22 Feb 2011

Protest and the moral challenge for you and me

In my inbox this morning, I find the heading “Who’s Next?(the Oil Companies?)”. The article comes to me courtesy of the European Energy Review (EER). It suggests that oil companies who have done (pocket lining) deals with governments who have now killed their own people, may not be far behind in the list of targets that attract the ire of protesters seeking to liberate themselves from the “old orders”. Russia, China, Saudi, Oman are all in the article’s headlights as potential areas of crisis for the oil companies.

In the main text, EER’s Editor, Karel Blackman, argues that it is an illusion to believe the energy companies’ moral responsibility ‘stops at the gate’.

It’s not just oil companies of course. The same applies to Ministers, elected politicians, governments, Defence Companies, Security Companies, and you and I. Why did we allow our economies, our jobs, our society, to be founded upon wealth generated by despotic dictators who for decades have ground the faces of their own people into the filthy effluent of their own corruption and tyranny?

Gaddafi has been what he is throughout his 42 years in power. Who duped Tony Blair’s administration into believing he had changed? Blair wasn’t alone, but he was out front. The Americans were close behind, the French in fast contention.

But Libya is easy, an overtly nasty regime. Like Saudi, it has controlled journalistic access tightly. I have only been twice in my working life, only interviewed the Colonel once, and found him absolutely and alarmingly crazed. Saudi is harder, a carapace of charm and gold-plated control. But as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, one of the most ruthless abusers of its own people on earth. It does not stop there.

CNN two nights ago transmitted video of its own camera team being beaten up by security thugs in a remote village in China. The reporter had been trying to reach an unarmed dissident whose peaceful protest in China has attracted years in jail and now isolated house arrest. China presents all of us with more morale issues’ Should they be allowed to “stop at the gate”?

Tanks, anal probes, torture equipment, CS Gas, even the chemical used to kill Americans on death row… should any of us be supplying any of it to anyone? It will become the bigger and bigger question of our time, as the social network educates, informs, misinforms, propagandises the world’s oppressed in what is done in our name.

We may be entering some of the most morally liberating and practically dangerous times since the second world war. is that an exaggeration? None of us can know.

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50 reader comments

  1. Mike says:

    Why not extend it? Our chocolate companies are all known to make heavy use (through intermediaries, of course) of child slavery (literal slavery, no hyperbole here) on the Ivory Coast, for example.

    As Lenin said, the developed world can sustain an aristocracy of labour through the most intense exploitation of the developing world. What else was the 1980s revolution built on?

  2. Zion says:

    “Why did we allow our economies, our jobs, our society, to be founded upon wealth generated by despotic dictators who for decades have ground the faces of their own people into the filthy effluent of their own corruption and tyranny?”

    Put this in a broader context, Jon Snow, the wealth of Modern Britain is from corruption and tyranny too, remember colonialism and slavery? The history of companies like Tate and Lyle and the Bank of England is not pretty. British companies cheaply outsourcing to China or buying up farm land in Africa in countries run by despots is the modern form of capitalist colonialism (only this time Britain profits from it but isn’t the oppressive ruler). All the ‘British values’ of freedom, democracy and development are at the expense of someone else, and because Britain is a rich country it can afford to be shielded from the tyranny and corruption that makes Britain free and rich.

  3. Philip Edwards says:

    Jon,

    Firstly, Blair wasn’t “duped.” His entire political career has been notable for its opportunism, duplicitousness and hypocrisy. He conforms to the all-party British political type. Cameron and Clegg are no different. It is and always has been the mark of a neo-con.

    Secondly, the enemy is and always has been capitalism. Oil and arms industries immorality and corruption are no different from cotton industry (remember King Cotton slavery?) immorality and corruption. This will apply to all aspects of life controlled by capitalism. There is nothing new about it. Only the emphasis changes.

    Thirdly, small wonder this evil creeps into everything. Why be surprised when judicial killing is reintroduced into US neo-con culture? Why be surprised when they profiteer at the expense of sick people? Why be surprised when the CIA and MI6 are part of international drugs trafficking? What is the difference between Britain’s Opium War and the Oil Wars?

    All citizens of conscience know full well this evil has been allowed a free rein for over a generation. It is time to end it once and for all. That’s what Tahrir Square is REALLY all about.

    1. Moonbeach says:

      I do not know of any non-capitalist regime that would tolerate your ludicrous opinions.

