Monday, February 14, 2011

 

FALSE PROPHETS AND THE DECLINE OF DEMOCRACY

The Egyptian effect is reverberating across the Mideast and into the "Maghreb" along the north Mediterranean coast of Africa. Essentially one revolution ended over the past weekend; and another may soon begin in Egypt as elsewhere: Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, the Emirates, Iran...the circulating list seems just about endless.

With the case of Egypt: In our western world it's uncharted territory and a moment that may prove as decisive to the Middle-East as the Suez conflict in the mid-fifties; the 1967 Arab-Israeli war; or the war between Israel and Egypt in 1979. Little wonder then that the President of the United-States has dispatched the American Joint-Chief Chairman, America's senior military advisor Admiral Michael Mullen, to reassure crucial allies, Jordan and Israel. Mullen is scheduled to meet this week with Israeli President Simon Perez, and later with Jordan's new Prime-Minister Marouf Bakhit. Mr. Bakhit himself is being forced to implement political reforms demanded by protesters who forced King Abdullah to shuffle his ruling cabinet.

In addition to the democratic movement which seems to be sweeping the Middle-East, Admiral Mullen's mission is said to be prompted by a blistering private phone call from the Saudi King last week to President Obama accusing the American administration (in no uncertain terms) of literally abandoning its ally of 30 years, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak's ouster; like America's attitude towards the fall of the Shah of Iran (Reza Pahlavi) on February 11, 1979; is a bitter painful reminder in the "holy land" of the unforgotten and far reaching political, economic and social impacts of the "Great Crusades" of the middle-ages. Impacts which have lasted into contemporary times. As with Germany in the two World Wars, and Japan after 1945; It may be the clear nature of "our" western culture to decide; act; move-on; forget about it and forge new relationships. This is not always (perhaps never) the case in the deeply rooted historic relationships within the Middle-Eastern culture.

Of course there is some delicious irony in our North American rejoicing and hoopla on the triumph of democracy over the autocratic rule of the Egyptian President and whichever ones may follow over the coming weeks. As the thousands celebrate in Cairo one can't help but wonder about the state of our own North American democracies which pundits and critics (far better qualified than I) are wondering out loud are in real and serious danger of becoming democracies in name only.

In my home and native land; Canada's ruling Conservative government is accused of giving tax cuts to fat cat corporations and wasting billions on toys for the military and prisons that turn scared kids into hardened criminals. All the while keeping Parliament and the rest of Canadians in the dark about their true plans. South of the 49th parallel, millions of U.S. citizens struggle with unemployment and the declining North American standards of living, while the true levers of power have been but all completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. North Americans (we) may be celebrating the triumphs of democracy in Egypt and the Middle-East; but back here: The wealthy and well connected call the tune - And; the politicians dance.

The four great crusades of the "Middle Ages" from 1095 to 1204 may be ancient history. In the past century, as I was reminded a few days ago - From the Great War at Vimy Ridge, through the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 and frequently in between during some of the planet's darkest moments and perhaps a few times thereafter, Canada developed and nurtured a stellar respected engagement for the promotion of peace, and our willingness to engage constructively (including in the Mideast) with peoples who aspire to keep the planet a place without conflict.

Alas! Now relegated to watch from the very back row as the history of the modern world unfolds: My (our) country has been abandoned to play a marginal role without any say, or any more imminent prospects of influencing the events which shape the destiny of human kind.

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Comments:
Consider the following:
Paul A. Rahe is a professor of history at Hillsdale College and the author, most recently, of Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty and Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift.

How to Think About the Tea Party (and the Canadian Reform Party)

In point of fact, however, this sort of upheaval is nothing new. Such forces have risen periodically throughout the history of the United States and have their antecedents in 17th- and 18th-century England.
In his 1748 Spirit of Laws, the great political philosopher Montesquieu attributed the recurring turmoil that had long beset England to the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature.
To their dismay and that of their ministers, what soon came to be called “the Country” rose up in high dudgeon time and time again to denounce on the floor of the House of Commons what was perceived as favouritism, corruption, arbitrary rule, conspiracy, and papist predilections on the part of a Court thought to be intent on encroaching on the rights of ordinary Englishmen and the prerogatives possessed by Parliament. These tensions produced the English civil war of the 1640s, the execution of Charles I in 1648, the rule of the Rump Parliament and the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell in the 1640s and 1650s, followed by the Restoration of the monarchy in 1658, which was in turn followed 30 years later by the Glorious Revolution.



In 1776, when George Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, he included a provision reflecting what the revolutionaries had learned from the long period of struggle between Court and Country in England and in America: “that no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”
In Europe, Jefferson explained, “under the pretence of government, they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep.”
”From the outset, Jefferson feared that in this country the government would eventually find its way to what his friend James Madison would later call a “self directed course.” It was with this unwelcome prospect in mind that he asked, “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve their spirit of resistance?”
 
Thanks for the thought(s). A cogent discourse favouring the real concepts of democracy.
 

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