Government needs to understand that appreciation of different perspectives and criticisms can only help the government become more accountable
I wonder why we are so critical of the government and the government is intolerant of criticisms that come from people. Who are critical of the government? They are people whose lives are still in lurch and whose aspirations are still not addressed. They are the media that carry the voices of such people.
When they become critical of the government, the government loses tolerance. So we have Media Council Bill or rhetorical attacks our Prime Minister KP Oli launched against editors for not possessing a “strong heart” to praise the “good deeds.” This has created a rift, or a lack of harmony between the Oli-led government and people or media that are critical of the government.
The majority government is unable to establish harmony with people due to “cheap talk” of the Prime Minister who never accomplishes what he promises on time, thus widening the gap between the government’s roles and the people’s expectations. So many of us profusely vent irrational feelings of dislike and hatred on social media toward the government that vows for the development of the country, but things are not happening in a way they are expected to. However, the government is not willing to accept this truth.
People are told to accept that development is happening. People consider that a lie because they think that just cutting ribbons or inaugurating some developmental projects will not lead the nation to prosperity. It is because livelihood of majority of Nepali people has not improved. Even today, according to Asian Development Bank, 26 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, and 34 out of 1000 babies born in Nepal die. Compared to global scenario, the conditions of many Nepali people are worse in terms of health, education, employment and other facilities.
This gap between lack of delivery and people’s expectations, the gap between the criticism and the government’s lack of tolerance, the gap between the government’s rhetoric/argument and people’s observations/counterargument has created animosity and hatred against each other, between the majority government and people who have been waiting for too long for minimum change in life.
The government thinks that people and media, that are supposed to represent different voices of people from the streets, are biased against the government while the people and media realize that the government has been very slow in executing development projects effectively and efficiently. People think that it is all because of weak leadership, poor vision and “cheap talk.” The more hesitant and obdurate the government becomes to listen to the media and people, the more the government will be lambasted upon. There will remain only a handful of loyalists to worship the government and the rest will be its critics.
The government expects each of us to trust it. Those who don’t, according to Prime Minister Oli, are “regressive.” Oli is biased toward those who do not like his talk. This is an indirect way of oppression of the critical voices. Oli tends to exclude people who are critical of the government, thus creating a further gap between the ruler and the ruled, discouraging people to equally participate with the government, and dismissing people who are critical of the government.
Oli-government should appreciate the criticisms as voices for reform. Otherwise, the government may feel humiliated and try to put more power and oppression upon people and media.
Those in the authority do not accept the criticism easily. Our education system tends to discourage criticism. For example, if a teacher is asked a question or argued against his/her views or performance by a student, s/he will feel more threatened and challenged. This way students’ creativity, alternative thoughts, or out of the box perspective is squashed. This reflects in politics too. We are preached and supposed to follow or listen without questioning the practice or the views in politics, bureaucracy and institutions. Thus people who are given authority feel threatened or challenged when they are asked questions.
People in power start looking for a weapon to fight against such criticisms so that they can portray themselves as good leaders doing great things for the country. They aim at increasing the number of party loyalists by creating rhetoric that blames people who are critical of the government and appreciate those who praise the government. When people become ‘yes’ men it will create a hierarchy between the governor and the governed. Such gaps may kill the democratic practices and it may become detrimental to our development process.
The government needs to understand that appreciation of different perspectives and criticisms can only help the government become more accountable. The government needs to build positive attitude toward people who are critical of the government. The attitude that whatever the government is doing is flawless, bigger, better and unquestionable will further create a rift between the government and the people and media who are critical of the government. Then the government tends to become autocratic as well. Criticisms help the government to diagnose its mistakes, which when rectified, can make people happy.
The author is Assistant Professor of English at South Georgia State College, USA. He is also the author of “Sex, Gender, and Disability in Nepal” and “Running from the Dreamland”