lauantaina, tammikuuta 27, 2007

Iraqi Democracy, Full Speed Ahead.
(Oh wait! We forgot about the schools...)

Democracy is a tricky thing. If you live in one, you generally hope that you have some intelligent folks living alongside you, because if you don’t, you’re going to be subject to some laws that you may think are quite stupid. But you can’t really complain about it, because that’s the way it works.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Aristotle called democracy the “perversion of constitutional government” and suggested that it benefits only individuals, never the common good.

We’ve had about 800 years to get used to the idea, if you count the
Magna Carta as an “official” step towards the “rule of the people”—but it took some doing, some evolving, some trial and error, a few dozen wars, and a few tyrants. If you are of the opinion that we should give the “Western” world the benefit of the doubt, you can say that we’ve been trying hard to work out the kinks, to address issues like blacks and women voting.

We’ve also had the advantage of some smart people: Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, The Federalist, Tocqueville…. These people were not only smart, but educated.
Alex Hamilton. A fellow who wrote about democracy.

Hobbes. An important political theorist.

Another guy named Hobbes. Less optimistic than the first.

One thing people do generally agree on is that in order for a democracy to work, people have to know what they’re talking about. “My gut tells me what to do,” is not a “democracy-friendly” kind of statement.

Hence the importance of education and having educated people in a functional democracy. People have to know what’s going on and they have to be able to discuss it with the other folks around so that each person’s individual ideas get refined and then inform a common decision. In a real democracy, you may not be happy with the result of the decision, but at least you have the comfort of knowing that your opinion was taken into account. And who knows, maybe you were wrong.

So what happens if you try to set up a democracy somewhere without much education? Let’s take an imaginary plane trip to…Iraq.

A rough recent history:

Pre-1980: Iraq has arguably the best education system in the Middle East, universal primary school enrolment, and very high female literacy rates. It has a top-notch university system and a thriving intellectual community.

1980-1988: Iraq-Iran War; Iraq gets its infrastructure bombed to smithereens. (Note: under the heading “infrastructure,” add the subheading, “schools.”)

1990-1991: Gulf War; Iraq gets bombed to smithereens. Again.

1991-2003: United Nations-imposed sanctions; A blasted Iraq gets cut off from the rest of the world. A quarter of a million women and children die of malnutrition. Children leave school to help their families eat. Literacy rates drop from nearly total literacy to less than 60%.

1991-present: Middle class immigration; There’s no food, no water, no employment, no school. You’re a teacher? A scientist? A journalist? You have a ticket out of hell. You go elsewhere.

2003-present: Iraq War, take II: Iraq gets bombed to smithereens. For the third time. Civil war breaks out and tensions harboured since the beginning of last century come out in atavistic clashes and violent chaos.

So who is left to rule Iraq? Well, half the population is under 18. That knocks out a few candidates (though these folks, who have known nothing but war, malnutrition, an absence of education, and the knowledge that the western world is responsible for the mess that it their collective life, will be ruling Iraq in the next 2-3 decades—have we seen the last of trouble from Iraq? Let’s wait until today’s 10 year-olds get in power.)

The rest of the population has been stripped of its administrators, managers, businessmen, scientists, journalists…etc. No one has had access to quality education since around 1980. Kids going to school face the threat of kidnapping, violence, and bombings. The schools, overcrowded, rarely have water or sanitation.
A school in Iraq.

That means that anyone under about 45 years old isn’t educated. That means that there are no teachers. That means that schools are blown to smithereens. Who's going to be making decisions soon?
Future Iraqi leaders in training.

Good luck on this democracy project, George and Dick, I wish you Godspeed.

(For more fun stats about the state of Iraqi society, check out
"Children in Iraq tell of hardships getting to school".


Anonymous Anonyymi said...

Lady Bonds: Superb! Intellectual, and delightfully entertaining.

First thoughts:

Aristotle was close. From where I stand, "Democracy is the chimera of constitutional government."

I do not give the hateful, rascist "Western" world ANY benefit of a doubt. Their idea of working out the kinks is through a form of bondage, preferably with many tiny knotted veils of hate and rascism.

The philosopher Hobbes the Optimist gets my vote.

I will not comment on that idiot who mouths the current State of Plutocracy address in America. "My ass tells me what to do' - because he makes my ass twitch. Sorry, a bit of a slip, back to a happy place...

