Secular dictators back in full swing

We live in interesting times, unfortunately.

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Not long ago, the terms ‘secular’ and ‘democrat’ seemed conjoined, at least in some capitalist countries.

But not in the Middle East. Not before, and not now.

Today, Middle Eastern secularists are back to old form and busy themselves with:

– violently rejecting outcomes of elections they lose, as was the case in the 2009 Iranian elections

– attempting to overthrow the democratically elected government in Turkey

– And now deposing an elected government – the first and only in Egypt’s history – in collusion with remaining elements of the previous regime in Egypt. Some revolution!

Let’s stay with Egypt.

Morsi certainly has mismanaged his opportunity. His biggest failure was perhaps in not being inclusive in how he managed the transition. And he did not see the military coming. Plus, his stance on Syria was awful. Don’t even mention the economy!

Still, he inherited a total mess to sort out with a four-year term through popular elections, and the time to judge his performance was agreed by all who participated in the elections to be 4 years later, not 1 year later.

Who exactly had the authority to make such a decision? Did the votes of over 50% of the Egyptian electorate not count? That’s the wishes of several million people trampled on by a minority.

They have put the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in a situation where they have to either accept total defeat and humiliation by the military (as they have on several occasions in the past since the time of Nasser), or to resist, peacefully or otherwise.

There certainly is no rule of law for them to appeal or resort to.

Worse still, the violent Islamic groups that have shown no trust or belief in democratic methods will feel vindicated. By showing no respect for the rule of law, the Egyptian military is in effect bolstering the cause of the region’s jihadists. And it’s driving members of the Muslim Brotherhood toward greater radicalism, right across the region.

And the implications may go deeper. We are living in a period when a large section of secular actors in the Middle East show a disdain for democratic ideals, and the most democratic Middle Eastern actors appear to be the moderate religious parties. Not to mention their obvious popular appeal through the ballot box.

What will be the future slogan of such secularists? “I’m superior!”?

Will they be trying to divert political discourse in the same racist direction as their American and Israeli counterparts have already? Razzmatazz and ‘god’s-own-country’ and ‘them-commie/muslim-b’stards’, and self-obsessed, terminal exceptionalism?

Without the requisite moral fibre, what will become of the region’s secularists?

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Reclaiming democracy – again

A worrying challenge is arising to the very idea of democracy from various quarters. This new trend has two main drivers, among others: First, a number of Western ‘democracies’, particularly the US with the UK and France in typically obliging tow, have given the concept a bad name. Their litany of human rights abuses and barbarity in the world today make a mockery of the concept of democracy. With ‘democrats’ like these, who would want to become democratic?!

The second driver comes from China’s alternative model that is gaining much traction among emerging nations. China’s highly successful economic development over four decades since the 1980s has caught the attention of academics and politicians alike. Rather logically, many are asking whether a benevolent dictatorship may be the preferred option for the greatest benefit for the largest number in situations where a country is trying to rise fast from a low base of economic development. This is also further supported by the fate of the so-called “Arab Spring” especially in Libya and Syria where the chaotic outcomes have been disastrous.

The second driver is the easier one to deal with in a defence of democracy. China has never had democracy, and there is little reason to believe that its growing wealth will not push it toward democracy. Tiananmen protests in 1989 indicated this, as does Hong Kong’s relative autonomy (far more than it ever had under British rule), and the various labour disputes that have challenged the Chinese state’s power. For as long as economic prosperity continues to rise so fast for the general population in China, there may not be too much of a challenge to a one-party state, similar to the situation in Saudi Arabia, for example. But as soon as this slows down, China will probably have to reform. In any case, rising wealth will necessarily create competing nodes of power, and these will either have to learn to compete in a democratic fashion, or they will fight each other. For now, the focus of China is on greater economic parity for the inland and western parts of the country, as the coastal populations have so far taken the lion’s share of profits. This also represents a form of greater democracy, albeit on an economic level for now.

