Monday, July 11, 2011

Transportation means in Kathmandu

Transportation means in Kathmandu
Bhrikuti Rai
Kathmandu, 10 July

Public transportations are the life lines of Kathmandu. Without them the city’s fast pace life would have come to a standstill. Although not very comfortable, these vehicles have become commoner’s best friend. “Public transportations are good here. There are student discounts which is very helpful for students. So I think it is great ”, says Bhim Ghimire, student.

In addition to public transportations there are plenty of comfortable taxis on Kathmandu’s streets to choose from as well. But not everyone can afford their high tariff rates. Ramesh Thapa, a taxi driver says, “People choose taxis because they are faster, convenient and is safe from pick pocketing. It is especially useful when people are in hurry and in situations when people are too sick to travel in local buses. But with its comparatively higher fare, it is not possible for average Nepali to travel by taxi that often. So, taxis are only used in emergency situation.”

With tempos and micro buses available for most of the routes, public transportations have made travelling in Kathmandu a lot convenient. However, in Kathmandu’s messy traffic, narrow lanes the best and fastest means of transportation seems to be two wheelers. Utsav Rai, a college student, has been riding bikes on Kathmandu’s streets since the last four years. “The fact that two wheelers help people get past traffic jams and even through the narrowest streets is the reason I ride bike”, he says. “However during petrol shortage, it is best to travel in micros and tempos rather than to wait in queue for petrol”, he adds.

But not everyone is lucky enough to own two wheelers to get past serpentine traffic in Kathmandu. So the only way is to hop onto buses and tempos, pay nominal fare and get down at the destination slowly and safely.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Korean wave

If a poll among the young urban Nepalese population is conducted to choose the trendiest and cool Asians it ought to be Koreans. It has already been quite some time since South Korean movies and television series hit the Nepali market. And if the number of people queuing up to buy pirated Korean movies and television series are anything to go by, young urban Nepalese have definitely been hit by the Korean wave which is gaining momentum world over. This increasing popularity of South Korean culture around the world is referred as.
Few years back when I had the opportunity to visit South Korea there wasn’t much fanfare in my friends and family. It was after all just one of those developed but lesser talked about Asian countries. But just a few months back when an announcement regarding a program in Korea was announced in our college, hundreds of them thronged to submit their applications. The buzz that the announcement created lasted for quite some time.
There was a time when there was just a single Korean channel available through our cable operators. Furthermore, Korean movies and television series hardly made it to our local CD shops. But now that piracy is thriving more than ever and the internet in readily accessible, getting a tab on the latest news of Korean entertainment has become a cake walk. Not only do some Korean enthusiasts around me keep a tab on their favorite Korean artists but they also seem to be so well versed with the lyrics of popular Korean songs. Initially I didn’t quite believe it. But when I saw a bunch of young school girls thronging internet cafes to download contemporary Korean songs and their lyrics I had to believe it. It just didn’t end there, they even sang along to those tunes blaring through the speakers.
Korea is cashing in a lot on its thriving pop culture and so it doesn’t come as a surprise when I frequently see commercials of Korean tourism being endorsed by their local talents on international channels. And those same popular Korean faces seem to have made their way into our local gift shops and stationary shops too. Gone are the days when all we saw was rugged Bollywood heroes adorning the walls of our local gift shops. We now have terribly cute Korean guys on huge posters in almost every stationary shops.
Many entrepreneurs in Nepal too are cashing in on Korea’s thriving pop culture. The increasing number of Korean restaurants, clothing stores and department stores that promise to have authentic Korean goods are testimony of how the Korean pop culture has gained momentum among urban Nepalese.
Like many people I too wouldn’t have been as enticed by kimbap (a Korean delicacy) or karaoke as I am now, had it not been for the Korean movies and television series. Korea’s entertainment industry has been pivotal in bringing Korea and its culture in the limelight. And this has resulted in everyone taking notice of Korea and its steady growth.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Daddy Dearest

Since time immemorial, mothers have always hogged the limelight for their children’s success and even for the failures. Because we children have made our way into this world from our mother’s womb, the relationship between us and our mothers have always been special and distinguished. And all this while when mothers bask in the glory of being penned in poems, movies and many art forms, I feel sorry for all the equally wonderful fathers who have always been sidelined from the same glory many a time.

