Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Do We Desire REAL Democracy, or Do we Just Hate Dictators?

The Arab revolution did happen, and it means one thing. Arabs hate dictators. Arabs hate leaders who stick to their throne for decades and refuse to give up or give in. Arabs don't want one authority figure to dictate what they have to say and not say, who they have to cheer or sing for, what they read and write and reject and accept. They won't take their leader's word to what's good and what's evil, what's patriotic and what's not or what's moral and what's not.

Arabs are changing the principals of what means to be free, what qualifies them to be good citizens of their countries and what their countries should expect from them and what they should be giving to their countries. The one century-year old dictionary of what means to be a good Arab citizen, written by dictators and military personnel was rejected and a new edition with bright colors and brand new definitions is now being printed by the people. Arabs are re-defining Arab.

The constitution of these countries that witnessed the biggest revolutions, Tunisia and Egypt, has not been modified yet. It will be (according to plan) and should be voted on by the people. Those constitutions will guarantee more freedoms (hopefully). That's what the people want, but will that be enough to turn the Arab world into a democracy?

All these Arab crowds had one thing in common: they hated dictators. Like any population of +300 million, you almost can't find anything else that's common between them. It would be interesting to see how will political parties, ethnic groups or religious organizations react when they're voted off by the majority of people. Will they respect the will of the people or will they fight back forcing themselves with every corrupt way possible to get a big piece of the cake?

I live in the United States. Freedom of speech is very well-respected here. There have been a few protests in the US where people burned the American flag. There was an attempt by the Congress and Senate to make it illegal to burn their flag, but the Senate voted against it. Therefore it is still legal to burn the US flag in the United States (personal advice though : don't do that in Jordan) .

I would like to give you another example. There is a group of completely wacky crazy irrational irritating morons called the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) who like to go to funerals of victims of wars or tragic accidents and life signs during funerals saying that these victims deserved their death and that God hates them. Soldiers who die in war, miners who die in mining accidents, a little girl who died in a random shooting in Arizona, during these funerals you'd have a bunch of crazy people from WBC holding signs saying "God is Your Enemy" and "God Hates Your Tears".

Again, there was a lawsuit against the WBC in the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided to side with the WBC, saying that hurtful speech is protected by the Constitution, which protects freedom of speech. Everyone in America hates the WBC, everybody is disgusted by them, many people were deeply hurt by their rants and protests, but the Supreme Court protected their right because freedom of speech is worshiped here. The votes were 8-1, not even close.

Let's go to Jordan. Every few months we hear about tragic plane accidents in our military where a few soldiers die thanks to the great training and planes they're given to fly. These soldiers are young and their deaths brings heartache to many families. Imagine if a bunch of morons start protesting in these funeral saying things like "these soldiers deserved it" or "God damn them". Other than these protesters being eaten alive during the funeral, would you think the people of Jordan would support the freedoms of those voicing their opinion?

Imagine that someone burned the Jordanian flag during a protest (which did happen, more than once). Do you think people would support his right to do so. Let me ask this, if he were Palestinian, would Jordanians support his right to express himself?

I don't want anyone to protest funerals, or burn flags, or irritate people or incite hatred. I do believe we are very close to each other, but ridding ourselves of dictators and seeking democracy are two very different things. Democracy and tyranny don't go together. We are doing the very first and most difficult step, but what's coming needs more sacrifice, more patience, and will be painful and even disappointing. There will a lot of disagreements, a lot of speeches and a lot of setbacks, but that is the right way to go. I hope we'll be ruled by reasonable people but I hope more that the ruled people will be reasonable.


kinzi said...

Really great post Hareega. I hadn't thought of this angle at all.

Anonymous said...

Very amazing post!
I can't express it better than Kinzi said:

" I hadn't thought of this angle at all."

denise said...

really great blog!

Naddoush said...

Fantastic post - I have thought about somewhat the same. One thing is to get rid of a dictator - but what happens afterwards? How can we make sure that there won't just come a new dictator and take over were the old ones left? And what can the people of the Middle East actually agree on? And will they be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to create democracies? I have my sincere doubts. Protecting the freedom of expression even of those who you disagree with - that will be a tough one even for the most liberal out there.

Hareega said...

kinzi, anonymous, denise... thank you for reading!

Naddoush... people have to relaize that the only thing they need to agree on is having freedom of speech, and that it's perfectly OK to completely disagree on almost everything else. They may believe so but they need to start practising it.

Naddoush said...

Agreed - freedom of speech - then everything else will follow. If you dare to hear even the things you do not want to hear - then you are on your path to democracy and true development.

But how do we get there? Now that is a good question...