Leaving Nepal (eat shit)

imageWe are leaving Nepal today, off to Bangkok. Can’t get out soon enough. These past four days have been spent in luxury as poverty surrounds us. It’s a veritable wellspring of liberal guilt.

My wife is reading a book by Isabella Bird, who toured this region on horseback in the late 19th century. Even then she spoke of the obsequious nature of the (Tibetan) people. She ascribed it to past abuses and conquests. Our guide and porter on our trip were manly men, but the others we meet in our compounds are hunched, walk with short steps, and hover.

Last night we went out to dinner. When we returned someone had entered the room, spruced up and turned the bed down. During dinner I dropped a fork – I bent down to pick it up (5 second rule) but there was pitter-patter of shiny black shoes and a new fork before I could put the old one down.

Every door is opened for us, every bag carried. When we left the compound in Pokhara, we were toting our own bags. A maid stopped us in our tracks, made us stand there while she summoned porters.

Every one we meet folds hands in a prayer gesture and slightly bows to us, which we return. The usual greeting is “Namaste.” We joke between ourselves as we get on elevators and such, turning to each other, bowing and saying “Eat shit.” I hope that is what they are thinking as they bow to us.

There is an international convention for domestic workers making the rounds. It sets minimum standards for hours and age, and wages I assume though do not know. It has been adopted in most of Latin America, but in this part of the world, only the Philippines.

13 thoughts on “Leaving Nepal (eat shit)

  1. bowing and saying “Eat shit.” I hope that is what they are thinking as they bow to us.

    I see a business opportunity: a travel company in Nepal for guilty liberals that lets them carry their own bags and scrub some local toilets. Big money.

    made us stand there while she summoned porters.

    Union rules.

    Most people are wired so as to get a good vibe from serving others. Boulder liberals love love love to serve the poor of the world (by giving other people’s stuff away): Nepalese like to serve their tourists. One should be gracious in such instances, even if the obsequiousness is outside our comfort zone.

    Nepalese poverty: I suspect this is the regular human condition. The current wealth in the industrialized world is probably unsustainable, so it will be back to growing our own food in small groups eventually. The Nepalese are just avoiding the wailing and gnashing of teeth one gets with a falling standard of living.


    1. There are poor living conditions by western standards, and poverty itself. The hill people here are the former, but in Katmandu and the surrounds we saw the latter – utter abject poverty. If I could explain it as easily as you, I would. If I could solve it with anything other than bromides (clean water and sanitation, health care, basic foodstuffs, education), I would. Mustering the resources for that sort of thing is a monstrous task.

      I got nuthin’, Fred.

      There are no unions here. Get real.


  2. I realize there are no unions in sight. I wanted to note the same mentality I see in a lot of uniobn shops: divide the work among the members. The maid called for porters to be sure their jobs weren’t taken by someone else.

    Mustering the resources for that sort of thing is a monstrous task.

    Nah, it’s easy. Just put them all on a boat or plane; get them to America; then have Obama give them a phone and an EBT card.

    You look at it and see a problem to be solved. I look at it and think, “Situation Normal, All is Fine Under-the-sun.

    I got nuthin…

    Rather candid confession from someone who usually suggests that the problems of the world are tractable if we just get our minds right and notice all the oppression and stealing that is going on under our noses.

    I have a few ideas that involve matching a population to its resources; the rule of law; cooperation in making productive investments; engaging in productive labor; and using lots of energy. But “pride cometh before the fall”, so I don’t want to be dogmatic here.


    1. If I have ever said I had a solution the the problems of the world, I retract it. I don’t. I only know what does not work: Free markets. It might surprise you to know that I don’t mind monopoly capitalism as much as free markets, as price competition is mutually destructive of everything. But if we allow corporations to monopolize, so too should labor, to spread the wealth. That way, only non-union non-corporate workers are fucked over.

      But I’d really rather experiment with systems that are not exclusively based on profit – regulated public utilities work well, as does government-run health care. But profit has a place – if we relied on government to make cars, we’d all be driving tuk-tuks.


  3. I thought your solution would be to put white people in charge Fred. Think geography plays a part in development or is it simply a master race thing?

    They already had their maoist revolution already that seemed to just make matters worse.


    1. That’s a good insight Jack. When we were in the hills our guide talked about the election that will happen in about two weeks. He is voting for the Democratic ticket, whatever that means over here (hopefully something better than is does in the US!) He said the “most” party was in charge and were very bad. I had him spell it for me… M-O-S-T. Later reading an English newspaper I slapped my forehead when I saw “Maoist” party. These seem to be a source of violence there, police training and present everywhere getting ready for the Election Day.


  4. You project too much, Jack. I’ve never said Whites mastered anything; just that they built societies that others want to copy, or loot, or move to. Whites are giving it away, or not protecting it, so I wouldn’t say they are masters of much in the grand scheme.

    If you are looking for a master race to show up and take over things, look to the Chinese. They’ll be there soon enough, if there is anything there worth having. Not too much in Nepal, except scenery, and virtual reality will soon cover that.

    Yes, geography plays a role. That was the whole thesis of Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. Ports, access to trade routes, access to raw materials; that is all a component. Native intelligence and industriousness is a component. The ability to trust enough to trade; the ability to scope out trading partners; that is a component. It’s multi variable calculus. Some things are necessary but not sufficient.


  5. Nepal used to be a nice country before 1988. Now it is in mess because of all sorts of democratic reforms.Thanks to all those corrupt Neplese village idiot politicians who got supported from the so called western powers to loot Nepal on a daily basis.


    1. Sing it. Lots of problems with democracy including, as you point out, the corrupting influences. Who will protect us from those who buy votes and politicians, and from those who eagerly grasp for such lucre?


      1. Funny you mention that, though your back story is polluted with love of oligarchs. Castro advised Hugo Chavez that the US would use democracy to defeat him – not in any sense you might think, but only that the US professes love of democracy as it attacks it wherever it appears.


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