While some may consider much of what I have written to be “critical” of Bhutan, rest assured that I have nothing but praise for the Bhutanese press / media. You do your country, you do your people and you do your leaders a tremendous service. I would rank the Bhutanese media establishment as a rising and shining star in the industry and suggest it to be a point of pride to which your young democracy could point to the rest of the world!
Second, I would like to the thank the 100’s of Bhutanese people and other’s around the world who have taken the time to write to me personally, post electronic responses to the editorials on your respective sites, and to post both my work and their responses to numerous social media sites such as Facebook. While not every reader agrees with my sentiments and observations as my wife currently says the average is about 87% in favor and 13% opposed. In general, the Bhutanese responses clearly demonstrate that it is still possible in civil societies for people to disagree without being disagreeable. Moreover, those of you who support my work have clearly demonstrated to your leadership that is possible to speak truth to power which was the thesis of the editorial which started the avalanche of emails to my inbox.
In reflecting upon that which has been posted and published, I find that there is a couple of points which need to be clarified and upon. The most important of which may be the following.
My family and I were afforded two occasions to not only meet but to converse with the Fourth King and His Majesty the King as well as Her Majesty, Jetsun Pema. On each occasion, we were well aware that our family was experiencing a privilege and an enjoying a luxury that many Bhutanese citizens would never enjoy namely, the chance to actually interact and engage with their Kings and the Queen.
The memory of those encounters and exchanges will last a lifetime for they are two of the finest, most humble, most articulate, most intelligent and most service oriented men we have ever met.
Indeed, the Fourth King took time to learn about the cancer impacting my wife which was necessitating our early return and assisted in obtaining some medicine which we were not aware about and may prove most helpful in her recovery.
We are indebted to His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk for his generosity and thoughtfulness.
Thus, to those who think my writings on GNH are opposed to either His Majesty or that those remarks in some way imply a lack of regard for the Bhutanese Royal family, nothing could be farther from the truth.
In fact, it has largely been my operating assumption that both the Fourth King and His Majesty have much better and more important things to do for themselves, their family and the people of Bhutan than to worry about the writings of a few academics, media pundits and others with the time and inclination to engage in public discourse about GNH.
My concern and focus has never and would never be at the Royal level. My concern lies at the political level. If I am faulted for being inappropriately harsh on anyone in the power structure of Bhutan, one could infer that my writings are an indictment of the Prime Minister and the current ruling majority party. I will accept that accusation with the simple reply, welcome to democracy and freedom of the press in action.
But, I will not stand for any accusation or respond to those who would subscribe to the erroneous belief that in some way I or my family does not hold The Fourth King, His Majesty the King as well as Her Majesty Jetsun Pema in the highest regard.
Indeed, the Luechauer family would argue that the Royal Family in Bhutan sets a standard far above that which is currently practiced by many other Royal Families and Clans around the world.
I would also like to make it abundantly clear that I have no philosophical issue with GNH. My concern is, was and will be in the day-to-day implementation and political operationalization of the concept. I am extremely worried about the grandiose, arrogant and self-serving way the concept has been branded, marketed and sold to the people of Bhutan and to the rest of the world. I worry about the overt and covert means by which GNH is being socialized, indoctrinated and unquestioningly imposed upon the Bhutanese people without a fair and balanced portrayal of the limits, flaws, in congruencies, myths and negative consequences this approach may have on their wellbeing and advancement.
Moreover, I worry that the Bhutanese people are also being falsely led to believe that all in the west is bad, that many of in the west are rich but “unhappy”, and that somehow it is the pursuit or measure of GDP that is the cause of these problems. Here is a newsflash, we aren’t all bad, we aren’t all unhappy and most of the word’s issues have more to do with human nature than the pursuit or measure of GDP.
I cringe whenever I read that GNH is a great, noble, or even new/novel model of economic development that was somehow discovered by the Bhutanese. GNH is neither great nor noble it simply is GNH. Any concept that needs an adjective in front of it such as great or noble to give it distinction or credibility is not a philosophy worth pursuing. The enduring and great philosophies of the world democracy, justice, altruism, freedom, charity, capitalism, self-reliance, self-sufficiency do not need to be prefaced with adjectives.
I am also rather weary of the constant references to the notion that GNH was discovered in Bhutan. GNH is not new and was not invented in Bhutan. True, the actual term GNH was coined by the King but the actual notion of pursuing models of economic growth that are culturally, socially, environmentally, spiritually healthy and sustainable have been promulgated and advanced for millennia. My limited understanding of Buddha’s teachings and Buddhist principles which predate those of Christ provide more thorough and compelling economic models than that which is being proclaimed by the new age GNH philosophers. In offering GNH as a model, political leaders should not act as if they have discovered fire or invented the wheel.
I have merely attempted to caution the GNH politicos in Bhutan that the utmost in restraint should be exercised in advancing GNH as a philosophy for the world to follow when it is patently clear that even the most fundamental tenets and basic principles of the theory have yet to grasped and implemented in Bhutan. I am arguing that Bhutan’s leaders should be spending much more time taking care of the people of Bhutan instead of trotting around the region or globe promoting GNH; I suspect the people of Bhutan feel the same.
Finally, I am fully aware that Bhutan currently is a third world country with an LDC designation. I do not expect Bhutan to be perfect. On the same hand, I am not the one promising Bhutan as either the destination of happiness or the last Shangri La as is currently proclaimed in much of the tourism marketing surrounding the country.
I would suggest that if political and other leaders want to “open the doors to Bhutan” they had better be much more realistic about the conditions those who enter will find when they arrive. All is not well and all are not happy in Bhutan and it is preposterous for a segment of Bhutanese leadership to advertise and proclaim otherwise. In fact, my experience living and working in the most progressive, educated and densely populated region of Bhutan is that the nation is trending more toward decay and the dysfunctions associated with modernization than it is toward the ideals, hope and promise of GNH.
I sincerely wish the political and educational leaders of Bhutan would look at the signs and signals and realize that severe storms are looming on the horizon which threatens the social, political, environmental, and economic wellbeing of the people. Indeed, the very existence of this Royal Kingdom could be in jeopardy. It would be a tragedy of unspeakable proportions if the unchecked and unquestioned pursuit and promulgation of GNH came at the price of losing an independent Bhutan.