Identity Crisis?

Posted: September 25, 2010 in No- nonsense

In essence, we are a peace loving people. Bhutanese by nature are honest, simple, and a well behaved tribe. Generally, that is. Much of this has to do with our Buddhist values which espouse non violence and compassion. And as Bhutan’s brainchild gross national happiness sells like hotcakes abroad, we have become exemplary of a happy people despite living in among the 50 poorest countries in the world.

We bask in this glory. Yet the changing reality is an eyesore to the otherwise gleaning image we have built over several years. We have always sought balance, the middle path, in our approach to modernization and development, and in the way we opened ourselves to the onslaught of new culture and values.

A country in transition, Bhutan is faced with obstacles as much as it has opportunities in store. Now more than ever, there is a need to revisit our calculated approach. At the one hand, we profusely celebrate the idiom of happiness. Yet, we have a minority population that barely meets the day’s end, scrambling for a decent life in abject poverty. They are left to the jargons of statistics – some 23% of them living under poverty line.

We have placed utmost importance to preservation of culture, a national identity in itself. And we sell exotica to an increasing number of tourists flying into the country, opening up places that were earlier closed to tourism. We know the devastatingly effect it could possibly have on native traditions.

Our police are fighting the scourge of gang culture, drug problem and catapulting youth crimes. The youth ape a lifestyle and value system that are in total contrast to our own. Come to think of this, the streets of Thimphu are filled with denizens wearing imported wears – trousers, jackets, skirts, you name it. We have made our ghos and kiras a formality to fulfill, a nine to five uniform.

Culture is dynamic and vulnerable to change. We cannot resist change but there should be some nagging necessity to protect what belongs to us. More than that, what we belong to.

Look at our capital – it is a symbol of modernity. Our narrow roads are crammed with imported cars. We are waking up to a new reality of waste problems and pollution. Our buildings are mere representations of true Bhutanese architecture. The real beauty is lost, so we must preserve the few traditional structures as heritage sites.

We have emphasized always on balance. We must practice what we preach, or show some semblance of what we say. The worst is not here but may not take too long.

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