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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Union or divorce

In freedom, history, people, politics, relationship on December 2, 2013 at 20:48

Whatever the outcome, it is a sad picture when a country splits apart. On the emotional level, I am happy for Germany, reunited. I am happy that more countries join EU, even if there are some troubles and worries. I am happy for Switzerland which keeps its national unity even if its people speak different languages. It feels like a wedding or a long happy marriage. I am not so happy for Yugoslavia or Russia/Belarus/Ukraine, where most people spoke very similar languages, had similar history but they failed to stay together. Divorce is always a failure – even a civilized one (as long as we treat life long marriage as a positive thing).

When a country splits there are family, friend and business connections torn apart. Customs and visas may creep in, different laws, currencies, different holidays. There often a nasty stench of aggressive nationalism involved.

I think more personal and regional independence but more national (but not ethnically nationalist) unity is the step forward – not multiplying governments, boundaries, checkpoints, and bureaucracy.

An interesting article on Syria:

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2012 at 11:34

Sectarian Violence Undermines Syrian Regime

Posted on Jun 17, 2012

By Juan Cole

The Syrian upheaval has gone through several stages. It began with relatively peaceful protests by crowds in a handful of small and medium-size cities outside the large metropolitan areas of Damascus and Aleppo. Severe repression by the national regime led some revolutionaries to turn to guerrilla tactics. The ruling Baath government subjected the quarters held by the Free Syrian Army to heavy artillery and tank assaults. More recently, as the rebellion continued to spread in small towns, the military has provided cover to death squads that have massacred civilians in an attempt to scare them into submission. The most frightening thing about this spiral of ever greater violence and brutality is that some of the now-hardened lines have been sectarian.

The Syrian army assault on the rebellious Sunni village of al-Haffa in Latakia province, which has left it a ghost town, exemplifies this move toward religious war. Latakia is heavily Alawite, and protecting members of this religious group from Sunni dominance is one of the latent functions of the regime. The upper echelons of the ruling Baath Party and its officer corps are dominated by the Alawite sect of Shiite Islam. Only about 10 percent of Syrians are Alawite. On the order of 70 percent of Syrians belong to the rival Sunni branch of Islam. (Many Syrian Sunnis are secularists.) The car bomb that recently damaged the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zaynab in Damascus may have primarily targeted nearby Intelligence Ministry buildings, but those who detonated it may have been happy enough to hurt Shiite religious sensibilities.

The death squads, Shabiha, deployed by the regime against the towns of Houla and Mazraat al-Qubair in recent weeks are drawn from the Alawi sect. Many of the Sunnis being targeted have been organized by the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. Houla and Mazraat al-Qubair are largely Sunni hamlets surrounded by powerful Alawi towns.

The black-garbed Shabiha, or “ghost gangs,” began as criminal organizations in the Alawite-dominated port of Latakia in the 1970s after the Alawite Assad family came to power in Syria, and some of its members are drawn from the Assad and related Deeb and Makhlouf clans. Although the groups were curbed in the 1990s after they became too arrogant even for the Assads to countenance, they re-emerged in 2011 as paramilitary adjuncts to the army and security police. In Alawite areas, they have been accused of detaining Syrians with Sunni names at checkpoints and doing away with them.

The Baath Party was founded in the 1940s by two Christian intellectuals who advocated a secular Arab nationalism. In some ways, the “Resurrection,” or Baath, party was to resemble the Communist Party, but instead of championing the working class and being universal it would uplift ethnic Arabs and unite them to throw off the vestiges of Western, colonial domination. This attempt to subvert socialism with an appeal to essentially racist themes made the Baath an odd hybrid of fascism and Third-Worldism. Non-Arab minorities in Baath-ruled countries, such as the Kurds, often faced discrimination or worse.

Baathists came to power through coups in Syria and Iraq in the 1960s. Ironically, the Baath one-party state became a vehicle for well-organized minorities to take over the government. Thus, in Syria the Alawite Shiites dominated the Baath regime from 1970, whereas in Iraq control of the ruling Baath party was held by a Sunni clan from Tikrit (that of Saddam Hussein).

