Yesterday, I was lining up for petrol in a petrol pump run by Nepal Police in Naxal. Petrol price has hit Rs. 102. In this slowing economy, that 5 rupees hike means a lot to me. As I was standing, I saw a government-plate Scorpio coming to fill the petrol with an officer inside. “He does not feel the heat, how lucky he is.” I said to myself. Somewhere nearby, I could see some well-groomed police officers off the uniform walking around. “At least, these guys have a job that they don’t have to worry to lose. How lucky they too are.” I remembered a traffic police telling me, “we barely get 25K. What is 25K in Kathmandu?” I now think of all the teachers, journalists, bank employees, and many other people who would barely get 15-20K salary and that too is gone as they have lost job. At least, the traffic dai is lucky. He does not lose the job.
I left from the petrol pump but throughout, I was keeping my eyes on road like a hungry man starring at restaurants. When I see private cars, I would think who are these lucky people, what work they do, how they get money. I look around the buildings which would earn the owners lakhs in rent. “WOW! How lucky they are.” An army vehicle just passed by me. “Another lucky people whose life is set.” The army vehicle was actually escorting minister’s vehicle followed by few other vehicles. I could see some happy face inside the vehicle. There were a guy of my age, and a woman of my mother’s age. I don’t know who they are but I just could not stop thinking of my mom and her worries. “Damn! what did this guy do to get to that seat and that woman, that I and my mom failed to.”
In the pavement, there were people walking with raincoat or umbrella on. In those buildings, there were shop keepers and proprietors waiting for the customers to come in a grim face, and I could feel the financial stress that they are grappled in. In some corners, there were cigarette shops and even a woman as a street vendor selling corn under her umbrella and many other bikers and pillion riders like me, half drenched in raincoat. I know many people are still missed to be seen, because there are no public vehicles yet in operation and they are probably stuck in their home or hometown with zero earning.
To put it in a social class — the ruling class, the upper class, the middle class, the working class, I could witness while riding by bike that I am not able to give for servicing for so long.
This kind of social hierarchy isn’t new and not something only to exist in our country. India has, US has, Australia has, any human society has. My concern is not about how some of us are more privileged and having more secured and comfortable life. My concern is how small fraction of people are only having the comfort and living a financially secured life in this country while rests are suffering. And what bothers me the most is that no one is bothered, as if everyone is settled with “this is how it is.”
More I think, more I feel like this country belongs to.
- Government employees and state-funded individuals and groups.
- People with good enough inherited properties in Nepal.
- Those with well paying jobs in financial institutions, NGO/INGOs.
- Good political networks.
- Too smart to build a good rapport with all 4 above and find a way to leech on.
I wonder what percentage of Nepal’s population fall in that Lucky 5. Maybe, 1%.
I don’t belong to any of them. I belong to the rests who need to pay taxes from bike to recharge cards to anything I consume and use, so that those 5 above and their children and dependents can have a comfortable life. Fundamentally, it’s pretty much the king’s era, where you work hard to enrich your king and his kins and clans. You can never dream to be as privileged as king and his kins and clans, as rich as king and his kins and clans. You are peasants, born to breed, raise kids, serve kings, and if you are lucky enough, kings will build something in your town, or else you die just like every other peasants without experiencing anything beyond your peasant standard.
If you belong to any of the 5 above, it’s very hard for you to relate what his post is saying. You may feel, I am envious, jealous. You may even quick to say “go work hard, study hard instead of complaining.” No darling, you can’t understand me. Only the rests that don’t belong to the above 5 know, we have been working very hard for so long, studied hard, been doing everything hoping to have a comfortable life where we could grant a comfortable life for our parents, for our children and for ourselves. Go ask all the shopkeepers and small business runners who have been running their business for 20+ years, if their hard work has given them the comfort and privilege of those 5. Go ask all the working people who has to jump from one private job to another, what fortune and career growth did their study granted them? No I am not envious or jealous. How can I be? I am half dead. All I could do is wish i was not born in this country and instead born somewhere that even being in the 99%, I still could dream big, plan big, think big; plan a vacation, buy a nice pair of clothes, add some gadgets in home even with my regular job, regular work. And in worst time, I have the support network. But no, that does not happen here because as said above, you gotta be King or his kins and clans to grant a cushion.
I seriously thought this country would be better after the new constitution, hoping that would bring an inclusive growth; thought we would progress more, modernize more, where we all would be equal with equal access to resource, same level of opportunity, same amount of protection and what not all. But now I feel, we only have changed the constitution, replaced the kings and their kins and clans but have not changed anything. Fundamentally, we are still the same.
This country’s message is more louder and clearer everyday — If you want to have a better life, either be one of us or submit yourself to one of us.
If you can’t, get lost!!