      Maybe Russia, China, Korea or Cuba would suit you better or some little known tribe in Africa or South America! Yes, their peoples really benefited by not embracing capitalism, didn’t they?

      And, Jon, they all deal with despotic regimes as well as us. Why? Because, as you know, it is in our interest so to do.

      Perhaps, Phillip, you could give us a clue as to where on Planet Earth there is an Utopian society where immorality and corruption are things of the past?

      Humans are not perfect thank God. But to condemn the clear benefits of capitalism to the majority because of a few meglomaniacs is crass.

      Just get on with living your life by your standards and let others get on with theirs.

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Philip so simplistic,So ultra left socialism , with no answers in the real world, other than to blame Capitalism.
      Capitalism , like it or not ,provides the cash by which we live.We live in a global world in which Capitalism is the driving force.
      You quite obviously do not want to be part of that world.
      What do you reccomend for i have never seen you put an alternative?
      Shall we go back to caves and bartering?Or have you some great ideal Philip?

    3. sue_m says:

      Moonbeach & Adrian, are you confusing capitalism with democracy? Or just not distinguishing between the unbridled capitalism that we see in the world today which enriches the greedy and powerful, and fair, regulated trade with other nations?
      Philips views are not ludicrous and to say communist Cuba, China et al wouldn’t tolerate them may be true but neither do many of the capitalist regimes of the world tolerate dissent – mid east, south-east asia etc. Repressive regimes are not always communist and capitalist ones are not always free. Your argument is flawed.
      Capitalism has its good points but unregulated and uncontrolled it feeds off the disadvantaged and causes much misery. Globalism has amplified this. We need to stop worshipping money above all else and enriching the unscrupulous few excessively, at the expense of vast swathes of other human beings.

    4. Jim Flavin says:

      ”they all deal with despotic regimes as well as us. Why? Because, as you know, it is in our interest so to do.” –
      So if it is in our interests – corruption etc is ok ?.
      ”where on Planet Earth there is an Utopian society where immorality and corruption are things of the past”- Unfortuantely you are correct – Nowhere . Utopian ideals do not suit humans becuse we are a nasty competitive bunch – so Capitalism suits Humans to a T – as it too is nasty and competitive .
      Surely that does not mean that we cannot try to improve the situation- and not have the huge and increasing Rich / poor divide .To say that only a few meglomaniacs cause the trouble – well the bankers , speculators , companies that still use sweat shop labour – these are more than a few – and many when they go bust get others to pay their bills .Capitalism is not the answer – it is at the moment the problem – a more equal distribution of power and wealth would go some way to alleviating that problem . Some have more money than they could spend in ten or a hundred lifetimes – yet they want more – can we not progrees s from this law of the jungle ?.

    5. adrian clarke says:

      Sue-m,read carefully what others put ,not your own ideas of what others say.
      I never for one moment equated Capitalism with any form of rule.Certainly not democracy.
      I clearly stated that the world in which we live is global and it is driven by Capitalism.
      If you disagree with that statement, i would appreciate your views as to why.
      I will still ask those that disagree with global Capitalism , how we as a nation can survive without being a part of it.
      I personally accept that many aspects of Capitalism are dirty and disagreeable.I would embrace any realistic working model of an alternative, but i have yet to read of one from the so called Socialists on here.

    6. sue_m says:

      Ah Adrian, you may try and turn my own words (from another blog) against me but yet you again prove it is you that does not read thoroughly in the first place. If you look you will see my defence of Philip’s view was to you AND Moonbeach. Perhaps that is a little lazy of me but I wouldnt want to be clogging up the blogs with multiple responses to almost every individual post like some folk do.
      So yes, there were parts not applicable to your post – its not all about you after all.
      I don’t disagree that we live in a global society driven by capitalism – in fact I mentioned that too but I distinguished between controlled and regulated capitalism and the free-rein version we currently have. Your views seem so simplistic, so right-wing – if one doesnt like the current model then one must be a socialist out to destroy the ‘benefits’ of capitalism. All extremes of society, capitalist or socialist, cause problems – could your mind open to the possibility that some think a moderated form of one or other is a better model? That is the alternative you claim not to have seen. As for caves and bartering – owning ‘property’ and exchanging goods, is that not a capitalist model?

    7. Moonbeach says:

      Sue-m and Jim,

      Nowhere have I said that capitalism is perfect or anything to do with democracy. In fact, I simply believe that it offers the least worse option for benefiting the most people whether living in a democratic, socialist or totalitarian regime.