"Hence the importance of education and having educated people in a functional democracy." Yup. Ah, yup.

"...but at least you have the comfort of knowing that your opinion was taken into account." That's satire, right? ;)

Lady Bonds, many have noted America's "creative dependency tactic" - the total destruction of an infrastructure and then let Halliburton do the rest. That is the transparent modus operendi of King George & Co. Few, have provided a summation as well as you have, of what amounts to the destruction of an entire culture wrought through a WAR ON CHILDREN

And that's exactly what this fiasco in Iraq is a WAR ON CHILDREN. Terrorist America against the children

Call it what it is.

I tip my hat to you. I could never say this as eloquently as you have here. I add empathy and grace to your traits.

Damn, you're good.

8:34 ap.  
Anonymous Anonyymi said...

Well written post. It basically sums up the fiasco and tragedy Iraq has become.

I'm glad you mentioned the flourishing education system Iraq had in the early 1980's. Many are unaware of the promising state Iraq was. Iraq actually received a UNESCO award in the early 1980's for eradicating illiteracy, especially with women.

I would also like to mention, even with the sanctions imposed during the 1990's early 2000's the schoolst were at least safe and making an effort for rebuilding. Just before the US invasion in 2003, literacy rates had once again climbed to near 74%. The schools were inadequate, but at least they were there. Now with chaos everywhere and schools being targets for militiants, one would have to be a brave soul to attempt going to school. And according to the most recent study I have read, not many do. 1 out of 3, less in rural areas.

Tis a shame.

6:49 ip.  
Blogger Lady Bonds said...

All; Apologies for the "anonymous" comments; how tumultuous is this switch to "New Blogger."

Fool; you flatter me to excess.

I don't disagree with your assessment of Western governments. But I would, unfortunately, extend the judgement to nearly any and every government. I think I've mentioned it before, but my general impression of *human beings*, the world over, is that they are prone to being hateful and racist.

Being televisionless and self-exiled in France, I have yet to listen to the State of Plutocracy address, though it is on my list of Things To Do Now That Exams Are Over.

...I said, "in a *perfect* democracy. Not that such a thing exists. Or that I would want such a thing to exist.

I agree with you completely about the war on children. It is the cultural effects of this war, the way it permeates society, that will ultimately determine the political future of Iraq, whether it falls prey to religious fundamentalism or dictatorship. Many of the problems in the Arab world today are direct results of the cultural effects of colonialism; the Western world is just beginning to learn that it might have to deal with some of the havoc it wreaked a century ago.

Burdockboy; Welcome. You're quite right about some of the improvements made during the Food-for-Oil program (despite the flack it got from the American government and media).

It's a mess over there. It might behoove the Folks in Power in the West to read up a bit on the history of the area and think a bit about *why* most Middle Eastern governments are rife with corruption...

7:53 ip.  
Blogger Lady Bonds said...

I finally got one of the links working...but a google search for "UNESCO Iraq and Education Fact Sheet" will bring up some more stuff...

8:02 ip.  
Blogger The Fool said...

H'lo again Lady Bonds:

My sleep patterns are so strange. Just to let you know that this posting impressed me so much, that I awoke much earlier today...only to make a cup of coffee and post a 'shout out!' (h'lo Burdockboy!), to this magnificent bit of educational journalism, and then back to Nod. More Americans need to join in this dialogue. I hope they do.

I have no rebuttal...I concur with your thoughts entirely. It is the 'world over.' The world is hateful and excellent source of the relation with capitalism is put forth in "The Culture of Make Believe." Sorry - it's on loan and I'm at a loss for the author (Jenkins) - but there's a review/plug in the archives for more info.

Please, favor? Take the link from my place to Kooteny Bliss and comment on her latest posting on matters twixt Canada & France. The subject's not my turf, and a 'French perspective' is needed. Thank you.

10:08 ip.  
Blogger Carla said...

What an insightful post. Thank you! Your comments about children growing up in a war torn society and in the absence of education remind me of a comment from a Lebanese aquaintance awhile back. He said that he would never trust anyone who grew up in his country because when you grow up seeing boys wielding machine guns on a daily basis, you can't help but be messed up in the head. I think we really don't have any idea of what or how long it will take to "grow" out of this mess that has been created in Iraq or if it is even possible. You are right when you say democracy is a tricky thing, especially in a society where there is wide spread apathy and a general belief that "your one vote" won't make a difference. I feel that happens a lot in North America. Sometimes it's that one voice speaking out that gives others the courage to join into the discussion which will eventually make the difference. Thanks again.

