Débats intéressants

Soumis par tatien le mardi, 22 avril, 2003 - 23:48 Essai

Au début de la guerre en Irak, l'un des profs de mon département a proposé un débat sur le mouvement anti-guerre. Les échanges de mail ont été consignés ici. Je vous laisse en juger par vous-même.

Suite à ce débat, un des étudiants du lab a également posté deux courts articles qui ont trait à la démocracie et à la politique internationale. Je lui ai demandé si je pouvais les poster sur le site et il m'a donné la permission de le faire.

Note: le prof s'appelle Balasz, l'étudiant en question s'appelle François; les bouts du texte précédés du symbole ">" sont des extraits d'une des réponses à Balasz, que l'on peut trouver au lien que j'ai fourni plu haut.

Désolé pour le format, le texte est assez long et c'est un copier-coller d'un e-mail.

Hi guys,

As you both know, I have read with interest your debate; I'm siding on Balazs's side for a variety of reasons I have outlined in my past few emails; but the last exchange compels me to join in as the debate has widen to the nature of democracy and fundamental underlying concepts, and it seems to me that misconceptions are voiced. I will state my opinion and reflections on these basic concepts; I have extracted parts of Jean-Sebastien's remarks and grouped them by subject as the format was getting awkward due to the length of the discussion.

> In United States, it is different. There are two factions, which > reveal to be funded by the same oligarchies in the end, and which > approximately follow the same agenda. And every four years, you > have the right to change. Well, of course, if you're not too much > communist nor anti-patriotic, you can start a new party. But then > you need this bunch of uneducated people to know about you -- well > now you just need 50% of them -- and this costs money. And the > money is not in your pockets.

> Let me put it another way. I think the U.S. government (which > includes all political institutions + everything that has power > over its decisions) will strive to protect its own interests in > any conflict, and I think its normal. It is the natural way of > human institutions.

> I think most of modern states have not yet taken the step towards > a humanitarian concern beyond their own borders, though I'm ready > to agree that some have taken a few steps in that direction. > States first protect their own interests, trying to maintain > their power. Their power comes from their economy, finance, > culture, politics and army.

> What could actually make it different, in my view, is by "giving" > more education, better information and more power/responsibility > to the people. People can have this CONCERN for other people's > well-being:

> states never have, except when their leaders have. The problem is > that just concern does not necessarily leads to good decisions. > But contrary to you, I think concern plus education and > information can lead to good decisions, humanitarian decisions. > And don't think I'm suggesting a direct democracy as you put it > in your mail to Pascal; however I believe that a democracy that > promotes participation of people in the decision process and that > offers education that stimulates critical thinking would be a > plus for humanity.

> But the institutions we have mostly work the other way by > concentrating power, paternizing people and tittytaining them so > as to better control them.

> Coming back to the Rumsfeld example, even if Bush is no more > president, will he get out of politics? The Bush family will > still have a say over US policies because of its financial and > political power, and even if I don't see him anymore, I'm > confident I'll see in United States policies that overly > advantages the class that is in power. The same applies to Tony Blair: > he won't be in the street after all this, he'll still have power and > though his people may oppose him (because they don't know about their > own interests nor iraqis') for many important people he's done a great > job.

> Bush is a product of the system. He's not an error of nature. And > voting for the democrats won't change much into that (maybe a lower > death toll).

On representational democracy, virtual democracy (direct democracy), power, politics and the majority.

Representational democracy is the de facto standard because it's the only system that has worked over the years, and it stays in place because it's what the majority wants. When a society is healthy, people concentrate on their calling: doctors operate, teachers teach, researchers research, students study, workers work, and every one comes home and have supper watches the news, reads the papers a bit, do their leisure activities and goes to bed. The majority does not want to vote more than once every 4-5 years, it's not a system imposed by the leaders, it's a system imposed by the majority. People want to take care of business, invest themselves in their hobbies, families, social groups and their charities. They do not want to spend a few hours every night reading on topics and making philosophical and rational judgments: people do not want to think more than required.

It's not a global conspiracy of the mass media, René Angelil and Ted Turner to keep the majority in the dark : these are free countries; people chose to remain indecisive and uninvolved in politics. When the majority is hungry, they get involved; but when they do not perceive any major problem, they choose a representative (and a party) whose ideas globally resemble their view and vote for him, entrusting him with the power to take decisions on their behalf.

This elected government has a limited freedom of action for 4-5 years, their actions have to follow the general lines of their program or else they will face a revolt of their militants and representatives, but they are not required by their supporters to follow each electoral promises they did; they are politicians after all. This is where lobbying comes in; each interests group gives a shot at influencing the government decisions. Lobbying is neither illegal nor surprising, as the citation in my first email quite nicely puts it: "all power corrupts but we need electricity". It's clear that politicians are to different degrees movable on decisions, and large organizations have some degree of influence on decisions. Lobbies exist for every minority that wants to influence the government it's way: gay rights, big companies, unions, environmentalists, wealthy taxpayers etc.

