Political graffiti in Kathmandu. I'm sure there was much more, but this was iconography a tourist could recognize, though not necessarily understand.
When one visits other peoples' countries as a tourist, it is sensible to avoid questioning people about their local politics. That's not at all my instinct; I'm too habitually attuned to the push and pull of power in communities not to frame questions. But, of course, I am also too ignorant on a short visit to be able to see and engage with whatever is going on from the local perspective.
So I asked no questions about politics during my brief visit to Nepal in November, even though I knew the country had recently emerged from civil war, had no current central government, and was in a process of writing a constitution.
Today the International Crisis Group issued one of its sober briefing papers on Nepal. ICG represents the more enlightened factions of Western internationalism, sometimes acting as a slightly abashed apologist for American and European hegemony, but also often wise to on-the-ground realities in countries not bathed in a Western media spotlight.
Here are some excerpts from the executive summary of the new Nepal report:
I have no way of knowing whether this is an accurate rendering of the situation. Federalism often seems a mixed blessing in our own country; does it really make sense that so many laws differ between states and that so many responsibilities are so uneasily shared by 50 state governments with the national government? Nepal only has about 35 million inhabitants, though it's people speak 92 separate languages at home and presumably also therefore possess many different cultures.
I can't pretend to understand anything much about Nepal, but I can sure wish this beautiful, hospitable country well as it approaches the deadline for its new constitution.