Friday, August 25, 2006

Daniel McAdams on Belorus

Imagine you are in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, setting up tents and loudspeakers without a permit to occupy the park with a group of several thousand protesters, guzzling beer and vodka. How long do you think it would be before the Secret Service or other uniformed local and federal officers moved in to disburse you? Five minutes?

Yet when less than one percent of the 500,000 Belarusians who voted for the political opposition were recently disbursed from October Square, one block from the presidential residence, the United States and the European Union (where member country France had been engaged in brutally beating youth protesting for more job security) announced a new round of sanctions against the country.

Aside from this absurd double standard is the fact that democracy itself is subverted in this new, revolutionary method of changing governments – all in the name of democracy, of course. Somehow in the new world of color-coded revolutions, a public display of only one percent of those who voted for the opposition – not of all voters, mind you, but just of those who voted for the opposition – is enough for the West to conclude that they represent the true will of the people. It is a new Bolshevism of the West in which a tiny minority is said to in fact be the majority. The media plays into this deception, with its breathless but highly selective reporting of such incidents. The Western media makes no effort to gain actual facts, preferring to rely on salacious but unverified tales of beatings and mass arrests made available in copious quantities by those who stand to benefit most by their dissemination.

Before going into the reasons for Alexander Lukashenko's victory, I should add a word on the outrageous lies told by the Western press before, during, and after the presidential elections in Belarus. How do I know? I was there. I was there standing in October Square on Wednesday afternoon watching the 150 or so protesters while the BBC reported "thousands." I took pictures of the beer bottles and coffee cups that littered the square as the foreign media reported that the police were not allowing any food or drink to the protesters.
On Wednesday, the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported that "they flew flags of denim" when there was not a single denim flag on the square. There were plenty of Georgian flags, however, which is strange considering the abysmal state of the "reformed" Georgian economy, where electricity and water are about as available as in Iraq. Lukashenko entered his press conference "drunk with victory," the German paper reported. I saw no such thing, but rather a politician who is not afraid to shoot back rhetorically at attacks from the U.S. administration. Accused by President Bush of selling weapons to other countries, Lukashenko retorted, "Coming from a man who has profited so much from war and oil, it is an accusation that doesn't deserve a response."

Heavy police presence, the press reported. We saw far fewer police than you would have seen at any gathering in the U.S. or any Western capitol. In fact, before authorities finally moved yesterday to disburse the makeshift tent city from the square, there was hardly a police officer to be seen. The list goes on.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Again on democracy

What really surprised me about comments on my previous post was that pro-democracy commentators were so emotional. It was like “How dare you! Democracy brings only peace and prosperity”. Actually the idea that democracy is a hopelessly flawed model of government is not original. The fact that conflict and confrontation is embedded in Western democratic model is not mine. Actually John Locke – the ideological father of American Constitution – was the first to describe it. His system of checks and balances is a proposed method to soften the confrontational nature of democracy.

Did you sleep when you had “Anti-democracy theories” class at school? Ah, I forgot. You never study anti-democracy theories at school. In the best case you heard about some “evil” theorists who deny democracy. In the West democracy became a totalitarian dogma the same way as Marxism in the Soviet Union. The difference is that at school you study democratic vision of history and politics but in the Soviet Union I studied the same subject from the Marxist point of view. You believe that the only alternative to democracy is tyranny but I was taught that the only alternative to the Soviet-type socialism is oppressive imperialism. The difference between us: you believe in myths about democracy but I didn’t believe in myths about communism.

I still cannot understand how a rational person can believe that a purely technical model of government can be a moral ideal to struggle for? From the ethical point of view democracy is neutral but “democratization” is evil. Democracy can be a working model only under very specific conditions and the most important among them is – ultra-high level of homogeneity in ethical values, culture, religion, distribution of income. The society is ready for democracy when it is very, very average. This way the tyranny of majority is not regarded as oppressive. When there’s little homogeneity democracy provokes and encourages secessionism, segregation, discrimination of minorities and ultimately civil wars. A country needs several hundred years of applying different kinds of checks and balances, development of civil society, recognition of minorities’ rights, suffrage, etc. They are all measures to push a fundamentally flawed model into a stable condition. There is also another way to make democracy work – occupy the country and kill all “anti-democrats” but still even under such conditions homogeneity is a must. Lack of homogeneity can kill even a very stable democracy. What will become to France when Muslims make 51% of voters?

Let us make a mental experiment. Imagine that the modern day American government with the help of a time machine got access to America at the beginning of the 19th century. After shaking hands with the Founding Fathers what would be the next thing for George Bush and his Marines to do? Of course, democratizing the young US by installing a modern day American model of democracy, including equal rights for women and black slaves and freedom of speech (with pornography). Would we get a civil war at this point?

For those interested in serious anti-democracy theories and alternatives to democracy I recommend “Democracy: the God that Failed” by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Democracy and war

Western mainstream media comments extensively on Yanukovich becoming a new PM in the Ukraine. Some commentators experience cognitive shock, “How comes? Everything was so democratic but then “the enemy of democracy” becomes a new Ukrainian PM? Is it a blow on democracy or not?” Acting in the interests of the major Western powers and being democratic has become synonymous but in reality there are almost no connections.

