Robson-On-Politics 28 September 2006
The White Man's Burden
Listening to the inane ramblings of Blair and Bush about the world around us over the past week is to remember that century-old poem which was a rallying call for Europeans to colonize people in other nations.
When these men publicly rejoice at what they say is the great work of their Army of Occupation in Iraq, and pat themselves on the back for the success of U.S. and U.K. policies to promote freedom everywhere, I sometimes wonder how their words must be interpreted across Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and Africa. I don't think it would be surprising if most people in the world are more sympathetic to Iraqis than they are to the U.S.-led forces.
Most UN states had to fight to be rid of their colonial masters
At the very least, most people would find the Blair/Bush diagnosis of events incomprehensible. More likely, people would interpret the diagnosis as wrong, highly damaging to innocent people and primarily about Western greed to control other nations' resources.
After all, the overwhelmingly majority of sovereign States today had to first wage war to remove their colonial masters over the past century or two. The governing Singapore People's Action Party's elderly veteran leaders were, in their younger days after World War II, for example, condemned by London as dangerous, communist-sympathizers, terrorists or worse. The same goes for India, Indonesia, Iran, Ivory Coast and, well, the list includes a large majority of United Nations member States.
Genocide in Darfur
But it isn't just the political leaders in the West that are incomprehensible or who use language to divert attention away from their own serious shortcomings.
Judging by statements of the government of Sudan, we are expected to believe that either (1) there are no serious problems in its Darfur region, or, (2) that there are problems, but it is all the fault of everyone other than the government of Sudan itself. Meanwhile, the Sudanese government appears to think it can use violence to force submission in Darfur - in spite of all the evidence to the contrary from all over the world over the past 200 years.
Take the Israeli-controlled Palestinian territories. It was reported last week that 25% of the population has been arrested at some point since the occupation commenced in June 1967. But despite Israel having one of the strongest military machines in the world, and being overwhelmingly more economically developed, 40 years of brutal military repression hasn't shown the slightest bit of evidence of actually working to suppress the resistance to occupation.
There was also, of course, a nation in Western Europe which had to fight for its freedom.
The Irish fought a lethal guerrilla war which forced the British to conclude that the Irish couldn't be defeated militarily and they supplemented that war of independence with a propaganda campaign that convinced the British that Ireland wasn't worth holding on to by way of force and oppression even though the Irish forces were not strong enough in purely military terms to actually force the British out.
Today: World's 6th largest commercial services exporter
Whereas a century ago the Irish were the butt of every second English joke, and it was inconceivable to the British ruling class that the Irish could be capable of producing anything much of value, let alone excellence, today Ireland is a richer nation than its former colonial master.
Since 2000, Ireland has climbed past Finland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands to become the EU's fourth-most affluent member, and the ninth-ranking country in the world. The republic's US$40 billion in commercial services exports a year, that is exports in computer services, insurance and finance services, represent 4% of the total value of total global exports in these services: Not bad for a country with 0.06% of the world's population.
With a population of four million, Ireland boasts one thousand international businesses that now operate from its soil, running everything from semiconductor and pharmaceutical plants, customer call centres, research laboratories, banks and media networks.
Meanwhile, we are still debating the balance of payments
Meanwhile, here in New Zealand we still seem to be trying to figure out how come we've been running a large current account deficit with the world in each and every year since 1973.
The current account balance is the broadest measure of our trading position with the world. It is a balance on the country's merchandise goods, investment income and services trade. The annual deficit is these days running at just under 10% of GDP a year.
Petrus Simons, a partner in consulting firm Integrated Economic Services 1988-2003, will be part of a panel discussion on the issue, and the potential future implications of rising global oil prices, at Turnbull House on Tuesday 3 October (12.15 p.m. until 1.30 p.m.) NZ Futures Trust are hosting it (Cost $5 Trust members, $15 non-members). RSVP by this Friday to: email@example.com or (04) 383 5080. If you live in Wellington, I reckon this could be an interesting discussion.
Nat-Labs' focus on personal abuse
It is a shame National and Labour are so focused on levelling intense personal abuse at each other, given the big issues of inequality in society, under-performance in our schools, youth binge drinking and other drug misuse and a current account deficit which is as bad as it was in the bad old days.
Its a good reason to turn the TV and radio off, and skip the paper, and go to quality overseas media for news.I read this interesting column in the UK Guardian on global climate change recently, a reminder again of why it is so obscene to have to listen to the Nat vs Lab competition to find the most abusive filth to throw at each other instead of working to contribute to solutions to real challenges before us.