Sunday, 30 June 2013

What do you mean by 'true western democracy'?

In his recent address to the British Parliament at Westminster, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a point of referring to Israel as the “only true western democracy” in the Middle East.  Mr Harper’s stance seems to be to be very unhelpful, as there are many democracies in the Middle East.  Democratic government is well established in Turkey.  Democratic rule was restored in Lebanon in 1990 after decades of civil war.  Democratic government was established in Iraq after the downfall of Saddam Hussein, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.  Brand new democratic governments have emerged from the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and are still trying to figure out what shape their constitutions will take.  

And yet Mr Harper says that only Israel is a "true western democracy".  The implication here is that Israel has legitimacy, and is deserving of support, while other countries in the region lack legitimacy and do not deserve support.  For me, this raises several questions:  What shortcomings do the other Middle Eastern democracies have that denies them the legitimacy of "true western democracies"?  Should we engage these other democracies to assist them in correcting these deficiencies, or just write them off?  By what right do we decide that one country's approach to democracy (or any other form of government) is better than another's?   The Arab Spring democracies are still trying to write their constitutions - should we assume that they won't meet Mr Harper's measure for Western Democracy?  Is our approach to democracy so much better that we should be telling other countries what gives a government legitimacy?

Please let's stop calling them 'terrorists'

The word “terrorist” is trotted out far too easily.  Media reports and politicians in particular love to use or misuse the word to draw more attention to their stories.  This over-use of “terrorist” dilutes its meaning, especially as the definition of what constitutes “terror” can vary as much as each user wishes, with the consensus seeming to be “I’ll know it when I see it”.

The result is that almost any person or action can be determined to be terrorist.  The attacks by the likes of Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden will meet most people’s definition of terror.  But what about other high-profile criminals?  James Holmes, who is accused of the shootings at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, is not generally described as a terrorist (although he is none the less justifiably reviled).   Adam Lanza, the gunman at the Sandy Hook school shootings, is not described as a terrorist.  However, the terrorist label was instantly applied to Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsernaev, the alleged perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombings.  The result of each of these incidents is similar:  a large number of people dead or seriously wounded, widespread panic, long-lingering fear in the affected communities.  What makes one of these actions “terror” and the other two not?

It will be far better to refer to all of these criminals as what they are:  criminals.  Murderers, kidnapers, extortionists – all these actions are crimes, regardless of any underlying political motive, so it is simple, and correct, just to call them what they, without sensationalising their crimes with a further designation.  Sensation is often precisely what the perpetrators of these crimes want, as it gives them publicity, and a way to benefit from their crimes.  They also get a perverted sense of worth – as ‘terrorists’ they may perceive are warriors for their cause, and not mere murderers.

Don’t let them think that randomly killing people, any people, gets them or their alleged cause any credit.  It is criminal behaviour, and that is bad enough without the drama or notoriety from being called terrorist. 

I believe it will also help the cause of peace in places like Israel & Palestine to clearly identify killers as murderers, not as terrorists.  Let those who participate in murder be identified as murderers, regardless whether they use rocks, knives, bullets or rockets.  Make them criminals, not heroes.  

First post!

Hello and welcome.  I've started this blog as a place where I can develop my political beliefs, and try to work out how I can make my country and the world a better place.  I have a number of ideas which I will try to sound out in these pages.

The main motivation for starting this is that I am not content with the direction that Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party are taking Canada.  I'll write a series of blog posts outlining my reasons for my discontent.  However, I've not decided which of the alternatives to the CPC are worthy of my support, so I'll be exploring them as well.

I welcome any comments, however I reserve the right to delete any that do not meet my entirely arbitrary standards.  I don't mind when anyone disagrees with me, I welcome it, but I won't tolerate abusive language or attacks.