Due to my previous rant I was thinking recently about democracy, human right and which stance on those subject I require or would like the state I live in to have.
Let me begin with the only principle, that I believe not only every state should follow, but also should enforce, even abroad: The peoples right to self-determination (that being said, it is already clear what I think of tentative to enforce anything else abroad…) Now the real question is clearly how to define “people”, and how to define “self-determination”, for now the best is probably to look at it on a case by case basis, even though most of the crisis if the past 30 years already gave us valuable insights. Anyway this theory is still in maturation and we can’t hope for a solution everybody will agree upon in the next 50 years. I would like to emphasize, that even if this post talks about theoritical concepts, I look at them from a realistical and concret viewpoint. I’m not interested in an ideal world, I want to talk about our world and about the difference between these concepts and there actual implementation.
To make things a little bit clearer, I’d like to distinguish in the following to different kind of position on a certain subject. When I say someone is a democrat, I mean someone who advocate/fight for/defends democracy within his own state. Someone who tries to expand democracy abroad will be called a proselyte democrat. Same for human right activist, privacy defender and so on.
I’d like to split the following into 2 parts. The first I will list things I believe are required for a modern state in order to be sustainable (that is without constant martial law and oppression), then I will list things I believe a state need to have in order for me to feel comfortable in it, last but not least I will argue why my needs doesn’t need to be universal.
One thing I strongly believe each state needs to be some kind of “state of law” or “rechtstaat”. What do I mean by “some kind”, well it doesn’t need to fullfil all criteria. But on a everyday life level, citizen should be aware of how he should behave to not fall outside of the law and feel safe protected from individuals as well as from the representants of the state through the enforcement of law.
Closely tied to this would be the separation of power, it’s probably needed as well in order to make the previous viable. Maybe not completely but at least on an administrative level and in the day to day handling of things. That is the guy who decide a law, the one who enforce it and the guy who decided who breached which law should be clearly different as moral personns as well as as physical entities.
Obviously a state should respect his agreement with other states, else it will be unable to play within the concert of nation.
I would like to say that each state needs to be corruption free, sadly I was proved wrong way to often.
One common misconception most people in Europe and in the U.S. have is that they suppose that everybody they talk to is a universal democrat, unless he is a dictator. By universal democrat, I mean someone who thinks democracy, in it’s representative/parlamentary form is the best form of governement for every state everywhere and at any time. I don’t think so, I’m groing more and more sceptical of it, especially in it’s representative form. That said there was no other form of governement I heard of so far that sounded better… I just would like to hear more discussions on alternate governements, because I’m sure we hasn’t reach the cream of the crop. Add to that I’m, as Philipp pointed out, communautarist, though only in it’s philosophical form, which is really completely different from the political movement as pointed out in the English wiki (the german botched there pretty badly). To say it in a few word: I don’t believe that you can press a democratic layer on a state that doesn’t have the cultural background for it. I firmly believe that there must be a social understanding of the institution and of the process itself in order for it to even have a chance to work. But I realize that a post on democracy might be worth in itself since there is so much to say. For example as to why I belive more and more that we are less and less in a democracy.
Another concept almost fanaticaly defended on Europe and the U.S. Are human right. As much as I do appreciated the work of say human right watch, as an institution who tries to list various failure to uphold human rights from countries all across the globe. As an institution that condemn those failure not so much. If a countries abides by those laws, through it’s constitution or through international treaties, I understand, else it’s their very own problem what they do or don’t inside their own country. I feel that the concept of universal human rights is deeply rooted inside the age of reason, the age of enlightment. As a french it is visceraly linked to the revolution. I’m a supporter of it, not only for rational reasons, but because it is deeply linked to how I concieve myself as part of the French society and nation. It is something I feel *we* have fought for against our oppressor. It is underlying in all my action with fellow humans, in a way that it is, most of the time, not discernable. When someone grossly tresspass those rights. I’m chocked because it is just wrong, not for any rational reason. The proper argument will eventualy come, but much later. Our problem is that being completely Eurocentric or U.S.-centric we believe everybody else to have those same feeling, since they are “universal”. But they are not, actualy I believe these concept are uninteligible for most people on this planet. Partly because they can’t understand the concept of an “individual” with a “free will” (this concept pretty much allowed the development that leaded to universal human rights. As much as a lot of people don’t believe in the human being a bunch of molecule in a mostly empty universe. Know if you can’t understand it, how could you enforce it? And much less “live” it.
Now this is not set in stone and one could dream of a future where all human rights are enforced everywhere in the world, not by brutal force and diplomatic pressure but because everyone has the same visceral understanding of it… Now this sound may be a better world to live in, at least from my point of view. On the other side maybe my cultural driven blindness makes me miss some important point and a lot of the “presuppose” you need to formulate these human rights aren’t that good at all. I believe we have seen some backfiring.
Yet another position I am really unsure about is free speech. An entirely new post would be needed to analyse how free speech and “publishing” or reaching power relates to each other. Free speech is pretty much useless if you only can preach in the desert. In a parlamentary democracy free speech is essential, since it is important that everybody believed that there was a “discussion” prior to any decision and that if someone doesn’t like the decision he could have said it loudly and raised the points of concerns. Eventually the decision was “made” by all and everybody has to back it much more so then during say avrrferendum where one could say he has voted against. That some might not be loud enough for everybody to hear is a point never raised.
More then all things above, I feel free speech being a concern for rich countries, for the debate to start you need some intelectual, artists or political opponents that in turn are fully funded, to be brief you need a large societal infrastructure, you need a working press newspaper stands, radio and antennas, tv channels or some other platform for the people speeking to reach the mass. Onecould argue that a lot of countries over the world don’t need to bother. Trying to enforce it from. Abroad is just blind fanatism. I further believe that controlling/suppressing free speech is also a powerfull tool for countries who want to limit the medling other countries or lobbies would like to have. “Free speakers” nowadays often come backed by foreign interest groups with strong financial power.
To resume that all, I strongly believe that some form of “state of law” is needed for a state in order to be sustainable on the long run. As for “human rights” and “free speech”, I think they mostly make sense in the western world, I am not so sure if they are easily exportable, even though globalization makes it easier year for year since more and more people grow aware of it and become more and more “western”. On the other side it is to be checked if they haven’t become some symbols empty of meaning in Europe, where while they gave been uphold pro forma I don’t think they hold in their spirit. Last but not least there is the question of democracy. One tendency I am worried about is that more and more important decision are made in technical international conferences that are badly reported to the public, I feel that a lot of the decision making process is more and more obfuscated from the eyes of the citizen. While we are all representative democracies, I feel that it has become a masquerade, and that we have lost sight of the democratic process in favor of the play of election and voting ballots. On the other side I miss some interesting discussion about how revive the political process, either by experiment like the town of Porto alegre where citizen have a much larger power over the political process, or by delegating some power to some expert in a clear and open way, so that everybody can understand how the decisionmaking is done.
So I already have written a lot, too
much to my taste and probably nobody will bother reading it. Anyway if anybody has good recommandation about serious lecture on alternative political processes, I’d be thankfull 🙂