Democracy: Give it a Chance

A number of people, including a friend of mine, are of the opinion that we can’t allow the government in Yemen to collapse in case Muslim extremists take over. They had the same views on Egypt, and likely hold the same views on a great many other countries where strongmen rule, the people suffer and terrorists are held at bay. These people justify allowing brutal governments to remain in charge under the logic that, hey, at least they aren’t fostering terrorism against us!

These people are what you might call “wrong”.

See, here’s my thinking on this. I think we need to support democracy all over the world, even, perhaps especially, in countries we are friends with. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, all of these are countries where the people don’t enjoy even basic freedoms and live in fear of their governments. It’s not right to claim that they need to be held down so that we can have the illusion of safety.

We need to support their desire for freedom. Yes, they might turn around and put extremists in office (ie: Iran). It’s possible. Then they’d have a government that hates us, but the people might at least be friendly toward us (ie: Iran). I fail to see how keeping them oppressed makes them less likely to harbor terrorists and want to destroy us.

So let’s speak out and fight for them. Let’s also stand up and make real noise against other countries where the people are oppressed. Places like the Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, the “Democratic” “Republic” of the Congo, and places like that. We need to stand up for these people’s rights, because often they can’t stand up on their own, and if we’re friends with governments that, at the very least, don’t allow people freedom of expression, then we really need to rethink our policies.


The Great Liberator

Napolini and Hynkel

Back in 1940 a dark cloud had come over Europe. The Nazis had taken Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria. Italy was up to its great, almost forgotten, evil. Almost every country in Europe was at war with someone. And all of it had been started by a rather strange fellow with stupid hair and a stupid mustache. A man who bore an uncanny resemblance to a certain popular comedy actor…

Charlie Chaplin was aware of this resemblance and was presumably very appalled. He, a very gentle, peaceful man, had created a character that looked quite a bit Hitlerian. What to do, he must have thought as he heard the dispatches of the terrors going on in Europe. What to do? In the end of course, he dealt with it as only he could. Through comedy.

The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s masterwork. It was incredibly daring at a time when few people were willing to stare the Nazi treatment of Jews full in the face, and few were willing to understand just how wide Hitler’s ambitions were and the lengths to which he would go to see them fulfilled. Well, Chaplin had a fair idea and utterly destroyed Hitler in film form.

The movie’s end is, by some views, dragged down somewhat by a speech made by Chaplin, out of character, that takes up roughly the last five minutes of the film. It’s a bit of a maudlin speech, but it made some points that were very relevant to audiences in 1940. I won’t show you that speech here, but what I will show you is the way someone used it to make it just as relevant today. Check it out, and if you haven’t seen the film do so (except, you, Rob. You’ll be seeing it soon enough. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!).

Events in Libya

I’ll return to talking about Gallifrey later today, but I cannot let events in Libya go unnoticed.

Basically, the regime there is doomed, they know it and they aren’t going quietly. The other day Qadaffi’s son was on state media threatening every one, and now reports are coming from Al Jazeera that military pilots have defected to nearby Malta rather than follow orders to attack civilian protesters. Jesus, what a mess.

I take some solace in the fact that this is, perhaps, the last set of acts of a desperate man. It didn’t need to be this way. The uprising in Tunisia was largely peaceful, and even in Egypt it wasn’t this horrible. I hope beyond hope that this simply angers the people of that region further and that the protests, now happening in places like Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Iran and Jordan, continue until all the people there enjoy democracy.

And to oppressed peoples around the world, please remember: your countries belong to you, not to the evil people who claim to rule in your name. If they won’t give you the rights you’re entitled to, go take them.

Right Now, Egypt. Next Up, Yemen!

We’ve all seen what happened when Tunisians took the streets and took their country back from the authoritarian regime that was controlling it. Now the same appears to be close to happening in Egypt where CNN is running non-stop coverage of events unfolding there. With any luck, by the end of the week Hosni Mubarak will be gone and a democratic government will be taking control. Also over the last couple days there’s been protests in Yemen. This is wonderful news, since that’s a state that harbors a lot of terrorists and its reform would be a great blessing to the world.

