Symbolic International Elections

Dear Humanity,

I have a dream that someday there will be a world without nations, etc. etc.

But as a first step I think we should have international democratic
elections.

I think they should be almost entirely symbolic. The important thing is to
have elections that cross all borders.

They could be elections about a million different things:
– what is the greatest problem in the world?
– should “insert name of country/countries” invade “insert name of country”?
– What is the most peace promoting country?
– What is the most war promoting country?

And a million other things.

Basically all that is required is a webpage, and the patience to wait a
couple of years until everyone has access to the internet. Of course it
would help if the UN or some other international organization recognized
this, but I think it’s worth a shot.

Somewhat related in Germany:
http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,15364738,00.html

“Symbolic election gives Berlin’s foreigners a voice
[…]
The symbolic election didn’t count for anything of course, but that was
the point. It was meant to draw attention to the German capital’s 460,000
residents – 13 percent of the population – who don’t have a vote because
they don’t have a German passport.

Maybe most people don’t care about what goes on in a lot of other countries. But the point is to spread the information, not to determine policy, which is pretty much determined by power relations. My goal is to foster honesty and dialogue.

To me there is a difference between caring about what the French want in
the sense of caring about whether they get what they want or not, and
caring about what the French want, as in wanting to know what the bastards
are up to, and then calling them racist fascist hypocrites (the French
government supported the genocidal side of the Rwandan massacre).

Now you could say that the “insert name of country” citizens could support
a government that does terrible things like that, and then go ahead and
lie in these elections and claim they want the opposite, but I think it’s
good that they should be forced to lie, and look like double assholes.
Then they are either hypocrites or they lack democracy (and maybe the UN
should bomb their capital and carry out operation “insert name of country”
freedom).

Finally my goal is not hippy touchy feely stuff. I would be very happy for
it to polarize things (“F$CK you (racist,sexist,nazi, other category) X”),
and expose the real reality of conflict.

It is to expose the sort of lie, where we claim that we are waging war to
give the gift of democracy. Ok democracy, then do we want them to vote in
our elections? Well no, obviously not, they’re on the other side of the
world, that doesn’t make sense! Ok so wait, we’re not giving them our
democracy, what democracy are we sharing with them? Do we have a Middle
Eastern democracy that we want them to be a part of? No… Ok then some
international democracy? Well no, we don’t give a F$ck what those guys
want…

It’s really a response to the South Park episode where the kids go to
Afghanistan. Where the Afghan kid tells Stan and Kyle, that the whole
world hates Americans, because Americans don’t know that the whole word
hates them :)
I need to work on clearing up my thoughts, but what I’m thinking is
related to the conflict between the following two biblical messages:
Matthew 22:
[…]
35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting
him,
and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
[…]

and:
Matthew 10:
[…]
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send
peace,
but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the
daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in
law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he
that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not
worthy of
me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life
for my
sake shall find it.
40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me
receiveth him
that sent me.
41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a
prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a
righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of
cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in
no wise lose his reward.

Basically I believe that the problems of the world are not the result of a
conflict between workers and capitalists. Workers and capitalists are not
in class conflict today, they are in class collusion. There is no major
propaganda necessary to make us not give a F$ck about poverty in Africa,
and it is obvious when people are worried about immigrants taking jobs
away from “real Canadians”, or the Chinese taking jobs away, and all other
kinds of loser and parasitical ideas.

So I think we need to love our symbolic neighbours who more and more may
live on the other side of the world (Chinese democracy activists), and
take up a sword against our symbolic family (assholes we are supposed to
love because they are citizens of our country even though they pretty much
hate Quebec (not real Canadians) and foreigners (not real Quebecois), or
because like France, they are part of the free world or the West or
something like that).

Defending Democracy

In his article “Why Democracy is Wrong”: http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/democracy.html

The author writes:

“It is for the supporters of democracy to demonstrate explicitly, what they claim implicitly – that a democracy is the only structure which generates consent of the governed.”

