About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Hail democracy in the Middle East, but not that way!
And so it did with the recent elections in Egypt, which the Bush team hailed as one important step in their overall plan. Too bad the leader of the opposition party was promptly arrested by the government after the elections, to minimize the dangerous (to the establishment) effects of a real alternative party playing the field. Or take the Iraqi elections, were religious nuts and ethnic intolerants of all stripes are now poised to “guide” the country. And finally, of course, consider the stunning (to Bush and his cronies, not to anybody who was actually paying attention) victory of Hamas in Palestine. George W. doesn't like the irony of a terrorist organization legally and fairly winning political power, which I suppose is why he had to do it illegally in 2000.
Look, I'm not a huge fan of democracy either (again, in the Churchill sense). For example, I certainly don't like that Bush got elected in 2004, despite the obvious failings of his policies during the first term. Ironically, his numbers in the polls began to nose-dive just a few weeks after the election, proving once again that Americans are not stupid, they are just distracted. Want another example? Judge Alito has been democratically confirmed for a life tenure at the Supreme Court (largely because of the perennial lack of spines, or balls, or whatever other part of the anatomy, by the Democrats). During his tenure he will likely contribute to revoke the right to abortion based on the famous Roe vs. Wade decision, thereby making life miserable for countless fellow human beings. But, hey, this is democracy in action. You don't see me asking for cutting the salary of Supreme Court justices, or calling for air strikes against their august building. Instead, I'm simply getting ready to support as much as I can whoever will run against the Republicans next year and in 2008 (hoping, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it will be somebody loaded with the metaphorical balls mentioned above).
Now, don't get me wrong, I do think that we would have a (marginally) better world if all of its inhabitants were able to freely elect their leaders at the ballot – or at least exercise the choice to watch "American Idol" instead. But democracy is like personal maturity of character: it cannot be imposed from the outside, it has to come from within. And the process cannot be accomplished in weeks or months, it takes decades or centuries (alas, way beyond the political horizon of a re-election campaign). Supporters of the idea of democracy at all costs – including George W. -- claim that one of the major benefits is that democratic countries do not go to war (against each other). This is sort of true, but it applies to established and stable democracies; just consider the bloody history of many African sovereign governments during the past several decades. It is both foolish and extremely arrogant to think that we can solve by military force, and the export of a few McDonald's, a situation as complex as the one that has characterized the Middle East for so long. And such arrogance is costing lives and lost real opportunities every single day that Bush is in power. Shouldn't we (democratically) ask him to please step down?