For the last 70 or 80 years, in spite of their oil billions and flash skyscrapers, most Arab States have clearly demonstrated that sociologically and politically they are firmly anchored in the Dark Ages. On many occasions, they have also demonstrated that all despotic dictators have a limited shelf-life which invariably ends in violence. For a long time, we have been trying so hard to tell them all about Democracy and its advantages. and in recent years, we have even tried to install it for them. This week, the vote in United Kingdom Parliament which prevented us from bombing Syria, has done more to demonstrate real democracy than any action of the last 50 years – and we should be proud. We do not go to war on the whim of a single individual. We debate…then whatever the outcome, we respect the Democratic Process. Half of us may be “pro” a military strike and half of us may be “anti” but in the final analysis, we respect each others views, accept them and move on. From now on, we can go to a politically primitive state such as Syria with our heads held high…NOT because we decided against adding to their pile of dead.. but because we have finally shown the world (in a very public way) that we Brits practice what we preach. It isn’t the romanticised French version of “Liberté” or the still largely theoretical American notion of “Freedom”: It is in the astonishingly mature demonstration that it is possible to disagree – but with acceptance and mutual understanding. That’s the real lesson for the bad guys.
Egypt: another Iraq or Libya?
After the mess left behind in Iraq and Libya, Western leaders appear to have realised that the days of a “good shooting war” being good for political image have gone forever. Heroic speechwriter-polished phrases and Churchillian posturing are a remnant of a past when the words ” honour” and “bravery” still had currency.
Today, war is recognised as a filthy misery-spawning industry which, like an appalling Grand Prix Circuit, moves from country to country, leaving no more than a legacy of rubble and death. There is no honour in war – there is only pointlessness.
The most bizarre aspect of the whole circus is that the leader of a small cluster of damp islands in the North Sea is always the one who makes the most noise, always hiding behind his younger but much bigger American cousin’s skirts. Collectively, the West feels that its job is to dispense the universally therapeutic remedy of “democracy” – even to those who don’t really want it.
Democracy is not an emollient to be force-fed in the same way that 18th and 19th century missionaries (from exactly the same damp islands) delivered Christianity to the world’s natives.
The Arabs are not even remotely interested in our special brand of democracy. Democracy is their excuse because they know that as soon as they shout “Freedom!” or “Democracy!“, the usual suspects will come riding in, dispensing guns with notions of rescue, egalitarianism and ballot boxes.
Can you imagine revolutions in the Middle East if the family businesses masquerading as governments distributed their oil billions as they should? Would the average Arab be interested in getting shot in the name of “regime change” or “democracy” – if he had a job, enough food, decent housing, a car, TV set, free hospital care for his family and a bit left over? Of course not.
There is no such thing as absolute freedom or unbridled freedom of speech – and that is NOT the product which interests the Egyptian population.
With 77% youth unemployment, their revolution is based in economics not idealism and whatever the West’s response, it will be based on exactly the same criteria.
Cyprus: A blessing in disguise?
The United States, the Eurozone and even our own administration here in the United Kingdom have shown us that we are fast approaching the time for a major rethink of the Democratic Model.
The Global Economy is becoming permanently unstable and far too technical to be in the hands of gifted amateurs. Or, in the case of the United Kingdom: the “Gentleman Politician”.
By all means, allow the Elected Ones to fanny about with the politics but sharp-end economics should now be in the hands of professionals who do not constantly keep one eye on the opinion polls and the other on their next election.
There have already been attempts to install Technocrats, e.g. Italy and Greece – but these were no more than economists dressed as politicians, who were then expected to play politics. Inevitably, they crashed and burned.
Cyprus is the latest to demonstrate that politics (of any flavour) coupled with an absolute inability to Manage at Macro level is slowly killing economies.
Some may repeat the “But it’s those bankers” mantra…. and to a certain extent they are correct. However, the Root Cause is the politicians’ inability and unwillingness to manage the banks, themselves and the economy.
Cyprus should not only be a very loud wake-up call but also a watershed moment for Western politics.
The Nature of Modern Democracy
The concept of political power crystalised as a left/right divide is in its death throws. UK Political Parties constantly confirm this by this by the politicians’ constant playground squabbles over the political “centre- ground”. Beppe Grillo’s recent success in the Italian elections also suggests that perhaps electors are looking for something concerned more with themselves rather than belonging to one of the “ancient” political herds.
In the UK, the search for a distinction between the two main parties, has returned us to the Class War which we all thought had burned itself out in Margaret Thatcher’s and John Major’s day. It certainly wasn’t apparent during Tony Blair’s tenure at No 10 Downing Street.
In the current “model”, it is usual for two major political herds to constantly battle whilst the smaller factions watch with puny impotence.
So where do the “little ones” glean their support? In the UK, smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats can do no more than feed off the scraps of those at either end of the rapidly- shrinking political spectrum.
