Culture For Nation’s Existence

Prem Khatry

In this fast moving, highly consumer and globalising world, can culture, in traditional sense of the word, be a project to prepare and launch for its preservation? More succinctly, can culture yield benefit for the consumer? Isn’t it a waste to spend lavishly for the life of a culture? There can be many queries warranting reasonable responses. The problem is: there is no focal institution in hand to take these issues into consideration. This has been a tricky issue for those who feel committed to give life in the field of culture and its preservation.
We have a government that is solely responsible for the overall development of the country. There is a Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) as a custodian of these three important aspects of Nepal. Like agriculture, industry and other sectors, these three separate but administratively integrated areas are productive and are contributing significantly to the national treasury. But as far as culture is concerned, there is obviously less focus on its prioritised planning and implementation. With the new federal structure, there is more dilemma than clarity in the field of culture. We have a government that works hard, sleeps well and dreams more on the bed of remittance. There was a time when the government enjoyed the income from the ill famous Gorkha recruitment commission. History has been repeated. Time and thoughts have not changed, the modality has.
We also have a government that squarely fails to facilitate and promote quality education but smiles on the issue that thousands of brilliant youths land in an alien country speak the language and enjoy the culture at the cost of their own. Parents’ happiness in the process knows no bounds. At a time when the country needs one university each in the Pradesh, where Pradesh and local level academic institution need strong monitoring and evaluation mechanism to enhance standard, partisan efforts for new universities are in the offing. There is hardly any serious concern shown for quality education so urgent for the planned development of a nation.
If dispatching young generation to the known and unknown destinations in any name or for any purpose continues unabated, this will have serious impact on the strengthening and sustaining process of Nepali culture. It is a commonplace knowledge that culture can survive and thrive through systematic efforts involving the concerned community and its youths. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention of 2003, which was ratified by the Government of Nepal, clearly explains the role of community and youths for promoting heritage.
According to UNESCO the basic unit to safeguard culture is the community where the state party assumes the responsibility of a facilitator. The state is not the creator, consumer and the savior; it is the community which coordinates with all efforts, plans and programmes with the state. Considering these technicalities, culture becomes an agenda where several stakeholders come together giving community and the youth greater responsibilities.
This is a very critical phase in Nepal’s history where culture is affecting values, norms and conduct and all ills in different guises have made inroads in people’s thinking, conduct and work. In this space last week (Bodhi Gram: Seeing Beyond, April 30, 2019) this writer argued that Buddha’s timeless teachings can have positive impact on the conduct of human being and this fact is universally accepted. Many nations in East and Southeast Asia are glaring examples of how this can happen through education.
Nearly everyday news of deplorable conduct with surging examples of greed and sin are flooding. These news to come on the breakfast table, or before a whole day’s rest at night and driving on the road with a fully laden head are making the concerned citizen of Nepal sick, and literally so. Buddha deplored ‘trishna’, avarice of the worst kind as the source of suffering. Great saint personality S. Goyenka not only revitalised the Bipassana movement but appears on TV to further highlight his new meditation movement. The central point of all this is – build a career of your own so you do not deter from your rightful living. Where is avarice, trishna, when thoughts and actions are well predicated on formal and informal education? ‘Nowhere and never’ is the qualified answer.
A writer of a small piece like this one has very limited space to find answer to the queries raised at the outset. His brain power may also be very limited. But a few words must be spent on the way out to come out of this greedy and always diluting world. We are in a nation building campaign at the moment. Many economic indexes are looking good and positive in their face value. This wouldn’t have happened without the struggle our leaders, the founding fathers of democracy coming from several political parties hadn’t waged struggle against the old system and old school of thought pattern. On the culture front, there are equally bona fide and qualified people who can contribute significantly in the field of culture through their experience, exposure to their traditional knowledge and skills, oral traditions and performances that mediate with nature and cosmos. Human life would never have come to this stage without their invaluable contribution.
Finally, the writer began his discussion with few pertinent questions. The answers to these queries lie in the concerted efforts first in the vision of the people itself and on the shoulder of the people themselves, too. The writer also made effort to link culture with conduct. A nation of many faiths and practices is strong enough to build a generation of committed youths in the shadow of living heritage, the elders, across cultures and regions. Our languages are falling sick and dying, our cultures are at risk and best customary practices also face extreme risk as the new generation is enjoying global mood instead of its root. The government doesn’t yet have a national register of intangible cultural heritage to show to the world not as a matter of pride but as a duty of the State Party. At this situation, we need to harbour a ‘culture of hope and patience’ and perhaps stick to it.

(Former Dean of Humanities & Social Sciences, TU and Fulbright scholar from University of California, Khatry writes on cultural issues) 

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