However, the manner is which today’s warmongering ‘democracies’ like USA trample on the inalienable rights of people and nations all over the world while ‘communist’ countries like China and Vietnam concentrate on respect for sovereignty and economic relations with other nations instead, encourages a more positive outlook on ‘benevolent dictatorship‘ throughout the world. Conversely, China’s economic success has many in the West scared for their own future in so far as this is seen as ‘dependent’ on the West’s hegemony over the world economy. Some are beginning to question the merits of democracy in the face of a Chinese challenge.

This is compounded by deep corruption in the West’s financial sector, and control over the policy space, mass media and main political parties by major corporations. A lack of accountability by political leaders in these countries has led to a situation where a growing portion of their citizenry has lost faith in their countries’ ‘democratic’ systems, as seen for example by diminishing rates of popular participation in these countries’ elections.

Within this section of the West’s population, some are even losing faith in the ability or competence of their fellow citizens in making the ‘right’ choices in elections. While traditionally it was the extreme right that showed a propensity to support authoritarianism in the West, today some progressive minded people are also ‘hoping’ for a benevolent dictator to save countries like USA from themselves. And some ‘academics’ are writing ‘scientific’ articles in support of this.

But the irony of the situation is that the policy mistakes made in a country like USA over the past few decades have been in the service of interest groups, and in direct opposition to the will of the people. Public opinion in USA, UK and France has consistently been against foreign wars, austerity measures, or the deterioration of social services. The general public has wanted decent incomes for all, corporate power reduced, corrupt bankers and politicians held accountable, and better and more equitable relations with other nations and cultures. Most people support clean energy and less pollution as well as healthcare and education sector reforms that benefit the poor, the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

So it is too little democracy rather than too much of it that has led to disastrous Western policies. It is precisely in the fact that politicians are corrupt and non-responsive to the wishes of the electorate that we can find the reasons for the current debacle. Should there be more democracy in the West, many of the ills of today would be cured. A more people-centred system of governance in these countries would automatically reduce the power of corporations over the media, banks, academia and public policy.

And herein lies the reasons behind such unexpected ‘campaigning’ against ‘big government’. Portraying ‘government’ as the ‘enemy’ of the ‘people’ certainly ensures that the potential power that average citizens could exercise over their own fates can never be realized. Instilling an irrational fear of a foreign ‘enemy’ or ‘terrorist’ also helps the cause of corporate fascism.

So a question arises on the cause of this weakness in Western ‘democracy’. And the answer to this seemingly complex question may be quite simple: The problem is in ‘representation’ itself. Representative democracy is not real democracy. It rather is a form of shirking responsibility, by pushing the difficult decisions onto the shoulders of elected representatives who cannot possibly be expected to take care of the needs of so many constituents.

By placing our trust in elected representatives and allowing them to take decisions on our behalves for the next 4 or 5 years, we are in effect saying that we do not care enough to take charge over matters that affect our lives on a daily basis. We even allow them to declare war on our behalves. By bowing to the power of ‘leaders’ we admit our will to be led by others, even to the limit of life and death decisions. This encourages corruption and throws the elected politicians to the wolves – the 1% who do have the resources and the power to practically own ‘our’ representatives. People who would not hesitate to steal our savings in banks, and to declare war on the world for the sake of greed alone.

Put differently: if all major national and local policies had to be voted on by the general population of a country, no interest group or lobby could have as much control over the wealth or policies of a nation. A president could never start a war on another nation willy-nilly. Extra-judicial killings would be impossible. Corrupt bankers could not get away with murder. Corporations could not rape and pillage the world. People would be earning decent incomes, and they would have free access to healthcare and education, especially in a country as rich as USA.

People would actually see good results from good government by the people and for the people in a system of Direct Democracy.

The West is an enemy of democracy and secularism globally

The great majority of Western powers and intellectuals alike make it very difficult for progressive activists to push for democracy and secularism in the world today.

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The crunch is this: Western secular types typically describe themselves as more ‘rational’ and ‘human rights oriented’ than others. They use condemning and condescending language in their common conversations even. Sure, no one is perfect. We all have to grow and learn to treat each other better as the globe shrinks in our perception.