Maybe it is our social and cultural construct that compels our fathers to engross themselves in bringing bread and butter to our tables and leave them no time to work on the special bond with us like our mothers do. But somehow we always know that they are there for us, the protective shield of the family. Unlike mothers, fathers rarely show even the tiniest bit of their emotional streak. They tend to bring about a certain air of formality even in the most informal relationships we share as close knitted families. Fathers are the first towering personalities we witness as a child which in many cases seems to fade with each passing year and in some cases only grows stronger.

Because fathers do not always know how to express themselves as our mothers and always stay neutral during petty brawls in the family, children see themselves distanced from them. I know so many of my friends who do not feel to need to talk to their fathers until they need their father’s signature in some documents and just a nod to get an approval to do something.

For mothers their relationship with their children is innately strong and it shows irrespective of the gender and age of the child. But for fathers it is always a tricky to deal, especially during the adolescent years of their children. Having been through the same stage as their son, fathers prefer to keep a safe distance from their sons with only occasional advices and let them know things on their own. Well as for the daughters, they know they possible can’t have a say, when the mothers tend to them form such close quarters. All that fathers do is begin treating their little princess like a lady in the making. So as children reach the threshold of adulthood, fathers who presumed to have taken the right step from refraining temporarily into the adolescent years of their children are left with awkward conversations and even more awkward silences in the remaining years.

Fathers do not acknowledge their yearning to be acknowledged because that is how their fathers and their grandfathers always preferred. With just a faint smile they thank us for making them proud but rarely do they show their upset expression. It is especially during our crisis filled times when mothers break into wails with us (and then to comforting hugs), fathers are there to give us the smile of hope and an encouraging pat on our backs to get us going again. So this Father’s day, I would like to thank all the fathers for being there for their children and family and never complaining about not being acknowledged for who they are. Happy Father’s Day!
Bhrikuti Rai

Friday, June 25, 2010

Utilitarian ethics

Utilitarianism is an effort to provide an answer to the practical question What ought a man to do? Its answer is that he ought to act so as to produce the best consequences possible.

Basic concepts
In the notion of consequences the Utilitarian includes all of the good and bad produced by the act, whether arising after the act has been performed or during its performance. If the difference in the consequences of alternative acts is not great, some Utilitarians do not regard the choice between them as a moral issue. According to Mill, acts should be classified as morally right or wrong only if the consequences are of such significance that a person would wish to see the agent compelled, not merely persuaded and exhorted, to act in the preferred manner.

In assessing the consequences of actions, Utilitarianism relies upon some theory of intrinsic value: something is held to be good in itself, apart from further consequences, and all other values are believed to derive their worth from their relation to this intrinsic good as a means to an end. Bentham and Mill were hedonists; i.e., they analyzed happiness as a balance of pleasure over pain and believed that these feelings alone are of intrinsic value and disvalue. Utilitarians also assume that it is possible to compare the intrinsic values produced by two alternative actions and to estimate which would have better consequences. Bentham believed that a hedonic calculus is theoretically possible. A moralist, he maintained, could sum up the units of pleasure and the units of pain for everyone likely to be affected, immediately and in the future, and could take the balance as a measure of the overall good or evil tendency of an action. Such precise measurement as Bentham envisioned is perhaps not essential, but it is nonetheless necessary for the Utilitarian to make some interpersonal comparisons of the values of the effects of alternative courses of action.

Utilitarian ethics as a guidance for government and personal action is based upon the maximization of the good: by government for those within the society, and by individuals. It is a code for public actions and of personal actions. The issue of what should be done about behavior that produces significant harm for a society, on a government level, it would be to for to select policies which would reduce the overall harm. A policy of warehousing that costs $45,000 per year is producing harm to society, harm to the individual, and harm to those separated from that person. To minimize these, a policy of retraining, of supervision upon release, and of making the conditions of confinement only moderately odious. Odious enough so that those in need of assistance don ‘t see for example robbing a bank as way to get into a job training & drug rehabilitation program.

Utilitarian society goes not just to the issue of personal actions and social policy, but also to the very nature of society. It was the understood question in Plato’s Republic: How to build the ideal society? Utilitarian theory is applied not just to the conditions of incarceration, but also to that of employment, goods and service, and the distribution of wealth. Utilitarians is about maximizing the good. And if an area such as administration of programs is found wanting, then positive change is required. Plato gives us the first extensive example of this approach.

Improving conditions of confinement and release is not an isolated issue, but ought to be part of an overall program to make society better.

