Friday, December 15, 2006

Howling with Anger

Perhaps in coming years we will learn a little humility and patience about the efficacy of the wholesale export of Western democratic values and institutions into countries with very different social mores and political structures. Those Western exports have now beached on the shoals of reality from the Tigris to the Kabul River.
(from ‘Waltzing with Warlords’- still a good article)
Well-intentioned but this last paragraph makes me howl with anger. If only it was a ‘wholesale export of Western democratic values’. I think we’d be better off. How are secret prisons, Gitmo detainees with no access to Vienna Convention rights and brothels, ‘Western democratic values’?

In addition to that, I’m afraid when I travel, afraid when I talk on the phone, afraid when writing emails and afraid when writing this semi-anonymous blog that something will be mis-construed and my ass will be sent to Guantanamo.

What’s democratic about that?

The different social mores do not translate into ‘These brown people don’t understand democratic values – we should just accept their differences.’

I know what real western democratic values are, having been blessed to grow up in the U.S., it is allowing each individual to have a just peace, dignity, freedom and to participate in the discussions of our future as a whole. But that doesn't mean that others don't understand it too.

A just peace has no color, no language, no culture attached to it. Small children understand it, adults grasp it, women want it, men get it too. The key is that they may not want it for others, but they understand it. Granted, it's more nuanced that, women getting the short end of the equal rights stick but that can change with time, with Afghan women taking initiative. The majority of the population abide by it but there will always be people willing to take advantage of the vaccuum of power and capitalize, i.e. the warlords.

We, those on the U.S. side and the Afghan side, thought that the West would be able to stop the warlords, Prayed fervently that they would find a way to reign them in, one by one, allowing Afghans to start healing. I still think it’s possible, I have to.

But this talk about ‘western democratic values not fitting in the different social mores’. Ugh. That makes me cry right along with President Karzai.


chaoyang said...

Yours is an amazingly strong defense of democracy, from an angle rarely approached. I appreciate it.

I checked out the link the article, but didn't have the patience to read all 3 or 4 pages. I got just past the part about the prostitutes and beer service.

so, having read the first page and the last para, I, too, will argue, democracy is not defined by chinese prostitutes and beer service.

you go girl... speak out, speak loud. Let's honor the true meaning of democracy.

Shannon said...

Great article. You should totally write a letter to the Nation- perhaps the author himself- saying this. I'd love to hear a response.

Afterall, are we to believe that Afghans (and I guess by extention Iraqis and the entire middle east/central asian region or just muslims in general?) are incapable of democracy due to their culture? As someone who's never worked in international development, I can see the point that one must take into account social mores and existing political structures to exact positive change, but c'mon!!