(If this shows up more than once, my apologies. I seem to be having some difficulty posting comments today)

1:55 ap.  
Blogger Lady Bonds said...

Fool; Thanks for the tip-off to Carla's place. And thanks for the shout out! You're right, getting a dialogue going would be great. The problem is that all of us around here tend to agree with one another...makes for difficult debating material. Suggestions?

Carla; welcome! And thanks for your kind comments! You have a lovely site; it will become one of my blogger haunts.

You're quite right about the psychological effects of seeing gun-toting adolescents as part of your quotidian reality...Democracy is indeed tricky, in part because I wonder if democracy doesn't lend itself to apathy. We get complacent, and then who cares?

The question is, what is the best kind of government to keep people involved?

(By the way, my comment on your site, as I should have specified, was pure speculation, I know far less about it than you do...)


3:55 ip.  
Blogger The Fool said...

“The problem is that all of us around here tend to agree with one another...makes for difficult debating material. Suggestions?”

Oh, just a few. ;)

Bringing diversity into the dialogue is critical. I am sure you have considered much of this…but let’s begin with these thoughts:

• The “desire for,” “acceptance,” and “integration” of diverse opinions needs to be a constant part of the dialogue.
• It needs to be stated, recognized, and practiced that “winning” is not the objective in the dialogues. In order to move on, on any given subject, in order to discover “Meaning” on anything, we must bring together as many diverse “meanings” as possible. No individual holds “Meaning”. It can only be discovered, if at all, when all the “meanings” are synthesized. Yes, it may be - in a Derridian way - impossible ever to discover “Meaning” – but it is still a goal we must strive for.
• We need to bring the recognition that “the fight of the world” is in each one of us (break self reifications). As D&G point out, fascism is not an ideology, it is an element – a trajectory, a flow of the human condition – and the flows of fascism are in each and every one of us.
• The moderator role must be abandoned. A good example would be the recent debate between F&S. I have stepped out of it completely, and the debate is still going on in the back lot. And that is good. There needs to be comfort zones for such created…the readers must feel an allowance for such.
• You know Lakoff…reference “Metaphors We Live By.” The metaphors of war that underlie our constructions of ‘argument’ need to be carefully monitored and reworked. We need to learn to dance.
• Our construction as subjects and positioning in subject positions needs to be a constant focus.
• Accept diversity with grace. Read the recent tirade (and justified) – by Niobium against education under “T.t.E.o.a.C: Lies.” I am a teacher. That she can feel comfortable enough to direct this rage to a teacher is the most important element of that conversation. As you may note by my reply, I may not ‘agree’ with everything she says, but I will ‘accept my part’ as well as offer a seed for continuing the dialogue. We have to be ducks.
• There have been some tremendous insights provided by the philosophers of the last 50 years, but it is unpronounceable gobbledy-gook for most. Those who find value in such must simplify the precepts and bring them to others. Philosophy must be ‘commonized.”
• Seek out dialogue…promote it…abandon the ego that wants to have “your place.” Promote The Dialogue rather than dialogues: do “Shout Out!’s" now and again (under whatever notation) – send people away from your own site…send them out into community…create community…support others…spend time bringing others together ELSEWHERE even if you are not an element of the dialogue (i.e., that 'Canadian-French thingie' going on @ Carla’s…I may not be touched by the dialogue at hand, but I can recognize elements that can be brought together to promote dialogue): so…if you’re FRENCH…or CANADIAN, get over there and join in (http/: It takes time, but every once in awhile, just try to introduce people to each other. Create a fuzzy border to your site…create flows of deterritorialization away from your self. I’m rather anarchistic…at this point, I support almost any flow that deterritorialize. Joining others is like removing rocks from the stream.
• Keep inviting people into the ‘comment sections’ – keep referring to it as a dialogue. Keep welcoming diverse opinions. It's really where everything happens.
• Many sites are set up with the sole intention to be exclusive. Be inclusive. The first response to “T.t.E.o.a.C: Nightmares” was a 15 yr. old from Ireland. A tricky border…but this is a minor who has asserted to join in. I must welcome.
• Abandon borders. Promote a world forum.
• Take the time to really ‘dialogue’ and promote it when traveling far from home. Be willing to take the time to write more than a one-line curt response.
• Add links to people who join in the dialogues…even if you are not of their camp. Mine's quite the mixed bag. I will be adding S&F’s links…despite their narrow focus on one topic at this point. Perhaps they will bring their fervor to other concerns at hand. I sure would like to see such energy tuned to include other facets.
• Abandon ownership to ‘ideas.’
• Be eclectic. As Etzel recently noted as we worked through a contention: “I try to emphasize the facts, rather than state the truth.” Remember...the map is never the teritory, and if you are strong enough, there are no precedents (Tx. GB & FSF).
• And if you want to speak the ‘truth’ – take Oscars advice…you’d better keep it light, or they’ll kill you.
• REDEFINE!! And recognize that A NOTION IS A NOTION. Goals like democracy have no meaning any more. So, let’s recognize that fact, and redefine it. I will touch on your other question later…I’m on a roll here.
• Be risky. It is such a risk. As touched upon in another conversation (response to your notation of May ’68 – “R!:T.U.N.N.A.”) – deterritorialization at any level is a grave consideration (and creating Meaning from meanings is a deterritorialization); it is not a game; not playing-the-“historic.” And if one hopes for an eruptive deterritorialization like May ‘68, then one had better recognize that it can not be localized or planned. It will “just happen” at a certain point of ‘saturation.’ Somewhere & everywhere. So, just let it.