One way to view society is that like of nature, full of niches. A niche is an environmental slot which accommodate a certain number animals. Thus there are in a given area certain number of seed eating birds, of insect eating birds, of nectar gathering birds. And within this broad categorization, there would be birds that can eat seeds with hard shells, and those that can’t. In our society there are certain behavior niches. Conditions support a the various mass religions, gambling casinos, sporting good stores, etc. The same too with biker clubs, drug dealers, and robbers. Changes in conditions entails changes in the number and type of churches, of sporting good stores, etc. Changes in social conditions and the numbers of bikers, recreational drug users, and thieves change. The change of niches results in a changing of enterprises. The Roosevelt New Deal had within the constraints of capitalism a vision of changing niches, of maximizing the number of sober, hardworking citizens. We need to get back to Plato, to making government a good parent.

And we need a public-interested media (not our corporate media), one which will raise repeatedly the questions of what is the good life and what should government be doing to promote it? We need a media which does not give the corporate answer of removing regulations for the sake of profits, and thereby presuming that the law of the jungle is the road to the good life. We have gone from the wisdom born of the depression to the idiocy of the 1920s and the era of robber barons. History is repeating itself: corporate greed is not the way to build a healthy society.

This article discusses utilitarian ethical theory. For a discussion of John Stuart Mill's book Utilitarianism, see Utilitarianism (book). For the architectural theory, see Utilitarianism (architecture)
Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its utility in providing happiness or pleasure as summed among all sentient beings. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. The most influential contributors to this ideology were Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.
Utilitarianism is often described by the phrase "the greatest good for the greatest number of people"[1], and is also known as "the greatest happiness principle". Utility, the good to be maximized, has been defined by various thinkers as happiness or pleasure (versus suffering or pain), although preference utilitarians define it as the satisfaction of preferences. It may be described as a life stance, with happiness or pleasure being of ultimate importance.
Utilitarianism can be characterised as a quantitative and reductionist approach to ethics. It can be contrasted with deontological ethics (which do not regard the consequences of an act as being a determinant of its moral worth) and virtue ethics (which focuses on character), as well as with other varieties of consequentialism.
In general usage, the term utilitarian refers to a somewhat narrow economic or pragmatic viewpoint. Philosophical utilitarianism, however, is a much broader view that encompasses all aspects of people's lives.


The origins of utilitarianism are often traced as far back as the Greek philosopher Epicurus, but, as a specific school of thought, it is generally credited to Jeremy Bentham.[2] Bentham found pain and pleasure to be the only intrinsic values in the world: "nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure."[3] From this, he derived the rule of utility: the good is whatever brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.
Bentham's foremost proponent was James Mill, a significant philosopher in his day and the father of John Stuart Mill. The younger Mill was educated according to Bentham's principles, including transcribing and summarizing much of his father's work while still in his teens.[4]
In his famous work, Utilitarianism, the younger Mill argues that cultural, intellectual and spiritual pleasures are of greater value than mere physical pleasure because the former would be valued higher than the latter by competent judges. A competent judge, according to Mill, is anyone who has experienced both the lower pleasures and the higher. His famous quote found in Utilitarianism (book) was, "it is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied"[5] demonstrating Mill's distinction between higher and lower pleasures. He justified this distinction by the thought that "few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast's pleasures."[5] In distinguishing between types of pleasure, Mill distanced himself from Bentham, who famously said[6] that the child's game of push-pin is as good as poetry (assuming that the two bring equal quantities of pleasure).
Like Bentham's formulation, Mill's utilitarianism deals with pleasure and happiness. However John Stuart Mill made a clear distinction between happiness and pleasure; and made it evident that Weak Rule Utilitarianism was focused on maximising happiness rather than pleasure; for the naturalistic fallacy made it clear that what one desires and what is good are not always the same thing. For example a pleasure/desire may be to bully a lonely child, which may produce pleasure, however happiness comes from following virtues rather than desires.

