a maze of words leading to …?

Posts tagged ‘Democracy’

America First


america-first-2  america-first

America First … hear a distant echo: “Deutschland über alles” …

If you want to gradually turn the USA into a neo-fascist state, assuming that you already hold immense executive power (the Presidency), then first you must undermine the essential pillars of democracy. These include a free press and media, an independent judiciary and public confidence in democracy itself.

Confidence in democracy itself (the fair counting of votes):

When it comes to voting rights, Democrats push voter protection while Republicans shout voter fraud in a crowded polling place. Democrats think anyone who can vote should vote; Republicans think everyone who should vote can vote. ~ Christine Pelosi

Trump and his advisors continue, even after winning the election and despite still not providing any evidence of vote rigging, to try and undermine public confidence in the voting system.

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Islamist dictatorship in Turkey


Turkey Flag

Following the recent ‘coup attempt’, President Erdogan, who won the presidential election by virtue of his governing party taking state control of much of the Turkish media, is now moving to undermine the other essential pillars of democracy, most notably an independent judiciary.

More than 60,000 people have been detained, dismissed or suspended from their jobs. These include nearly 3,000 judges (many of whom will no doubt be replaced by Erdogan supporters), with 140 arrest warrants issued against members of Turkey’s Supreme Court and the vice-president of the Constitutional Court. And a formal ‘state of emergency’ has been declared, which allows the president and cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms. Already it’s been decreed that people can be detained without trial for up to 30 days.

Meanwhile, Erdogan’s Islamist supporters have been out on the streets chanting “God is Great” … the ill-omened cry we’ve heard so often over the years from a range of Islamic fundamentalists in a variety of countries.

No doubt these supporters were encouraged some years earlier, when, prior to his becoming President (and three years before he became Prime Minister) Erdogan publicly read a nationalist poem including the lines:

“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”

The ‘coup-attempt’ was highly (and suspiciously) convenient for Erdogan, giving him the excuse he’s been waiting for to further undermine and weaken his political opponents. The resultant purge has so far affected the police, schools, the judiciary, the armed forces and the provinces. Using lists that were clearly pre-prepared (the purge began instantaneously, well before any investigation could have possibly identified such extensive numbers of people), nearly 3,000 judges have been suspended, whilst 6,000 members of the military (including more than 100 generals and admirals) were arrested and more than 3,000 dismissed. Around 8,000 police officers have been sacked, along with nearly 9,000 interior ministry staff and some provincial governors.

Parts of the media – those that were not already under state control – are also being targeted. So far, 142 media outlets have been shut down, including 16 TV channels, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, 29 publishers, 15 magazines and 3 news agencies. Detention warrants Larbeen issued for 89 journalists and reporters.

The ‘purge’ goes further still. More than 1,200 associations have been shut down, along with 19 trade unions and 35 medical institutes. Even more ominously, the government has closed 19 universities and more than 1,000 schools. It has also suspended over 15,000 education staff, with more than 1,500 university deans ordered to resign and the licences revoked of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions.

All in all we may justifiably surmise that what is essentially happening is the arrest, dismissal or suspension of those known to be (or suspected of being) politically opposed to Erdogan. No doubt there are more detentions and dismissals to come. Suddenly, in today’s Turkey, political opposition to the government is edging towards being branded a crime.

It’s obvious that Erdogan is a man who doesn’t believe in ruling on behalf of all the Turkish people, but only on behalf of those who (supposedly) elected him as President. In this he makes the most fundamental mistake of all concerning democracy, believing it instead to be a battle for the right to supress those who ‘lost’ the election.

Meanwhile he sits in his new presidential palace – bigger than the White House or the Kremlin and costing many hundreds of millions of pounds – and contemplates bringing back the death penalty.

Looking at the wider picture, Turkey can no longer be considered anything even close to being a reliable member of NATO – and indeed is now in serious breach of one of NATO’s stated fundamental objectives, namely to promote democratic values. And the prospect of Turkey being allowed to join the European Union is now further away than ever – decades away at least.

The sad truth is that it’s now unlikely that any truly democratic election will ever be permitted in Turkey whilst Erdogan and his fellow Islamists remain in power: state control of the media and other agencies vital for democracy will see to that.

So unfortunately, and unless the liberal and secular peoples of Turkey can somehow oust Erdogan from power, Turkey will continue its rapid slide towards an Islamic dictatorship.