Don’t you think I’d better shut up and move along about now? And anyone who is following this ramble…join in! Don’t just lurk. Don’t be threatened by a quota of words…words don’t have any more meaning by quota. We NEED you to find us, all of you...everywhere.

Along the same lines, joining together those of common ilk is important as well. We have been so divided.

P.S. Lady Bonds, I see I am now an ‘anonymous it’? Better yet…but I think you have that detail figured out by now. No? ;)

8:49 ip.  
Blogger Carla said...

Part of the issue around dialogue and debating...and I think this speaks somewhat to the education system around us as well as news, media that overall we have been conditioned into being told what to think rather than gathering the facts and forming our thoughts and opinions for ourselves and adding them to the dialogue. This has served our governments well. It's much easier to manage a democracy if the majority are happy being told what they should think and go along with your views. But of course that then begs the question that if you are in a poplulation where the majority don't care, are too apathetic to look for the facts and form their own opinions and add them to the dialogue, are we truly then a democracy, or are we just being duped into thinking that we live in a democracy?

9:26 ip.  
Blogger The Fool said...

Quick...I promise:

* invite people into the dialogues via their own languages and idioms...and try to cross those borders...carefully. Examples: Ludoviko has accepted the invitation and drops his comments in Italian. I have also had French responses. I speak neither...but I make the effort to cross those borders. We work things out.

Idioms - when I responded to the 15 yr. aged-but-hurt-&-wise respondent from Ireland, I tried to adopt an idiom, or 'cr8t' a channel for common ground. She's brave addressing subject position has an unfair weight in the conversation that must be shed in order to address her. When I tried to respond to Neko in S. Africa @ her site...I tried - successfully, or unsuccessfully, but in earnest I tried - adopting "Neko-ese." The import of Mother Tongue, and the 'cr8shn' off common channels free of impositional baggage are of great import. Crossing borders again...

"Maybe I think too much..." - Paul Simon

10:52 ip.  
Anonymous Anonyymi said...

Some fascinating issues have been raised here.

The Fool -
"The moderator role must be abandoned...Invite people into the dialogues via their own languages and idioms..."

Yes. And perhaps no. I support and applaud your conception of the Blogspace as a space of "diologue," but isn't it also a forum for performance art, with the poster/moderator as the master of ceremonies?

Isn't it important to sustain the distinction between a blog in which the moderative/administrative/posting duties are communal, and one (such as my own) which is not essentially journalistic nor communal, but "performance" based. This does not mean that journalism cannot be "done" or that important issues cannot be raised.

I would never, and have never knowingly deleted a comment, nor steered the comment space in the direction of a pre-conceived agenda.

The majority of those who post comments on "Winters Fables" address the "moderator/administrator," or at least the person(a) they recognise him to be. I say "he" because his gender is not (as is the gender of certain other notables) shrouded in mystique ;)

Within this performance framework, "dialogue" has emerged and continues to emerge. Fresh voices are heard, speaking "their own languages and idioms," yet the essentially non-invasive yet pervasive "administrator" role remains..."

