Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Unrest in the Arab World

The Arab world has been set alight by long suffering people held captive in dictator regimes by the ‘peaceful protest’ writings of the elderly American layman, Gene Sharp. Following, in effect, the teaching of Mahatma Ghandi, whose leadership ejected the British from India by peaceful protest following World War II, his suggestions have struck a chord of possible action, which has been spectacularly successful in Tunisia, then Egypt, and have now caused turmoil in Libya.

Unfortunately, it can be that courageous and successful protest movements eventually fall victim to the need for a constructive answer to the question of ‘what now’. No-one wants to see a rerun of the French Revolution or anything like it. The American revolution, with far different motivation (the British parliament was the villain, more than the Monarchy), was able to learn lessons from the French experience, in forming a republic, but still struggled to find a satisfactory answer to the same inescapable question. Unlike France they had the separate state legislatures to unite in a federal system, from which we subsequently, and substantially, derived our own federal system.

What about Egypt? They need an answer in the form of a new constitution and government suited to their country’s need. What sort of democracy will result?
Would American or Australian democracy be good enough as a model? Hardly! Who would want to see the confusion and ineffectual conflict of Western democracies resulting in Egypt or any other of the disturbed Arab states? They need better. The world too, has a stake in their success in devising governments OF the people. FOR the people and BY the people!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Democracy and Moral Influence - Of Ants and Men

Ants do not know of danger, or fear. We humans are blessed (or is it cursed?) with knowledge beyond limit that ants do not have. But knowledge creates responsibility, accenting our duty to others, while failure opens the door to guilt and the fear which raises barriers, leading to dislike, to hatred, to cruelty.

We are far from emulating the ants in any of our human, fear-traumatised environments. How then can we hope for successful global government and harmony in the world?

There’s no doubt that fear destroys empathy, resulting in various arrangements for self defence – politically, socially, from family to friends to factions to parties to nations, to empires – and personally, in diverse religions.
Yet it is true that in all of these defensive arrangements, relationships fall over, basically through selfishness. The laws and rules of dogmatic religion, designed to keep selfishness in order all tend to failure, as avoidance of conflict becomes a selfish end in itself.
Now faith, whatever its basis, is the opposite, and is a hopeful product of experiences created by received love (whatever its origin), giving empathy and inspiration. (By far the greatest inspiration of all is the cross of Jesus which calls us to a faith in the love of God and to a death of self).
Love begets love, breaking down barriers with positive thinking and solutions to problems. Individually, the reach of love varies enormously, according to individual inspiration and faith. For most it is the family. For a few, with a deep faith, it is the world, with many in between. We can each be part of the problem or part of the solution, as we are inspired, or not.
Politically, all democracies are bedevilled by the structures of political power which defeat democracy’s moral influence, killing its empathetic equality of power and political opportunity for all citizens. Power structures create fears of disadvantage and loss in an adversarial system which, instead of empathy, creates hostility.
A healthy start was made with elections by the secret ballot, in 1856, which has enabled the appointment of governments with greater fairness and much reduced violence, but selfishness and fear still stand in the way of honest, popular government, with the unethical influences or factions, parties and other powerful minorities.
Only the extension of the controlling influence of the ballot into all government decision-making can ease the fears that divide and antagonise. If we can win the democratic battle at the state and national levels there can be hope for the world. The question is: Can we, will we?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Reading their minds

Our fearless leaders have come in for intense analysis. In the pursuit of power there is the suspicion that what they say and aim to do may spring rather from ‘whatever it takes’ than sincere personal conviction.

Much is made of a previous statement of opinion or intent, with the idea that trust demands continual adherence to opinions once stated. But this does not leave much room for mature thought and changed circumstances..

Kevin Rudd is much maligned for his ‘desertion’ of his claim that climate change is ‘the greatest moral issue of our time’. He probably still thinks that. Then why did he change? In the face of very considerable public and politician reluctance I guess he was not determined or strong enough to press on with it. Bad choice! His subsequent unceremonious dumping, though spectacular, is not abnormal, given our political system and climate.

Julia Gillard, shows strength of purpose and, unhindered by religious profession, may well prove that successful ‘politics is the art of the possible’ – the Bismarck principle, which lives on still, ensuring that cynicism and the idea that ‘morality has nothing to do with politics’, will continue to dominate. Her goal, “the ‘possible’, will be an uphill fight.

Will it be just the best possible with climate horrors continuing to escalate, because the ultimate solution could well cost enormously and without the unity of the nation behind a leader it may all be of little help. We can only hope!

Meanwhile, it’s a case of God help the politician who believes in the ‘could be’ in place of what ‘is’.

There is an interesting article on the Obama presidency by Jon Taplin in May last year - . Obama could do with our prayers!