      With regard to our flawed form of democracy, at least we can have a voice against sleeze and corruption. In a very small way, my votes helped to throw out the sleazy Tories in 1997 and the dreadful New Labour regime of Blair and Brown last year.

      You see, Jim, I don’t vote for left, right or centre. I vote for high values. I also recognise, though, that ‘power corrupts etc’ and that we will have to throw the latest lot out after a couple of Parliaments or so.

      Pedantic views based on perceptions of history will not lead to a better society. We live in the ‘now world’ and pragmatic policies rather than unrealistic ideals are more likely to benefit the majority.

    8. Jim Flavin says:

      ” would embrace any realistic working model of an alternative, but i have yet to read of one .”-
      Adrian – it has been presented here mnay time – fairer taxation – and all I hear back is taxing the Rich will make no difference . Wonder where that came from .
      Like heck it wont .Here in ROI from figures availble PAYE paid 87% of tax take – while private sector was 10% approx – farmers 1.6% !!!!!. It will as I said require a C cahnge in our thinking – and a basic chnge in our nature – but we are out from the trees now – and still basically we behave as herd animals – if we can do no better than this – sooner we become extinct the better . So many seem to say we must deal with dredful regimes for our ” own good ”. – what morality is there is that ?.
      I have doubts re any change from herd mentality .- Tomorrow here we vote – and the result is a 4gone conclusion – more of the same – from a ”different” party – who will be voted in in many cases by those who benifeited from Socialist CAP .
      Chomskys video on topic – not new but worth a look as ever . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFxYyXGMfZM

    9. Tom Wright says:

      I find this polar argument of socialism vs capitalism dispiriting. Its the difference between what is, and what, in our better moments we would all like to be. As someone once said, ‘Socialism is a great idea, the only trouble is that it hasn’t been tried’. A rare opportunity for me to agree with Jim Flavin: we are indeed often a ‘nasty competitive bunch’.

      The argument is pointless. They are not the only two choices. We should focus more on what we agree on – the Rights of Man, Freedom of Speech, Equality before the Law, the right for everyone to involved in our choice of leader – AKA democracy.

      The rest is mere policy difference and should be argued as such. Your political opponents and the voters that support them are mistaken, not evil. Playing it any other way is basically doing a Sarah Palin and reducing debate to the lowest possible common denominator.

      I’m constantly staggered by how much, myself included, we lessen debate by taking Right and Left positions, and how, by wearing these clothes, we make inaccurate assumptions about the views and nature of others.

    10. adrian clarke says:

      Jim , you misunderstand my position.I agree with a lot of what you say.Fairer taxation.I have suggested the whole of the bonus system be taxed out of existance.I agree that LVT is a fairer taxation system and would stop a lot of tax avoidance.
      I agree what Tom says,freedom of speech , equality before the law etc.I do not like greedy Capitalists that get rich by taking from society at the expense of others.
      I wish there was a better system,and i wish someone could come up with it,but at this moment in time, like it or not, we live in a global capitalist system,of which the only alternative i can see is to opt out of the world trade and become insular.
      I describe myself as right wing , but to me all that means is living within our means.Having public services that can be afforded.Respect for the rule of law and protection for all particularly the vunerable.I do not like Cameron or the coalition,but i vote tory as it is a vote that can count and despite my dislike i do believe they run the economy better than the alternatives.
      A final point sue_m if you reply to two on the same blog it appears it can be misleading :) If we had our fingers you wouldn’t need to

    11. Jim Flavin says:

      ”We should focus more on what we agree on – the Rights of Man, Freedom of Speech, Equality before the Law, the right for everyone to involved in our choice of leader –” True but all I know is that under ” right wing ”[ call them what you like ] govts – I have and am being scr##ed – also to talk of a left at the moment – well where is there any – Venezuala !!. All these so called parties of the people are of whatever ilk are just following a USA model – which has failed – so basically I have a choice on Friday [ not tomorrow ] of having Arsenic or Arsenic . As for choosing our leader – well the banks I think and media moguls do that . I would vote for anyone who puts the good of the people first – which is what it is supposed to be about – but rather obviously is not .

    12. sue_m says:

      Moonbeach, i cant speak for Jim but I was confused by your statement:
      “I do not know of any non-capitalist regime that would tolerate your ludicrous opinions ” and its implication that differences of opinion are only tolerated in capitalist societies. Had you said you knew of no undemocratic regime/dictatorship that would tolerate it then I would have understood better.
      You are right we live in the ‘now’ world but I dont see how it is unrealistic to aim for improving that world. Global corporates now abuse the poorest people in world society in order that a few of the richest can accumulate more wealth than they could need for several lifetimes. It is perfectly realistic to aim for regulation that helps prevent this without destroying the ability to make reasonable profits and create wealth. That would benefit the majority far more than keeping the status quo.

