Orange Humanist

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Blame Me, Hurt Me

Ariel Sharon recently called on the people being evicted from the Gaza Strip to hurt him and not the soldiers. On first glance that seems very heroic. The fearless leader taking the blame off the poor foot-soldiers. However, a closer look reveals otherwise.

Ariel Sharon doesn’t really expect to be blamed for evicting Gaza. He doesn’t really expect anybody to hurt him, either. And yet, Sharon is practically inviting violence, such that would weaken his opposition and after which he could say: "Look, they're violent! I'm law abiding – see, my plans are being upheld by the Supreme Court!"

But let’s suppose for a moment that Ariel Sharon really meant what he said. He wants to “take the blame” for what’s happening. What does that mean? Should we be proud of our leaders for doing so?

This reminds me of an article I once read about the Jordanian regime. The Jordanian king of the time used to walk in disguise among his people, to see what they were really thinking. The reporter portrayed this story in a very positive light. Here we have a king who cares!

However, this is a simple issue of democracy vs. tyranny. In a tyranny you have to disguise yourself in order to know what people are really thinking. In a democracy, you'll simply know because they'll be sure to express their opinions.

Back to Israel. In a true democracy an elected politician would never say "blame me" for state policy. Sharon should be saying "blame me" for his own personal blunders, not for something which was supposedly decided upon by the people. State policy is determined by consensus, not by one despot. In our case "taking the blame" is not a sign of virtue. Sharon is simply showing his true despotic nature.

'Hurting' the politician is a component of an oligarchy, in which the down-trodden subjects feel that they have little other alternative by which to influence policy. It is in regimes other than democracy that assassinations are a viable, acceptable reality.

When he said that, most people instinctively understood that as "hurt me" physically or emotionally - not politically. That too is a serious symptom of the wretched weakness of our society. It mirrors his haughty confidence that no one can "touch him". He's ensured his place in history by a deal with the media - the national writers of history. If he'll decide to run again he'd probably do well. If he'd decides to step down, the oligarchy's ruling class will probably forgive his sins, for successfully doing their dirty work. Just as he's already been absolved of his part in the "illegal outposts".

Political Liability

A democratic culture is founded on norms of political liability. The more state-positions can be controlled by citizen's ballot - the more democratic society will be. Criticism by the citizens is an integral part of the social and political system.

For example, in the US, a president may get a "vote of no-confidence" for a policy by losing re-election, or by the public installing a "hostile congress" during his term. The Israeli culture, and by extension, its political system, opposes that. Israeli leaders are not held accountable for their policies or for the consequence of their actions. The helpless general public feels that there's nothing one can do to change a policy or to hold a politician accountable. If the system would allow that, it would be more dynamic and efficient.

Instead, the greatest virtue of most of our politicians is that they're either high-ranking military officers or rabbis. In other words, they’re second to God. And that's the way they're treated by popular society. A "secular" would say: who am I to question the "general”? He surely knows what he's talking about. A "religious" might say the same about "his" politicians - they're rabbis / they're following rabbis, who am I to dare criticize them?

Every powerful position must be controlled by a more powerful system of citizen criticism. Anyone holding a position of power must know that it's a thankless job and that he's not "doing anyone a favor" by holding it. His every word and action must be scrutinized. If they affect the fate of the people, they must also affect his. No-one can be exempt from such scrutiny: the attorney-general, the judiciary, mo'etzet Yesha, rabbis and of course politicians. Everyone must fulfill the function the public designates, and live up to the highest standard to the people's satisfaction.

Leadership – what do we expect?

They cannot say: "no one could have possibly done better", or "there is no other way". These are unacceptable excuses. A public that accepts them is only punishing themselves. It is for this reason that we have such incompetent "leaders". Politicians, by nature, will never "live up" to a standard higher than that which their constituents demand of them. When we look around at our "sad excuses" of potential alternative leaders, when the public hesitates to reject an incompetent or despotic politician because "what's the alternative?" - Then we are only getting what we deserve.

If soldiers, and the general public, can be intimidated to immoral, violent conduct, we mustn't be surprised at the rampant spread of crime in society. Immorality degenerates society evenly, all round, wherever it can infect. A democracy will, inevitably, degrade to the lowest level of despotism that its citizens will accept. A people willing to play doormat to its enemies shouldn't be surprised when the opportunity is seized by its friends, or by elements from within.

A democratic system appeals to its capable and motivated young citizens. In a democratic culture, citizens are aware, they get involved; they feel they can make a difference. Democratic stability yearns for such citizens, driven by high moral integrity, unwilling to accept lower moral standards from their politicians than from themselves.


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