John Stuart Mill
The classic utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill influenced many other philosophers as well as the development of the broader concept of consequentialism. As a result, there now exist many different accounts of the good, and, therefore, many different types of consequentialism besides utilitarianism. Some philosophers[who?] Edward Westermarck The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas 2 Vol. - reject the sole importance of well-being, arguing that there are intrinsic values other than happiness or pleasure, such as knowledge and autonomy.
Other past advocates of utilitarianism include William Godwin, Henry Sidgwick and notably Niccolò Machiavelli, who introduced utilitarian notions in his political treatise The Prince, and wrote that "in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result"[7]. Modern-day advocates include R. M. Hare, Peter Singer and Torbjörn Tännsjö.
Up to and including John Stuart Mill, utilitarianism was mainly the province of practical reformers. The publication of Henry Sidgwick's The Methods of Ethics in 1874 can be viewed as the date utilitarianism began to be more commonly associated with academic philosophy.
Utilitarianism has been used as an argument for many different political views. In his essay On Liberty, as well as in other works, John Stuart Mill argues that utilitarianism requires that political arrangements satisfy the "liberty principle" (or harm principle), according to which "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."[8] Prevention of self-harm by other persons was considered expressly forbidden. Instead, Mill states that only persuasion can be rightfully used to prevent self-harm.[citation needed]
Ludwig von Mises advocated libertarianism using utilitarian arguments. Likewise, some Marxist philosophers have used utilitarianism as arguments for communism and socialism.[citation needed]
Act v rule
Main articles: Act utilitarianism and Rule utilitarianism
Act utilitarianism states that, when faced with a choice, we must first consider the likely consequences of potential actions and, from that, choose to do what we believe will generate most pleasure. The rule utilitarian, on the other hand, begins by looking at potential rules of action. To determine whether a rule should be followed, he looks at what would happen if it were constantly followed. If adherence to the rule produces more happiness than otherwise, it is a rule that morally must be followed at all times. The distinction between act and rule utilitarianism is therefore based on a difference about the proper object of consequentialist calculation — specific to a case or generalized to rules.
Rule utilitarianism has been criticized for advocating general rules that will in some specific circumstances clearly decrease happiness if followed. Never to kill another human being may seem to be a good rule, but it could make self-defense against malevolent aggressors very difficult. Rule utilitarians add, however, that there are general exception rules that allow the breaking of other rules if such rule-breaking increases happiness, one example being self-defense. Critics argue that this reduces rule utilitarianism to act utilitarianism and makes rules meaningless. Rule utilitarians retort that rules in the legal system (i.e., laws) that regulate such situations are not meaningless. Self-defense is legally justified, while murder is not.
However, within rule utilitarianism there is a distinction between the strictness and absolutism of this particular branch of utilitarianism. There is Strong Rule Utilitarianism which is an absolutist theory which frames strict rules which apply for all people and all time and may never be broken. John Stuart Mill proposed Weak Rule utilitarianism which posits that, although rules should be framed on previous examples that benefit society, it is possible, under specific circumstances, to do what produces the greatest happiness and break that rule. An example would be the Gestapo asking where your Jewish neighbours were... A strong rule utilitarian might say that the "Do not lie" rule must never be broken, whereas a weak rule utilitarian would argue that to lie would produce the most happiness.
Rule utilitarianism should not be confused with heuristics heuristics but many act utilitarians agree that it makes sense to formulate certain rules of thumb to follow if they find themselves in a situation whose consequences are difficult, costly or time-consuming to calculate exactly. If the consequences can be calculated relatively clearly and without much doubt, however, the rules of thumb can be ignored.
Average v total
Total utilitarianism advocates measuring the utility of a population based on the total utility of its members. According to Derek Parfit, this type of utilitarianism falls victim to the Repugnant Conclusion, whereby large numbers of people with very low but non-negative utility values can be seen as a better goal than a population of a less extreme size living in comfort. In other words, according to the theory, it is a moral good to breed more people on the world for as long as total happiness rises.[16]
Average utilitarianism, on the other hand, advocates measuring the utility of a population based on the average utility of that population. It avoids Parfit's repugnant conclusion, but causes other problems like the Mere Addition Paradox. For example, bringing a moderately happy person in a very happy world would be seen as an immoral act; aside from this, the theory implies that it would be a moral good to eliminate all people whose happiness is below average, as this would raise the average happiness[17].
Predicting consequences
Utilitarians note that utilitarianism seems to be the unspoken principle used by both advocates and critics of nuclear power something cannot be determined at the moment is common in science and frequently resolved with later advancements.
Utilitarians, however, are not required to have perfect knowledge; indeed, certain knowledge of consequences is impossible because consequences are in the unexperienced future. Utilitarians simply try their best to maximise happiness (or other forms of utility) and, to do this, make their best estimates of the consequences. If the consequences of a decision are particularly unclear, it may make sense to follow an ethical rule that promoted the most utility in the past. Utilitarians also note that people trying to further their own interests frequently run into situations in which the consequences of their decisions are very unclear. This does not mean, however, that they are unable to make a decision; much the same applies to utilitarianism.
