Today, a substantial list of countries are in the process of defining brand new constitutions or significantly revising existing ones. In the near future, several more countries may be added. Many are former Arab dictatorships turned democratic through more or less violent revolutions. Democracies, however, come in many flavors and one particularly bitter-sweet variant is the one where some elements of democracy are retained while others are not. Freedoms such as religious beliefs, speech and opinions, for example. Unfortunately, a majority of the countries busy writing up new constitutions, seem to gravitate towards just that form of “democracy”.
The question is: can democracy exist without basic human rights?
The UN is dysfunctional to the point of being counter productive. Anyone who takes an even cursory look at what goes on in the clubhouse of the UN knows that while the body officially stands on a “rock solid” base of democratic principles, universal human rights and peaceful co-existence between members, the reality is quite another. The list of members and signatories to fundamental UN charters presently counts more than 160. However, several dozen aren’t even trying to maintain any pretense of abiding to the promises they have so solemnly signed.
The UN was founded on the ashes of the League of Nations, itself built on the get-together called the Paris Peace Conference – a child of WW-I. Before that, the list of alliances to promote specific sets of ideas and values is as long as the toilet roll desired by many gastro stricken historians.
The question is: Are we ready to stand up for our version of democracy with its foundation of human rights and freedoms? At what point will the divergence of ideas and values within the UN make it untenable to renew our membership? How far must we venture into hypocrisy land and how severe an erosion of our values do we accept before enough is enough?
Who would like to co-sponsor the idea of a new body: “The United Democratic Nations”? (suggestions for a better name are welcome) Anyone can apply but unlike the UN of a previous century there will be no quasi automatic printing of membership cards.
Afraid of a polarized world of ideas in stark opposition? Then get to terms with that fear because it is already the case. And they are many – on the opposite pole – who are not afraid of vigorous efforts to strengthen and expanding their ideas. Are we afraid? Afraid of anything resembling a bit of vigor in upholding our ideas and values? Might we be cramped up in fear that any such tremors of action could be seen as (perish the thought!) nasty old fashioned search for imperialistic dominance and uncontrollable expansionist drives?
Well, I’m not cramped up. So here goes: I unilaterally grant myself the right to form any opinion I fancy and I furthermore grant myself (and anyone else who should need any such permission) the right to express such opinions in any shape form or media. Including but not limited to text, drawings, video and audio. Should anyone make fun of my pet god, my beloved goldfish or heave ridicule on my preoccupation with the fate of the rare white migrant ants of the antarctic, I’ll swallow hard, try to get my breathing under control and very likely decide to respond. But not with RPGs, car bombs or calls for volunteers to cut the throat of my new-found nuisance. Instead I’ll try hard not to use any four letter words in my response. But above all there is one thing I wont resort to: I’m not – ever – going to question (or worse) the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. And if I’m being met with claims that my freedom of opinion and expression should be curtailed, I’ll ignore them. For as long as possible. But no longer.
Right now, newborn democracies are being hijacked and molested into unrecognizable abominations that bear no resemblance to the fundamental ideas and values we call by that name. We shouldn’t remain members of a club that gleefully hands out membership cards and assigns seats to such regimes next to ours. We can meet and we can talk but we can’t be members of the same association when our basic values are several light years apart.
If this difference in values and ideas should result in punches being thrown – if a good old fashioned street fight between gangs should break out – I say: bring it on. For once, this time around, we have the biggest stick at the onset.
In case you decide none of this is that bad or worth dying for, you shouldn’t show up for the rally. Really, you shouldn’t. And it’s ok. Our values even allow for the meek and faint of heart too. We’ll do the job and we don’t mind sharing the benefits. Some of us are ready to stand on the wall but there are other ways to add your stone to the edifice.