    13. Jim Flavin says:

      ”we lessen debate by taking Right and Left positions, and how, by wearing these clothes, we make inaccurate assumptions about the views and nature of others.” Dont quite follow this . I know the planet is run by the Super Rich – still and they screw us – and that they are basically extreme right wing – who care not a jot for Human Rights etc or fairness . You can call it Left / Right or mickey mouse – It does not change the facts . eg the Rich get Richer not by hard work – – but mainly by corruption – and like the banks getting others to pay their bills when they make mistakes – yeah boy – thats ”Democracy” .

    14. Moonbeach says:

      Sue-m, I am sorry to have confused you. Philip sees no merit in Capitalism. I was trying to make the point (badly obviously) that those who claim not to practise capitalism, some of whom I listed, have not only not benefited their people but also do not tolerate criticism.

      This has nothing to do with democracy by which I assume you mean the will of the majority. Our capitalist society falls demonstrably short in a number of areas. (EU, Capital Punishment, Bankers’ bonuses etc)

      I agree that we should try to improve the world and my children are fed up with me saying “aim for the sky and you might hit the tops of the trees”.

      But beware! Often well meaning policies are hijacked and abused by the unscrupulous. (Benefits, Human Rights, anti-discrimination laws, NHS, Employment Law and so on)

      The last Labour administration destroyed our values and curbed the freedoms of the majority by pandering to its perception of what might offend minorities! We cannot discuss subjects such as Christian values in schools, Homosexual adoption of children, Muslim Terrorism etc without being labled a bigot or (fill in the blank)phobe!

      Please save me from do-gooders!

    15. Tom Wright says:

      Blimey Jim. As ever, you’ve confused ‘post’ with ‘rant’ and ‘debate’ with ‘fight’. Please contain yourself before you have a stroke.

  4. adrian clarke says:

    Now here lies a conundrum.In a global market place do we only deal with countries where there is democracy as we know it?Do we cease trading with countries where there is a perceived human rights problem or where we know there is a dictator?
    Perhaps it is time to become totally insular and become self sufficient.Withdraw from Europe , because we disagree with their judges and the CAP,cease trading or importing.Just produce for our own needs.
    Now most would say that is a ridiculous idea.
    If we are to be part of a global market we have to deal with most other countries whatever their politics and state of democracy.We can choose our friends ,but trade with our enemies if it is beneficial to our country

  5. CWH says:

    Mr Snow,
    You wrote:
    “”Who duped Tony Blair’s administration into believing he had changed?””

    Tony Blair was not duped by Gadaffi. He [Blair] knew exactly the sort of person he was dealing with when he went kissy-kissy with Gadaffi in the desert.

    I have often wondered how Jack Straw felt that day. Was he not the Labour MP who, when Mrs Thatcher greeted General Pinochet, called it ‘gut wrenchingly awful’. Wonder how his guts reacted when Blair met the Colonel?

    (If it was not Mr Straw who made the remark then apologies.)

  6. Philip says:

    If there was an Olympic medal for moral self righteousness the Brits would surely win it. Let us all spout our prejudices and idiosyncratic views of the world & feel better! If we dealt only with nice regimes & only traded with them, vast numbers of UK workers would be unemployed. Blair dealt with Gadaffi for 3 reasons – (a) he wanted to bring him into the international community to prevent him getting his hands on nuclear weapons (b) to keep him out of supporting militant muslim groups like al Qaeda and (c) to increase UK trade with Libya, for UK jobs. Gadaffi is plainly an unpleasant brutal specimen of his kind, but plenty of people we do deals with – e.g. the Chinese leadership – have just as much. Just as no-one seriosuly predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall, no-one predicted the Arab uprising. 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. I wonder how many more UK jobs would be lost if we adopted a policy of only doing deals with nice regimes? What are moral certainties for some of us are the daily wage for others.

  7. Tom Wright says:

    Feels a bit like the aftermath of the French revolution of 1789 out there. The ideas it unleashed – universal suffrage, the Rights of Man, religious freedom, could not be put back in the box.