Syria’s Baath Party has lasted so long and attracted the loyalty of so many Syrians over the decades in part because it aided Syria’s transition from a rural, peasant country to an urban one. It carried out a land reform that redistributed land to peasants and liquidated the old big-landlord class. The Baathists built dams and irrigation works for farmers, earning the gratitude and support of many rural Sunni clans. Largely rural depot towns such as Deraa in the south near the Jordanian border were among the biggest beneficiaries of these Baath programs, and so were known as strong party backers, producing several high regime officials and officers.

Rural Syria has had a prolonged and severe drought, and the Baath government has not been good in this decade about managing water resources. Rural Sunni clans have suffered most from this water crisis.

A majority of Syrians now live in towns and cities, and their needs are different from those of their farming parents. The Baath Party’s reduction of fuel and other subsidies and encouragement of unaccountable big business have angered the urban population. (These policies, pushed by international banks and elites, are generally referred to as “Neoliberalism.”) Largely Sunni towns have seen high unemployment, especially in slums on outskirts full of former farmworkers forced to seek jobs in the cities, often unsuccessfully.

At its heart, the Syrian crisis is a conflict that pits the urban metropolises (Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia) that benefit from government largesse against the medium-size cities and rural towns that have suffered from drought and Neoliberal policies. It so happens that this divide also aligns, if unevenly, with sectarian cleavages, with the provincial cities and towns being mostly religiously conservative and Sunni, and the big-cities bastions of minority power and secular Sunni business classes dependent on the regime.

The Syrian government’s resort to Alawite death squads in recent weeks, however, has threatened the big-city alliance that has allowed the Baath to survive. The sight of Sunni women and children massacred by the Shabiha in Houla and Mazraat al-Qubair drove Sunni shopkeepers in the capital to instigate a general strike. Protests and small insurgencies are now taking place even in Damascus.

The regime of Bashar Assad squandered whatever good will it had in rural and small-town Syria by its heavy-handed repression of the protests. Among its few remaining assets was the support of Christian, Alawi and secular Sunni middle classes in the large cities, groups that fear the rise of Sunni fundamentalism, are disturbed by the decline of security for property, and benefit from Baath government licenses and contracts. The deployment of Shabiha death squads, however, has clearly pushed many of these former supporters into the opposition. It is now the regime that is threatening public security and fanning the flames of sectarian hatred. If the Syrian revolution finally succeeds, it will be because the Baath regime betrayed its commitments to secularism, socialism and public order, becoming in the eyes of the public just another sectarian mafia.

In Uncategorized on June 6, 2012 at 14:54

A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible

George Orwell

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2012 at 15:04

the good citizen, instead of trying to terrify the opposition, ought to prove his case in fair argument

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, speech by Diodotus

Rushdie’s Lit Festival No-Show: A Defeat for Free Expression in India

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2012 at 07:48

Salman Rushdie cancelled his scheduled appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival on Friday with an explanation worthy of one of his own improbable plotlines: “I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to eliminate me.”

Would that it were fiction. Rushdie’s presence at the festival — a five-day, open-air bookapalooza on the grounds of an old palace in the western Indian state of Rajasthan — has been uncertain since earlier this month, when a politician campaigning in local elections in another state made a play for Muslim votes with the absurd claim that the rival Congress Party had invited Rushdie to India and ought to cancel his visa to show that it was sensitive to their concerns (Rushdie was invited by festival organizers and doesn’t need a visa). An influential Muslim cleric then said Rushdie had “hurt the sentiments of Muslims all over the world” and called for him to be denied entry. That was enough to rouse the long-dormant controversy over Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses and serve an easy election issue that politicians could pander to with either fiery rhetoric or timid silence.

Party-free democracy

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2012 at 16:44

Few days ago I took a couple of online quizzes on political parties in Britain (just for fun) and ended up in between two parties, and not even in one I voted for… It looks like I picked some policies from almost every party. And anyway, for one of my two “principal” parties I can’t vote because we haven’t any of its representatives in my area.  So I remembered somebody telling about voting for policies, not parties and it made sense.

