Bhutanese society is changing, at times faster than we can imagine.
Our thinking, culture, and values are constantly changing, and hopefully for the better. Our physical environment, social structure, and political system have also undergone major changes thanks to modernization, socioeconomic development, and transition to democracy.
As much as there are good reasons for us to be proud of the positive changes, we are also grappling with new challenges. As a nation – more so as a nation that espouses Gross National Happiness – some of these challenges are worrying.
Social inequality, poor economic conditions, and unemployment coupled with easy access to and availability of drugs and alcohol are driving younger generation down the path of destruction. Youth crimes have consistently increased in the last decade and so has the number of young people taking their own lives.
Even as we continue to reform the education system, replacing corporal punishment with more progressive and child friendly policies, news of students manhandling or physically abusing teachers – even if it were a few cases of rotten apples – are disturbing to say the least.
Call it the bane of development – or rather imbalanced development – our rural villages are becoming emptier by the day. Rural-urban drift is phenomenally changing the rural landscape.
Alcohol continues to be the biggest killer, with over 1oo plus succumbing to alcohol liver diseases every year. And the irony is, measures taken to control alcohol consumption across different age groups are at its bare minimum.
Even as we debate on preserving our tangible culture and symbols, our traditional value system and social relationships are gradually disintegrating. Perhaps, we tend to prioritize preservation of symbols rather than focusing on the need to keep up with the evolution that is sweeping across all aspects of our nation’s life.
The democratic process has come with its own ups and downs. As much as we talk about our rights, we are also talking about responsibilities and citizenship. We are opening up and speaking out against what’s unfair. We are becoming more critical. At the same time, we are also becoming more vile, especially on social media – a platform, a force, that we will have to learn to positively use. Good thing is, we are learning about the nuances of democratic politics and its various fallouts.
As a nation in transition, these challenges are not only natural side effects but also inevitable. The problem would arise when we fail to respond to these issues with appropriate and effective measures and interventions. And of course, a major part of that responsibility falls on the government of the day. That’s however not to say, parents, families and individuals as responsible citizens aren’t important. More than ever, parents have a huge role to play in nurturing their children and cultivate the right values and positive attitude.
Our values are our greatest strength. And when we start losing it, that would be the beginning of the disintegration of our society and our identity as Bhutanese.