You make incisive and brilliant points as always, The Fool.

1:31 ap.  
Anonymous Anonyymi said...

PS to The Fool - You did mention the rude word "Derrida." Therefore my response is perhaps an attempt to reinscribe the absent "other" into your comment text...

1:38 ap.  
Blogger Lady Bonds said...

Goodness, all of you. I could post a post just in response to the questions raised here. What *is* the role of a blog?

Fool; (By the way, it was Blogger who decided you were an anonymous it, not me...though I still have lingering doubts about your gender, as Winters remarks above). I thank you for having taken the time to share your first-rate thoughts. Let's go get 'em, all of us.

And, I might add that for the sake of refining and strengthening arguments, playing the devil's advocate can be quite useful (and fun). And it makes you do your research well. Debate can be a way of life, not a last resort.

And furthermore, the attention you called to Niobium's rant has inspired me to make a pit stop over there before I go to bed...

Carla; you raise two very salient issues to which I cannot do justice here; I think they will go into the next post. First, societal conditioning, cultural hegemony. Second, are democracy and apathy incompatible? I might argue (along with Tocqueville) that apathy is actually the result of democracy; we get comfortable a democracy, and when the majority is comfortable, is there really a reason to keep debate alive? But more on this soon (it's a bit late over here...).

Fool; It *would* be interesting to get some young voices in the mix...reports directly from the battlefield, as it were...

Winters; you are quite right to raise the issue of the nature of the blog. Blogs are so very diverse in their nature and purpose that it is often difficult to determine what they can and should be used for. Or, what power they might have, for good and for bad.

Perhaps this maleability is an advantage. I can post "silly" posts: crack-spiders and diarrhea à la Edmund Spenser. But I can also post "socially responsible" posts. Does one detract from the other? Does the overall context matter? Does a blog have a natural "language"?

(And good point, Winters, about bandying the "D-word" about...'tis almost as polemic as the "M-word"...)

Off to bed, folks.


2:05 ap.  
Blogger The Fool said...

Winters: Short response. I agree with you. I am addressing a particular (non)particular type of blog and intent...political dialogue construction & bringing diversity in. You are an artist, are always exempt.

Additionaly, as Lady Bonds touches upon...there can also be a fuzzy border between the 'dialogue-construction' blog and the 'performance-art' blog. I believe I wear many foolscaps in the Dark.

There can also be a revolutionary potential in art. I would venture to say it provides one of the more frutiful possibilities of potential. ;)

The role of moderator-admin may be, perhaps, slightly schiz

So, the D-word is considered rude in the home land, eh? He was a rather rude boy. Deconstruction has become D-for-the-hell-of-it via his logic. Americans just look at you funny if you utter the word...clueless. We may be better off for that one...such logic widespread could make us really dangerous.

4:29 ap.  
Blogger The Fool said...

...and you've been busy! I just read your follow-up post, but I'll leave a smile here for now, and let others take the lead on this one.
You are cynical...

7:02 ap.  
Blogger Lady Bonds said...

Fool; what's funny is that the D-word isn't even necessarily rude in the homeland, it's ignored. American academics are *far* more interested in him than the French are/ever were...

Cynical? Perhaps, though I do have a lingering idealism back there..but what about the next post is cynical? I'm genuinely curious here, since I didn't perceive it (or mean it) to be such.

Check out the Niobium rant, I left a few thoughts there, too..:)


2:28 ip.  
Blogger The Fool said...

"Cynical" is not a comment on the current blog...on that I'm holding back for's just an echo. You said to call you cynical. I'm just exercising my right.

I'm a mix too. The idealist keeps eeking out. Perhaps it keeps me alive.

I caught your addendum to the conversation. I am not responding, as there is so much said on all sides, and Nio's voice is legitimate as well. I don't want a perception of 'sides' - as it is certainly not that.

And Nio - if you're lurking - join in here. I'm sure you have something to contribute for our benefit. Please, don't interpret any of this as 'talking behind your back.' We are simply trying to find what promotes diverse dialogue.

Thanks...Lady Bonds, your input has added some different considerations to the mix.

5:24 ip.  
Blogger The Fool said...

Winters calls me rude, and then what does he go and do?

(Insert *snicker*)

5:06 ap.  
Blogger Lady Bonds said...

Winters and Derrida have a very special relationship. ;)

3:37 ip.  

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