The Left- Right nonsense continues to have ‘legs’ primarily as a result of the efforts of the media ‘opinion-formers’ . Their prejudices and fixed views ensure that the Class War continues to simmer.
Instead of a contrast between the Working Classes and the Upper Classes, the modern argument is between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ – which nowadays is a subtly different distinction. Nowadays you cannot really spot a ‘have not’ because they may be wearing the uniform and displaying the behaviour of a ‘have’.
We need to find a new set of values……and quickly!
Let’s forget flat-caps, whippets, bowler hats and black rolled umbrellas but at the same time, let’s accept that there are several components which we would ALL like to be included in our new thinking.
Our current political ‘values’ have their roots in past tradition.
We need political values to be in accordance with the one thing which tends to be the MAJOR STUMBLING BLOCK in any political system.
HUMAN NATURE ……married to our basic instinct – not of ‘Community’ but of selfishness. We do it for OURSELVES and NOT our neighbours. That’s why Communism failed.
These are three components which are non- negotiable:
1. FREEDOM 2.SOCIAL JUSTICE 3. EGALITARIANISM.
These basic components do NOT need to be overlaid by a PARTY POLITICAL system because these are ABSOLUTES.
In order to achieve the three components above we need to include an element of both Personal and National WEALTH CREATION.
We therefore also need to promote the dynamic of the BUSINESS ETHOS.
Unfortunately, the word ‘BUSINESS’ has become a bit of an emotive topic BECAUSE of the old (present) LEFT- RIGHT Political system and Feudal thinking.
Business is all about trade, vocation, craft, employment, industry, enterprise, commerce, bank transaction, negotiation, merchandising, making and most important of all – work and employment.
Unfortunately, because of the L-R divide, business has come to mean bosses, workers, management, greed, oppression and profit.
We need to generate a pretty major adjustment in perception and from that, a new ideology.
Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, Democracy etc are not concepts which have been around for ever. However, they do appear to be running out of steam.
Currently we assume that these labels are the only ones which work or have worked. Unfortunately, human experience tells us otherwise.
Imagine existing Political Parties in say 100 years time. They will still be confronting each other in that theatrical way we have come to love. Left and Right hacks will still be stoking the fires of discontent because that’s their job. The Left- wingers will continue to highlight the Politics of envy whilst the Right will continue to be disrespectful to everyone.
Here in the UK, we have a change of administration every 5 years but all that happens is that The Elected Ones merely continue the ‘blame game’ and the playground bickering.
There are visionless “little” people who ALL suffer from politically-induced Tunnel-Myopia. In the grand scheme of things, they are insignificant.
Meanwhile, whilst the puny jousts and rhetoric continue, the interests of the ordinary voter are sacrificed on the twin altars of blind political and corporate interest.
As the politicians become more and more irrelevant to the irreversible arrow of ‘progress’, democracy is being diminished daily.
Unfortunately the politicians’ self- serving vanity and an over- developed sense of belonging (to a Party) continues to cloud their already flaky judgement.
New thinking is needed. It needs a new METHODOLOGY – one based on expertise plus knowledge and NOT in the combative ‘here today- gone tomorrow’ nonsense of partisan politics.
Rhetoric must give way to implementation of scientifically and rationally-derived policies which are untainted by political dogma.
It is most definitely NOT about economics. Economics, as the main divider of political thinking does not, for instance, have anything to say about human nature or morality or human values – which are the factors which destroy every Economic Theory.
The mathematical formulae and conjectures of the economists are no longer enough.
We do need Capitalism. We need a form of Welfare Capitalism but we need it with a healthy dose of Sociology and Anthropology but with its roots embedded firmly in pragmatism rather than the economics-derived abstract thought and conjecture.
The New Thinking needs to start now- especially since five years ago, when capitalism was effectively destroyed by the Rentier Capitalism Kleptocracy of the United States – which is now becoming increasingly apparent in Europe. Spain is the last economy to fall to Rentier Capitalism.
What we considered to be a benign form of Capitalism has been infected by its malign cousin and currently no-one has a cure. The cause remains while politicians and bankers continue to attempt to cure some of the symptoms with what appears to be the wrong medicine in ever-increasing volumes. For example, the latest craze of Quantitative Earning.
Quack economic cures will soon have to give way to nothing less than major surgery, followed by a totally uncompromising cure.
An example of the “compromises” which highlight the schizophrenia of the current Party-based political and economic system is clearly demonstrated by the double-think of Thatcherism.
The Thatcher years are remembered for two apparently opposing concepts: The dismantling of many State controls running alongside increased State control.
Nationalised organisations were privatised, thus removing them from State control. State aid was removed from dying industries. Prices and incomes as well as Financial Services Regulation were no longer State controlled and many State organisations were encouraged (forced) to ‘contract out’ many of their functions to the Private Sector, (NHS, Education etc).