    Those in favour of revolution should be careful what they wish for. When an old order and all its certainties are swept away the opportunists always move faster than the idealists who kick it off. Ultimately we benefited, but nevertheless 1789 signalled decades long war in Europe, economic destruction on a massive scale, and some of the most repressive laws ever passed in the UK.

    Foreign policy & business ethics are malleable against this backdrop: doing the ‘right’ thing does not necessarily have the best consequences – any good student of history can tell you that Progress is not a guaranteed outcome. Suffering, however, is.

  8. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Who are we do speculate upon what is going on inside someones head? Was TB duped or did he have strong faith that the supposed spark of good will would be reciprocated if the olive branch was extended?
    We do not understand the nature of the middle eastern temperament which is violent , tribal and hot headed. There is prestige in gaining power via battle and power. Generations and generations have been built upon tendency towards physical ownership of other humans.

    As far as trading is concerned sanctions can be imposed where needed , but again it is usually the innocent who suffer and the leaders do not apparently care. By continuing trading there is at least a chance to persuade by whatever means that slavery , violence and autocracy is not the 21st Century.

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      I have to say I agree with Philip Edwards as far as Capitalism is concerned.He has been accused of being simplistic, but as he points out in an analytical way , all the corruption has the same ingredients in varying degrees and emphasis,i.e. money and the accumulation of it.To put it in its simplest form the sway is towards.
      1) Money first
      2)Power second
      3) humanity last

      Following this earthly concerns trail and are about politics speak.

      Although Philip where we differ is that I am British and morally stand up for self righteousness and my belief in honesty for the sake of all. Without that faith in my own integrity I would have been trampled down to mud under many peoples feet long ago.I still fight for that truth against a crowd whose only interest is gaining jobs with money for themselves by savage lies and allegations then surruptitiously changing evidence over years ; rewriting history.
      One can see how things really don’t alter from the particular to the general . Things just get bigger and bigger in varying degrees of corruption and impact on society.

  9. Nyabinghi says:

    Government, no matter the ruling party, operates in the interests of a global elite which manipulates media, starts wars,and divides and rules by exploiting our most primitive animal instincts of in-group survival.
    The flags which they give us to wave are only toys designed to distract us whilst they carve up the Earth to satisfy their greed. One day a certain nation is supposed to be our enemy, and the next day our friend. When we profit from their corruption we say ‘I’m alright jack’, when we suffer we look for a scapegoat- immigrants, the unemployed etc. instead of considering that a global economic system founded on slavery is morally bankrupt and doomed to failure. They make our world a more dangerous place but they never face any danger personally. They care no more about the average UK citizen than the citizen of any nation. All they care about is the pursuit of money. Most humans are decent and have similar dreams and values but those in power would have us believe otherwise. We are human before we are British or European- we should support the fights for rights so that we can protect the last shreds of human dignity- not moral indignation, but love over money.

    1. Marverde says:

      Thank you for this.
      Beautiful to read and very moving.

      I was feeling quite deflated today having spent the day watching the world say one thing and its rulers another.

      Yes, let’s help protect those “last shreds of human dignity”… I send you love.

  10. phil dicks says:

    Have you ever seen anything as disappointing/outragering as a UK leader, with 8 gun-runners in tow, happily chatting to the leader of a military junta? And this was off-itinerary (a leader won’t usually go to the bathroom without 6-months’ warning).
    Doesn’t it say everything? Doesn’t it explain why we suspected the UK/US/EU/UN(where have they vanished?) have dragged their feet over Tunisia/Egypt/Libya?
    They really don’t like change, do they? The Obamas and Camerons of this world talk-the-talk about “the young and the asprirational”, but they’re only ever a tool, aren’t they?

    And what about those Libyan defecting-diplomats, currently being wined&dined on The Circuit for denouncing the old ‘genocidal’ regime? Where were they for the previous 5/10/20 years of their careers? Is ‘diplomat’ Old English for ‘worm’?

    Realpolitik, innit?

    The next time you hear Your Betters talk about ‘morality’, save yourself some time…just puke.

  11. Saltaire Sam says:

    It’s all very well for the pragmatists to say we have to deal with people we don’t like on occasions.

    But they must also be willing to accept that when the revolution comes, as it appears to be coming in the middle east, the new regimes turn round and say we don’t want to deal with you.

    It’s not only George W who is willing to say if you are not with us you are against us.

    You only have to look at how much of the world holds us in contempt already. Do you think that when Africa is bolstered by Chinese cash they are going to think fondly of the way we have exploited their resources over the last 200 years?

