I am currently on holiday but, being a news addict, I am annoying my wife by constantly checking @BBCBreaking on twitter and Sky News on the TV to see what is happening in Libya.
“Democracy won’t work for Arabs/Blacks/Chinese/Women ……”, “They’re not ready for democracy yet”, “XXXXX should have our support because he provides stability and is moving towards ….”
This is patronising bigotry and the lie has been exposed in spades in the last few weeks. I am in awe of the sheer bravery of some of these Arab protestors. They may not get democracy but they are ready for it, they want it, and they deserve it! I am also in some shame, but more of that later.
I happen to think democracy is one of five inventions of which Homo sapiens can be most proud (picking the other four is a game for all the family), and I think it is the ONLY form of government which can be defended intellectually. I also happen to think that ALL people are capable of it, ALL people are ready for it, and almost ALL people want it. This includes Arabs. This does not mean that all people should have carbon copies of the British parliament or the American senate imposed upon them but there are some basics on which I think almost everyone would agree. I think these basics are:
- The governors should, in some formal way, be chosen by ALL of the governed.
- The governed should, in some formal way, have the power to remove the governors from power.
- ANY member of the governed should have the opportunity to become one of the governors.
- There should be freedom of speech (including newspapers/internet etc) There should be freedom of assembly.
- The governors, once in power, should NOT be allowed to change these basics.
There is one other factor which is hard to legislate for but very important. The main political groups should not be based on factors other than politics.
If you have the Catholic Party and the Protestant Party, the Muslim Party and the Hindu Party, the White Party and the Black Party, the Sunni Party and the Shia Party, the Hutu Party and the Tutsi Party democracy will be lucky to survive.
This last is probably the trickiest, especially in countries where political parties have little or no history. If new democracies can avoid splitting along ethnic or religious lines they have a chance. I don’t know how we can help Maybe, via the UN, we can try to protect people from their own rulers. Maybe we can stop selling those rulers the arms they need to oppress.
Maybe we should just stay the hell out of it! We can, at the very least, give unambiguous, vocal support to ALL those who are seeking freedom. Good luck Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, China …
Ex-pat evacuation ITV
“The Wright stuff” Matthew Wright finds it hard to sympathise with ex-pats who have been coining it in Libya under Gadaffi, paying no UK taxes, and are now bleating that the government isn’t doing enough to get them out. I tend to agree, but I think he has it the wrong way round. They are British citizens and we should do all we can to get them to safety. What is wrong is that they haven’t been paying taxes all the time they were coining it. See part two of my previous thought
- “I need to kill this man but I don’t have a gun. Will you sell me one?” Most of us would say no.
- “I’m going to kill him anyway – why turn down the money?” Still no.
- “Someone else will sell me the gun if you don’t – do you want them to get the money?” Still no?
- “I need the gun for self-defence, I promise I won’t kill this innocent man – honest!” ……
If you are the British government then apparently this last one is the clincher, even if the man asking for the gun is a known mass-murderer.
They will say it’s complicated, it isn’t. I think the above argument is almost exactly the moral equivalent of selling arms to oppressive undemocratic regimes. It is something of which we should all be ashamed.
How many of the countries we sell arms to are democracies? Not many!
When Tony Blair said that bringing Gadaffi and Libya in from the cold would be a good thing, and that increased trade would lead to increased freedom in Libya I believed him. I always opposed arms sales – but I believed the rest. That is my shame. A lot of my shame seems to be linked to believing Tony Blair. My only defence is that I think he honestly believed himself – amazingly I think he still does! ……………………… I don’t.