lauantai 28. helmikuuta 2015

Peeking in from a door ajar - the ethics and ontology of truth

One issue has been coming up with me recently - that of story-telling. The day before, February 26th, was Tell a Fairy Tale Day that celebrates the art of storytelling. While what I share here is not a fairy tale, it is, I think, a story. And the question arises: how do I make sure that the story I tell is a right one? That I accidentally no dot lapse into the dangers of Orientalism, of exoticizing Nepal beyond recognition from my pointedly Nordic viewpoint? The complexity of Nepal is well described by Manjushree Thapa in her book 'Forget Kathmandu - an Elegy for Democracy'.

"The truth is that this is a complicated country, its 26 million people an intricate tangle. Best estimates have 90-odd caste and ethnic nationalities living in the country's 150,000 square kilometres (less than 20 percent of which is arable), speaking 71 languages and dialects, and observing Hindu, Buddhist, animist, Muslim, Sikh or Christian rites or, more and more, eschewing god. There is no such thing as a typical Nepali. Each caste and ethnic nationality has its own class divides, hierarchies and patriarchies. Each has its own origin myths, its own history and its own particular relationship to state power in Kathmandu. People's political affiliations swing from communist to Hindu fundamentalist. All this makes the country difficult to decipher."

It crystallizes the problem that I face: this is a very complex country and trying to give an overview with always be contradicted by another example. And the truth is, I cannot escape the fact that I am white, middle-class woman in her thirties with very little experience in countries like Nepal. My experiences will center in the Kathmandu Valley. There will be things that I will never understand, there are things that I will never accept, but there are also things that make me want to shout out loud and say: look, this is a beautiful country in its own right!

And it is those moments that make my heart melt that I want to share. Those are the stories that I want to tell. And those heart-melting moments are in the overwhelming majority of what I experience here.

But, how to deal with the issues that I do not agree with? Or find inexcusable? Should I stay silent or speak out? Can I do justice to the complexity of what is Nepal and the reality here by blogging? Because the truth is never understood from just one viewpoint. Truth is rarely universal, it is very much a subjective concept.

Yet again, the reality is that this is my truth. It may not be the whole truth, but it is my truth.

I am faced with another moral question as well. To what extent can I share on the lives of the people that share their life with me? I have met so many beautiful and heartbreaking stories but do I have the right to tell them? My intention is good - it is to show that the joys and sorrows of human beings are the same everywhere. But do I possess that right? By telling stories of my life here, I walk a thin line of what and how much I can tell because my life is not only my life, it brushes shoulders with others who never agreed to be that part of my life that is online.

I do not claim to have the solutions, I just wanted to share some of the problematics that a story-teller faces (by and large, I consider myself more of story-teller than an blogger).

I guess my point is: let this serve as a footnote or a disclaimer to this blog. I am not the guardian of the truth nor is my truth complete. The story I share with you is, I hope, a puzzle made out of a celebration of universal humanity, of subjective truths, and of stories told that make up the story of my Nepal, beautiful and flawed and very much human.

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