At the same time State control was tightened in other areas. Education and Local Government became more centrally controlled, as did the Police. State power was used to control the Unions and State power was used to prevent price- fixing in private industry and commerce.
This sort of Political Schizophrenia continues to this day and clearly demonstrates a lack of ideological coherence.
In fact, it also highlights the traditional view of the two main parties. The intellectual social dogmatism of Labour versus the Conservative avoidance of any real systematic political theory.
Hence the Conservatives’ preference of viewing themselves as the ‘party of common sense’- a phrase one often hears from its leadership.
‘Freedom’ is another often-quoted concept. But is it a REAL concept or maybe just empty rhetoric?
America is (some may argue) the MOST Capitalistic country in the world. It has awarded itself the sobriquet ‘The land of the free’. In fact, there is little understanding of the word.
People do NOT feel ‘free’ because they are told that they are free.
Therefore any new political theory need to examine questions of Social Ethics as well as peoples’ psychological needs.
TRUE democracy HAS to be DIRECT. Modern democracy has dissipated the individuals voice in favour of its citizens handing their voice to someone they may or may NOT have elected.
The Eurozone Crisis has clearly demonstrated that you can have too much Democracy – especially if it generates intransigence because Left and Right views plus upcoming Elections cloud economic judgment.
The changes we need are NOT economic – they need to be a root and branch rethink of the Nature of Democracy and what really underpins it.
Libya: Freedom or Democracy?
Democracy is comparatively easy. Democracy, self-determination, having a say in the decisions which affect your life or whatever else you want to call it – can all be arranged comparatively easily. But there’s the much grander concept of freedom – for citizens of both sexes.
Freedom is NOT a “Pick and Mix”. You either embrace it or leave it alone.
Democratic, educational, secular, political, economic, entrepreneurial, medical, scientific, technological, environmental, artistic, philosophical are just SOME freedoms.
So, apart from being ruled by a self-obsessed maniac, what was wrong with Libya?
Libya used to have a higher GDP than Russia plus free education and healthcare. The oil was about to be nationalised so that the Libyan people rather than the West would profit. Their national central bank operated in such a way so that it could NOT be exploited by the West. As far as the West was concerned, those were all very worrying developments which needed to be controlled.
Yes, Gaddafi was a thug whose main purpose was to amass riches for his own family and yes, there is poverty in Libya. There are hungry dispossessed people who feel that they were being unfairly treated by their rich, privileged rulers. But those people exist all over the world. They still exist in Libya and will continue to exist long after Gaddafi becomes a mere memory.
Poverty, deprivation? Sometimes it would be a good idea for the USA, United Kingdom, France , Germany etc to have the mirror held up to themselves. Just before they lecture others on inequality and deprivation.
Some say that it was the CIA which started the Benghazi unrest as a result of Gaddafi’s proposed economic “adjustments”. Whoever was responsible is now an irrelevance. Suffice it to say that suddenly, Gaddafi went from being rewarded by the West for Libya’s “excellent human rights record” and being practically ravished by Tony Blair, to a despot who “slaughtered his own people”.
(That particular phrase was thrown at us so often that it became fact).
The West’s selective memory, illusion-mongering and propaganda are standard components used to excuse what has just been happening in Libya. It was always meant to be a war-by-proxy.
Gaddafi had to be deposed and no-one from the West needed to get their hands too dirty! (William Hague: “It’s up to the Libyan people”. Yeah. Right! What he meant was “We can get those Libyans in their Toyota pick-ups to do all the dirty work on our behalf”).
Gaddafi was right in one very important aspect of the whole sordid affair. It was all orchestrated for the sake of self-interested domination by others – both inside and outside of Libya.
(Make no mistake – it was right that Gaddafi should “retire” but the handling of the whole affair did not exactly cover the West in glory).
So here we are : 22nd August 2011 – The Libyan people are (hopefully) about to taste democratic freedom – just like ours. They will become proper free taxpayers and voters – just like us.
Eventually, they’ll become voters and taxpayers who pay to carry their economy to the point of mind-numbing distress – but that’s OUR kind of freedom.
When I say OUR kind of freedom, I am of course not referring to those really “free” people who have knowledge of subsidies, tax deferrals, loopholes and non-registered tax havens.
They already have those – just like us!
Usually, that sort of freedom takes a while to develop.
Proper freedom and democracy won’t come to our Libyan friends until their oil runs out.
So much to look forward to!
The Petulant One
“I condemn you, Gaddafi!!”
William Hague briefly came out from behind America’s voluminous skirts a couple of days ago to announce that the Libyan embassy was to be cleared of pro Gaddafi officials and that they would be replaced by rebels.
Has there ever been a more puerile sign of frustration from a grown-up politician?