This is an unfair demand. Every structure that is not overthrown generates consent of the governed. The most painful and disgusting part of the second world war, is that even within concentration camps, there was a form of consent of the governed, %99.99 of whom were about to be murdered. When you are physically absolutely prevented from any kind of resistance, and any resistance in a moment of opportunity is punished by unimaginable cruelty, then consent is formed, but the costs are infinite (total death). That is even the ghettos were dying in complete genocide, albeit a bit slower, and this was just as much by conscious design. If the war had gone on, the Warsaw ghetto would have been empty due to starvation and disease (though the Nazis did not hesitate to murder anyone at all, whenever they felt like it).

The question is not whether the structure can generate consent of the governed! The question is at what cost? Democracies kill the fewest number of people. At least directly. This is clear if one looks at the history since world war 2. I don’t think that the total of people killed through wars (anywhere) and political repression within the democracies would add up to the numbers for WW2. Even if we include political repression within non-democracies that were supported by democracies, I don’t think we’d get there.


Correction:

I see that I was totally wrong in what I wrote above. I see that sometimes there is rule by opinion where consent means something, but then again a lot of times there is rule by force, where the is no option to resist or defy orders. I didn’t in any way doubt that a concentration camp is ruled by force alone, and not by opinion. I just used the word consent, when it in no way applied. I am sorry. I mean maybe one can call choosing quick and painful over slow and painful, a choice. But that’s a long way from consent… However my mistake doesn’t change my argument that democracies have needed to use less force! So I won’t delete the post entirely nor backspace the mistake, but explain it here. Again I am sorry for any offence.

If you want to read about the account of an actual survivor I suggest Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Yes there was a daily struggle:
“It is easy for the outsider to get the wrong conception of camp life, a conception mingled with sentiment and pity. Little does he know of the hard fight for existence which raged among the prisoners. This was an unrelenting struggle for daily bread and for life itself, for one’s own sake or for that of a good friend.”


This is an important point to consider. The Vietnam war was one of the most murderous conflicts since WW2, but it took place in an America that was much less democratic. Today we might call it a Fascist state. The major unions thought that the war was good for American workers. Today the government could not fight such a war. Indeed they are fighting two wars right now: Afghanistan and Iraq. We should oppose those wars and stop them too. But the reality is much different, as are the results.

Now as to the indirect cost… Maybe here things are worse. Because there are millions of preventable deaths (famine and easily cured diseases) that happen every year, which we could prevent, but we in the democracies choose to ignore because they are foreign problems. Here we should do our best to fix the situation.

The interesting part is that the problem here is a failure of democracy. That is most people would accept that we should spend 1% or 2% of our economic output to eliminate poverty, but they think we already do, and that the costs would be much larger. They think well there’s more poor people in the world than there are rich people, so if we made things equal we’d all be poor. What we don’t realize is that we don’t need to make things equal to eliminate famine and disease, not by a long shot.

But in any case democracy works very well for us. Those of us who have it. And almost everyone who doesn’t have it, wants to have it and is fighting bitterly to get it. It is unfortunate that they are often fighting against us, because we are trying to deny them democracy and self-government. But that’s our problem. We shouldn’t try to deny them democracy.

In the end it is the job of those who oppose democracy to convince us that their proposal is better and will result in better results. This sounds impossible and in fact we claim that it is impossible, but we are willing to listen. Having an open mind and an open dialogue is an important part of democracy.

But before we go let us think about what getting rid of democracy would actually mean and imply. It would mean by definition, the suppression of the rights of the population, probably the majority of the population. It is true that some people could benefit from this, but could there ever be a case where society as a whole could benefit? It is an interesting thought experiment, but I doubt it has anything to do with the real world.

Conrad Black: A Plea For The Fallen

After renouncing his Canadian citizenship in order to gain a foreign title of nobility, being convicted of and serving time in two different federal prisons, for federal crimes in the US. Conrad Black has for the first time in his life encountered someone who did not like him.

Black himself states that: “I have never accepted that there is no right to hate.”

