03 January 2008

A cold Day with hot News and kind Gifts

After all the rain we had yesterday, today was a dry day, which is always welcome. But it was - and still is - very cold for Ireland. Strictly speaking it is never really cold here, if one compares it with some other European countries I have lived in (such as Austria, Germany or Norway), simply because we get the benefit of the Gulf Stream, or - to be precise - the North Atlantic Drift, which is the North-Eastern extension of the actual Gulf Stream. This means that the climate in Ireland is a mostly moist and temperate one, with no great heat waves during the Summer and no hard frost in the Winter. However, there are always some days when it is significantly colder than usual, days with an easterly wind that brings cold dry air from the Continent. Such is the case today.
To make life bearable, I keep the fire burning all day and the cat likes that very much, spending a lot of time sitting right in front of the fireplace and staring philosophically into the flames. How I wish sometimes I had more time to do the same...

But no such luck for me. Today I had to spend a good few hours to sort out a recent computer problem. On New Year's Day, shortly after I started this weblog, my main desktop PC quit his services (I hope that was not a bad omen...) and currently I am operating from my laptop. As there was nothing I could do on January 1st, nor yesterday, while being in Cork, today was the day to consult the IT expert. Well, to make it short and plain: I will need a new PC. Nothing lasts forever, and that includes of course computers. But it is always a bit sad to say good bye to any companion - person, beast or mere machine - with whom one has spent a lot of time in creative partnership. I had a look at various models and will now take a few days to think before I make my choice of a suitable replacement.

On a wider scale I have to accept that a broken-down computer might be annoying, but it is a lot less serious than the things and events other people around the world have to cope with. In many countries people live under brutal regimes, have not enough to eat and suffer from terrible diseases.
In Pakistan the new year began with the mourning for Benazir Bhutto and a complete collapse of public order. And in Kenya the conditions are even worse, with open riots, shooting and massacres between rival tribes and political parties after a botched election. More than 300 Kenyans have been killed so far, many hundreds more were wounded and thousands made homeless. And, almost too normal to make the news these days, in Iraq and Afghanistan the daily bloodshed continues with soldiers and civilians being killed and wounded, while there is no real prospect of any proper solution for either country.

What strikes me as the most significant in all these bloody events is that they are happening as a result of "Democracy", or what a lot of people take for Democracy, this often misused word. In our (the Western countries' and especially the USA's) misguided obsession to bring "Democracy" to the developing world, we drag many countries which have no democratic tradition and no real understanding of the concept into ever greater confusion and turmoil.
Pakistan, Kenya, Iraq and Afghanistan - as well as many other developing countries - are still dominated by an ancient tribal structure and have not even developed Nationalism. This is not really that surprising when one remembers that even in Europe Nationalism only emerged during the 19th century.

When it comes to true Democracy, the countries who really have such a system in proper operation can be counted with the fingers of two hands. And neither the USA nor the UK are among them. Contrary to common public opinion the USA is a Republic, but not a Democracy. And Britain, the USA's staunchest ally, is the last feudal state in Europe. If you find this hard to believe, take some time and read the US Constitution and the rules and procedures for the UK government and parliament (as they don't even have a Constitution in the UK).

What - I wonder - gives us the right to go around the world, imposing an idealistic system of government onto other countries and nations, most of which are totally unprepared and unsuited for it?
It is the Western arrogance, the assumption that we know better because we have more money and more power. This makes no sense, and is in the end counter-productive. The US attempt to bring "Democracy" to Iraq and Afghanistan with military force has discredited even the idea of Democracy so much in the Middle East that there is no chance of any democratic development for a long time to come. Even the more moderate and westernised politicians from this area, who in the past favoured a democratic system, would not dream of suggesting it now. All they would hear from their people would be the reference to the US aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reflecting on all the "hot" news I heard today on the radio, I can only count my blessings and be grateful to live in a peaceful country on the edge of Europe, with a roof over my head, enough food to eat and a warm fire against the cold weather outside. Even more so as I also received a very nice parcel today, with kind presents for the New Year, sent to me by a dear friend abroad.

In the hope that friendship and kindness may eventually prevail over hardship, cruelty, murder and wars and one day the whole planet may be as peaceful as Ireland is tonight, I remain

The Emerald Islander

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