“By the way, you got a bike. What are you complaining?” Yea right, middle class can’t complain here as I am supposed to satisfy seeing at poor people’s sufferings.
A real story with unknown “The End”
Something strange happened while I was getting back to Kathmandu from Hetauda. I don’t know if I should call it a beautiful moment or a disturbing reality. I don’t know if I should draw a lesson here or should draw a philosophy. Thoughts are zooming in my head like shooting stars in Universe to all directions. Because what had happened was amazingly terrifying and overtly bitter sweet.
” “Ouch!“herera dhoka lagaunu parxa ni (be careful while closing doors)” my elbow was almost crushed in a door, as Sumo guy who was in rush to get me in and lock the door – so that other agents would not pull me to their sumo – typical scene in Sumo stands. I turned around while taking my seat and there was a kid looking at me, lying on a lap of a mother. Mom looked like a girl from a Tamang community, as if in her 19-20 age. Kid was like 1-2 year old.
It was darn humid that I was drenching in sweats. Sumo was showing no sign to move anytime soon, as it needed to fill the vacant seats. The kid got up from her month’s lap and came to me. She seemed slightly undernourished but was cute. She was trying to play with me and I was giving her a playful gesture. I looked at the mom and she too seemed kind of undernourished and bit disheveled to me. “Must be from working class” I assumed. Out of curiosity I asked if they are from Hetauda itself and if is going to Kathmandu for work. She ignored my questions as if was annoyed. I didn’t feel like asking anything further.
Finally after almost 45 mins, sumo showed a sign to move. The mother offered me water that she had just purchased and I took a sip. While offering water, she smiled at me and that made me feel like “well, maybe she was not annoyed.” So I asked her about the kid’s dad and if he is working in Kathmandu.
“utai ghar tirai chha. Teslie chodera hideko ma Kathmandu tira chori liyera (is back at home. I am running away to Kathmandu with my daughter, leaving him)”
Then she went on saying about her life and what’s going on. She is 22 years old and her daughter is one and half years. She seemed to be a victim of domestic violence. She was showing a wound mark on her head stating she was hit by her husband and had 5 stitches placed. She went on saying how she is hated and neglected at home by her husband and his parents. Since she had enough of all that abuse and neglects, she left the home with her one and half year old daughter and is leaving for Kathmandu.
I asked, “ani ko chha Kathmandu ma (so who is there in Kathmandu)?“
She didn’t answer at first, but her silence gave me a wild clue and I asked again, “koi pani chaina ki kya ho?”
She claimed that she has some friends in Kathmandu, whom she had visited 3 years back and is trying to go there hoping they be still there. However, she does not have their number, nor they know about her coming.
There in the mirror, I saw a nature. I saw homo sapiens migrating from Africa. I saw nomads. I saw life. The world beyond idealism, beyond philosophy. I saw reality.
We were leaving for Kathmandu from Hetauda at around 4, which means it would be at least 8 PM or 9 by the time we reach Kathmandu. There were one more passenger in the same row and we were quite concerned but speechless on what to say.
Our vehicle had already begun moving. I looked at the kid. I found her more adorable and cute; more emphatic and caring. I tried playing with her for sometimes. Then she went to her mom’s lap again for breastfeed. I turned my head to windows…lost in thinking, while observing the scenery outside. Soon I slept off, and woke up to the mom falling asleep on my shoulder.
She nervously got back to her position. I said, “it’s okay” and she leaned back on my shoulder with her baby on her lap. For next 1 hour, she took a good nap lying on my shoulder. The vehicle then stopped for a tea break. I bought a juice for the kid and took some photos of her. By this time, everyone in vehicle knew about her story and everyone were asking something and all. She was very determined to work hard for her daughter. “maile jati sukai dukha paye ni yeslie khusi sanga rakhchu (i will keep my daughter happy regardless of hardship I may have to go through)“
We were half way to Kathmandu. It was getting dark. In between, she got motion sickness and was vomiting from window holding her baby sleeping on her nap. I took the baby and kept on my lap. I looked at the baby. She was sleeping quietly. I felt like being a father for a while. After sometime, the mother leaned on my shoulder as well without hesitation.
I was looking at the rear mirror of the vehicle. I saw a man holding a baby and a woman sleeping comfortably on his shoulder. There in the mirror, I saw a nature. I saw homo sapiens migrating from Africa. I saw nomads. I saw life. The world beyond idealism, beyond philosophy. I saw reality.