By democracy we mean nothing but a technical model of government that is copied from Western standards and has several variations. There’s no doubt that for citizens of the Western countries this model works perfectly. So perfectly that 99% of them sincerely believe that this model should also bring peace, prosperity and happiness to every country in the world once implemented. Cause is taken for effect here, I believe.

Theoretically Western-type democracy model looks ideal but after its evident failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Ukraine an open minded person should ask a simple question, “Maybe something is wrong not with the people of these countries but with the model itself?”

It is not hard to see that at the heart of the model of democracy lies confrontation. Conflict and conflict based competition is the essence of democracy. Elections, multi-party system, checks and balances, free press, civil society – they are all about competing, warring, struggling for power, dividing people into winners and losers, fighting for minorities rights. It all works in aggressive cultures where people prefer competition over harmony, criticism over consensus, and change over stability. How comes people of democratic cultures did not annihilate each other so far? I think it’s a result of several factors.

First, the ability to keep aggression "pacified" is a result of a thousand years of never ending wars in Europe between dozens of countries varying is size. The sheer instinct of survival “civilized” European nations and by the time first concepts of democracy were tried European wars were so “civilized” that citizens of some Crapenburg Principality didn’t even know if today they belong to France or to Prussia although the quantity of wars and conflicts never really decreased. Millennium of European never ending wars also brought up a new type of man – a person who is friendly or neutral towards occupying troops, who is ready to compromise, who values above all the life of an individual but doesn’t care much about the fate of his Crapenburg Motherland. But the most important - Europeans learnt to treat conflicts and even wars more like a game that should be kept within “civilized” rules forged over centuries. Fortunately, it all ended with an invention of weapons of mass destruction.

In countries where wars were very rare and where people could enjoy at least a hundred years of peace another type culture was molded. We are talking about India, China, Japan, and Russia. In these cultures conflicts were frowned upon, harmony was more important than competition, unity more important winning, where individual interests were less important then interests of a family, group, nation or country. In such cultures conflicts were subdued, competition highly regulated, team spirit encouraged and individualists ostracized.

Now what happens when an aggressive democratic model is installed in such countries? Let’s have a look. In Saddam times Sunni and Shia lived together in peace, marriages between Sunni and Shia were common, people didn’t even know if their neighbors are Shia or Sunni. Of course, there were small groups of radicals but they were underground. Then “democracy” comes. It was all but natural that major political parties and organizations competing for votes start profiteering on the most evident topic – religious differences. Conflict that was almost invisible before is blown out of proportion. At the same time, unlike Westerners, people in Iraq are not used to treat conflicts as a “game”. They take it very seriously. A country is divided by implacable differences – you belong either to a Sunni party or to a Shia party. What’s more – the so-called system of checks and balances leaves no hopes to resolve the conflict peacefully. We get a civil war but what is the real reason of the civil war – religious differences or a model of democracy that encourages confrontation? More then that – countries that achieved some harmony are strongly criticized by democracy pundits for lack of conflicts and fights.

There are hundreds of examples when a Western type model of democracy gave rise to civil wars. American model was probably the worst although Americans try really hard to implement it all around the globe. Take Latin America, for example. In the 19th century it took only a year or two for a Latin American country to adopt American type “democracy” and a new civil war between “Democrats” and “Republicans” started.

People in your country live in peace and harmony? Then we need to finance some NGO’s that will teach you democracy. “Orange revolution” in the Ukraine is a good example. Wonder why only 15 years ago conflict between Ukrainian-speaking citizens of Ukraine and Russian-speaking Ukrainian was almost non-existent? Why differences between Northern and Southern clans in Kirgizia were so meager?

PS. “Democracy” in countries like India or Japan is very far away from the Western model. Japan managed to live fifty years with a one-party parliament, symbolic checks and balances system, incredible lack of any political dissent on TV and in newspapers. Things are not better in India.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tolstoy and Qana

Leo Tolstoy’s religious and political beliefs he adopted at the end of his life are often simply dismissed or viewed as wacky. Old man went gaga. But then when I read again and again about justification of war in Lebanon or about the viciousness of Qana bombing, I believe we need to recall who Tolstoy said about war and morality.

Morality is something that belongs to an individual alone. An individual has an immortal soul and should seek salvation. Any group or nation cannot be moral or immoral. Such terms are simply not applicable. Groups or nations are not led by moral values but individuals do. What we see today in Lebanon is sheer fight for survival. According to Tolstoy no violence could be justifiable for an individual. The pilot who dropped a bomb on Qana lost his immortal soul immediately as it killed children. Or condemned himself to burn in hell. Or chose the destiny to become a roach in his next life. I prefer the latter option for purely aesthetical reasons. To put it short – he sacrificed his soul in order to save his tribe. Exactly what all animals do. If species A endangers the existence of species B, species A is “justified” to start the war, especially when it is stronger, has bigger fangs and better support from other animals. Survival of biological species belongs to the realm of instincts not morality and values.

The pilot who dropped bombs on Qana would probably be given many shiny medals, money, respect, etc. but he is doomed. When he dies the greatest praise for him would be then his widow would tell his kids, “Don’t step on this roach. It’s possibly our dad who saved our country from enemies”.

Click here to read Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God is Within You” on Wikisource.

"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul;but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."--MATT. x. 28.