Now there’s been people here in the USA complaining that we shouldn’t be supporting these movements in case the new democratic governments wind up putting Islamic extremists in charge. Well, bollocks to that. First, it’s not likely that will happen. Second, if it does, well, democracy isn’t always pretty and doesn’t always give us what we want. We have to accept that as a possibility. It’s more important that the people of these nations (and Algeria, Libya, Syria, etc), get the same sorts of rights we enjoy than it is that they exercise those rights in a way that will make us happy.

Good luck to those in Egypt and Yemen! May you guys get the governments you deserve instead of the ones you have.

!عمل جيد ، ودبي

Boy, that thing just keeps going, doesn't it?

Good work to the city of Dubai! They’ve successfully built and opened the tallest building in the world, the Burj Dubai Khalifa! At over half a mile in height, it’s damned impressive.

It’s also a good sign of something positive in the Middle East which is the continuing development of Dubai and surrounding areas. It’s nice to see Dubai and others looking towards the future, rather than just wallowing in the glories of the past.

It’s especially nice in Dubai which is becoming a relatively secular country despite the Muslim majority. It could serve as a model for the rest of the region, to show that you can be Muslim and yet have a government that isn’t obsessed with religion.

Anyhow, it’s a hell of an accomplishment and really makes me wish Phoenix has some sort of world-famous architecture. *sigh* Maybe some day.

Change They Can Believe In?

There’s a lot of shit going down in Iran right now. Even as I write this, things are changing rapidly, so by the time this actually gets posted, there could be quite a bit that’s different.

Here’s what we know from Gary Sick:

Near closing time of the polls, mobile text messaging was turned off nationwide

Security forces poured out into the streets in large numbers

The Ministry of Interior (election headquarters) was surrounded by concrete barriers and armed men

National television began broadcasting pre-recorded messages calling for everyone to unite behind the winner

The Mousavi campaign was informed officially that they had won the election, which perhaps served to temporarily lull them into complacency

But then the Ministry of Interior announced a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad

Unlike previous elections, there was no breakdown of the vote by province, which would have provided a way of judging its credibility

The voting patterns announced by the government were identical in all parts of the country, an impossibility (also see the comments of Juan Cole at the title link)

Less than 24 hours later, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene`i publicly announced his congratulations to the winner, apparently confirming that the process was complete and irrevocable, contrary to constitutional requirements

Shortly thereafter, all mobile phones, Facebook, and other social networks were blocked, as well as major foreign news sources.

The last part of that list may be the most important. Like Obama, the Iranian opposition has done a good job of organizing the youth vote through the social networking sites. The revolution may not be televised, but is apparently being twittered.

This could bring about real change for Iran and the world. There’s a new generation out there saying they’re as mad as hell, and they aren’t going to take this anymore.

Andrew Sullivan says it reminds him a lot of what happened in Russia back in 1991. I entirely agree.

The Current Mess in Israel

So I see that, once again, people who claim their religions are about peace and brotherhood are busy murdering one another in what’s supposed to be the holiest part of the world. Yes, it’s time to talk about the war between Israel and Hamas, which is apparently about to become a ground war.

Andrew Sullivan wrote a very good commentary on the issue which I think sums up my personal views on this. Yes, Israel has the moral high ground here, but on the other hand, they’re killing far more civilians than Hamas ever could. This is doing nothing more than continuing to fuel the fires of religious hatred and breed a new generation of future terrorists.

Problem is that there is not a solution here that either side would find acceptable. Israel needs to give the Palestinians their own homeland and bugger their government back up to Tel Aviv where it belongs (that’s the official, UN-endorsed capital, not Jerusalem). For their part, the Palestinians need to stop supporting groups like Hamas and understand that, like it or not, Israel is here to stay.

Of course ultimately if both sides just rejected their religions they could live at peace. If you don’t have rabbis on one side and imams on the other telling both that it’s kosher/halal to go around murdering people who don’t believe in your god the same way you do, nothing will change. I absolutely guarantee you this problem would not be happening of both sides were secular.