Importance of intentions
Utilitarianism has been criticised for looking only at the results of actions, not at the desires or intentions that motivate them, which many consider important, too. An action intended to cause harm but which inadvertently causes good would be judged equal to the good result of an action done with the best intentions. Many utilitarians argue that utilitarianism applies not only to results but also to desires and dispositions, praise and blame, and rules, institutions and punishment. Bad intentions may cause harm (to the agent and to others) even if they do not result in bad acts. Once this is recognised, supporters argue that utilitarianism becomes a much more complex, and rich, moral theory, and may align far more closely with our moral intuitions.
Furthermore, many utilitarians view morality as a personal guide rather than a means to judge the actions of other people, or actions already performed: morality is something you look at before deciding what to do. In this sense, intentions are all that matter, because the consequences cannot be known with certainty until the decision is made.
Human rights
Utilitarians argue that justification of slavery, torture or mass murder would require unrealistically large benefits to outweigh the direct and extreme suffering to victims. Utilitarianism would also require the indirect impact of social acceptance of inhumane policies to be taken into consideration, and general anxiety and fear could increase for all if human rights are commonly ignored.
Act and rule utilitarians differ in how they treat human rights themselves. Under rule utilitarianism, a human right can easily be considered a moral rule. Act utilitarians, on the other hand, do not accept human rights as moral principles in and of themselves, but that does not mean that they reject them altogether: first, most act utilitarians, as explained above, would agree that acts such as enslavement and genocide always cause great unhappiness and very little happiness; second, human rights could be considered rules of thumb so that, although torture might be acceptable under some circumstances, as a rule it is immoral; and, finally, act utilitarians often support human rights in a legal sense because utilitarians support laws that cause more good than harm.
Lack of convincing proof
Another criticism of utilitarianism is that it is not proven, either by science or by logic, to be the correct ethical system. Supporters claim that this is common to all ethical schools, and indeed the system of logic itself, and will always remain so unless the problem of the regress argument, or at least the is-ought problem, is satisfactorily resolved. It might instead be argued that almost all political arguments about a future society use an unspoken utilitarian principle, all sides claiming that their proposed solution is the one that increases human happiness the most.
Mill's argument for utilitarianism holds that pleasure is the only thing desired and that, therefore, pleasure is the only thing desirable. Critics argue that this is like saying that things visible are things seen, or that the only things audible are things heard. A thing is "visible" if it can be seen and "desirable" if it ought to be desired. Thus the word "desirable" presupposes an ethical theory: we cannot infer what is desirable from what is desired. This criticism, however, reads the word "desirable" as "able to be desired" rather than "worth being desired", and does not take into account the moral assessment that must take place to categorise something as "desirable", which does not occur when categorising the same thing as "visible" or "audible".
Individual interests vs. a greater sum of lesser interests
Critics have also asked why one should follow utilitarianism instead of ethical egoism. The legal system might punish behavior that harms others, but this incentive is not active in a situation where one can personally gain by breaking it without punishment. One egoist, however, may propose means to maximise self-interest that conflict with the means proposed by another egoist. As a result, self-interest behooves them to compromise with one another to avoid conflict. The means proposed may incidentally coincide with those prescribed by utilitarianism, but the foundational ethical imperative would not, of course, be utilitarian.
Another reason for an egoist to become a utilitarian was proposed by Peter Singer in Practical Ethics. He presents the paradox of hedonism, which holds that, if your only goal in life is personal happiness, you will never be happy: you need something to be happy about. One goal that Singer feels is likely to bring about personal happiness is the desire to improve the lives of others; that is, to make others happy. This argument is similar to the one for virtue ethics.
Calculating Consequences: The Utilitarian Approach to Ethics
By Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez
When Oliver North was asked to explain why he lied to congressional committees about his role in the Iran-Contra affair, he replied, "Lying does not come easily to me. But we all had to weigh in the balance the difference between lies and lives." Elsewhere in his testimony, North was asked about the false chronology of events he fabricated when preparing a summary of the government's involvement in arms sales to Iran:
Questioner: . . . You have indicated that. . . in your own mind . . . it was a good idea to put forth this false version . . . [But] there were reasons on the other side, were there not?
North: . . . Reasons on the other side?
Questioner: . . . First of all, you put some value, don't you, in the truth?
North: I've put great value in the truth. I came here to tell it.
Questioner: So . . . that would be a reason not to put forward this [false] version of the facts?
North: The truth would be reason not to put forward this [false] version of the facts, but as I indicated to you a moment ago, I put great value on the lives of the American hostages . . . and I put great value on that second channel [an intermediary used by the U.S. to deal with the Iranians], who was at risk.