    What goes around…I fear the west may be in for a period of massive decline in our living standards because the emerging economies don’t feel they owe us a thing.

    1. Tom Wright says:

      Its not merely ‘all very well’, its a simple fact. We have to buy, for example, Russian gas, & Saudi oil. Not just for our cars either – since the Green Revolution agriculture depends on the petrochemical industry.

      An Ethical Foreign Policy is not possible. Its also arguable that in practise that its desirable: whoever replaces Mubarak, Gadaffi and all maybe worse, not better. Both replaced installed monarchs and both were initially popular. Simple black and white definitions do not suffice: support for Saddam Hussein frustrated Iranian ambition. Neutering him furthered it. That he was scum is beyond debate. Foreign policy decisions are only proved right or wrong by history – had we lost WWII, Chamberlain may well have been regarded a visionary. What right have our leaders to gamble our lives on the basis of ethics? None!

      I’m baffled by those who believe that Progress is inevitable. History teaches otherwise: revolutions bring change, yes, but they also bring chaos, destruction, war and suffering. It is not inevitable that Good will triumph any more than the defeat of the Nazis was inevitable.

  12. sue_m says:

    It is possible to trade ethically and still make a profit albeit a smaller one in some cases. But the greed is good culture of the west is too selfish and/or shortsighted to see that or to plan long term so we have traded with the repressive and cruel dictators in order to line the pockets of a few with more money than they know what to do with.
    With the oil rich countries in the middle east it is easy to see why governments felt they had to but where is the reasoning for allowing China to flood us with cheap tat produced in unregulated factories which would never be allowed to operate in europe. This to the point where they now have power over us because they can lend us money which our non-producing nations need to prop us up. I try to avoid chinese products (difficult these days) as I would rather pay a few pence or pounds more for goods made in a country that puts human rights, the environment and freedom of expression higher up the agenda than china does. If our governments took this attitude instead of ‘profit above all else’ the world might be a little bit better for all.

    1. A friend says:

      Very good point: “profit above all else”. We’re still too impressed with money and power. We’ve got to train our minds so that money is not the only value. Read Felicity Lawrence’s “Not on the Label” to gain insight into GB’s food supply and the power/money struggles with farmers and other workers in EU. The big four supermarkets have way too much power to screw the farmers! That is why The People’s Supermarket is so great!

      We forget why we’re on this planet…is it to just fight one another? I believe in free markets but a free market that supports freedoms and not power and money-grabbing.

  13. anniexf says:

    There is practically nothing that we in the UK need, or want to buy, that isn’t tainted in some way by the abuse of someone else’s human rights. From cereals to clothes, footwear to fuel, it all bears the stain of innocent blood.
    What do we do? Or more to the point, what CAN we do? Shouting about the injustice may get us somewhere, insofar as we may find others who share our distaste, but where do we go from there? Boycotting goods from specified origins such as South Africa seemed to work – it resulted in general trade sanctions.
    But we’re not dealing just with one country that’s out of step with our “principles” – such as they are – the rot is so widespread and interwoven that we’d die of starvation and cold if we took these principles to their logical conclusion.
    All we can hope for is to achieve a global consensus of like-minded people, maybe via the internet, to help “persuade” the criminal exploiters to moderate their behaviour. Don’t rely on the UN, that toothless, blind and complaisant watchdog; we need a People’s UN. How to do this? Now you’re asking …

    1. adrian clarke says:

      A nice thought Annie, but we can not even control or persuade our own bankers.Do you really think we could persuade the world.
      As for S Africa ,and Zimbabwe , revolution and changes of government did not assist those living in those countries.It did not raise the standard of living of the majority.
      Only time will tell for the countries of Nort Africa and the Middle East.
      Hold on tight , it could be a bumpy and dangerous ride

  14. sentient living being says:

    those necktie nooses subtly apply just enough pressure to kick the most ancient part of our brains into “fear” mode.

    it is also carries phallic symbolism.

    we should not get angry at those who peddle “fear”… that just gives them the excuse to carry on their ways. instead we should simply use non-violent and peaceful means to express to them that we are no longer going to abide by the “fear” they foist upon us.

    regardless of what side or sides they are on, they should consider this is a opportunity for the records of history to show them all in positive light, that is to say they all brought peace to this planet. it is easy to feel angry and want revenge for the ills of the past, but the greatest memorial to those that went unfairly before is to show that those in the now learned from what has happened previously, and the cycle of fear and negativity has a chance of being ceased.

    myself honestly and without mischief believes that everyone in their heart cares positively about everyone else- it’s just we’ve lost sight of what is important… and that is each and every other. we are all equal and it is our collective fundamental right to always experience that.

