Psychopathy And Politics In Nepal - II : Kedar Maharjan
Considering the endless cycle of standoffs and unrest that characterise not just Nepal’s politics but, more importantly, its politicians, should we be comparing the behaviour of the country’s political leaders with the ‘monster in the marketplace’ kinds of psychopaths?
Using John Clarke’s criteria, we know firstly that, in various innumerable ways, our leaders deliberately and continuously lie to us. The election hype that they deliver to the voters overflows with extravagant promises of universal quality public healthcare, inclusive education, empowerment of the marginalised communities, anti-corruption agencies, one rule of law applying to everyone, rectification of injustices historically meted out to the disadvantaged communities, protection of senior citizens, and agricultural subsidies to improve food security.
Secondly, most members of Nepal’s political class are superficially charming and articulate – some even being fervent religious devotees – at least before their election. After attaining political (and often economic) power, this class becomes ambivalent towards the electorate that voted it into office, showing no sympathy, apology, or any gesture of remorse about failing the poor, the marginalised and other vulnerable communities to whom they made their extravagant but – as they turn out – empty promises. The most glaring example of this is Nepal’s prime minister. Even though he suffers multiple age-related disorders himself, he is devoid of any policy aimed at improving the basic rights, health and economic wellbeing of the country’s senior citizens - even in the face of multiple public protests.
Thirdly, nowhere is evidence of officially sanctioned heartlessness and deviousness more abundant than in rural Nepal. There, politicians and bureaucrats continue to behave like feudal warlords. On the one hand, they boast that they - and they alone - have the right to represent the interests of the rural population, but, on the other, by shelving development programmes to drive the upliftment and sustainability of local agricultural communities, they watch rural oppressions multiply.
Without concerted decentralisation programmes to decelerate the flood of rural-to-urban migrants that daily discharges into the Kathmandu Valley, not only will the valley’s indigenes be displaced, the biodiversity, fertile soil and uncontaminated waterways, for which the once naturally pristine valley was famous, will also be irreversibly destroyed.
Thanks to their vacillation and egocentricity, these ‘patriotic’ politicians and bureaucrats have made three irreplaceable gifts to our nation, these being:
- two-wheeler vehicles which, like mosquitoes, multiply and swarm through every accessible corridor, lane, alley, and ants’ nest of Kathmandu;
- the pillow of acrid photochemical smog that suffocates Kathmandu’s inhabitants each and every morning; and
- the facemask, which has replaced our flag as the nation’s emblem.
Lastly, what for me is the most reprehensible feature of the psychopathic inertia which Nepal’s politicians and bureaucrats parade as ‘leadership’ is not just the flight of young disillusioned Nepalese emigrating in search of more promising livelihoods abroad, but also the escalating proportion of talented youth who emigrate and eventually abandon their Nepalese roots. It is obvious to almost everyone that this enlarging brain drain is depriving our society of its most precious source of capital, young creative innovative minds.
Consistent with their psychopathic nature, our sly politicians and bureaucrats deny that the outflow of our country’s young and vigorous talent helps the world’s prosperous countries grow even more prosperous, with no benefits to us who are left abandoned.
An important point which John Clarke strongly makes is that psychopaths – either criminal or ‘everyday’ - can be neither treated nor changed for the simple reason that they have no moral conscience to treat or to change. Therefore, let us be clear that none of our elected politicians who have psychopathic personalities are going to change for the better.
John Clarke’s research has two tough lessons for us to learn, and if we fail to learn these lessons, we imperil the future of Nepal and its people. The first lesson is that such personalities are not just hard to detect, they are also impossible to correct. The second lesson is that children who are exposed to parents with psychopathic personalities (including those of your everyday psychopaths) also acquire those same psychopathic traits, and (this is the most frightening finding in Clarke’s research) the children carry these traits into adulthood.
If this nascent democracy of ours is to mature, what harm is there in us admitting that the performance of our elected politicians too frequently compares with the psychopaths of world history? If we prefer to stay complacent and silent about the duplicitousness of Nepal’s political leadership, we surrender our moral right to complain, not only about the politicians’ lack of integrity, but also about the prolonged hardship and suffering which all of us must thereby endure.
Rigorous screening of candidates
One strategy we can use to curb the entry of psychopaths into powerful political positions and, at the same time, discourage obsequious bureaucrats from promoting the personal ambitions of their political masters, is to screen more rigorously candidates who nominate for election. Examples of questions that each of us should be brave enough to ask a candidate are ‘What are your true assets?’ ‘How open are you to interrogation by your constituents?’
If the candidate has held political office before, ‘What kind of record did you leave in bringing the largest range of benefits to the largest diversity of people?’ ‘Do you ever admit to having previously lied to voters?’ ‘Within your constituency, what kinds of links - if any - do you actually have with women’s groups, marginalised and vulnerable communities, and indigenous people?’ ‘How do you capture opinions and feedback from young people living in your constituency?’ ‘Why don’t you ever publish newspaper reports about what you do (or don’t do) for us in parliament?’ ‘Whom do you want to succeed you as an MP?’ ‘How often have you performed official favours for members of your immediate family, and what was the nature of those favours?’
If candidates to whom we direct these questions own a moral conscience, they will be upfront and admit their shortcomings. None of us may like the responses that they provide – in fact these could seem offensive - but at least we can respect them for their openness and willingness to admit weaknesses in their character.
In the context of John Clarke’s theory, it is these kinds of political candidates who are the least likely to be psychopathic.
(Maharjan holds a Master's degree in Human Rights and Democratisation (2013) as well as a Master's degree in International Public Health (2007), both from the University of Sydney; Email: [email protected])