And yet I suggest that we should not hate, but feel sorry for this man who so hated Canada he turned in his passport (but believed his citizenship was “stolen from him” by Prime Minister Chretien),

and so hated his adoptive home in the US that he violated its laws and was dragged away kicking and screaming (but believed that the reasons for his downfall and incarceration were “not easily discernible and [have] nothing to do with [his] legal conduct”.

And though as Eric Reguly wrote in The Times “The great man fled his native Canada for Britain. He couldn’t wait to leave, he said, because Canada was turning into a Third World dump run by raving socialists.”

Let us forgive him his sins, and pity him.

For as Dickens writes in Great Expectations: “It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home. There may be black ingratitude in the thing, and the punishment may be retributive and well deserved; but that it is a miserable thing, I can testify.”

May we work to build a better Canada, one which we can be proud of, and which we will not ever have to flee.

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/07/28/conrad-black-i-pity-the-fools-who-hate-conrad-black/

How a xenophobic crime in Quebec is used to justify undermining democracy

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tony-kondaks/beat-up-for-speaking-english_b_1920390.html

The author describes the crime as follows:

“They came upon a young adult male who took offence, admonishing them that “you are not allowed to speak English here” and blocked their path. Pushing him out of the way in order to proceed, G was then punched in the face. Twice. His battered face can be seen here.”

Then he says:

“[His] reaction upon reading such an account would normally be to chalk it up to raging teenage hormones,”

I disagree my first reaction is to think it is an attack based on the language someone was speaking in public. This is clearly xenophobic, and possibly racist. I think this sort of thing has a lot to do with intolerance, and very little to do with hormones.

That’s for the author’s instincts on what many would consider a hate crime.

The author makes a bold claim, that also happens to be false.

“Let’s be clear: there is no historical, legal, or moral precedent to support the common language must be the majority language dictum.”

To be clear, in the modern period, the common language must be the majority language. That is the language of the French parliament, must be French, same goes for Germany, Japan, China, Iraq, etc. The official language must be the language of the majority. If there are several large ethnic groups then both (or several) languages can be used as official. But in the modern period it is not acceptable for the majority to be ruled and governed by people who run the country in a language they don’t understand. That is a fundamental violation of democracy. The common language of government must be the majority language.

For a thought experiment imagine the results of an election in any country in the world are being announced. Now imagine someone asks you: “does the new prime minister speak the official language?”. In what country does it make sense to ask this question? In what country would the answer no, not be shocking? However historically this was often normal. Romans ruled England and ignored the locals, and the governors spoke Latin and did all the ruling in Latin.

Again the crucial detail is modern period, because the Roman empire took over most of Europe and imposed Latin, while the common population did not learn latin. Same things apply to the Persian empire, and other ancient empires, but continued much later until Napoleon, and the Ottoman empire. But ever since WW1 and WW2, we don’t accept that the majority of the population should be ruled by an outside group.

But let’s review the author’s evidence:

Historical: when the first Habitants paddled their way down the St. Lawrence River some 450 years ago the majority language they encountered upon arrival at Hochelaga and every other spot they landed was an aboriginal language. If the common language principle was in place, we’d all be speaking Huron today. Yet it was the minority French language group that imposed their culture, language, and religion upon the majority language group, often at the end of a musket barrel.”

This is true, the Hurons were expelled and/or exterminated. No one accepts that this should be done to French, or English or Arabic or German or Huron speaking people living in Quebec today. Why does the author bring up this shameful piece of our history that we would not accept today?

Legal: Official language status applies only to services provided by government. That’s it. With the possible exception of para-public and emergency services (e.g., ambulances, social and health services) everything else falls under the private sector and outside the imposition of official languages. In the private sector, Swahili, Portuguese, and any other language that free people decide to speak are on par with French and English. Indeed, because of the incredible advantage that accrues to the French and English languages by virtue of their official status they must necessarily be put at the bottom of the list when any special consideration to a particular language is considered.”

