Navigating Nepal’s complexity with metamodernism

In Nepal, metamodernist principles are highly relevant as they can foster a more empathetic and inclusive political landscape and drive innovative solutions to address the diverse needs of the Nepali population.

Bimal Pratap Shah

  • Read Time 6 min.

In the wake of the internet’s pervasive influence, our world has undergone profound transformations that have rendered traditional ideologies, governance systems, and even monetary structures somewhat outdated. Amidst this bewildering landscape, metamodernism emerges as a much-needed beacon, providing valuable insight to navigate the complexities of our rapidly evolving reality. As a significant cultural and intellectual movement of the 21st century, metamodernism presents a refreshing perspective on democracy, seeking to address the shortcomings of modern political systems while acknowledging the erosion of grand narratives and certainties associated with modernism, as well as the limitations of postmodern skepticism and relativism. This metamodernist approach presents a unique opportunity to reinvigorate democratic practices in Nepal, as citizens’ faith in the democratic system has waned over nearly three decades of unfulfilled promises.

What metamodernism does

Metamodernism, in its astute analysis of our transformative era, marks a profound shift in thinking by skillfully amalgamating and surpassing the sensibilities of both modernism and postmodernism. In Nepal, while modernism fervently advocated reason and progress, resulting in haphazard urban and rural development, it also rejected long-held historical conventions. On the other hand, postmodernism interrogated the notion of absolute truth while exalting the virtues of diversity and individualism. However, this approach also failed to empower the marginalized sections of society, and people are still struggling under caste-based and ethnic-based divisions.

Yet, as we observe the intricate dynamics of our present political system, reshaped by the pervasive influence of the Internet and the undeniable shortcomings of traditional governance, it becomes apparent that both modernist and postmodernist movements have fallen short of effectively grappling with the contemporary complexities of the hyper-capitalist and hyper-globalized world. These shortcomings have given rise to issues such as mass migration, ethnic tensions, and destructive urbanization.

By fluidly moving between contrasting perspectives, metamodernism encourages a more comprehensive and inclusive examination of democratic issues. It fosters a willingness to explore different viewpoints, transcending rigid ideologies, and recognizing the interconnectedness of diverse perspectives. This nuanced approach allows for a more open and empathetic dialogue among individuals with varying beliefs and values, promoting the potential for collaborative solutions and societal progress. Embracing metamodernist principles in the realm of politics can offer a fresh paradigm for addressing complex challenges, ultimately paving the way for a more adaptable, empathetic, and resilient democratic system. While political parties may thrive on a divided population, it is necessary for them to work together as collaborative efforts between parties can bridge divisions and foster a more united approach to address the diverse needs and aspirations of the people.

Nepal has grappled with the complexities of thriving in a rapidly changing globalized world, giving rise to diverse migration patterns that could potentially have long-term detrimental effects on the country. The departure of a substantial number of individuals for Gulf States, Malaysia, and South Korea has resulted in shortages of unskilled or semi-skilled labor within Nepal, leaving certain industries and sectors in need of crucial workforce support. Additionally, a considerable group comprising highly skilled professionals and students opts to settle abroad, leading to a brain drain that diminishes the nation’s intellectual capital and potential for economic growth. These ongoing trends have further compounded Nepal’s challenges, putting pressure on the political parties to work together to proactively address its current situation and devise effective strategies to attract and retain both skilled as well as unskilled individuals within its borders. One thing is for sure: the traditional way of doing politics will not lead to the desired or necessary outcomes.

In Nepal, as the nation grapples with complex political and societal issues, metamodernist principles are highly relevant, as they can foster a more empathetic and inclusive political landscape and drive innovative solutions to address the diverse needs of the Nepali population. For example, people in the Koshi province have been protesting for months against the proposed name change of the province, emphasizing the need to consider identity-based names that reflect the aspirations of the Kirat communities. By embracing metamodernist principles, Nepal can cultivate a political discourse that promotes open dialogue, collaboration, and inclusivity to address ethnic tensions responsibly. The government must acknowledge the constant emergence of new ideas as people’s consciousness evolves over time, with solutions arising only through meaningful dialogue, not by dismissing the requests.

