Archive for the ‘Democracy’ Category
I have recently argued that “those who felt there was not enough time to save the world, went on to commit genocide“. Of course that’s not part of an effort to justify anybody or anything, rather a step forward towards recognizing genocidal conditions before the killings happen.
Is genocide a crime for idealistic losers then? Yes it is. Read for example from “Genocide – A Comprehensive Introduction, 2nd ed.” by by Adam Jones, Ph.D., Routledge/Taylor & Francis Publishers, August 2010 (p. 37):
in his 2006 book The Order of Genocide, political scientist Scott Straus [wrote that] “a dynamic of escalation was critical to the hardliners’ choice of genocide. The more the hardliners felt that they were losing power and the more they felt that their armed enemy was not playing by the rules, the more the hardliners radicalized. [In Rwanda they] chose genocide as an extreme, vengeful, and desperate strategy to win a war that they were losing.”
Straus’ book is on Amazon. Interestingly, at page 155 it reports that among the main reasons why they committed genocide, 47.9% of interviewed Hutus mentioned: Insecurity, war, “kill the Tutsis before they kill the Hutus”.
Actually, there is a clear link between the Shoah, the beginning of Nazi Germany’s defeat and a general initial state of panic from Hitler to all, about lack of time and resources. From Wikipedia:
the German defeat in front of Moscow in November–December led to a sharp change of emphasis. Euphoria was replaced by the prospect of a long war, and also by a realisation that food stocks were not sufficient to feed the entire population of German-occupied Europe. It was at this time the decision to proceed from “evacuation” to extermination was made. Speaking with Himmler and Heydrich on 25 October, Hitler said: “Let no one say to me: we cannot send them into the swamp. Who then cares about our own people? It is good when terror precedes us that we are exterminating the Jews. We are writing history anew, from the racial standpoint.”
The point about insecurity has indeed become a historical trait of modern genocide. Writes Malcolm Bull in the London Review of Books (“Ultimate Choice“, Vol. 28 No. 3 · 9 February 2006, pages 3-6 – it’s the original source that inspired my quote above):
Reasoned defences of most genocides can be constructed on the basis of a conjunction of the just war and social exclusion arguments, for if there is an identifiable social group engaged in total war against you, then it has to be neutralised. The Armenian genocide in 1915 was justified on these grounds, for the Armenians were expected to fight with the Russians in the event of an invasion of Anatolia. Stalin’s classicide was an attempt to deal with counter-revolutionary elements who might have sided with the Whites in the event of a renewed civil war or foreign invasion. A defence of the Holocaust might be constructed along the same lines: the attack on Bolshevism was a just war against an outlaw state ‘driven by slavery and the threat of human sacrifice’; it became a total war in which Jews would probably have taken the Soviet side; their pre-emptive internment was therefore a natural precaution, and their execution an unfortunate necessity at a time of ‘supreme emergency’ when the Red Army threatened the Fatherland. If you accept the just war and social exclusion arguments, then these genocides can only be criticised on the basis that they relied on shaky political analysis. They were, in effect, misjudgments, failures of statesmanship, perhaps.
Genocides do not occur in stable, peaceful environments, but at moments of crisis when the state is in danger. So societies only go over the brink when the perpetrators of the genocide are radicalised by war.
Analogously, when the Center on Law & Globalization extracted from the work of historial Mark Levene “Nine Common Features” of genocides. here’s what they chose as feature #3:
3. The government or regime believed it was in extreme danger and that crisis was looming,
Finally, in “State Power and Genocidal Intent: On the Uses of Genocide in the Twentieth Century” (part of “Studies in comparative genocide“, edited by Levon Chorbajian, George Shirinian, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), Roger W Smith
makes an explicit link between trying to make the world a better place, and genocide (p. 8):
contemporary ideology [of genocide]…aims at transforming society. With us the attempt has been to eradicate whole races, classes and ethnic groups…in order to produce a brave new world free of offensive human material…what Camus called a ‘metaphysical revolt’ against the very conditions of human existence: plurality, mortality, finitude and spontaneity. It is , as it were, an attempt to re-establish the Creation, providing for an order, justice and humanity that are thought to be lacking…often motivated by a profound desire to eliminate all that it perceives as being impure. […] How else explain the constant references in Nazism to purification and the Cambodian references to the cleansing of the people?
