Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Democrazy Démarche

As ancient Aegypt coup d etated her rather undemocratic elects, Great Satan's coolest Uncle ever reminds ammoral isolationists and the often LOL"d fakebelieve "Offshore Balancing" cats that Great Satan and her posse of Hot Democrazies have a gig to perform in the wild wack environs betwixt Suez and Indus
Bringing about stability in the Middle East is not somebody else's job, it's ours. It will be a difficult and expensive struggle, and it is essential the people of the region know the west is on their side

What is happening in Egypt is the latest example of the interplay, visible the world over, between democracy, protest and government efficacy. Democracy is a way of deciding the decision-makers, but it is not a substitute for making the decision. I remember an early conversation with some young Egyptians shortly after President Mubarak's downfall. They believed that, with democracy, problems would be solved. When I probed on the right economic policy for Egypt, they simply said that it would all be fine because now they had democracy; and, in so far as they had an economic idea, it was well to the old left of anything that had a chance of working.

I am a strong supporter of democracy. But democratic government doesn't on its own mean effective government. Today, efficacy is the challenge. When governments don't deliver, people protest. They don't want to wait for an election. In fact, as Turkey and Brazil show, they can protest even when, on any objective basis, countries have made huge progress. But as countries move from low to middle income status, the people's expectations rise. They want quality services, better housing, good infrastructure, especially transport. And they will fight against any sense that a clique at the top is barring their way.

This is a sort of free democratic spirit that operates outside the convention of democracy that elections decide the government. It is enormously fuelled by social media, itself a revolutionary phenomenon. And it moves very fast in precipitating crisis. It is not always consistent or rational. A protest is not a policy, or a placard a programme for government. But if governments don't have a clear argument with which to rebut the protest, they're in trouble.

Society can be deeply imbued with religious observance, but people are starting to realise that democracy only works as a pluralistic concept where faiths are respected and where religion has a voice, not a veto. For Egypt, a nation with an immense and varied civilisation, around 8 million Christians and a young population who need to be connected to the world, there isn't really a future as an Islamic state that aspires to be part of a regional caliphate.

So what should the west do? Egypt is the latest reminder that the region is in turmoil and won't leave us alone, however we may wish it would. Disengagement is not an option, because the status quo is not an option. Any decision not to act is itself a decision of vast consequence. At its crudest, we can't afford for Egypt to collapse. So we should engage with the new de facto power and help the new government make the changes necessary, especially on the economy, so they can deliver for the people. In that way, we can also help shape a path back to the ballot box that is designed by and for Egyptians.

Our interests demand that we are engaged. We have to take decisions for the long term because short term there are no simple solutions.

If it matters, act on it, however hard. We are in a long haul transition in the Middle East. It is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. We feel it should be someone else's job to help sort it out. But it is our job. This struggle matters to us. The good news is that there are millions of modern and open-minded people out there. They need to know we are on their side, their allies, prepared to pay the price to be there with them.

Pic - "There is a myth that though we love freedom, others don't; that our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture; that freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are Western values; ours are not Western values, they are the universal values of the human spirit. And anywhere, any time ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police."