Problem is, the West is also a barbaric plunderer of the world that hasn’t got a leg to stand on. And there is no shortage of Western academic apologists for world domination by force even today.

Western hypocrisy is the bane of secular democrats everywhere.

The West commits mass murder and invades other countries through NATO and the UN, if they can get away with it. Their regular ‘regime changing’ rampages that are routinely supported by their supposed ‘intelligentsia’ – as was the case in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and is today in Syria – are accompanied by a flood of ‘local’ freedom fighters who more often than not turn out to be any hotchpotch of international mercenaries that will do it for some reason or the other and regardless of what kind of crazy ideology they might subscribe to. Al Qeada, Halliburton, CIA, Mossad, freelancers, you name it. Even cannibals are found on the side of the West’s agenda.

It really doesn’t matter why they do it. Some mercenaries will do it for the love of killing, some for the money, others will do it for the love of dying. But mercenaries, by definition, are not democratic in their core.

In fact, should Saudi Arabia turn democratic, it is very unlikely that it would continue to act like USA’s poodle in the Arab region. This has happened to some extent in Egypt and Tunisia already.

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Independence, democracy and even secularism for subservient nations under imperial control would run against the interests of the imperial master. Why rock the boat if you are the captain?

It is therefore of no surprise that the CIA would work with the Saudi government and Mossad and Qatar, for example, to destabilise the only secular, independent nation – Syria – in the region. Of course, they scream about democracy and freedom while the fighters they pay for and arm are literally eating people’s hearts on camera and using chemical weapons in Syria.

The Real Axis of Evil today is the West-Israel-Al Qaeda one, funded by Arab monarchies, for whom no cause appears too low to kill for.

On a more personal level, anyone who takes up a weapon and tries to shoot their way toward democracy in an offensive operation (rather than a defensive operation against a direct threat to one’s life) simply doesn’t understand what s/he is doing.

People who use brute violence supposedly for the sake of ‘democratic freedom’ must ask themselves why it is that violence is justified to them.

And why is it that instead of a majority of people being in their camp, they are actually having to kill for their cause?

Are these bloodthirsty ‘democracy’ murderers realistic or even genuine? 

This is not to claim that no cause is worthy of use of violence. That discussion is just too difficult.

But, if there is a need for greater ‘democratic freedom’, how can murder help it grow?

Some would claim that it’s worth it in the long run. But how to know that democratic reform wouldn’t have happened peacefully in the long run? Why kill for the long run?

Saddam Hussein was violently removed 10 years ago. A lot could have happened in 10 years in Iraq. We will never know, but we do know what Iraq looks like now and what its prospects are for the next 5 years or so.

So the question arises: what is the Real reason for all these Orwellian non-causes for war after war?

It happens to be the case that when a violent uprising or yet another US/NATO attack takes place somewhere, the war-oriented economy of the West benefits somehow or the other, be it through war equipment, services or weapons sales; loot; or cheap energy grab.

War is a great job creator for the West’s war industries.

Apparently so are the corporations, particularly the energy and weapons industries, always moving hand in hand like true global soul mates, forever growing in energy and fire power.

The average Westerner therefore believes that s/he benefits from imperial plunder, even if indirectly. This may help explain their lethargy when war and loot continue to recur with alarming regularity in their name, for their alleged beliefs, and in large part paid for by their taxes.

Civil society in Action indeed. Mafia style global protection.

Problem is, this barbaric image of the West is predominant in the rest of the world.

And this means that the causes of democracy and secularism are hard to defend in the world today.

In short, the West has given democracy and secularism a bad name.

What makes matters worse for secular democrats in the world is that the Chinese model of a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ is gaining traction globally, including in the West. Many progressives are losing hope not just in the current political elite in the West – as a corrupt and inept bunch in the face of a financial collapse caused by powerful thieving bankers – but they are also losing hope in the ability of the general Western public to rise to the challenge.

Some are questioning the morality and efficiency of democracy itself as an organising principle. This rising support for ‘benevolent’ authoritarianism is matched by a rising fundamentalist challenge – a subject that we shall return to in the next blog.