Nepali Bloggers Breaking New Grounds

Libertarian-ism. You don’t hear this ism in Nepal that often. Political discussions in the country are largely tussle between liberal, centrist,or conservative bend. Nowadays xenophobic right wing tilt is also visible-because of regional and cultural shifts.

Surath Giri’s blog looks at Libertarianism through Nepali lens. Posts on  flat tax system, Nepali capitalism “Whatever little degree of capitalism Nepal has practiced so far has been riddled with practices of crony capitalism. The majority of the wealthy class of Nepal were either born rich or became so by political and bureaucratic connections. Why do few business houses thrive whereas majority of the populace languishes in poverty? Why do few industrialists dominate the economy? Not because they provide quality goods and services to satisfy the customers but because they happen to have political and bureaucratic connections.”, youth unemployment and the Occupy Wall Street movement are interesting.

While the merits of libertarian-ism versus liberal or conservative form of government is wide open and not settled, Giri does pushes new way of looking at things in Nepal. It has not caught on because let’s be honest, the idea of self-reliance and small government is not  attractive in Nepali context. Mainstream media has largely ignored this school of thought.

Ushaft’s blog is the Nepali media watchdog (I so hope one day our news/media organizations will have an ombudsman), until then this blog what we have. His (??) posts on press release journalism, and the outrageous child trafficking case criticize the media culture and corruption within-something the fraternity has been unable to do for a long time.

The two blogs are pushing new ideas, reaction from the media establishment is non existent. Shows that the old guard is too set in its way or is there a communication gap which if bridged could resolve the disconnect?

Citizen Media in Nepal: A Look Back

Back in 2007, Citizen Journalism in Nepal was still a vague fad. An excerpt from my piece for Toward Freedom magazine (27-11-2007)

After the April 2006 revolution, which saw the Nepalese King lose most of his powers and reduced to a strictly ceremonial figure, Nepali web focused citizen journalism has seen a rapid growth. According to WebLali, a roughly compiled directory of Nepali blogs and Blogger, there are about 200-300 blogs on various topics ranging from politics to aviation and tourism. The number seems insignificant, but in the Nepali context it is big achievement. Consider this: based on 2006 data, there are only 249,400 internet users in the country and GDP-per capita is $15,000. Only 48% of the population is literate.

Present scene looks encouraging, but citizen journalism in Nepal is still in its infancy and faces many problems. These challenges include the country’s troublesome record on press freedom, a rise in attacks against journalists and activists, ethnic tensions and financial constraints.

In early November of 2007, journalist Birendra Shah was kidnapped; his whereabouts remained unknown for about a month. Later the Maoists guerrillas admitted to the kidnapping and murder. Although the reasons remain unclear, it is widely speculated that Shah was killed because he was working on a story linking Maoists to cross-border smuggling. In June, Reporters Without Borders published a report saying that 72 journalists were attacked or threatened by armed groups including the Maoists since the beginning of this year.

In last four years, blogging, social networks, video sharing platforms and online forums have pushed Nepali  media into a new era-where citizen input is getting recognized and reader engagement and interaction is encouraged.

Major news websites-Kantipur, Republica, Nagarik, Nepali Times, The Himalayan Times, all are making an effort to structure their presentation to attract more reader participation and contribution from bloggers. Compared to international media outlets, the push is weak, but the shift in attitude cannot be ignored.

For instance, the landing page for Kantipur has a discussion section, link to their Facebook and Twitter page, and the articles come with a “social media bar” which makes sharing easy.

In addition to making the media more interactive and responsive, social media is also responsible for the growth in Nepal’s citizen media. They act as an amplifier-strengthening voice of a concerned citizen, and sometimes as a bridge to connect a citizen journalist and the media.

Bloggers /citizen reporters are part of  mainstream media outlets like Republica, and The Nepali Times-although for most part, they are limited to opinion/personal story journalism.

Blogs like Mysansar and Meroreport ( citizen media collective) have successfully established themselves as sources, thereby creating new roles for citizen journalists and breaking out of the usual opinion, rant pigeon-hole.

Meroreport has also introduced hyper-local citizen media; where local stories, most likely to be ignored by the national media is featured. With bilingual approach (Nepali and English, but Nepali certainly dominates) they have managed to move beyond urban areas and expand their readership and contributor base.

Mysansar on the other hand has evolved into mini media, with its share of corruption and human trafficking expose and huge following.

Bloggers  as part of mainstream journalism and blogs emerging as trusted new source-the scenario presented above is very positive and encouraging, however, it is also misleading.

For all the success earned by MySansar and Meroreport, there are bloggers who don’t see any problem plagiarizing content. (Previous posts on content piracy and copyrights:

https://bhumikasa.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/on-digital-rights-and-piracy/

https://bhumikasa.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/digital-securityprivacy-and-copyrights/ )

and there are regulators and individuals who don’t respect free speech and free expression rights-as exhibited by the Press Council’s overreach on MySansar-Chaudhary Group bullying scandal.