Questioner: By putting out this false version of the facts, you were committing, were you not, the entire Administration to telling a false story?
North: Well, let, let�I'm not trying to pass the buck here. OK? I did a lot of things, and I want to stand up and say that I'm proud of them.
North's method of justifying his acts of deception is a form of moral reasoning that is called "utilitarianism." Stripped down to its essentials, utilitarianism is a moral principle that holds that the morally right course of action in any situation is the one that produces the greatest balance of benefits over harms for everyone affected. So long as a course of action produces maximum benefits for everyone, utilitarianism does not care whether the benefits are produced by lies, manipulation, or coercion.
Many of us use this type of moral reasoning frequently in our daily decisions. When asked to explain why we feel we have a moral duty to perform some action, we often point to the good that will come from the action or the harm it will prevent. Business analysts, legislators, and scientists weigh daily the resulting benefits and harms of policies when deciding, for example, whether to invest resources in a certain public project, whether to approve a new drug, or whether to ban a certain pesticide.
Utilitarianism offers a relatively straightforward method for deciding the morally right course of action for any particular situation we may find ourselves in. To discover what we ought to do in any situation, we first identify the various courses of action that we could perform. Second, we determine all of the foreseeable benefits and harms that would result from each course of action for everyone affected by the action. And third, we choose the course of action that provides the greatest benefits after the costs have been taken into account.
The principle of utilitarianism can be traced to the writings of Jeremy Bentham, who lived in England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Bentham, a legal reformer, sought an objective basis that would provide a publicly acceptable norm for determining what kinds of laws England should enact. He believed that the most promising way of reaching such an agreement was to choose that policy that would bring about the greatest net benefits to society once the harms had been taken into account. His motto, a familiar one now, was "the greatest good for the greatest number."
Over the years, the principle of utilitarianism has been expanded and refined so that today there are many variations of the principle. For example, Bentham defined benefits and harms in terms of pleasure and pain. Today utilitarians often describe benefits and harms in terms of the satisfaction of personal preferences or in purely economic terms.
Utilitarians also differ in their views about the kind of question we ought to ask ourselves when making an ethical decision. Some utilitarians maintain that in making an ethical decision, we must ask ourselves: "What effect will my doing this act in this situation have on the general balance of good over evil?" If lying would produce the best consequences in a particular situation, we ought to lie.
Others claim that we must choose that act that conforms to the general rule that would have the best consequences. In other words, we must ask ourselves: "What effect would everyone's doing this kind of action have on the general balance of good over evil?" So, for example, the rule "to always tell the truth" in general promotes the good of everyone and therefore should always be followed, even if in a certain situation lying would produce the best consequences. Despite such differences among utilitarians, however, most hold to the general principle that morality must depend on balancing the beneficial and harmful consequences of our conduct.
While utilitarianism is currently a very popular ethical theory, there are some difficulties in relying on it as a sole method for moral decision making. First, the utilitarian calculation requires that we assign values to the benefits and harms resulting from our actions and compare them with the benefits and harms that might result from other actions. But it's often difficult, if not impossible, to measure and compare the values of certain benefits and costs. How do we go about assigning a value to life or to art? And how do we go about comparing the value of money with, for example, the value of life, the value of time, or the value of human dignity? Moreover, can we ever be really certain about all of the consequences of our actions? Our ability to measure and to predict the benefits and harms resulting from a course of action or a moral rule is dubious, to say the least.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty with utilitarianism is that it fails to take into account considerations of justice. We can imagine instances where a certain course of action would produce great benefits for society, but they would be clearly unjust. South African whites, for example, sometimes claim that all South Africans--including blacks--are better off under white rule. They have claimed that in those African nations that have traded a whites-only government for a black or mixed one, social conditions have rapidly deteriorated. Civil wars, economic decline, famine, and unrest, they predict, will be the result of allowing the black majority of South Africa to run the government. If such a prediction is true, then the white government of South Africa would be morally justified by utilitarianism, in spite of its injustice.
If our moral decisions are to take into account considerations of justice, then apparently utilitarianism cannot be the sole principle guiding our decisions. It can, however, play a role in these decisions. The principle of utilitarianism invites us to consider the immediate and the less immediate consequences of our actions. It also asks us to look beyond self-interest to consider impartially the interests of all persons affected by our actions. As John Stuart Mill, a famous utilitaritan, once wrote:
The happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct, is not...(one's) own happiness, but that of all concerned. As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator.
In an era that some have characterized as "the age of self-interest," utilitarianism is a powerful reminder that morality call us to look beyond the self to the good of all.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Forced choices

