The year 2017 started with two bangs which have brought down the age old dictums that communism stands for state-control where as capitalism stands for free market. President Xi of China, who is also the leader of the Communist Party of China, was heard and seen lecturing about the virtues of globalisation and free trade to the ‘who’s who’ in world capitalism in the Swiss resort village of Davos at the beginning of the year. At about the same time the newly elected President of the United States, Trump was busy calling for an end to globalisation by putting ‘America first,’ repeating his commitment to erect a ‘wall’ to curb the inflow of goods and people from the south, and signing decrees to take America out of the regional trade deal – the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) painstakingly negotiated by his predecessor.
The US has long been considered the leader of the free world and bastion of capitalism espoused by liberals who unequivocally believe in the free flow of goods, services, capital, people and ideas. Consequently, Trump’s declarations and actions are so far not merely a reversal of erstwhile policies of the United States but anathema to the concept of liberal democracy and capitalism. Incidently, Mr. Trump presided over a multibillion dollar business empire that has extensively benefited from globalisation. On the other hand, China is being ruled by a communist party with an iron fist. The official ideology and policy of the Communist Party of China is Marxism-Leninism and President XI has given no indication what so ever that he would tolerate any other ideology or dissent in his middle kingdom.
These two events may force us to conclude that we are truly in the post-truth era. The Oxford dictionary, considered to be a form of authority in the English language, had earlier declared ‘Post-Truth’ as the ‘Word of the Year 2016’. The same dictionary defines post-truth as an adjective ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’ In the post truth era, feelings are more important than the facts.
Donald Trump won the US presidential election claiming that the US economy under President Obama was in shambles and he will make the US great again. There is absolutely no statistical or empirical evidence to prove that the US economy fared badly in the recent decade. The Obama administration in the US not only steered the US economy from the worst financial crisis (2008/009) since the great depression of the 1930’s, to a sustained growth rate of over 3% per annum, but was also able to reduce the US federal deficit from over 1.4 trillion US dollars in 2009 to a little over 438 billion dollars in 2015. The deficit has gone up slightly to 587 billion dollars in 2016. The unemployment rate was 4.6%, a nine year low in November 2016. But the US voters who chose to vote for Mr. Trump had more confidence in what Trump said rather than what the mandarins in the US government statistical offices, armed with all sorts of statistical indicators, would tell them. We in Nepal never had the confidence in official statistics. We believe in rumours and that is why quality and quantity of our statistics is in shambles.
Mr. Trump won the election even though he polled less popular votes than his adversary. He then gave the logic that his competitor, Lady Clinton, polled more votes as millions of immigrants who should not be legitimately in the voters list voted for her. Such a statement, especially coming from the winning candidate, was a shocker for many in the West. Maybe, he should have taken lessons from our present Prime Minister and his party. Then he would have safely claimed that the votes polled by him were transferred to his opponent as the ballot boxes were mysteriously changed on their way to the counting centers. Such statement could have gained some credibility among observers.
As soon as Trump won the election, his detractors started campaigning against him under the ‘#not my president,’ which became a trending topic on twitter for some time. The losing candidate blamed the FBI Director who reordered, few days before the election, the investigation on the use of private email server by her while she was Secretary of State. The secret services of the only superpower found that the Russians had put a bear bug in the computers of the US democrats, which not only stole information from the democratic party, but also selectively passed them to Julien Assange of WikiLeaks that affected the outcome of the election itself. The President of the day packed a few dozen Russians back home. In Nepal, we always know that there is a ‘grand design’ that determines the outcome of all our movements we are incapable of deciding on our own. Of course we are more civilised than the Americans and we do not send emissaries back even though we see them in open glare of the TV cameras, hyper active when a prime minister is being booted out or a new army chief is being appointed. Mr. Obama and his team could have taken a lesson or two from Mr. Oli on how a foreign power engineers coup without resorting to generals.
As president Trump was on verge of assuming power, there were reports in the ‘free’ media of the West that Russians had evidence of eccentric sexual preferences of Mr. Trump which would allow them to influence if not control his actions. Poor Americans, in Nepal we always know our leaders are controlled by anybody other than the voters of this country.
President Trump is planning to construct a 21 odd feet high wall along the 2,000 mile long US-Mexican border, to keep (in his own words) ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists’ from the South out. The hapless Americans are copying the great Asian tradition. The Chinese built the Great Wall to keep the ‘barbarians’ from the North at a distance, more than 2000 years ago. Moreover, the 2,000 mile long US-Mexico wall may be a huge structure, but it will still be a dwarf when compared with the Chinese wall which used to measure 5,500 to 13,000 miles (depending on which archeological team you believe) during the hey days of the middle kingdom. We, in Nepal, may not have the resources to construct walls, but for centuries we did not allow foreigners to step on our lands. Furthermore, our own compatriots from the South could undertake a visit without permit to the north during the few days of Shivaratri only. So we have excellent tradition of keeping aliens out and could easily give new leaders of the ‘free’ world a lesson or two.
The British voters decided to get their islands out of the EU, in hope and assumption that they will be better off dealing with the outside world than with their neighbours. Probably they are taking lessons from us. We are convinced that neighbours are the source of all our ills while the people of faraway lands are angels. Had we the opportunity, we would have taken our landlocked motherland to the middle of the pacific ocean safely forgetting that Switzerland is in the middle of the continent where as Haiti is in the middle of the sea. But unfortunately, the Indian plate is forcing us below the Chinese plate and Jamuna Gubhaju, the tantric guru who could do anything, has passed away without transferring his ‘science’ to us.
In the post truth era, the roles are reversing. The old indicators of success and failure of polices like GDP growth rates and unemployment rates have no meaning. The new theory is ‘us’ before ‘them’. The advisors of President Trump could learn a lot from our ethnicity based politics which believes that representation should be based on ethnicity, not ideology and elections. We have been championing the idea that a person of another colour and speaking another tongue is not merely unpatriotic but is outright anti-national. But unfortunately for us, probably they will go to our smaller neighbour to the East, Bhutan which has mastered this science. She has proved to the world that happiness comes from not merely banning the people who worship another God and speak in another language, but by throwing them entirely out. But we can take some solace, we may not be the first but at least among the top in the new world pecking order of ‘great’ nations. Greatness is no more akin to ‘love thy neighbour’.