I had an idea that there should be three voices on every important issue. First would be for ordinary citizens voting online – I’m sure there could be a secure way to do it. The voting culture could became a habit quite easy I think as many like all this online quizzes. The second voice would be for some sort of Parliament made of elected local representatives – the professional politicians.  The third voice would be given to the real experts in the domain of the question submitted for voting: economists, psychologist, doctors, inventors, artists, etc, the people well know by their books, articles, nominations, experience and so on. They also would provide information on possible consequences of voting one way or another.

Just an idea.

Party-free democracy

In politics on January 19, 2012 at 16:37

Few days ago I took a couple of online quizzes on political parties in Britain (just for fun) and ended up in between two parties, and not even in one I voted for… It looks like I picked some policies from almost every party. And anyway, for one of my two “principal” parties I can’t vote because we haven’t any of its representatives in my area.  So I remembered somebody telling about voting for policies, not parties and it made sense.

I had an idea that there should be three voices on every important issue. First would be for ordinary citizens voting online – I’m sure there could be a secure way to do it. The voting culture could became a habit quite easy I think as many like all this online quizzes. The second voice would be for some sort of Parliament made of elected local representatives – the professional politicians.  The third voice would be given to the real experts in the domain of the question submitted for voting: economists, psychologist, doctors, inventors, artists, etc, the people well know by their books, articles, nominations, experience and so on. They also would provide information on possible consequences of voting one way or another.

Just an idea.

Anti-strike

In kids, politics on November 30, 2011 at 07:00

Kids are home today because of the strike. I just want to commit to some anti-strike action and to do as much useful work today as possible. Strike punishes random people who happen on that day to need a doctor, a teacher, a border control officer, etc. Its indiscriminate  – like terrorism.

It is disgusting when the politicians are trying to get at each other throat at any cost, on any possible occasion. Its like they don’t really care about their country in troubles, the people, they just want to use any opportunity to show off  themselves and to intimidate others. But I still remember socialist rule in Russia when 1) one so often couldn’t say publicly what one thought and had to lie about ones devotion to Marx, Lenin and a current party leader, 2) the news were full of lies, any troubles and sorrows at home were ignored, 3) one had to go and vote regularly – for a single candidate provided, and 4) there were shortages of just about anything useful in the shops. Capitalism (if that’s what we’ve got now) is better. The truth is the human race don’t have a recipe for a perfect economic and political system. Maybe it can’t be perfect but we all are hopefully moving towards understanding what works better.

Best type of society

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2011 at 13:59

would be a scatter of small independent settlements amongst beautiful and not very dangerous wild nature where people are free to choose to which “village” they are going to belong. Like some happy little colonies on other planets with wise, peaceful and independent-minded inhabitants who use all past human experience and modern technology to live in harmony with their environment. Not an anarchy, but rather some sort of post-industrial society, very individualistic and without any bureaucracy. The trouble is, I can’t imagine (at least not in our times) any state allowing self-governing people to chose by themselves different laws to obey (like they did in the movie “The Village”).

Protest in the air

In politics on November 23, 2011 at 11:28

What I found a real waste of time on TV recently was this “occupy” movement. If the people are worried about inequality why don’t they go and help poor people, tell about their stories, form a new political party or movement, propose new economical solutions, plant some seeds of a new and just society, etc. Why tents? I just can’t stand people sitting and doing nothing. Most of really poor people are working very hard to earn a living, they have no time to seat in tents.

Why anti-capitalist? I’ve seen socialist economies in deep crisis too.

Why try to damage the financial system? Rich people have their property, gold and expensive things they can sell, poor people might just have some money in a bank. Who will suffer most if a bank will collapse? Were there rich people queueing in  front of Northern Rock?

Its just seems that there is protest in the air all over the world and many people just go and riot, demonstrate, throw stones at anything without much thought about why do they do this. I see a ghost of Lev Gumilev…

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