Majority of the students from the beginning of their high school begin drawing their aspirations, albeit vaguely. Not everyone has a step by step plan of what to do next, but at least by that age students are able to figure out which subject they like and which, they dread. Although Science and Mathematics for ages have been able to make it to the hate list of subjects in schools, surprisingly there always seems to be a huge turn out in the Science stream during the intermediate level.

Every one who has sat for SLC examinations in the past few years are well aware of how fun SLC examinations are because of all the "lenient" practices inside the examination halls. Therefore, SLC result shouldn't and can never be the parameter to judge students' abilities to pursue higher studies. However, with growing number of distinction and first division holders in the SLC examination, parents have begun nurturing their dreams of seeing their children as doctors, engineers and nothing else. No wonder Science faculty is flooded during admissions.

Even in the under graduate level, parents continue having their upper hand in the selection of further courses for their children. Students from Science background almost never miss out on entrance preparation classes for MBBS and engineering. My friends who finally got through grade twelve's Science papers after two failed attempts have joined similar MBBS preparation classes yet again upon their parents' decision.

Parents' are in denial about their children's capabilities academically. They turn blind eye to the red marked mark sheet of their children. And instead of counseling them about further favorable academic choices, they only pressurize the children further to meet their (parents') aspirations and hopes. Children can do nothing but succumb to their parents' decisions.

Majority of the parents are engulfed with we know it all attitude and fail to pay heed to their own children's aspirations. Year after year as parents make academic choices for their children, it is the children who have to bear the brunt in the years to come. For their parents' sake, hundreds of young people with high spirits are compelled to shove away their dreams and aspirations.

Our notion of social prestige that is associated with only certain professions is warped. It is high time that parents and teachers re orient themselves and their children about striving for excellence rather than for distinction marks. Only then will they be able to play their part as support pillars in the truest sense and guide their children to explore avenues that have other wise been looked down upon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

climate change

There is no denial about the planet’s changing climate. Over the past hundred years, the earth’s average temperature has increased by 0.74degrees Celsius. Scientists predict that the global average temperature in 2100 AD is likely to increase by 1 degree Celsius to 6.3 degree Celsius. The increase in earth temperature, mostly prompted by the emission of greenhouse gases, has led to frequent events like drought, floods and other adverse climatic situations, and poor countries like Nepal are likely to be affected the most.

Almost 67 percent of the glaciers in our Himalayas have retreated, as rapid as 10 meters a year. Scientists believe that most of the glaciers in the Himalayan region will vanish within 40 years as a result of global warming, increasing the mass in glacier lakes and ultimately increasing the risks of catastrophic Glacier Lake Outburst Flood. Equally threatened by climate change is our traditional agricultural pattern. Due to dependency on rain for agriculture, production has been severely affected by unwanted rain and prolonged drought. This in turn has further hiked the already prevalent food shortage in the far western regions of Nepal.

Nepal is ranked sixth in the Climate Risk Index (CRI) though our contribution on global carbon emission is only 0.025 percent. Developed countries along with the big emerging economies like China, India, Russia, and Brazil have large and growing emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. There are therefore responsible for the climate change threatening the planet Earth. Unfortunately, the impact of climate change has already taken its toll on the poor and vulnerable majority of the developing countries. With no safety nets, they are left helpless at every strike of nature year after year. More than anyone, it is the big economies that thrive on industries, which need to get their act together to alleviate climate change. They also need to help the developing countries with greater financial and technical means to cope with the climate change and its consequences.

Climate change is here and its impact on our lives is going to be a part of the whole environmental picture. Challenges have increased alarmingly in matters of food security, water supply, outbreak of diseases and bio-diversity. As long as big and emerging economies of the world are reluctant to commit to reduce their emissions, countries like Nepal will continue to live at the mercy of the Mother Nature.

Monday, December 7, 2009

London Dreams come to life

Skyscrapers give way to lush green hills that slowly seems to fade as the jet plane inches closer to the haphazard settlement of Kathmandu. Soaring above 11000 feet, the urban settlement in Kathmandu looks like chunks of matchboxes thrown blindly in all directions. As the plane descends, stupas, rivers and the buildings become more vivid. Arrival at the Tribhuwan International Airport is announced but the passengers seem to be in no hurry to release their seat belts.