I got lost in thoughts and mind talks. My head was going cosmo. The baby in my lap is probably not going to have father figure for quite sometime. The woman in my shoulder going to miss warmth and comfort and unconditional love of a man for quite sometime. A 20 something young girl, ran away from home, with her barely 1 and half year old daughter, clueless about where she gonna end up, but yet determined to survive and give better life to her daughter, in a vehicle with a stranger, holding her baby and letting her lean on like as if a father, as if a husband, as if a brother, as if a friend. My head was going haywire, thinking about life, thinking about this country, thinking about women’s life, thinking about being a child, thinking about many thing…thinking about gender equality I write on, thinking about woman empowerment I get to hear on, thinking about rights, thinking about freedom, thinking about anything and everything. I was imagining a woman’s life with a toddler but without a responsible man in life that too with no financial security.
In a while, we will be reaching to our destination. The baby will be back to her single mother, and the mother to strangers in an unknown city, and survive.
Reached Balkhu. It was 8 PM already. I was worried and concerned about where she would go at that night time with the baby in this city of strangers. I offered her to stay at my office for the night and leave in the morning. She refused. She was adamant to find the friend’s place. I didn’t know what to say. I asked her one last time and she again said no and instead was asking the driver to drop her to the location. I asked the driver to do the needful and I left from there.
On the way back home, I could feel the kid’s smell. Her face, her smile was flashing in my eyes. I thought of the young mother, her undernourished looks, and struggle ahead. I was thinking of that rear mirror view, as if Universe showing me the kind of man I should be.
Life is strange. I wish they find a roof in this Kathmandu, may she find a work to earn them good life, and may they find a shoulder to lean and lap to sleep unconditionally.
On Materialism – Basic background and Marxian thoughts
Materialism is basically a theory that states that nothing but matter exists. Thus, the study of matter and its movements and its changes is the study of materialism. This theory further claims that the consciousness and mental states are results of material movements and modifications. Mind and consciousness are by-products of matter itself (human brain, the nervous system). So, basically existence of thought is only possible because of the existence of matter.
Materialism is considered by many philosophers to be a synonym to philosophical physicalism which views that everything and all that exists is physical in form. The contradictions to these theories are idealism, pluralism, dualism and other forms of monism (these shall be dealt with by other articles).
Karl Marx was a German philosopher who was heavily influenced by the works of Ludwig Feuerbach – a fellow German philosopher who was a critique of Christianity. Feuerbach insisted that “to prove that something exists means to prove that it exists not only in mind.” He stated that it (something) must exist outside the mind and should be constant.
This theory was what inspired Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx to develop a notion of historical materialism. They stated that the real problems are what exist and not what are thought inside a group’s mind. Real problems are politico-socio-economic problems as per Marx and Engels. They thus shifted their discourses on production, producers and workers. The focal point of Marxian philosophy was thus the distribution of wealth among the labors and employers.
Friedrich Engels states that “The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch.” (Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Scientific and Utopian).
Marx’s concept of materialism is simply the theory of determination of a society’s growth based on the struggles between the economic forces. These economic forces are material in nature, since they are what exist in a living society. The phrase “dialectical materialism” was coined by Karl Kautsky, after the death of Marx.
Karl Marx opined that we could learn in history that progression (in law, religion, morality, etc) was possible through conflict between forces. The Marxist theory of dialectics was pretty inspired by Hegel’s dialectics.
Dialectical materialism can also be understood as a socio-politico-economic and philosophical subject that states ways to understand the reality. Dialectical materialism is a theory that insists that reasoning should exist while aiming to understand the movement, change and interconnection of things.
Dialectics opposes the metaphysical mode of thought practices. For example ‘a bird is something that has wings’. Charles Darwin also a materialist rejected these sort of thoughts claiming that not all things that have wings are birds, bats for example are not birds.
This is exactly what Marxist philosophers opine. They say that everything must be observed empirically. If something cannot be applied then they are to be rejected. Practical approaches to matter is required.
Marxism derives economic principles on the basis of these forms of thoughts.
It was his (Marx’s) belief that workers are a class in a society who have it installed in their brains that “individual” self-interest is the basic foundation of a society, that working class should either give in to the material world (greed) or use religion/mysticism to “rise above the material world.”
Human greed is “natural” and that the society cannot be changed – this was the basic theory that Marx rejected. So basically the theory that Marx rejects are that – workers are only left with two options – to accept the natural greed or use religion to rise above. Marx however does not explain “what” is rising above religion.
Marx opines that progress is not defined by individual self-interest or “greed” and that this greed is not the natural part of human characteristic.
This problem as per Marx can be solved through Dialectical Materialism. Materialism is what represents the Marxist “reality” that “dialectics” analyzes.
So Dialectics as per Marx is a method of analysis.
Dialectics simply accepts that every thing is constantly changing and this continuous changes are results of interactions and conflicts between two or more forces – as per Marx there are many little and unnoticed changes that in conclusion brings in a qualitative transformation in a society. For example, reactions between chemicals – Parts of Hydrogen and Oxygen mixing up to form water, or, even reaction between water and fire to create steam.
