Power Of Civic Education
Dev Raj Dahal
Life’s progress rests on continuous learning. Civic education answers the aim of life-enlightenment. It allows attaining self-illumination to combat all kinds of subordination- familial, economic, political, religious, institutional and communicative one and gain guts for freewill. It unchains Nepali citizens from the absurdity of indoctrination, thought control, consent manufacturing and false consciousness and promotes critical faculty of judgment. Conscious citizens exercise dignity and autonomy in public affairs and build good character. Nepalis of all generations need civic education to widen their democratic desire. It transforms passive people into active citizens, aids them to exercise constitutional rights and duties, bridges the gap between knowledge and wisdom, makes social contract implementable and amplifies valid voting turn out in the elections. Nepali state promises a good life to citizens by means of instilling enduring positive values of liberty, justice, tolerance, solidarity and cooperation. The legal equality of Nepalis has created a basis for active citizenship to fight for factual equality vital for the level playing field for civic participation at villages and towns. Both nurture a perspective to envision Nepal from the native viewpoint. It frees the captive minds that deem all ills of the nation to natives by enabling them to learn the utility and limits of universal knowledge to national condition.
Reflective Consciousness: Constitutional knowledge bears positive impacts on the behaviour of citizens enabling them to act constitutionally for ordered life and restyle civic culture worthy of oneness of humanity. Nepali leaders’ duty lies in educating the union of the sovereignty of the state and popular sovereignty enabling them to use it. The legitimacy to rule is derived from free and fair election which allows the circulation of new leadership in power inducing rational change. Constitutional ideals provide Nepalis an orientation to reform their condition, assist acculturation to public morale, prepare for civic duties and build their patriotic character without being biased to humanitarian norms. In a multi-cultural society like Nepal, citizens’ active engagement in civic associations that dot the free landscape is crucial for social and national integration. Experience about civic virtues animates a balance of the leaders’ use of democratic concepts and ordinary citizens’ richness in the nation’s philosophical, historical, cultural and spatial life. The praxis of civic education in Nepal entails building dynamic relation of politics to citizen’s life and cultivating civic sense to beat petty infantilism, eternal paternalism and arrogant juvenility of undemocratic leaders. It critically informs the authority of parents, teachers, leaders and priests instilling a belief that they are neither divine nor finer in wisdom. The use of despotic doctrine of necessity and too much personalisation of authority dehumanise the citizens and reduce them into an object of manipulation like instrumental approach adopted by a few donors to foment social fissures. Both do not train people into citizenship and reveal common ground for conflict mitigation. The noise of foreign meddling without naming the country reflects leaders’ fear while handy to bend Nepali citizens’ right to know. Public security is vital to vitalise citizens to critique on authorities’ dilemma and venture far and wide across the cultures and national geography to symbolically bind all Nepalis in their common identity. It nullifies the challenge to the unity of state by internal forces of class, caste, ethnicity, gender, religion and region and external meddling.
Leaders’ reflection on the Nepali society’s diversity opens the possibility of feedback from many mini publics and facilitates them to learn from citizens about the way to resolve the practical problems of personal and national life. This can contribute to perfect their inter-subjective skills, broaden cross-cultural understanding and strengthen citizens’ attachment with the Nepali state. Improved rationality of political practices can build a national consensus for constitutional, political and policy coherence on the basis of changing popular mandate. The concepts underlined in the structural and normative details of the Constitution, such as directive principles, separation of power, checks and balances, constitutional and human rights, rule of law, autonomy of constitutional bodies and cultural industries, social justice, welfare state, human security for all the citizens etc, animate self-consciousness for ample civic actions—cleaning house, road, toilets, school compound, controlling domestic violence, girl’s education, safety of disables, creating green parks, health awareness, deference to elders, education about local government, etc.
Civic education is both a top-down and bottom-up socialization of human nature. This means learning contents should be mutually decided by citizens, teachers and leaders. It is process of mutual liberation, not domestication of citizens and denationalization of experts devoid of national feeling and insight of history. Democratic space exists within the nation-state. If Nepali state loses control over its citizens owing to migration of youth, immigration of outsiders and economic, social and political matters to global forces, the order of democracy shrinks from the shortage of critical masses of change agents of society. This brings an authority crisis for the government and loyalty pattern of citizens to the state, political parties, parliament and the actors of governance imposing problems for the institutionalisation of democracy. Institutions of governance fail to remain inclusive if the vision of building Nepali nation cannot address key challenges: alleviating poverty, job-creation, ending social exclusion, combating political alienation and the ecological, social, gender and inter-generational justice as they are related to the realisation of subjective and objective rights and escape from the fear of natural selection of life.
Civic Competence: A live discourse enables both leaders and citizens to gain self-confidence and know as to how their “negative rights” have inspired the democratic struggle, the state protected the heritage of the nation’s syncretic culture and equipped the citizens with the muscle to shape and reminisce the screen of national history that they and their institutions, such as political parties, media, civil society and a host of associations, often reconstituted. Democracy becomes tedious if its discourses freeze in the public mind leaving the leadership free to interpret democracy, progress and peace in their own way, like in Nepal, and foster empirical divisions of society for identity politics at the cost of Nepali identity. A culture of silence, fatalism and apathy of citizens is the lethal sign of democratic debit while eternal stir radicalizes the society and erodes the pivot of democratic centre.
The basic values of citizenship lie in paying tax, becoming law-abiding, remaining vigil and assuming duty in community action. Citizenship, as a member of state, begins with commitment to and respect for state sovereignty and territorial integrity, national language, anthem, national flag and social harmony in a spirit of solidarity among all the members of Nepali state irrespective of religious, racial, linguistic, class, caste and gender diversities. Deep internalisation of the values of citizenship by leaders desists from commercialising public goods under the gyration of post-modernism and market and dialectical materialism. They detach citizens from their legendry bond to land, culture and nature. An ideology-bound education blinds one to native reality. Civic education is a program with sovereign citizens, not passive patients, clients, ignorant, aliens and objects. Democratic construction of citizenship in Nepal is vital to make political system functional. It empowers them to select workable choices that the polity offers and constantly feeds their power of feeling, thinking, working and creating the lot the Nepali nation lives by.
Political Acculturation: Nepalis since old days have created and transmitted their syncretic cultures and values across generations. Now, they seek a solution to the problem of a clash among political rationality of democracy, the economic rationality of the market and ideological rationality of social engineering that deconstructs its culture, national heritage, history and society and makes citizens rootless without any harbour to its ancient roots of enlightenment. If ethical and cultural values that bond Nepalis are torn, all that is left to power fails to represent citizens and the power of leaders becomes disproportional to their representation. In this situation, Nepali state has to ensure regulatory frame that fits to all citizens. Cognitive service to citizens enables them to judge the action of their leaders on the basis of value criteria of democracy, human rights, social justice and peace. They also need a mass of stable civic bodies to ensure a balance in the polity and bind them all, even the minorities, on the policies of Nepali state. Mutual trust and concern for fellow citizens help those who are lacking a bit deep for their dignified life mainly the weakest members. If rights of Nepali citizens remain unenforceable, like party manifestoes, the rational vision of Nepali society spins absolute impossibility. The vital task ahead for Nepali polity is to bridge the rising hiatus in the words and deeds of national preachers, teachers and leaders and saving democracy from its performance crisis. This presupposes the utilisation of the art of civic education to communicate the common heritage of the nation with a larger spectrum of people, detribalise them and enable them to exercise the power of the public for synergy of good governance.