Amongst the economy class passengers is a tired face that looks around discreetly, flashing a half smile to the fellow passengers. The tired face belongs to Sunita Rai who has come all the way from London. Travelling in jet planes across countries isn’t new to her, thanks to her marriage to a British Gurkha sergeant courtesy whom she has been to almost all the East Asian countries. However this journey she made from Heathrow to Delhi to finally Kathmandu has been etched onto her heart. It is the time she flew across the borders, alone.

Kathmandu looks all the same to her. After all it is her second trip to Kathmandu in two months. When she left for London after a relaxing vacation with her children last September, she knew she had to wait for another few years to make a trip like this one. Merely the thought of the long working hours at the factory she worked in London made her cringe. Fortunately unfortunately, her mother’s death brought her back to Nepal and allowed her body to switch to a relax mode that she was yearning for.

The British Government’s decision to allow Gurkhas to settle in the United Kingdom in the year 2004 was applauded by the British Gurkha families in Nepal. And in no time hundreds of British Gurkha ex-servicemen along with their eligible dependents made preparations to head to the United Kingdom. Sunita like many lahureni, British Gurkha’s soldiers’ wives, was elated at the prospect of residing in London. She had been to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and a host of other Asian countries before her husband’s retirement. But had only heard of how wonderful the United Kingdom was. She had always wanted to step on the land that people sang praises of. Finally, she felt her dream was coming true.

“It was chaotic when we were making preparations to leave for London”, she recalls. “Since my husband was working for a cruise line back then, legal procedures were hassles for me”, she adds. Apart from the legal hassles it was her changed routine that dampened her spirit to go London. On her friends’ and husband’s suggestion to brush up her English she joined a language institute. And the when some of her friends joined beauty parlor trainings she couldn’t resist doing the same. “Everyone told it was the need of the hour to learn some skills so I joined the herd”, she says. “But it was really frustrating at times since I was so used to doing only household chores. I had to go to the classes on time, complete assignments and then come back home and feed my children”, she says in a single breath. Although she spent months brushing up her skills she feels it all went away in vain. “Neither did the training get me a job nor did the English I learnt help me find my lost baggage at the airport”, she says in a matter-of –fact tone. However the training period in Nepal did teach her a thing or two about time management she says.

The lazy afternoons she spends in Kathmandu gossiping with her sisters almost seems surreal to her at times. Climbing the stairs to go to the kitchen from her bedroom at her sister’s place, reminds her of the dingy apartment at London that only allows few footsteps of walking around from one end to the another. Having maids prepare the food, bring it on to the table and being addressed as didi with respect in her sister’s house makes her feel no less than a queen. The load shedding hours and the dirty roads of Kathmandu do remind her of London’s subways and her centrally heated apartment. But the very thought of London takes her back to the monotonous life that she is compelled to live. Working 8 hours each day standing, six times in week has taken a toll on her once manicured feet. “The area near the ankle gets swollen”, she complains.

Sunita spent most of her married life as a spend thrift laureni. But now that she lives in one of the most sought after shopping destinations in the world, she cannot afford to shop like in her heydays in Nepal. Yes London is the capital of high end shopping, but not for migrants like Sunita. “Going to the high end fashion stores needs a lot of courage and deep pockets”, informs Sunita. “First of all the stuff there is way beyond our reach and second of all our broken English give us a complex in such stores. So it is better for us to stick to down town shops with plenty of sales”, she adds. However, once in Nepal she goes on shopping sprees without any hesitance. She shows her sister the list of things she needs to take back to London. The list has things like beaten rice, dalle khursaani, wai wai, jhoos -home made body scrubs, sel rotis etc. Most of the things on the list needn’t be purchased her sister says.

Ironically her spirits are high as she looks forward to the 45th day ritual of her mother’s death. With a cup of tea in her hand she basks in the sun at the balcony of her sister’s house. Looking over at the Shivapuri hills from the balcony she can’t help feeling nostalgic about their home that was almost as fancy and huge like her sister’s. She recalls her eight year old daughter complaining how she disliked living in matchbox like apartments in South London and missed her bungalow like home back in Nepal that they recently sold. It is only three in the afternoon and the wafting smell of matar paneer fills the balcony signaling her snack time. Making her way to the kitchen downstairs, she is carried away by the thought of doing the same in the new house her husband promised to buy in North Hall by the next Christmas.