Materialism as per Marx is nature as it is – with no adulteration of religion or mysticism. So materialism is basically the reality that exists beyond our mind.
Our thoughts, consciousness and characteristics are shaped by the environment that we live in – the material world. This is what Marxian materialism says.
So basically, when you look around on the basis of dialectical materialism you see that there is a logical development of beliefs and opinions, events, actions and the history.
All development as per Marx is based on conflicts and interactions in the material world.
Marx and Engels were students of Hegelian dialectics (meaning they heavily studied it) and were in opposition to what Hegel theorized – that human experience is dependent on the mind’s perceptions. Marx and Engels tried more of a realistic approach and emphasized importance of real-world conditions in terms of class, labor and socio-economic interactions.
‘Marx and Engels do not deny the reality of mental or spiritual processes but only accept that ideas could arise only as products and reflections of material conditions.’ (Dialectical materialism, Encyclopedia Britannica). They opined that combining or reconciling materialism with idealism would lead to confusion.
They (Marx and Engels) were avid supporters of Feuerbach, but soon became a critic to Feuerbach in order to restore Hegelian dialectic with a principle modification. They tried to free Hegelian dialectics from idealism and install materialism.
As per Marx, “Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from the thought objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity. Hence, in The Essence of Christianity, he regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-judaical manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance of “revolutionary”, of “practical-critical”, activity.” (Karl Marx , Theses On Feuerbach, 1845/Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume One).
Marx opposed Feuerbach since he thought that Feuerbach did not see the importance of practical activity.
Engels thought that “Hegel was an idealist. To him, the thoughts within his brain were not the more or less abstract pictures of actual things and processes, but, conversely, things and their evolution were only the realized pictures of the ‘Idea’, existing somewhere from eternity before the world was. This way of thinking turned everything upside down, and completely reversed the actual connection of things in the world. ” (Fredrick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific). This was what they wanted to change.
“Thoughts” for Marx and Engels were not separate from materialism, or to say that they were not independent reflections. Thoughts were products of human labor, and they contradicted with each other because of the contradictions within human society. This was the prime change Marxism developed to amend Hegelian Dialectics.
This theory was accepted by people like GyorgyLukacs, Lenin, Stalin and even Mao. So much so, that evolutionary biologists around the world even install the concept of dialectical materialism in their scientific approach – they accept that this theory does not provide a programmatic method but provides warning signs against narrowness of thoughts and dogmatism.
Though his ideas have in history been used to legitimize ill dictatorships, Karl Marx actually had a decent philosophy relating to societal development through dialectics on materialism.
However, there are flaws to the ideas of Marx. One is that development and progression is not always dependent upon the accounts of pure materialism.
Some philosophers even argue that dialectical materialism fails because in an authoritarian environment (which most communist states have faced) “dialectics” and “creative and critical thinking” are impossible.
In theory the core principle of dialectical materialism – dialogues between forces – is good. But, in reality the society does not only develop on realistic or existing objects, they also depend on human thoughts and ideas that can be formed upon logical ideologies.
So basically a society will get good values if a group of people come together and lay out their ideas – be it good or bad or even evil. The group would have a moral compass to pick up good values that everyone could agree upon. But Marx’s materialisms cannot be ignored either, because societal forces do exist.
Individual Interest as individual thoughts and ideas are thus pretty important. Individual ideas are actually the basis of development since they go on to make ideas of groups when accepted or rejected.
Marxist dialectics have given birth tomany modern communist philosophies. The ideas of Marx were modified by many Marxists, including Vladimir Lenin. Lenin went on to propound a concept of “Democratic centralism” which is a practice of reaching political decisions through voting processes inside a party. In party meetings debates motions are proposed by members and then debates are held to logically explain the motions. When certain motions are accepted through votes they are to be followed by all participants. Lenin discouraged propagandizing once votes have been placed and decisions are taken. Lenin said the theory consisted of “freedom of discussion, unity of action” (Vladimir Lenin, 1906 “Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P”).
This principle has been directly installed in the Chinese Constitution. Article 3 of the constitution provides that “the state organs of the People’s Republic of China apply the principle of democratic centralism. The National People’s Congress and the local people’s congresses at different levels are instituted through democratic election. They are responsible to the people and subject to their supervision. All administrative, judicial and procuratorial organs of the state are created by the people’s congresses to which they are responsible and under whose supervision they operate. The division of functions and powers between the central and local state organs is guided by the principle of giving full play to the initiative and enthusiasm of the local authorities under the unified leadership of the central authorities.”
This principle of Lenin created a new communist-political philosophy termed as “Marxism-Leninism” which is being followed by several political parties around the world including the Nepal Communist Party.
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