  15. stephen Bull says:

    Referring to the Lockerbie bomber, Hugo Rifkind had this in The Spectator:-
    My favourite document in the cache released by the Cabinet Office this week is the one that starts ‘Dear Muammar’ and ends ‘yours sincerely, Gordon Brown’. Have you seen it? In the first sentence, our former prime minister reminds the Libyan despot that they recently met at a G8 summit. Pretty bleak, that. It is as though Brown felt close enough to Gaddafi to address him by his first name, but not so close that he was confident Gaddafi would actually remember who he was.
    This puts Douglas Alexander’s pious comments tonight in the right context.
    “Dear Muammar” for God’s sake.
    “I hope your fighter planes really work against your people.”

  16. Trevor Day says:

    I thought he (Gadaffi) and his regime were our friends now , stopping the flood of migrants from Africa swamping southern europe. It will be interesting to see how all these people who call for ‘freedom’ feel when thousand’s of people start turning up on europe’s southern coastline.The unpleasent truth is that we need strong leaders in countries in north africa to protect us and our way of life.

  17. Bob says:

    Interesting prediction Jon. Have you heard of Gerald Celente? This guys got some very scary predictions for the year ahead. Some of his predictions for 2011:
    ‘1.Wake up call
    2.Crack up
    3.Screw the People’. This is a global perspective.
    This guy is really frightening because some of his ideas and theories have actually happened already. The thing is today with natural disasters, global economic collapse and nations of disenfranchised youth it’s very difficult to find a positive perspective. Especially whenever you visit the local dole office to find hundred (really millions) of people in the same position. How can any of us plan ahead? God Knows!

  18. Anarcho-Goth says:

    The reason these vile dictators have been in power for so long is partly our fault, and there is no moral justification for allowing them to continue to steal from, murder and cheat their people. There has been a lot of hand-wringing in this comments section, the usual nonsense about how good these filthy, avaricious tyrants are for European nations and western capitalism. Frankly if the cost of a comfortable life is the blood of innocent people, no matter how far away and easy to ignore, I don’t want it.
    The problem is deep and systemic, we live in a world where it has long been accepted that unpinned capitalism may have its faults but it’s the ‘least worst’ method of ensuring prosperity. This doctrine has reached the point where people are genuinely willing to accept torture, murder and the destruction of the planet we live on in order to keep this ludicrous fantasy alive. Many of the arguements used to justify these consistent abuses of power are indistinguishable from those used by the merchants who traded human lives when they were confronted by the abolitionist movement. They weren’t good enough then, they’re not good enough now. They never will be.

  19. cherbic says:

    All in all Jon, I think the whole modern world is based on some kind of oppression.
    Britain and the USA are by no means any better.
    Britain and the USA pokes their noses into affairs of other nations, whose culture they do not seem to understand -or even want to.
    We then open up our doors to let any ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ into this country, and then act with surprise when some of these people cause trouble here on our doorstep.

  20. Joe says:

    Cameron touring the middle east with 32 defence contractors in tow selling bullets and tear gas was not the right image.

  21. Gerard Horgan says:

    Jon,

    You and the team are doing excellent reporting, simply some of the best local, national and international news, especially strong coverage on the Middle East.

    As for the question you ask, well President Kennedy outlined the Western mentality when he spoke in relation to the dictator Rafael Trujillo:

    “There are three possibilities in descending order of preference: a decent democratic regime, a continuation of the Trujillo regime or a Castro regime. We ought to aim for the first, but really can’t renounce the second until we are sure we can avoid the third.”

    Western commercial interests and access to strategic resources determine the game (plus a good old dash of Western hypocrisy – see the Western arms industry, sales of sniper scopes and tear gas and God only knows what else to Gadaffi and others). The mafia principle also applies, you pay off the strong man in the region like Mubarak so that you keep him and others on side.

    Thankfully the West is getting a lesson in the democracy that it purports to champion by people who are prepared to risk their lives for freedom from poverty, unemployment and authoritarianism.

  22. Saltaire Sam says:

    The crisis in Libya has shone a spotlight on just how wedded to private enterprise this government is.

    I heard an interview with a foreign office spokesman before they got their spin in place and he said that they had expected ordinary commercial planes to bring back Britons from Tripoli.

