is, it’s cheap, it’s easily available, and it’s powerful, and normalising such thing will be too hard on society to handle if left unchecked and unregulated. Unlike cigarette or alcohol, you don’t need a manufacturer or a brand to supply you weed. You can simply grow it in your bedroom or your in terrace, dry it and smoke it. Now, think how good is it to normalise it?

Maybe smoking weed has a positive side as well, maybe weed actually heals then destroys, but mass need to feel so and you can’t just make them feel so by talks. It should be apparent, which means weed should be regulated so that only responsible users get to smoke and prove the world that weed is not a problem but the problematic humans with problematic behaviour who happens to be a regular weed smoker is the problem. This thing to get established, it takes time. Let it take time. Until then, for the love of weed, legalize but don’t normalise stoning.

Hey KMAG Readers,

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Opinion

Why “financial literacy” should be included in school curriculum

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Back in school, we vastly studied about solar system to what’s deep beneath 1000 KM of the Earth. We read about the environment and survival of the fittest and also about nature’s natural selection. We studied maths, science, language, history and almost everything. While studying however we missed one important thing to learn about that is supposed to be taught since the beginning and that is, FINANCE. Finance is an integral part of modern life and covers most part of our adulthood. Be it from as simple as opening a bank account or having our first salary account or be it credit cards and loans and investment. There are barely any human on earth who does not care about money yet financial literacy is barely provided to any individual during their growing up. How are the people supposed to be part of the money game if they are illiterate about finance it first place?

“ Money, like emotions, is something you must control to keep your life on track.” Natasha Manson(author of Life lessons for my sister). Truth be told If we don’t have the skill set or the knowledge regarding how to manage finance properly and in a way that life can be easier, then what’s the point of earning it?

In Armenia, 78% of the total adult population lives paycheck to paycheck and 3 in 5 adults does not maintain a monthly budget and that’s because of the lack of financial literacy. And, the same problem exists in most of the countries including Nepal. Most of us don’t have any ideas related to how insurance or the tax system works and are only learning in a hard way after burning their finger. Almost everyone is worried about career and in constant search of right profession for them with better earning potential, but ironically, everyone is clueless about how to manage the income and expenses, tax rates, and so on. There are heaps of ironies in our grown-ups world with so many academically qualified yet poorly literate individuals wondering what to do with the money they earn. I have even seen individuals running for DMAT account but holds zero understanding on investment, which again is the result of poor financial literacy.

Why is financial literacy that important? Simple answer, ignorance is not a bliss but a curse when it comes to finance. Not knowing the basics of saving, investment, insurance, taxation, etc will take financially illiterate no where. They will be losing so much of opportunities in life that road to financial independence will be near impossible for financially illiterate. And at the time like Covid or other crisis, they will be left in cluelessness.

So what really is this financial literacy?

“Financial literacy is the possession of the set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources”Wiki explains. Basically, it involves basic knowledge regarding how to manage money. A financially literate person knows the difference between saving and investing, the difference between credit and debit cards, interest rates, how compounding works in wealth maximization, budgeting for keeping track of money outflows and so on. 

In Nepal, The financial rate is just around 18%. The developed countries like Norway & Denmark have around 71%. The financial literacy rate around the world is 33.33%, which means Nepalese are below average in terms of financial literacy. So, what other countries are doing that Nepal is not doing to be left behind? Other than because of availability of different financial tools and robust institutions, better financial literacy rates in developed countries is because most of these countries have included financial literacy-related subjects in schools curriculum as compulsory or optional subjects. Let’s have a better look at the different countries school curriculum in the table below.

 Source: https://www.lafinancepourtous.com/IMG/pdf/Mundy-final.pdf

From the table above, It’s clear that the other countries have realized the importance of teaching finance-related subjects at the school level and have been actively working for the same. Most of the countries have appointed departments to look after the cause.

While learning about other countries, to my surprise, not a single effort has been made for the same (apart from NRB’s initiation) in Nepal. There’s a provision in NRB unified directives on CSR activities with a recent amendment that BFI’s in Nepal must invest 5% of the total CSR fund in the field of financial literacy. How the fund are utilized by BFI’s is a different topic and needs elaborative explanation. But, 5% fund is not enough. It seems like the government’s policy on this matter looks like a work done for the sake of doing it rather than the focus on the result. The education department or the concerned body have been neglecting the topic. Needless to talk about unwillingness on people’s side to feel the need. This explains the reason behind the low financial literacy rate in Nepal.

Financial literacy is as important as learning about number of districts in our country; is as important as knowing who landed first on the moon. The mistakes done by our previous generations in terms of finance must not be repeated by the coming generation.  Personally, as I entered the real world of finance, I never knew what inflation was or how the tax was levied on different topics. I made several errors which cost me my hard-earned money. Had I been taught about financial management at an early age, I would have performed better with lesser mistakes. The schools in Nepal are vastly credited in teaching and grooming students and this is where the financial literacy programs must start. To prepare a better citizen who can work well, earn well and manage his money well, financial knowledge must be provided at an early age for which, inclusion of related subjects in the school curriculum is must.

The author is a participant of ongoing Online Writing Workshop and this “opinion piece” was written during the workshop and published here for public review.

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