The thwarted Western powers, represented by NATO have made little progress since the initial Benghazi protests and riots six months ago. The protesters shouted “democracy” and as usual, the politicians came running. Most neutral observers have learned that any Middle Eastern protest is absolutely nothing to do with democracy, free speech or any of the other Western indulgences that we have become used to.
It has always been about power and economics. The poor, the impressionable young and the students riot, whilst the intelligentsia and the military plot behind their king’s back. They are the ones who enjoy the spoils of war. Life doesn’t really change for the poor and the young. Life rarely changes for the poor.
Decisions made by politicians in respect of Libya seem to have been made with one eye on the oil with the other on the opinion polls. In spite of the rhetoric, this has never really been about “The Libyan People”
President Sarkozy of France had hoped to make a victorious announcement on Bastille Day because all that he’s thinking about at the moment is re-election. Hopefully he will soon accept that it is not going to happen for him and that although he somehow made it to the top of the greasy French political pole, his grip has never been that strong and he has been sliding back down ever since. His involvement in the Libya bombing should help him along on his journey south.
William Hague on the other hand has been handed the Foreign Office as a bit of a consolation prize, following the disaster of his leadership and the years spent in comparative obscurity . Rather worryingly though, he remains one of the more talented members of the Cabinet. From the beginning he has looked not only out of sorts but out of his depth when dealing with a soldier-politician as slippery as Col Gaddafi.
Obama has much bigger things on his plate at the moment and his own re-election chances may also have been dealt a fatal blow by Libya – although his advisers seem to have foreseen Gaddafi’s intransigence. A small blessing for Obama is that America went into reverse gear on Libya a few months ago. He had little choice in the matter.
We’ve had sanctions, we’ve had “no fly” zones, we’ve had bombing and we have had strong words. Libya’s assets were frozen, the Gaddafi family’s assets were stolen but still, the mad Col continues to elude all attempts to oust him. Surprisingly, to some, it was predictable from the very beginning. Unlike Mubarak, Gaddafi sees himself as Emperor of Libya – the first of a dynasty. Imperator Muammar l.
One wonders what ever happened to the “that’s up to the Libyan people” mantra? It seems that everything is up to the Libyan people apart from who rules over them. That appears to be in the gift of the West. Even if two-thirds of the 6.4 million population of Libya have abandoned Gaddafi, that still leaves him far more support than Obama, Sarkozy or Cameron enjoy back home.
The propaganda machine has convinced us that Gaddafi is a BAD person. However, it is not Gaddafi who is dropping high-explosive on someone that he does not approve of.
Why is it that whenever we see any sort of conflict, we feel that we (United Kingdom) have to elbow our way nearly to the front of the queue, stand behind the the muscled bully-boy friend that is the United States of America and jump out occasionally to yap like a toothless, castrated old Jack Russell.
This so-called “Arabs Spring” is a headline writer’s nonsense. It is no Solidarność and it is no knocking down of the Berlin Wall. It started with a bunch of vandals and students waving placards believing that the mere act of defiance would be enough to remove Gaddafi. They chanted the “D” word. D E M O C R A C Y!
What they would prefer is a box of food and a TV set.
Yes, they fooled us into thinking and believing that what they want is democracy. In fact all they want is a fair share of the oil spoils, more money in their pockets and a State which cares about them.
There is little doubt that Gaddafi has gone way past his sell-by date and that he’s no longer even fit to run a British Nursing Home. Unfortunately, it usually takes a country a few years to realise that things are better than they were but not as good as they could be.
Gaddafi used to be a hero as he had liberated “his” people from the oppression and the years of Stone Age “nothing” under King Idris. As has been shown in many other states from France to Iran, deposing one set of royals invariably results in a temporary euphoria, followed by the installation another set of unelected “royals”.
Gaddafi ( just like a French President) has developed into their new King, his children are his heirs and his primary method of ensuring the faithfulness of those who matter, is through the medium of the bestowal of money and favours. Nothing unusual in that! That what kings do!
Six months ago, the West’s initial reaction to the Libyan friction was the usual formulaic stuff. It had recently been practiced on Mubarak. Our governments “condemned” Gaddafi’s actions. One day the United Kingdom and others will realise that words such as “we condemn” or “we call upon……” no longer frighten “the natives”.
We fell into a trap similar to the one that Saddam inadvertently sprung (on himself) when he appeared to exaggerate his own military prowess.
Gaddafi, on the other hand, threatened to “kill his own people”.
That is the “Way of the Dictator”!
Dictators always seems to end up behaving just like the has-been heavyweight boxer who craves recognition and needs to reassert his rapidly diminishing masculinity and popularity. It’s “Dictator Trash Talk”. It’s plastic defiance and paper posturing. It’s NOT real!
And we fall for it every time.