To a certain extent, when you go down in the streets and fight with the cops to manifest your opinion about the ZLEA or some other globalization movement, you are a minority that lobbies the government, you are threatening civil unrest if this or that decision is past. By doing such actions lobbies very often go against the majority's will: polls are taken and show that the majority is against such or such decision, but it does not matter to the minority supporting the motion, it will keep pushing the envelop until the government sways its way.

Now, before going any further, I want to make one point very clear: we CAN rely on polls. The only litigious point is the question: there is a variable degree of subjectivity that can be introduced in the formulation of a question that can bias the answer, but the rest is a relatively precise science: it is statistics and demographics: it's a snapshot of the population's opinion at a particular moment, within a few percentage points.

Check out the following link for more information on how polls achieve their accuracy: http://www.ncpp.org. Since the question is published with the poll results, you can review it and judge for yourself if the question introduces a bias. You can also generally review the methodology, it's always published with the poll: newspapers do not always reproduce them, but you can get them from the pollster.

Since lobbies would not be necessary if the majority would agree to a decision, one can ague that these work against democracy: they push the government in directions they may or may not have the mandate for.

The elected government in Washington has an ear for the oil industry, no one questions that. Here in Québec, it happens that the unions have the attention of the government in power; these are facts of life. When it comes to war, Americans are for it in a proportion of 70%. (source: http://www.gallup.com/) The USA is a democracy, and it's population supports this war; the reason being petroleum, human rights, democracy, WTC trauma, money, it does not matter.

As to getting more informed, and participate actively in the decision process, the majority does not want to do that; I believe it's probably better this way. You and I want ourselves and the population to be better informed and make rational decisions, we can incite people around us to be better informed about their vote and its effects, join a lobby or an interest group or try to get elected. I chose the first choice as I don't like lobbies, and I do not want to get into politics, not for now anyway.

I will state the opposite of you: you do not need a lot of money to start a political party: 500$. Look at "le bloc pot", you do not need a big budget to be known. Look at http://www.dgeq.qc.ca/faq/index.html for more information on how the process works.

As for lobbies, it's granted that lobbies do not care which governments is in power, they will lobby nevertheless; what changes is the receptivity of the government in place. Bush's advisors and special groups would not get much attention with a president like Clinton. To state that democrats and republicans are the same is to really not understand American politics. On top of that, there are actually several other parties that cater to minorities: the green party, the libertarians, Marxists-Leninists, Trotskists, the Reform, etc.

Bush is simply a guy that had the backing of the majority of fellow party members.( Just like Jean Chrétien) Being simple minded does not prevent you from getting the backing of your fellows party members; he probably has a lot of in-person charisma, and good connections in the party establishment. It is a system that placed it there; the system is called Democracy. The American system even guarantees that the same guy does not govern for more than 8 years, that why there is always those leadership races: Bush had to win that vote before going on to be elected as the president. Although I do agree with you that it's not enough, the north-American governments do give out a lot of humanitarian aid. The USA government is currently giving 0.1% of it's GDP in humanitarian and developmental aid: that amounts to 8.7 billion dollars a year (source http://www.usaid.gov/). The private charities give out about 1 billion extra overseas, although way better administered than public funds. If you want to do something for the world's hunger relief, do it with your own money; it's well documented that private non-profits have a way better efficiency. A study that I can't find anymore was stating that help actually getting to the needy was somewhere in the order of 5 times more per dollar for NGOs. Some hunger relief NGO like UNICEF are known to be relatively corrupted, but on the other hand, others like World Vision (http:www.worldvision.ca) are relatively transparent and you can know where the money is going, and have access to their budget and expense sheet.

> If we want institutions that go in the sense of equality and > justice, we'll have to create them: they just don't exist yet in > ANY modern society (maybe they do in some Scandinavian countries, > but I won't go into that because I don't know much about their > institutions).

> It is possible that the things will change after Irak in United > States, though I seriously doubt it. If the US goes in Kurdistan, > they'll do it for the petrol, not for the Kurds. Sorry if you > take it as a blind anti-american stance; I would really hope for > a different explanation, which I would accept if there is one.

> By the way, you made me realize I kind of idealized the United > Nations. Thanks, sincerely. I clearly view that UN is submitted > to the pressures of the different countries in action. Therefore, > it's actions will mostly go into the sense of what the main > powers want. For example, in the Balkans, one of the things that > jammed it was the Russians opposition (for protecting the Serbs). > It is not a government, it's an organisation, an agora for the > countries. It has a diplomatic power, but it's quite dim in > fact.

> Right now, there is little hope the actual war will actually lead to > a democracy in Irak. Nobody really knows what will happen. What is > clear > is that the US want Saddam out and while this will be a plus for human > rights, > thinking this will lead to democracy is rather optimistic. Besides, > the US also said they would bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan: > the actual situation there, after a war that cost many lives, has not > changed much: we can't seriously call it a democracy yet and the > situation of women, just to take it as an example, have not changed > very much.

