Greed and fear-driven policy-making
The banks’ greed came back to bite them in 2008 when so many people couldn’t pay back their mortgages that many banks and insurance firms went bankrupt
One of the factors behind the 2008 financial crisis was the liberalization of mortgage lending. Banks would give out mortgages to people who should not have qualified for a mortgage out of greed. They wanted more and more people locked into repaying them loans for the rest of their lives! But the banks’ greed came back to bite them in 2008 when so many people couldn’t pay back their mortgages that many banks and insurance firms went bankrupt, causing a global financial crisis.
Nepal was striding toward good governance with the reinstatement of democracy in 1990. But the Maoist insurgency that began at that time took a toll on that stride. These days, greed, a strong desire for more wealth and power and its evil twin envy—the desire for what other people have in the society—seems to be gripping the Nepali society, especially those at the upper echelons.
A slide into survival culture
Nepal’s ‘rich culture’ is converting into a ‘survival culture’.
Rich culture is the source of national pride that contributes to the diversity and identity of a community and plays a significant role in shaping its values, social norms, and history, fostering intercultural understanding, and enhancing global diversity. It encompasses various traditions, customs, arts, and practices aspects like language, art, music, dance, literature, cuisine, clothing, and religious beliefs that have been developed and passed down through generations within a society and often celebrated through festivals, rituals, and other cultural events.
Whereas survival culture refers to the knowledge, skills and practices necessary for individuals or communities to endure challenging or threatening situations. It is often associated with indigenous or marginalized groups, who have adapted to harsh cultural and less opportunistic upbringings. Survival culture includes maintaining the communities’ own cultures, practices and skills like religious beliefs and traditional practices. It ensures the survival and sustainability of communities in an ongoing unfavorable condition and helps preserve their unique identities and ways of life.
The social foundation of Nepal is ever changing. The country’s ‘rich culture’ is ‘exhausting’ and steering into a ‘survival culture’. The change in behavior patterns to self-centeredness at the cost of losing Nepal’s identity is in the making.
Rebecca Henschke, BBC’s Asia editor and Korean journalist Kevin Kim in the ‘Heart and Soul’ episode, said Nepal has one of the fastest growing Christian communities in the world with South Korean missionaries like Pang Chang-in and his wife Lee Jeong-hee helping to drive the growth. This is a rare insight into an organized and increasingly controversial Korean mission, spreading the Christian faith with new churches and cultivating the next generation of Nepali Christian leaders in the Himalayas. It is a risky undertaking as those found guilty of converting people face up to five years in jail in Nepal.
Moreover, Nepal’s culture and traditional practices are giving in. Nepal’s strategic positioning with faith as a factor for political influence cannot be overlooked. The majority Hindu inhabitants, fast growing Christians community and rising Muslim residents are all carving their spaces in the region as never before. This is a very complex problem with no easy solutions. It will add to the fragile national security environment with complexities unless the nation focuses on answers when liberties of the minorities are raised in a decade to come.
This is also a behavioral approach to national security with direct implications for regional security. National character is led by fear, greed, incompetence, ineffectiveness, inefficiencies and shortsightedness. Secure national character contributes to national security when insecure national character furthers to national insecurity. Simple questions that arise or can be asked about behavior science for national security and nation building are: Was federalism endorsed as a national requirement or a greed-led distribution of power? Was secularism meant to preserve and enhance the cultures, traditions and religious practices and national desire or was it an influenced endorsement for other’s aspirations?
Other cases in point are the debates in the society and the Parliament of how Nepal is insecure with the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Nepal Compact between the American aid agency MCC and the government of Nepal that is designed to increase the availability of electricity at lower costs as well as the State Partnership Program (SPP) to assist the Nepali Army on fulfilling its responsibilities with humanitarian assistance, improving capabilities contrary to the disinformation that it was part of the Indo-Pacific strategy and a geopolitical tool to contain China. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is another concept that is contested when strategic infrastructure development is a need and assistance with grants is a viable approach.
The point is national characteristics such as greed and fear in policy-making should be taken as risk and how behavioral approaches to growth alienate and antagonize nation-building. Negative behavioral approach to nation building is bad. So “national character building” must be addressed. Winston Churchill said “Fear is reaction. Courage is a decision”.
There is a tendency to criticize, finger-point and deflect the citizenry with self inventions about the roguish foreign interference, when in reality it is the fallout of fear, greed, incompetence, ineffectiveness, inefficiencies and shortsightedness, which are complex problems with no easy solutions.
The utmost menace big or small is a perception rather than realism with an insecure frame of mind, with confidence to make up rationality and strategic wisdom to recompense for own contentment, incompetence and absence of self-knowledge. Indeed, more often than not, the biggest threat is one’s own fears and own greed. Threat has also increased almost in parallel with the decline of self-confidence.
Preserving and safeguarding the cultural richness of Nepal requires various measures and efforts. They include, documentation and research, education and awareness, legal protection, community involvement, sustainable reasonable tourism that respect cultural values and finally invest in training programs, workshops, and capacity-building initiatives and community engagement with internationally supported programs.
Greed-led national policies can have profound consequences, impacting various aspects of society, from the economy, social order to governance. It is critical to recognize the risks and potential drawbacks related to giving precedence to individual gains over collective welfare. By promoting ethical governance, striking a balance between self-interest and public welfare, and fostering inclusive policy-making processes, nations can mitigate the negative consequences and inconsistent behavior.
The author is a Strategic Analyst, Major General (Retd) of the Nepali Army, and is associated with Rangsit University, Thailand
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