I was going to write something different today but having responded to a post on the ever excellent Tea with a Pirate regarding the Wikileaks scandal in London, Sweden and Ecuador at http://managuagunntoday.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/freedoms-just-another-word/ I was told that perhaps it was worthy of being a post in it’s own right and so here it is, a slightly different format than my usual posts but to change it would mean starting from scratch…
After embarrassing much of the world with his leaks and scandals, Julian Assange has for the last few months been sheltering in the embassy of Ecuador in London having faced extradition charges from the UK to Sweden where he has been accused of sexual offences against two women. There are many who think that this is a front to allow his eventual shipment to the USA where he will never see light again. Both he, his movement and the Ecuadorian embassy have come in for heap loads of criticism but so have the UK government and Sweden who seem to be acting with a certain amount of cynical opportunism. I sincerely agree and find the whole affair rather sickening rather like in medieval periods when minor powers would hand over treasures and tribute to the empires to ensure good relationships. I don’t expect anything else from Britain, my home country who has a unique history of balancing democracy, freedom, law and in the case of WW2 even self-sacrifice with awful arrogance, war and exploitation and in this case may almost be an innocent party obliged to follow treaty stipulations but dearest Sweden you have disappointed me in your hurry to ingratiate yourself with the USA.
There is absolutely no real need for the popular slating that Ecuador is receiving, they are a generally amiable country and her government has made much progress over the decades. When a foreign citizen requests sanctuary in any embassy around the world it is a moral obligation that sanctuary be granted however temporarily. Ecuador may not be up to Western standards of freedom and openness but then who amongst the west really is? Scandinavia… perhaps in theory but just where is Sweden based? Benelux perhaps, Germany to a varying degree if you forget its kowtowing to Russia all in the name of cheap energy no questions asked and its new ambitions for a united, peaceful but thoroughly Germanic dominated Europe. Britain and the USA and some former Anglo countries? When it suits them. There is a lot to be said for benevolent dictatorships when the people are too stupid to know better and the government too corrupt to be impartial. It is the transition back to democracy which is the tricky part… not that I’m saying Democracy is the way to go as in its present form it seems to have its problems.
Real wisdom and maturity is when you accept that what is right for you may not be right for everyone or anyone else. Even when countries do have a taste for democracy it doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree with a handful of western powers. Britain and France and latterly the USA may have had to various degrees the right intentions during their imperial phases but it must still be fundamentally wrong to impose the right choices on people who don’t even know there are choices to be made whether in Europe, Africa or Ecuador.
We used to say that no democratic country has ever started a war… now we are reduced to saying that no two democratic countries having fought each other because democratic countries now do start wars. Just another erosion of the moral supremacy of democracy.
Having said all of that I think the world owes a huge debt to Wiki-leaks. Secrets are generally bad. Much of the Arab Spring was in no small part due when Wiki-leaks revealed the total disdain Washington had for its Arab friends and what these governments thought of their people and how their policies in no way matched their peoples aspirations. Despite all the deaths in some countries it has allowed a taste of democracy. Just a taste, as real democracy requires at least 3 elections and changes of government as with Turkey in the last 20 years and with Egypt not doing so in the previous 40. At the very least though this offers the chance to end the total stagnation that these non-benevolent regimes were ruling over. Lets hope that North Africa and the Middle-East enjoy their new freedoms as much as the East Europeans of a generation ago but that all we share with them is the method of government and mutually beneficial exchange of trade, people and ideas but if they don’t want McDonalds or The X-Factor then good for them.
I read recently that those of us born in Britain are lucky enough to know that due to our past, our descendants will generally live in a world more or less shaped by our rules and culture for next 2 or 3 centuries. Be that as it may to whatever degree, now should be the time that the West as a whole prepares to set its legacy and overseas a tidy handover. Setting the world on the best and most open course it can while it still can to set the best foundations for its beliefs and ideals to flourish for as long as possible. Of course the West has changed the world for the better in terms of science, engineering, medicine and freedom just to name a few but that doesn’t mean in our final years in the limelight we can’t aspire to finish the job we started. Surely openness and clarity in government along with human rights and respect of just law is what we do/did best and that is what Wikileaks are trying to remind everyone. The fact that not every country in the world is not minded to do so, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
As civilisation and progress in the world bobs up and down in a generally improving direction let future generations look back at us with as much admiration for setting in stone what we talk about but so singularly fail to do time and again. People in 2150 should look back at us like we look back at progressives in times past be they Greeks, Romans or Victorians and say even if we were wrong on so many counts, at least we brought real openness and democracy and the fair rule of law to the world. Not that we haven’t tried and achieved big progress in the 19th and mid 20th Centuries but when the U.K. is mired in political scandals, Europe has leaders so pre-occupied with integration that they can’t see it is leading them down the road to nowhere. The USA has democracy only out of the pockets of billions of dollars of campaigning where surely money buys votes just as effectively as armed forces and bribes did in Europe in centuries past. What chance does a democratic movement has where its ideas clash with money or the establishment?
Maybe if we can no longer be the most powerful we should lead the world one last time and have governments concentrate on making their people happy. We do have democratic principles but just as previously democracy was overshadowed and had to fight against the rich establishment, now it is rich corporations that put their own profit margins above not only people but their country of origin as the current long winded economic problems and the ‘Occupy’ movements across the globe have shown. It has often been said that people are only truly free once every 5 years, i.e when they are allowed to vote. For the rest of the time the day to day votes in Parliament or Congress are totally out of our hands. Perhaps with the age of the internet, now is the time that voting on every day issues is rolled out to the public so that we can vote on every issue. If nothing else this would give us each a country that was in line with those of its people and not anyone else. Maybe we are already partly on this road with the UK government now running “happiness” polls and e-petitions to parliament with petitions of 100,000 votes getting a hearing in Parliament. Why stop there though, why not allow us to vote on every issue. That is real democracy.
Whilst Julian Assange may have issues in his private life, there are revolutionaries or public figures who even if they do great public good do not have their own foibles and if the case against him in Sweden is legitimate then obviously he should face justice but if it is all just another cover-up then I hope the case against Julian is dropped as quickly as it was fortuitously was drummed up when a requirement was urgently needed to shut him up. Whichever, the results he has fortuitously achieved are more than any of the current crop of World Leaders.