And so to go back to the original point…is genocide analysis at all applicable to people so desperate about human-induced climate change / global warming, they might get tempted into exploding a little more than fictional children and football players? Yes, in more than one respect. Unfortunately so.
Silvio Berlusconi’s opponents cannot admit that his success may be due not to sinister trickery, but to his greater popularity – an article by Filippo Facci available on The Guardian’s website.
US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr writing his dissenting opinion in November 1919 (Abrams v. United States):
Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition….
But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe […] that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market….
That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment…. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.
Justice Holmes’s and the whole of the USA’s journey towards contemporary interpretation of the meaning of free speech in America is the subject of “Justice Holmes and the ‘Splendid Prisoner’” by Anthony Lewis, published in The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 11 · July 2, 2009.
What the &^%$ did UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon think he would be doing, by going to Burma only to come back absolutely empty-handed?
The risks were fully known, but Ban Ki-Moon vowed the “right things” and then dedicated a speech in Yangon with the “right words” inside but…is it really the business of the UN Secretary-General to fly around the world begging to visit local dissidents, and then to lament his “disappointment” when not allowed to?
There’s plenty of low-ranking UN diplomats that perfectly able to do just that.
The bloody Burmese junta has made the usual electoral promise (this time for 2010…yeah, right!).
It could all have been so simple:
- Ban Ki-Moon lands in Yangon
- Ban Ki-Moon asks to see Aung San Suu-Kyi
- Ban Ki-Moon is refused to see Aung San Suu-Kyi
- Ban Ki-Moon flies away (immediately that is)
One would think even the current UN Secretary-General could devise such a complex plan, couldn’t he?
Perhaps in the post-Cold War world there is something fundamentally wrong in the way UN Secretary-General are chosen.
…isn’it, when most of the headlines during the past few years can be explained in a few words in a farcical radio show.
Here’s an excerpt from BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show, broadcast Friday 26 June 2009:
We do not really want change, we want villains for our national pantomime […] everyone says they want change but hate figures are basically more satisfying and they don’t entail having actually to do anything […] it is much easier to find a hate figure [like the BBC in Iran]
Goodbye deimocracy, the power of fear…hello theatrocracy?
The extraordinarily lucid analysis below is my translation of an article published by “Notizie Radicali”, the online newletter of the Italian Radicals, a political party currently associated to the centre-left Democratic Party.
The original publication date was 4 May 2009. Little has changed since then, despite all the Berlusconi sex scandals. The results of local and European elections in June 2009 have seen a further erosion on the centre-left of the Italian political spectrum.
Probably, the best thing the Democratic Party could do at the moment would be to dissolve itself and give somebody, anybody the chance to start anew.
(the text between square brackets is all mine)
When the Working Class Votes Centre-Right
by Valter Vecellio
The People of Freedom (PDL) at more than 50 percent. The Democratic Party (PD) at around 26 percent. The data from the Ipsos-“Sole 24 Ore” opinion poll is not news in itself, rather a further confirmation of what was already common knowledge.
Among professionals and the self-employed the coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi reaches a “People’s Republic”‘s majority, around the 70 per cent. But the actual “bleeding wound” for the PD concerns that section of the electorate traditionally linked to left, the workers. Among them, consensus for the governing coalition of Northern League (Lega Nord) and PDL exceeds 43 per cent. The PD appears stuck at much more modest 22.4 percent.
The Democratic Party certainly is paying for the competition with Antonio di Pietro’s Italy of Values (IdV). The IdV has been widening its base by leveraging on demagoguery and low-level “qualunquismo” [the mindset of being unable to tell one established party from another].
PD is also paying for competition from its left, from parties such as Communist Refoundation, the Italian Communists [several of them], the Greens, the Socialists. Although those will be unable to cross the 4 percent threshold for being represented at the European Parliament, they will all be eroding valuable points of consensus and percentage from the PD.
Nevertheless, the fact that Berlusconi has managed to wrestle consensus from the centre-left is beyond dispute. A trend in this direction was already clear after the general elections of April 2008. In fact, surprising and inconvenient truths can be found in a very useful report, “Winners and losers in the elections of 2008” published by “Itanes” (Italian Election Studies), a research group started in the early 90s by the Cattaneo Institute in Bologna and guided by a “student” of Giovanni Sartori, Professor Giacomo Sani.