> We don't know either the extent of the "collateral" damages this war > will bring on the country. They will be high and the longer this war, > the biggest the humanitarian crisis that will follow will be. There is > also a cost in international relations because of the unilateralism of > the action, and we should not ignore it.

> So the answer to your first question is that "I can hardly believe > they're doing it for democracy and human rights. If it's not part of > their agenda, there is little hope Irak will create democratic > institutions after the war. And even if it is part of their agenda, > there is no certainty at all wether they will succeed in doing > it. However, the humanitarian crisis the war will create in Irak > cannot be denied. This is why I'm against that war."

On UN, human rights and international law.

Many thinkers argue that the UN is a flawed system, and hardliner republican hawks want to do away with it. By putting the US and the UN on a collision course, France and Germany are playing a dangerous game, in my opinion. The current administration is to blame too, as I have stated earlier, with their internal fight.

There is an international convention for the human bill of rights. But international law has nothing to do about getting them to be respected; half of the world lives without freedom of speech right now. International law is about borders, international water, diplomatic protocols and procedures. The

International Criminal Court in the Hague is place where people who are accused of crimes against humanity are prosecuted because no country wants to take on itself the responsibility of a fair trial to ex-dictators, but as far as protecting human rights, it's a responsibility of each government: in Canada it's in the constitution. These rights come with a sovereign state, with the responsibility to vote. In other countries, these people are given these rights by us from developed and free countries, but their constitutions does not grant them these, and therefore their sovereign government has the (local) right to not respect them.

Sadam has not respected human rights, and he's going down. Post-Sadam, there will be a military protectorate like in Afghanistan. If you want to follow the progress there, you can check out the link: http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/vLCE/Afghanistan?OpenDocument&StartKey=Afghanistan&Expandview Every example of post war military occupation by American forces has led to democracies, the second and third largest economies of the world have been built in 50 years from the ground up and are very successful

democracies, following a US military occupation. (Japan and Germany)

There are several other examples; with the rest of the world watching, the US does not have a choice. All it wants is regional stability, and a lower terrorism threat; a democracy will bring them that, but first a protectorate will be necessary in order to restore law and order.

> 'because of people like you' : I don't think I have much power > over the decisions of any government, so I think I'm free to make > some judgment mistakes for now, thanks. Besides, this looks like a > quick generalisation.

I personally do not like lobbies, it's nothing personal. When you protest and fight with the police your activism is trying to defeat democracy, you know as a fact you are a minority and you still go down in the street to try to push your point through. To me, it is bullying tactic, we have institutions where it is possible to express yourself, you can even go to the Assemblée Nationale or to the House of Commons, and there is a question period where you can address the leaders.

>Don't take me wrong when I say: "what the terms DEMOCRACY, JUSTICE >and HUMAN RIGHTS mean to me are different from what they mean to >you". It doesn't mean we can't have the same official definition, it >means these words ARE NOT their definitions. They're more like a >feeling, and I'm sure the feeling inside you (what you "mean") when >you say one of these words is different from the feeling I have (or >Saddam, or Bush have).

> That's the same I mean when I say I don't KNOW about oppression. Of >course I can make a nice definition of it, but my meaning of >oppression is different from that of an Iraqi, who's oppressed in >everyday life.

>I'll still try a few definitions:


A dictionary would clear things up. Your position seems to involve a lot of hearsay, imprecise information and conspiracy theories. You are entitled to your opinion, but if you want to argue about it, you have to lay facts down, with their source. If you put forward a hypothesis, you have to have evidence that suggest that it is a reasonable assumption. It's very hard to argue when even word definitions are gut feelings, let alone projections that are unsubstantiated.

Faced with facts and clear definitions, I would be pleased to continue arguing my views, and review my position if presented with facts and argumentation that require me to do so in other keep a logical and rational view on things.

take care,


Formattage degueu

by anarcat on 23 avril, 2003 - 14:53Score: 0

Tats, du aurais du mettre les trucs en <pre>, parce que pour l'instant, les ">" apparaissent tout croche.

Re : Débats intéressants

by phil on 23 avril, 2003 - 11:25Score: 1

Si j'avais le temps, j'écrirais une longue réponse à ça... Je n'aurais pas répondu sur le site du débat, mais puisque c'est atterri sur les plate-bandes du journal, ça me donne envie d'y participer, surtout que je ne suis vraiment pas d'accord avec lui...

Oh well, peut-être que je vais répondre ce week-end.


Pas grave

by tatien on 23 avril, 2003 - 18:31Score: 1

De toute façon le débat est plus ou moins terminé. Moi je n'ai pas le temps de lui répondre avant les calendes grecques et lui n'a pas le temps non plus. Fin de session... ;)

En passant, il ne pense pas lire les commentaires non plus. Par contre je pense que ça n'empêche pas de lui répondre sur le site; quand les calendes viendront, je lui passerai le message...