Citizen media landscape in 2007 was vague and uncertain. In 2011, although much has been achieved, the base is still weak-thanks to legal loopholes,  political uncertainty, and uneven standardization.

Nepali Bloggers, in English

Random list of of Nepali bloggers, who blog primarily in English.

A Altruistic Blog: Poetry and personal . Not updated regularly. http://manyudixit.blogspot.com/

A Libertarian in Nepal : If you are not sick of Ron Paul already, this is the place to see libertarian-ism- through Nepali eyes. http://www.surathgiri.com/

A Prelude to Perfection : Personal, literary and random general interest topics. http://www.tanjali.com/

Blogdai: Nepali and regional politics, not updated regularly though. http://nepalnow.blogspot.com/

My Frame of Reference: Science and technology.http://www.nabinkm.com/

# She Thinks to Herself: Personal. http://shethinkstoherself.wordpress.com/

# A Room with a View : Personal. http://pratul-diaries.blogspot.com/

# Nepali: Personal, literary and politics. http://nepa.li/

# Dearest: Literary/personal. http://gooeyjournalism.blogspot.com/

# Guffadi: Political and social (with humour). http://guffadi.blogspot.com/

# Chandan Sapkota’s Blog: Economics, development. http://www.sapkotac.blogspot.com/

United we Blog for Democratic Nepal: Politics, current affairs. http://blog.com.np

XNepali: Entertainment, current affairs. http://xnepali.net

# The Radiant Star : Current affairs, media. http://www.nepalivoices.com/

# Ushaft :Politics, current affairs, media. http://ushaft.wordpress.com/

Why this list? Ok, the bloggers have not bribed me to share the links and this is definitely not a marketing campaign.

During National Novel Writing Month(November) we focused on Asian and Asian American issues. It was a great learning experience and we hope that you will find the compilation of posts we published earlier today helpful in understanding issues facing the community.

Encouraged by the experience, we are going to study Nepali blogosphere for the next two months and that is where the list comes to play. We will focus on these blogs (list of Nepali language blogs is here).

So see you tomorrow!

Multi Cultural Homes

Last year I posted this on mixed marriages and inter-cultural relationships for Global Voices Online. It was quite a learning experience. I came across couple of blogs on mixed marriages where one of the partner is a Nepali.

For a year now, I have regularly visited three of those blogs-

Musings from an American-Nepali Household (American Wife)

Bideshi Biya (Nepali Husband)

White Girl in a Sari (Australian Wife)

All three blogs have different character and nature, but one thing is common-the mixed marriage situation (from what they discuss) is surprisingly smooth and accommodating. Well, surprising at least for me because growing up and even in adulthood I was under the impression that in situations like this, there is always a winner and loser. The losing culture gets sidelined and forgotten.Instead, the way they managed to navigate cultural and religious differences made me question my commitment to my heritage.

As a Nepali living in America, raising an American born daughter, I have always made an effort to be as authentic as possible, while being open to my surroundings. But I do carry pretty heavy baggage with regards to Nepali symbols and my feminist ideals. Most often, they don’t go together. I hate wearing a “pote” or a “chura”, and “sindoor” is also a no no.

So, it struck me to see that the lovely American wife in the America-Nepali household wears a “pote”. She is embracing part of my culture that I,native daughter, have ignored. I don’t know what that says about me, but she does get hugs for her openness.

White Girl in a Sari (Casey) has also embraced Nepali culture and language. She celebrated Dashain in Australia with her husband and group of Nepali friends, and even managed to enjoy goat curry( part of Dashain festivities).

Our Dashain celebration was a bit Americanized, with pumpkin pie and no goat curry.

Bideshi Biya (Nepali husband) is also very open about being flexible regarding cultural assimilation and integration.

These three homes represent a pixel on larger mixed marriages/multi cultural homes picture, they are an interesting study on culture and what it means to “be”. They show that It is possible for cultures to coexist and thrive together.

Being a native-born does not make one’s affiliation dearer and embracing the foreign does not have compromise your true self. It is how your live it, how you love it and how you preserve it that counts.

Who Wants to be a Tiger Mom?

Early this year, the American media was flush with excitement. A new species had been discovered- the Tiger Mom.

Amy Chua, successful Yale University professor and uber “Asian mom” of two daughters created a firestorm after claiming Chinese mothers are better than the rest in her Wall Street Journal article on virtues of Asian style parenting. Her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chided American moms for their permissive parenting style and counted the benefits of being strict and stern with kids.

All this riding on popular understanding that Asian kids, compared to other ethnic minorities, do well in school and are more disciplined- applying the model minority myth.

What about the kids?

Missing in this debate, the kids and their perspective.