Those are surprising and inconvenient truths, of course, for the losers, not for the winners. According to the report, the PD has paid a combined effect: on the one hand the phenomenon scholars call “selective abstention”, affecting PD voters much more than PDL ones. On the other hand, there has been a real-and-present migration of support.
To put it simply: for every three PD voters of the past, one decided not to vote in the general elections of 2008, and one voted for the opposing coalition.
“The centre-left as a whole“, we read, “suffers from the flows of mobilization and demobilization a loss of around 4 per cent of the electorate .. . whilst the PD sees the disappearance of the votes of around 10 percent of those who had chosen the Olive Tree coalition in 2006, in favour of parties of the centre-right.”
The end result is that nowadays, the traditional centre-left electoral base has more overall confidence in the governing by Berlusconi than in the opposition by the PD. But we can go beyond that, by reading a well-researched book “Padanian Breed” by Adalberto Signore and Alessandro Trocino.
It is a book that chronicles twenty-five years of Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord, and it is not lacking in surprises: despite some “folksy” and “noisy” [i.e. bordering on the loony] public statements by Lega Nord leaders, the authors tell of a a political party made up of activists running local public Offices to the voters’ appreciation, regardless of the social group to which the voters belong.
In Lombardy or Piedmont, it is nowadays no longer considered odd to find members of the communist-leaning workers’ trade union CGIL also belonging to Lega Nord and/or having no qualms to vote for centre-right candidates.
At present, what is new is that how the above phenomenon has become consolidated and disseminated. An entire section of the Italian society doesn’t vote to the left any longer, tired of in-fighting, demagoguery, and inconclusive statements of intent. It is a situation exposed to little or no avail by those in the PD nearer to the electorate, for example the Mayors of Turin Sergio Chiamparino, and of Venice Massimo Cacciari.
Like the mythical Cassandra, nobody listens to them speaking the truth: instead Veltroni, assisted by a strategist of no strategy called Goffredo Bettini, collected a string of ever bitterer defeats, before resigning. Now we have Dario Franceschini seeking to unite the pieces of a vase broken in a thousand pieces. The outcome of all those efforts is reflected in the results of the Ipsos-“Sole 24 Ore” survey: bitter results, for the PD, but also a confirmation of a situation whose cause is to be found in the PD itself.
As things stand, the PD can only wait for its final decay. Its leaders have done their utmost to reach that goal, and now they are reaping what they have sown.
Has President Ahmadinejad truly and fairly been re-elected? Will the violence in Tehran continue in the next days?
Unfortunately, there is no way to know. In-between the average Western-based person and Truth there are the Iranian Electoral Commission, the Iranian Interior Ministry, the Iranian Government, Iranian newsmedia and Propaganda, Western newsmedia and Propaganda, and Western Governments.
Chances are, whatever we read and see, including live TV and apparently evident pictures, will be manipulated to the extreme.
Let’s try to list instead whatever we can be sure about. First of all: there is too much of Iranian democracy at stake for the election to end up been seen in Iran itself as a “charade”. After a TV debate and photographs of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei coming out of a mosque after having casted his vote like any other citizen, nobody can expect anything but a victory recognized by the vast majority of Iran to be enough for the Iranian society itself.
Cynically, one could say that either you have a democracy, or you do not. Any “hardliner” really in the business of blatantly manipulating the election, would have made a mockery of Ahmadinejad’s campaign and Khamenei’s voting effort.
If they have some kind of dictatorship in mind they better go for it, or face the consequences. For Khamenei, and even more for Ahmadinejad, it’s like facing the choice between getting rid of democracy as such, or look like buffoons
In fact, if things stand as they appear at this very moment, with a contested re-election for President Ahmadinejad, clashes in the streets, and arrests of members of the opposition, the long-term loser will be Ahmadinejad himself, no longer able to interact with the outside world as a legitimate leader of Iran. A new attempt at a Columbia University debate would be met with derision if not much worse.
Another obvious point concerns foreign interference. So far the barrage of news from Iran have been answered with anodyne comments from the Obama Administration and that is the way it should be.
Like in the Ukraine, if a sizable number of Iranians truly believe the elections have been stolen, it can only be up to them to claim their Nation back. For example if Ahmadinejad’s rival Mir Hossein Mousavi finds himself unprepared in the fact of the current situation, well, it’s better if he stays away from any position of power.
It’s just impossible from anybody to understand all the details from the outside.
Nobody has died so far. That can only be a good thing.