Club Politique by Che Tibby


Ok, this is a serious question, and one that someone must have asked before. Do paranoid schizophrenic Muslims think they're Mohammed? Or is this just a Christian thing? I know the media is hot right now on this story of the bloke who climbed into the lion's den in Taiwan, but I've noticed this same story in several countries over the past few months. What about Buddhists? Do you think they're likely to hear Siddhartha talking to them?

Surprisingly, in trying to find a link for this story, I noticed that jumping into lion enclosures is not uncommon. For one, here's a Buddhist guy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, a distraught bloke in Portugal, another 'zoo patron' in Argentina, and then there's this insane story of a lion being condemned to 'imprisonment' for mauling two tourists in China.

But it's already in a zoo....

Ah, the ironing of it all.

And, in the running for the worst seque in the history of blogging, "speaking of throwing yourself into the lions den, what's with the USA?". There's only two words I really want to add to the subject of November 2.

1. Iran.

I never really thought that Kerry was in the running, and don't ask me why, in the immortal words of that lawyer guy in 'The Castle', "its just the vibe of the thing". And yes, you can put it down the to general movement to the political right that seems to be occurring world-wide, but I just never thought he had enough pzzazz to sell to the US public.

Concerning Iran though, there's that same murmuring in the media that was circulating about Iraq the last time round. Now, this could be paranoia, but this kind of noise kind of scares me. Seriously scares me. I don't know what it is about right-wing death beasts and their propensity to want to see wargames played out, but it is insanity to think that brinksmanship will work in a place like Iran. But me? Expert? No?

2. Fear.

There seems to be a lot of hubbub about the 'scare-tactics' used by incumbents in both Australia and the USA to get themselves back behind the driving seat. So although the media is barking a lot about 'Iraq mandates' and 'the war on terror' winning over the voters, personally I can't see all that much difference to the Soviet threat in the 1980s.

If you all cast your mind back to the heady days of Mork and Mindy you'll remember that, whether you'd admit it or not, you were scared shitless of dying in a thermonuclear holocaust. Fortunately for everyone, the USSR went belly up and we had something like 10 years of decreased military budgets and only localised wars. Or in other words, nothing to be frightened of. Sure, there was that spectre of 'Saddamn Hussein' to scare the kiddies, and lots of experts talking about 'ethnic nationalism' being the next big bogeyman, but nothing like the mantra of the 'war on terrorism' or 'reds under the bed'.

What this makes me think isn't that we have this new use of fear to influence voters, but rather that we're back to normal.

I reckon that the real concern is the combination of the two factors, and an unfettered world power. What we all need to start watching is the propaganda machine starting up debates about just how dangerous Iran really is, and whether that country starts to draw too much flak about being the centre of world terrorism. Oh, and Syria of course, but all they've got is those missing WMDs.

Now, I can hear the death beasts starting already. You know, the usual 'naive optimist', 'rose-coloured glasses', 'terrorism apologist' lathers. So let me state for the record that I'm not endorsing Iran getting nukes. Not at all. But I am publicly stating that we need to make sure that if the USA has a go at another country it does so for real reasons this time. My gut also tells me that world-wide opinion will not brook the US acting unilaterally and starting another pre-emptive war in defence of Israel.

I'm starting to wander out of my undergrad expertise concerning international relations here, so I'll slip on back to this question of lunatic Christianity.

One of the things about democracy is that it is supposed to deliver representation that reflects the population it serves. What this leads me to believe is that the increasing influence of politicised Christianity is not, from a strictly academic point of view, a 'bad thing'. By mobilising and engaging with a large Christian or 'values-based' voting population, representatives in the USA, or Australia and New Zealand for that matter, aren't really doing anything wrong.

This goes back to my comment the other day about New Zealand being a Christian country, just as the US and Australia are. Sure, religion as a mobilising factor may or may not be a boon to the countries in which it takes hold, the stymieing of tolerance and relative closure of society being an outcome, but I'm starting to think that this is a normal thing.

Or at very least, it's an attempt to swing the pendulum of the mid-Twentieth Century liberalisation back towards conservatives and stronger social controls. And the USA was the popular vanguard of that liberalisation. What all liberal-thinking types now need to ask themselves is, do we continue to try and push out the boundaries of tolerance, or do we just try to defend the gains made by the baby-boomers? And more importantly, how much do citizens of places like New Zealand let themselves be influenced by events in the USA?

For the academics out there, a book by Andreas Wimmer called 'Nationalist Exclusion and Ethnic Conflict'. In a nutshell, it argues that nations are the product of what Wimmer calls 'cultural compromise'. As a nation develops through historical time it finds itself presented with the need to either include or exclude new ideas and groups, and this process usually takes the shape of an internal 'compromise' being made.

In the New Zealand case, Maori said, 'We aren't taking this shit anymore. Respect the damn Treaty', to which the majority said, 'Oh, That Treaty. But of course!', and a policy change called biculturalism was set in place in the 1970s that has been continuously evolving. Sure, there is debate about what's good or bad for New Zealand, but the fact that a debate is occurring is inherently positive.

Sooner or later there's going to have to be another compromise made over the issue of relative morality and how much liberal-minded individuals can take from moral conservatives. Representatives being the whores they are they’ll start to adopt more and more conservative values to secure their vote, and we need to make sure that the values they assume are a. actually popular (and not just expedient), and b. informed by debate (and not divide mandate).

As I may have said in a peculiarly fence-sitting kind of way before. Time will tell.