Do Republicans threaten US democracy?


Gun

There’s no doubt that the Republican party is becoming more and more extreme in its views. Is it perhaps even getting dangerously close to threatening US democracy itself?

It’s not just that the majority of Republicans in Congress have, during the entire Obama administration, focused almost exclusively on trying to damage and block the President rather than seeking what’s in the best interests of governing the country. Much worse, some leading Republicans are now seeking to place their version of ‘Christian beliefs’ in opposition to democracy itself.

A few examples:

  • Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee describes the laws legalising gay marriage as “judicial tyranny”, vows to “fight to defend religious liberty at all costs” and says “I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.”

He has also endorsed comments from the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, namely that “… the Supreme Court is not the final authority … the Bible is God’s final authority … and on this book we stand.”

  • Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum: “This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies [Satan] has his sights on ….. the United States of America.”
  • A statement on the official Republican Party 2012 platform said “The Founders of the American Republic universally agree that democracy presupposes a moral people (my emphasis) …”

The same official website highlighted George Washington’s notion that “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” It went on to proclaim that “… our rights come from God.”

When you put such inflammatory statements together with the Republicans’ huge emphasis on ‘gun rights’ –  especially gun rights in relation to their supposed role in preventing any government tyranny – then you have a potentially explosive mixture.

In this mixture you have gun-toting “Christians” being egged on to regard their version of morality as above the law, above democracy and – since “rights come from God” – above constitutional rights as decided by mere humans.

Whether this Republican drift towards extremism will win them the next presidential election seems doubtful. And despite losing the last two presidential contests, many Republicans still don’t seem to twig the fact that the majority of Americans just don’t support – and likely will never support – a bible-thumping, homophobic and quasi-misogynist agenda.

So if the Republican party loses yet again – and this time to not only to a woman, but a woman called Hillary Clinton – then might we see their anti-democratic rhetoric transformed into something more sinister?

Green Party – after the election


Green Party logo banner

[See also the pre-election post: The Green Party – a failing venture]

The General Election in Britain has come and gone. The Green Party retained the single seat that they already had, but made no gains. The “green surge” predicted by the party’s campaigners simply didn’t happen.

It could hardly have been much different … not with the first-past-the-post voting system, in which the winners take all and the losers, no matter how many votes they receive nationally, get little or nothing.

So yet again the party’s electioneering strategy has all been mostly in vain, just as it has been since they embarked on this path in the 1970s. The party continues to be marginalised, as do (more importantly) the green policies that it promotes.

Will the Green Party ever realise that no deep-seated political change is possible – and that its engagement with electoral politics is pointless – unless and until the voting system is changed? Will they ever transform themselves into the cutting edge of a radical campaign for true democracy and its essential ingredient, namely a genuinely proportionally representative voting system? And towards this end, will they ever look to create alliances – focused on obtaining true democracy rather than the party’s recent ‘anti-austerity’ posturing – across the much wider range of green and progressive currents?

Will they ever announce a boycott of all national elections – and seek to persuade other parties (those similarly unfairly marginalised by the current voting system) to do the same – and keep this in place until true democracy is introduced?

The answer to all these questions is ‘probably not’ – not while party activists continue to seize, post-election, on any available positive statistic. This time around they point to gains in the number of votes received nationally and gains in the number of party members …. as if either of these things amount to a hill of beans in the face of the party’s continued electoral impotence … as caused by the voting system and the travesty of democracy that it represents.

The suffragettes– the ‘votes for women’ campaign in late 19th and early 20th century Britain – brought about the last major change in the democratic system. They didn’t get this by forming a political party and contesting elections.

It’s well past time that the Green Party looked to their inspiration and took up their mantle. It’s well past time for the Green Party to drop the election game and enter the arena of radical campaign for true democracy.

The Green Party – a failing venture


Green Party logo banner

Election campaigning is currently in full swing here in the UK, with voting to elect a new Parliament (and thus government) due to take place in May. And as usual, the Green Party is busy fielding its own crop of candidates and promoting its election manifesto.

But again, as usual, it’s all mostly in vain. Because although the party might win a seat or two and receive 5% (say) of the national vote, the end result will be the continued marginalisation of the party and the policies it promotes. This is the inevitable consequence of the first-past-the-post voting system, in which the winners take all and the losers, no matter how many votes they receive, get nothing.

