Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Note of Caution on Democratic Revolutions

CNN has gone from covering Egypt to Bahrain to Libya now. I honestly do not know whether the outcome of these revolutions will result in long term improvements for the people of North Africa and the Middle East. Often democratic revolutions go astray and bring about worse regimes or brutal mob violence against segments of the population. So far it looks like Egypt's new government will be better than its previous one, but it is still too soon to tell. What will happen in Libya is even more difficult to predict. Currently, it looks like there will be a significant amount of bloodshed in Libya in the near future, however.

One thing that needs to be born in mind is that democracy and majority rule are not synonomous with tolerance and human rights. Indeed in many places the majority of the population has had no problems using the instrument of democratically elected governments to deny all human rights to ethnic, national, racial, or religious minorities. I have not seen this manifested by the current movements in North Africa and the Middle East. But, the democratically elected government of Iraq has not exactly had a perfect track record regarding the civil rights of the country's Sunni minority. So such sentiments are not absent from the democrats of the Arab world. 

In other places in the Middle East the situation is far worse. After all Israel is often tauted as the only democracy in the Middle East. This is not true in that the Turkish Republic has just as good a claim to being a democracy as Israel. However, Israel does demonstrate that democratic regimes often repress minorities not in spite of being democratic, but because they are democratic.  The systematic violation of the civil and human rights of the Palestinians living under Israeli rule is supported by the majority of the Israeli population. Technically I believe this is still a slight majority of the total number of people governed by the State of Israel. Of course democracies in which 51% of the population use democratically elected governments to confiscate all the property and deny fundamental rights to the other 49% are generally far worse than most dictatorships. But, the US and EU do not seem to realize this and believe that the mouthing of democratic slogans and holding of elections justifies the most brutal repression of people who are not part of the 51% or more majority.


WR said...

Good post, Otto.

boshness said...

I agree with you. It is plain to see, yet it mystifies me that most of the evangelical right in my country, USA, are blind to this simple fact. They hold the Israeli people in an exalted spiritual position, and think they can do no wrong. Yet the Israeli state is secular, and will deny citizenship to a Christian Jewish American who wants to emigrate to Israel. They like the political support, but do not want to be evangelized with Christianity.

I do not know how to answer these people, as I myself am married to a man raised in the Jewish tradition, but with whom I became a Christian. We are both very firm center Democrats, mainly on the issues of health care reform and unnecessary wars.

I am very much interested in hearing the opinion of an outside objective observer such as yourself, as I admire your lucid argumentation and intellect.

I need help..!!! as I am worn out with trying to defend Obama against the attacks of Americans all around me, old friends on Facebook and current Tea Party neighbors.

These are a couple of the charges I do not know how to answer to these people (I am a supporter of Obama, but not blind to his faults. Don't call my child ugly, as the saying goes):

1. Obama is a Muslim bent on overthrowing America. (see this site for the simple version of this charge.

2. Obama is gay & married in pretext only.

This is a quote from commenter:
"Can you explain how as an acive, pot smoking or pot peddling student at Occidental, one never hears of a single date with a woman. All the subsequent descriptions of "friendships" are with men. Affinity to men with affinity to Gay types, S&M, lesbians, etc...? One can count on more than one hand the Gay cabinet members, not to mention the score of appointees who are sex perverts (School Security "Czar") or his hunky man servant who spends more time with him than his "frau"?

"Anyone who saw the Time Magazine photos from the "student" from Occidental, that appeared only after the "elections" could see in them two clear messages: Dope dealing Fruitcake and not much of a "scholar". This is what the country has for a POTUS."

See this photo and post:

You may have read worse flame-throwing blogs than these; I certainly have, and they sicken me, but I am in the process of trying to defend myself on Facebook (my profile is public), and am unsure quite how to approach the subject.

Would you be willing to state your position on these charges? I would not dare to direct these types to your blog, I only ask for help on how to respond to them.

Manon Sheiman