    But of course our airlines weighed the potential profit against the risk and stayed at home and only then did the government act.

    I wonder if this will make Cameron & Co realise that some services cannot be trusted to the market? I doubt it. They seem to be determined to privatise everything even though practically every industry privatised by Maggie has been bad for the consumer.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire,The crisis in Libya has shone a spotlight on just how wedded to private enterprise this government is.
      In a global market place , shouldn’t any government worth its salt be so wedded?
      If not how do you propose they pay for a public sector?
      People despise the cuts , yet seem to forget they are necessary because of gross, almost criminal mismanagement by Labour.The increase of the public sector in stupid jobs , telling us how to give up smoking , how to reduce weight etc.The ludicrous pandering to minorities , who if they want to live here should obey our laws and understand our language.The deliberate influx of migrants to propose multi culturism.Stupid ethnicity and diversity laws costing us all a fortune.PFI to be paid over years and years.
      ALL PAID FOR BY BORROWING,with no thought how it is to be paid
      Do the public see the need for cuts , or university fees.No they still support the failed policies of Labour.Perhaps we get what we deserve

    2. Saltaire Sam says:

      Adrian, if you look carefully, I’m not saying there is no need to make any cuts. Like every massive enterprise, there are savings that can and should be made. You and I might argue about what those cuts should be – e.g. persuading people to lose weight or give up smoking could well bring down the cost of the health service in the long run – but we can agree there can and must be some cuts.

      My argument is that this government is using the excuse of cuts to introduce the private sector into what I believe should be state-run services. I am most concerned about the NHS especially since, as Polly Toynbee pointed out this week, once the contracts have been signed, it will be very hard to go back.

      I believe that certain services are so important they should not be subject to exploitation for profit. They include health, water, railways and things like domestic energy. Just today we have seen gas profits soar, money that will go to shareholders rather than ensuring that poor, often elderly people, can afford to keep their homes warm.

      I know nationalised industries have a poor record but we should improve them, not hand the cash over private shareholders.

    3. sue_m says:

      Adrian, surely the public sector wastage you mention wasnt ALL paid for by borrowing – there were plenty of people in work paying taxes after all. Yes, due to wastage AND bailing out the crooks at the banks, we need to make cutbacks but just because the public do not support the particular cuts of this govt’s choosing doesnt mean they support all labour’s policies. Perhaps they just believe in prioritising things differently? For example, tax the bankers more severely (as well as regulate them so they can’t bring the country down again), close the loopholes that the super rich use to avoid tax, maybe have the guts to stand up to the EU and substantially cut our contribution until we are back on our feet – all these are things we cannot afford but are they being addressed? No because it doesnt suit the policies of Tories. So another govt fails us – what we deserve is a real alternative which we wont get if we keep voting for the current parties.

      Still we agree on one thing at least – the thumbs up/down after comments would save a lot of typing :-)

    4. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire and sue-m(see i am trying to save blogs :) )We agree on several things and as Saltaire says disagree on others.Sue we even agree (almost) on the causes..
      We could probably run a better government, more democratic than the current lot.Certainly the bankers need bringing down to earth,It appears they provide too much wealth to the country to deal with them by ourselves.However we the people COULD take concerted action ,by deserting those banks that give huge bonuses.
      Sue as for the EU again it is time the government listened to the people and once and for all we decide whether we are in or out.I can see no advantage to us being in, whatsoever. Europe would not cease trading with us were we out,and there are alternative markets.The savings would probably pay off the debt.
      Saltaire i do not think we substantially disagree on where the cuts should come.If councils concentrated on core services first and then if there was money left , on their pet projects i reckon there would be no cuts in frontline services.
      As for the private sector in the NHS Saltaire, as long as the service is free at the point of delivery,that could be a good thing. tbc

  23. adrian clarke says:

    cont/
    I am not totally with you on privatisation Saltaire,because the State is unable to run anything efficiently or at a profit.Pre privatisation ,all the utilities you mention were over manned and losing money that we certainly could not afford now.
    Just as the NHS is now.Just as councils across the country are.I am afraid the market can put some discipline into working practises , except for those “bloody bankers.:)

    1. adrian clarke says:

      If this link comes through Saltaire it shows an alternative to the Labour parties political cuts in Leeds.
      Leeds Conservatives’ alternative budget to Labour’s service cuts

    2. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      People are the state , people are the private sector. Where does humanity come into things rather than profiteering?

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