This voting system means that huge numbers of votes are wasted – not translated into elected representatives. Even if a party were to contest every seat and lose in each by only a tiny fraction of the vote, they would end up with no elected representatives at all …. no matter that their national share of the vote might be 30 or 40 per cent.

Clearly this is a travesty of democracy. So it’s little wonder that many voters either don’t bother to vote, or else are deeply disenchanted with electoral politics, voting merely to keep ‘the other party’ out … because they know that voting for the party they most favour will be a wasted vote.

Yet still the Green Party persists in playing this rigged game, just as it has done since the 1970s. The party activists will argue that electioneering provides them with publicity – a public platform from which to explain and promote their policies. Yet whilst this is true, what is the real point in promoting policies that the voting system will ensure can never be implemented? So the party is left hoping that one or two of the mainstream parties’ policies become slightly more green-tinged in reaction … a very marginal gain at best.

The alternative – a radical movement for true democracy:

Instead of playing a rigged game to little practical effect, the Green Party should boycott all elections and transform itself – involving alliances across the wider range of green and progressive currents  – into the cutting edge of a radical, campaigning movement for the creation of true democracy. This should centre on the demand for a truly proportionally representative (PR) voting system for elections: if a party gets 1% of the vote then it should get 1% of the elected representatives.

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Pakistan – a failing state


Pakistant Flag

My opinion, bluntly expressed: if the people of Pakistan do not soon face down and utterly reject the Islamists in their midst, then Pakistan will likely cease to exist as a viable, recognisable nation … collapsing into chaos and Islamo-fascism, a place of darkness, oppression and fear.

What is an Islamist? The answer is simple: anyone who seeks, through the use or endorsement of violence and intimidation, to end all individual freedoms by imposing on everyone else their own particular version of Islam … in total replacement of not only all other varieties of Islam, but also all aspects of secular society. In other words, an Islamist is a variety of fascist.

In an Islamist’s world-view, all other varieties of Islamic practice and belief – Sufism for example – are to be swept away and their adherents branded as ‘heretics’ who can be murdered with impunity. In an Islamist world-view, all secular law is to be swept away and replaced by an extremist interpretation of Sharia law and the like. And in an Islamist world-view all democracy is to be swept away as ‘un-Islamic’ and effectively replaced by decrees from unelected clerics.

Thus the playing of chess may be banned. Music and dancing may be forbidden. Listening to the radio or watching TV may be banished. Access to the internet may be denied and all video games banned. Beards for men may become mandatory (of a prescribed length no less), playing cricket may be banned, as may watching football.

How so? Because all of these things (and many more) have already variously happened in areas where Islamists hold sway.

There is in truth no end to the mad list of activities that may become forbidden – no end to the list of prescribed behaviours that may become enforced – once a society lets hold sway extremist and peculiar interpretations of what is and is not ‘Islamic’ … and allows Islamism to sweep all else away.

And with this sweeping away, all the pillars of freedom and democracy disappear: a free press and independent media, law-making bodies that are democratically accountable, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech and expression. In their stead come gangs of Islamist, gun-toting men, roaming the streets, drunk on the power they wield, each striving to prove through fanatical behaviour that they are more ‘pure’ and Islamist than the rest.

And in an Islamist world-view, in this 21st century, the rights of half the population, the female half, are to be swept away and replaced by extremist interpretations of attitudes rooted in the medieval era of history … interpretations that amount to little more than slavery enforced through violence.

In Pakistan today, the mere accusation of ‘blasphemy’ is often enough to cause the murder of the accused individual. Many varieties of shrine and religious house – Sufi, Hindu, Christian and more – have been attacked and their worshippers killed. And recently, 132 school-children were deliberately murdered because they had parents in the military who may have fought against Islamists. Indeed, over the last eight years nearly 24,000 civilians and security personnel have been killed in Pakistan by terrorists.

Yet despite all this, or perhaps even because of all this, some ‘religious clerics’ in Pakistan can call – with apparent impunity from any laws against the incitement of violence and terrorism – for the remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo (Paris) to be hanged.

I think that time grows short for the people and politicians of Pakistan. The choice is clear: stand together against the gun-men, zealots and extremists, stand up and be counted for freedom, tolerance (live and let live), plurality and human dignity … or else be plunged into a fascist nightmare.

Sitting on the sidelines won’t cut it. The silent Muslim majority in Pakistan must find its voice.

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