I was raised by wannabe Tiger parents. Yes, you can see they failed and I am glad they did.

Parenting focused on raising young achievers and ultra focused kids denies the children their childhood and robs them the freedom of making mistakes. My parents wanted me to be a Doctor or an Engineer. I hated math and had no interest in science. But the intense pressure and the environment where you feel lees worthy if you do not measure up to the “other” kids made me hate school altogether. I was almost held back for a year in 9th grade and failed every math test in junior high.

And there are hundreds like me scattered all over Asia and in Asian families in America. The push for success and achievement is actually hurting kids. They are forced to value success over honest hard work, achievement over learning and experience; and in many cases pushed to follow a career path chosen by the family instead of the freedom to dream and choose.

There is no denying that children need structure and discipline. They need guidance and encouragement too. Forcing them to abandon simple pleasures of childhood for the sake of future filled with grand achievements is wrong.

Complicit Media

The media circus following Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal article and her book made me wonder why is the mainstream media in this country incapable of examining the other side when it comes to popular myths regarding the minorities.

The picture of smart Asians and model minority myth is so appealing that they went along with Tiger parenting and failed to show the damage it does to kids. Only after some outraged parents raised their voices, there was some attempt to examine.

Imagine a mother from any other ethnicity or religious group had tried to claim that their style of parenting is better than the rest, on national media! But the good Asian myth was allowed to perpetuate.

Strong discipline and moral foundation is necessary to set up kids for future success but Tiger style parenting focused on success and achievement is nothing but a patenting gulag and is nothing to be celebrated.

Hope the next time an Asian fad comes along, the media will respond differently.

Entertainment: For Whom?

If you watch randomly selected major television network in America, you get a very twisted idea about the country and it’s culture- that the country is almost all white, white collar mega rich land where everyone is thin, and look better than most models.

Prime Time programming at NBC,CBS, ABC and FOX mostly have Caucasian characters as the leads. Some have tried to fill the gap by pushing in some black and Hispanic characters in between but they don’t get the meaty and leading roles.

I have been a devoted, almost fanatical fan of ABC’s Desperate Housewives. They did try to bring in an African American family as series regulars but after a season dropped them. Yes, they do have Eva Longoria’a family The Solis’ as the “Latino” representation, but is that enough? The show ignores two large sections of minorities in America- African Americans and the Asians. A youngster following the show, what is the picture of America in their imagination? All white with one Latino family!

News networks are no better. Crucial 8-10 PM hour are, with one exception- MSNBC has Rachel Maddow at 9; all white males. CNN has Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan, Fox has Bill O’Reilly and Hannity, and MSNBC has Ed Schultz and Maddow. Women, minorities cannot be trusted to shape and debate issues facing America and the world?

Exclusive club of American mainstream media, gives an impression of America that is so skewed and false, it begs a question, is entertainment/news only for the delusional? Or are the minorities too insignificant to be embraced as part of the country?

Ghettos, Assimilation and the Melting Pot

In my previous post, I discussed how futile it is to expect foreign born/ raised kids to be culturally pure and observant. The degree of purity depends on the definitions set by the parents, how they themselves were raised and their values. But the whole idea of pushing the young generation to follow on the path of their ancestors and ignore their surrounding culture is troubling.

We are born into a culture, religion and values set. Parents, relatives and the community shape us, but ultimately it is us- an individual who decides what to pick and what to ignore. In certain societies parents and elders do push youngsters to confirm, even then the individual decision counts.

To push a young person to follow their parents’ culture, while living amongst an entirely different culture creates “cultural and ethnic ghettos”. They live in an almost parallel universe and the clash between civilizations and cultures makes it’s difficult for them to integrate into their new homeland.

It also confuses them because here they are living in a country where personal freedom and valued, but at home and within their community their voice is ignored. How are they supposed to reconcile the difference and work so that they grow up to be responsible citizen of their new homeland rather then just being a good (insert ethnicity or religion here)?

You see this rift widening in Europe and parts of America. Ethnicities banding together and living in insular communities fractures a nation and crates parallel societies. Integration is difficult and the clash creates a permanent class of “outsiders”- and feeds alienation.

Instead of accepting these parallel societies, effort has to be made to truly integrate new comers and their families. Culture is important part of identity and diversity is good for a country but at a certain point different cultures have to come together and be one nation.

Nepali, Chinese , Hindi schools and culture lessons are welcomed and encouraged, but similar efforts are needed to make sure that the children and the immigrants know that they don’t have to feel like an outsider. An effort to integrate.

Most of us are descendants of immigrants/migrants. My ancestors moved to Nepal 3 or 4 hundred years ago, most definitely from north India. Over time they embraced Nepal and it’s culture and became part of the society. They did retain part of their culture and heritage, but embraced the new too.

Integration and assimilation over time is only natural. Resistance gives rise to fractured societies and ghettoes.