Relevance for Nepal

Metamodernism also offers a transformative approach in Nepal’s context, particularly in addressing the challenge of environmental conservation and development. Instead of resorting to traditional binary choices between preservation and growth, metamodernism encourages a more nuanced perspective that integrates economic development with environmental protection. By fostering critical thinking, creativity, empathy, and interconnectedness, political leaders can actively engage with diverse perspectives from local communities, environmental experts, and businesses to develop inclusive and responsible policies. Nepal can strike a balance between economic progress and environmental preservation, ensuring a sustainable future that prioritizes the well-being of its people and the conservation of natural resources for generations to come.

Photo credit: Huff Post

For instance, Dharan’s Mayor, Harka Sampang Rai, has led a drive for drinking water in the city, emphasizing the minimal usage of heavy equipment to reduce damage to the environment. Simultaneously, he has initiated a massive tree plantation drive as forests protect water bodies and watercourses by trapping sediments and pollutants from upslope runoff waters.

Metamodernism also challenges the dichotomous nature of traditional political paradigms by promoting a “both/and” approach that transcends fixed ideologies and binary choices. It recognizes the complexities of reality and advocates for integrative thinking to address complex issues. By fostering collaboration, dialogue, and collective intelligence, metamodernism creates a more nuanced and inclusive political sphere. It acknowledges the interdependence of social structures and cultural phenomena, allowing the coexistence and integration of seemingly contradictory ideas and perspectives. In the past, policymakers were faced with a binary choice between promoting urbanization and industrialization for economic growth or prioritizing the preservation of rural areas and natural resources. Rather than focusing solely on development projects that have devastated the ecology, policymakers can promote sustainable rural initiatives that empower local communities while preserving the environment. One concrete example of the metamodernist approach in Nepal could be the promotion of eco-tourism in rural areas. By investing in eco-friendly infrastructure and community-based tourism initiatives, Nepal can attract tourists seeking authentic experiences while also generating income for local communities, encouraging the conservation of natural landscapes and cultural heritage, as well as fostering socio-economic development in the region.

Furthermore, the concept of governance models with centralized leadership is seemingly dysfunctional. Metamodernism, in its quest to address the limitations of modern political parties and institutions, presents a compelling alternative by recognizing complexity of governance by accommodating diverse perspectives, fostering a participatory and inclusive approach to democracy. It calls for the exploration of a multitude of viewpoints, active listening, and the cultivation of empathy to weave together seemingly contradictory ideas and discover shared ground amidst differences. Metamodernism asserts that diverse political and cultural viewpoints can and must coexist harmoniously, with none being inherently superior. Since the welfare of the Nepali people, especially those at the socio-economic margins, is paramount, it is necessary to understand that the complex problems faced by Nepal cannot be solved solely by a single political party, even when they claim to possess a superpower or a magic pill to address all societal ills. Such claims are mere wolf-tickets. Instead, political parties should collaborate, respecting their differing ideologies, fostering a broader perspective, and considering various solutions to achieve more effective governance. This collaborative effort ultimately leads to positive outcomes benefiting everyone. The split and spat in the parliament seem futile, making representative democracy look silly.

Direct democracy offers a promising means of empowering citizens to actively participate in governance, bridging the gap between the government and its people.

Nepal can revitalize democratic practices, break away from traditional ideological rigidity, and foster a more inclusive and responsive political system by adopting the principles of complexity, oscillation, empathy, and inclusivity of metamodernism. Direct democracy offers a promising means of empowering citizens to actively participate in governance, bridging the gap between the government and its people. Direct democracy is a form of government where citizens have the authority to directly participate in decision-making processes and have a say in the policies and laws that govern them. Individuals are able to vote on proposed laws, initiatives, and referendums, bypassing the need for elected representatives to make decisions on their behalf. This form of governance promotes greater citizen engagement and empowerment, as it allows people to be actively involved in shaping the policies and direction of their country or community.

Nepal can break free from rigid and antiquated ideologies that might have limited progress in the past by adopting a metamodernist approach. Metamodernism encourages a dynamic and evolving worldview that acknowledges the complexities of contemporary issues and actively seeks innovative solutions. Through adaptability, Nepal’s political landscape can respond effectively to ever-changing circumstances and challenges, allowing the country to adjust its policies and strategies as new information emerges or societal needs evolve. This approach not only fosters collaboration and cooperation among political parties but also encourages broader public engagement in shaping the nation’s destiny. It enables the country to address its multifaceted challenges more effectively, adapt to the complexities of the modern world, and create a more inclusive and resilient Nepali society.