I finally saw The Hurt Locker - it is a powerful film, one that among other things, gives you a visceral sense of life in Iraq for the American (and other) soldiers, and of course for the Iraqi citizens. What an awful reality to be faced with.
America invaded Iraq first to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, and then to liberate her people from a tyrant. Was Saddam Hussein a tyrant? Yes. Did he harm his citizens? Yes. But all in all, how did the people of Iraq live before America invaded and how do they live now? I know something of life in Iraq (and other parts of the Middle East) before the last war, and if "Hurt Locker" is any indicator of their life today, then Iraqis are absolutely worse off now. The saddest part is that their future looks even bleaker. Democracy is NOT working in Iraq or for that matter in Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or Iran, or...
If you've read this blog before, you know I'm a laissez-faire pacifist who is a strong believer in the democratic ideal. This post is not a war protest, perhaps opposite - it's a bit weird to even write this.
America, and to a lesser degree allies like Britain, believe that they should evangelize (and enact) democratic self-determination for everyone in all countries around the world. This doctrine is based on the premise that democracies are more likely to be good trading partners, and less likely to be enemies, and that it is the path of righteousness.
Despite this path, you have to look no farther than America to see that she has more laws governing behavior, more money and resource spent on policing the law, and more people in jail than any other country in the world. For example, in the US, every year there are 88.7 million cases in state courts and more than 1.1 million cases in federal courts; which means for a population of 300 million, more than one in four people go to court every year! This not only a lot of rules, it's a lot of rules being policed, broken, and prosecuted.
Britain has a massive CCTV surveillance system, and America may have an even more comprehensive surveillance system, but I presume various national security statutes prevent their true nature from being disclosed. Again - a massive investment in watching people on the assumption that rules are being broken.
Despite being the home of the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence, these two democracies have a palpable mistrust of their people, and their governments are creating new rules every day, increasingly investing in citizen oversight and control.
Is this type of "control" a societal reality no matter the form of government? Are we all naturally such rule-breakers that structure and order are needed to keep us in line?
Is democracy the best form of government? Surely people so prone to "straying" shouldn't be entrusted with electing their own leaders? Surely so mistrusted a population requires a much more "assertive" governance model?
Think about "successful" countries, ones where progress is happening, education, healthcare and economic standards are improving, and where there is more optimism than pessimism. According to Geopolitical Monitor, the ten biggest non-BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India & China) countries "on the rise" are Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, Poland, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Iran, Argentina and Thailand. There is a mix of government models here, but in reality, most are more authoritarian than anything else.
Could it be that people need (and even prefer) to be governed with a "firm hand"? Could it be that people are not happy until they're explicitly told what to do? Could it be that many people seek the authority of organized religion when they perceive their government to be too lenient or loose? Could it be that all we really need are enlightened despots?
When people are granted freedom, the first thing they do is figure out how to take advantage of it; governments create laws to prevent "bad behavior"; people find more loopholes, and the cycle repeats.
I'm not saying I want to give up my freedom and my right to choose, to speak, to believe, indeed to pursue happiness. I'm simply noting that whenever we have it, our tendency is to abuse it, and then complain (or lobby) when it is taken away. What if we just resigned ourselves to the fact that we were not meant to be free, and what we really need is a ruler who already has everything and a small enough or well-fed enough ego to do the right thing by us?
Is it best for us to live in a benign state of oppression? Would we be happier? Or is happiness perennially fighting "the man"?