Monday, February 28, 2011

Libya: The Hypocrisy of Outrage

Maybe I'm cynical. Or perhaps jaded. Or more likely, not impressed with bandwagonism. But all the sudden outrage and sanctions against Gaddafi (how does one spell his name?!!), donating money earned from his family to charities, people leaving their jobs with him or his family or government, leave me cold.

I was young when this monster gained power, but I well remember the havoc Gaddafi caused the west, culminating in Lockerbie, a shocking irrational killing of innocent travellers.

Everyone knew the man was insane, a psychopath.

But then something weird happened: the West forgot Gaddafi had no respect for human life and made nicey nice with him. It helped that he was polite enough to hide his violence to Libyans, and of course business trumps all. Tis amazing what a buck and a psychopath mimicking normal behaviour can do to pacify people, make them forget the concept of integrity, and cosy up to said psychopath. Scotland's disgusting decision to return to Libya the man convicted of blowing up all those innocents, those human beings who had their lives taken from them, was just the most blatent example of how people and governments rushed to forget the measure of the man so they could get in on all that nice oil money.

Perhaps, I shouldn't be so harsh. After all, it is human to expect the best of a person, to want to believe a person has reformed, which does partly explain the West's recent romance of Gaddafi. He said he wanted to reconcile with the West, so he must've reformed himself.

Still, the trauma this man caused our societies for years and years, the lavish way he lived in contrast to his people, the fact that psychopaths never never never get better, should've given them a big, honking clue.

And as for all the entertainers who performed for Gaddafi: are they that ignorant of history and geopolitics? How many other dictators, autocrats, oppressors who live off the travails of their people, have they performed for? And will they donate to charity the earnings they've made from all these despots, not just the one who is in the news today? In a way, I respect more those who worked for such people and keep their money today -- they're not getting in on the bandwagon but standing by their decision to take the job whenever in the past they did. Still, I suppose I should not be so jaded and see that a current change of heart in some really is just that.

Lastly, the sanctions. Why the outrage over just Libya and the call from everyone to do something? Is it because Libya is doing it -- killing its own citzens -- in full view of cameras because, for sure, it ain't the only one doing it. China does it both deliberately and through dreadful working conditions (remember the thousands of dead miners every year); Burma excels at doing it, in oppressing its people; Saudi Arabia has no trouble doing it and oppressing its women to boot; Iran does it so well, kills so many of it citizens (including Canadians) for the most implausible of reasons that it leaves other countries in the dust. I could go on. But few, and certainly not en masse on social media, are calling for invasion today of these countries or sanctions against China.

And by the way, why call for an invasion of Libya right after clamouring for getting out of Afghanistan? What do people think will happen there after NATO pulls out, that it'll be hunky dorey with no state-killing of citizens or the return of the brutal oppression of women? And just how long should we stay in Libya after invading it, in a country that has no functioning government institutions to take over once Gaddafi is gone? Seriously.

The videos coming out of Libya are awful to watch. But if we saw what other countries routinely do to their citizens, where we blissfully can't see them, we'd probably vomit our horror.

I published this prematurely instead of saving to draft. To finish my thought:

In the end, monsters and despots rise to power because people let them, people allow themselves to be persuaded by their charisma and calls against the "bad guys," whether they're in the country or outside. If the citizens are on the winning side, their actions of compliance shout that they're all for it, it being killings, torture, imprisonment of the enemies of the state -- after all the culture of opposition, taken to the extreme, especially if done slowly or the excesses are done in a way so people can be in denial, says that the other side deserves it. The culture of opposition begins with reasoned discourse, progresses to personalization, turns into "the other" being the enemy, and then excuses whatever actions happen against them. We can see in Canada how politics has degenerated from debate to personalization and suspicion. The only thing stopping from degenerating further is our culture of nonviolence. And yet there was the G20 police-state-for-a-weekend in Toronto, where many Canadians at the time nodded their heads that the protesters (the "opposition") deserved it, that they should've stayed home. Yeah, OK.

A few have objected to the change in politics in Canada, but as long as the majority are unaffected personally, they would rather "go about their business" and not bestir themselves to save their own democracy...until it affects them personally of course. And so how much moreso in countries where rule is by iron fist?

Yet, even under the terrors of Hitler, people chose not to comply but to resist. To just say no. Denmark, including her king is a stunning example of effective, moral resistance. The idea that Hitler could never have been if people had chosen to say no, no to oppression of people not like them, no to creeping evil, is a startling one. Yet as the Libyan revolt shows, when people overcome their fear and complancency, they can say no and topple the monster. They could've done it at the beginning I bet. Gaddafi is no less brutal now than back in the 1970s. But the one thing decades under oppression teaches people is that ultimately no one is immune from personal oppression and violence. And then it becomes personal enough to revolt against.

As for the West, if we are truly offended and horrified by dictators like Gaddafi, then we need to get some moral backbone and unite ourselves under one policy for all these kinds of countries, even if we cannot see or get tired of seeing the daily killings of "enemies of the state," "immoral people," "the opposition." That is, we need to decide that if we don't like these despots and autocratic rulers then we will treat them as we treated South Africa under apartheid. It cannot be a pick and choose kind of thing, only happening when the violence gets in our face and we cannot ignore it any longer. But one policy for all, including those countries like China that bring us cheap goods and business. Perhaps the citizens there are in too much fear to revolt, but it doesn't stop us from saying we will just say no in the way that we can and provide moral support that way.

Otherwise, if we are not prepared to sacrifice our pocket books for other people's lives, then we need to be honest with ourselves and say so, not save our outrage for those times when we can no longer ignore the excesses of such regimes and join in because not joining in is now palpably "bad." Just say no is hardest when denial is possible.

2 comments:

Transport Bulgaria said...

I enjoyed reading this article. I must admit I don’t really know much about the situation in Libya, but thanks to your article I believe I know enough now. Thanks for taking the time and writing it.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

I'm glad my article was helpful to you. The situation keeps changing and is hard to get a handle on, for sure. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!