Partly true, but services provided by the government include schools, they include state funded and licensed radio and television. Also the government should insure that all important information is also provided to the public in the official language or languages, this includes cases where goods and services are provided by the private sector. The private sector can operate in whatever language is more convenient when it doesn’t affect the public, but it should be able to communicate with the public in the official language. The idea that the official language should be considered last when dealing with the public is bizarre, since it is the one language that the general public is most likely to know and to have learned in school.

For comparison would we accept that a major manufacturing business in Greece would operate in Russian and would only hire Russian speaking workers? Or the reverse with a major business in Russia, operating in Greek and only hiring Greek speaking workers? Exceptions can be made for things like small family businesses, but large businesses that will need help, cooperation and support from the broader community as well as the government need to work with the official language.

Finally:

Moral: Decent, civilized people simply don’t impose their culture and language on those of other cultural and linguistic groups. If that were the case, English — the language shared by the overwhelming majority of Canadians — could be imposed by force of law on Quebecers.”

Fact: most people speak less than 2 languages. The international average is about 1.5. And that takes into account the fact that most countries are much more multilingual than we are (Nigeria has 500 languages). It takes about 2 years to learn to speak a language, and about 7 years to learn how to read and write proficiently. Modern life requires advanced literacy (not just speaking ability), and that all the members of the community share a common language so that they can live together, work together, study together and solve problems together. This doesn’t mean that a country can’t be made up of multiple communities, but each community needs a common language. Otherwise it is not a community. There can be hundreds of communities in a large country, but no community can exist without a common language. So the idea that English Montreal can separate from French Quebec is legitimate. But then the language in Engish Montreal is English, and the language in French Quebec, and French Montreal is French, etc. etc.

Who gets to decide on the language for each community? In a democracy it is the people, who weigh the pros and cons in each case.

Universal bilingualism doesn’t work, unless people really want it to work. And most people are too busy living their lives to make it work, unless it is absolutely necessary.

That is to say decent moral human beings, living in a modern industrial country, share a common language in each region/community (no matter how large or small), but they are free and it is to their advantage to know as many extra languages as they can. Multilingualism is an asset that allows one to live, work and bridge the gaps between different communities. But a common language is a must within each community.

I am sure many readers who made it so far will not be convinced by my arguments up to this point. Many of you still think that the original author has a point, and you’re right. There is a point but he doesn’t state it: English is more useful internationally than French. That is a fact. But French is pretty useful too. And countries with similar populations to Quebec with their own unique language (with less than 10 times as many speakers as French) can do quite well too: for example Finland and Israel.

But this is where democracy comes in. If we believe in democracy then it is up to the people who live in the country to decide what language or languages should be the official ones. Not some intellectual who decides which one will be of the greatest economic benefit. To force people to change their language because of economics is not only unnecessary but also a violation of human rights, and this is accepted: historically (modern period), legally (the concept of an official language defined in a constitution) and morally (the idea that people should be able to exert democratic control on the culture of their society).

The crime reported at the top is horrible, it should be condemned and is condemned. Even the threat without the physical violence would have been practically as bad. No one should be targeted for what language they choose to speak. But as a society and as members of a community we need to decide together on what language we want to speak, as the official and universal language. If this breaks us up into more than one piece, then so be it.

You can’t have bilingualism without bi-nationalism.

Hello world!

Just installed the WordPress. Looking forward to a lot of useless blogging. I’ve always been reluctant to allow for people to post comments. Mostly because I didn’t want to hear the crickets chirping through lack of popularity. But I f think that many people are much too reluctant to make first contact through email (yours truly included), and so I think it is good to reduce the distance.

The second major reason being that I think that the comments tend to kind of become a disorganized mess. But I think that’s a problem that can be solved. Specifically I’m thinking of a way to link comments, or organize them along more than a single dimension…

But the most important reason is that I didn’t want to implement the functionality and I didn’t know if there was a good free software implementation that I could just run on my server. Apparently I was living under a rock because WordPress has been around for almost a decade now…