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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Venturing into politics: Has the west any moral right to preach to the east?

Noam Chomsky, Donald Macleod et al
I remember reading my first book on the interesting philosopher Noam Chomsky (The Chomsky Reader) expecting lots of philosophy but instead discovering a ton of polemics. Called a "dissident intellectual" Chomsky exposed the hypocrisy of western politicians, especially American ones. Here was a philosopher venturing into politics....

About the same time I began reading The Monthly Record (sober magazine of the even more sober Free Church of Scotland) superbly edited by Professor Donald Macleod, and was surprised by the political slant of so many of his articles - a wee-free theologian wearing a politician's hat. (I ended my subscription when the editorship changed: Macleod was different). Here was a Theologian venturing into politics...

A pastor venturing into politics...
And now I find myself, a pastor, venturing into politics. Why? Because of the hypocrisy of the west.

As soon as some kind of political dissent spreads across an eastern country which has "no democracy" (the only legitimate way to run a country of course - didn't you know that?) we get on our high moral horse and condemn those "dictators". As soon as we see these dictators shedding innocent blood we get on our high moral horse, because we don't kill our citizens. Do we.  

The proper basis of moral judgement: the judge is better than the condemned
We all recognise the basic moral principle of legitimate judgement: the judge has to stand above the condemned, the judge has to be morally superior to those he is judging. A convicted criminal, we would say, has no right to cast judgement upon an ordinary citizen of the land, because he is "beneath" that citizen. We even have a phrase to describe the immoral act of condemning another while you yourself have blood on your own hands: "the pot calling the kettle black". (This discussion forces one to see the frailty of all human judgement, and the righteousness of divine judgement: for none but God is holy).

Pot calling the kettle Black
So on what ground does the west go galloping across the world in moral indignation at those ignorant unenlightened eastern peoples?

Do we seriously think that democracy is the only way to govern a country? Is a benevolent king an oxymoron? Does every democracy work smoothly? Do democracies actually work in feudal societies? Do they not often become corrupted at the ballot box, with rigging or billion-dollar campaigns? Do out-voted leaders leave their posts? Are Members of Parliamentary democracies squeaky clean about their expenses?  Do they put the needs of their own people before party and personal ambition? Parliamentary democracy, as one noble politician put it is the worst form of government ever invented. OK, he did add "except for all the others"! The point he was making, is that we westerners need a little more humility (not to mention reality) about our own systems of government.

Worse still is the indignation at these despots killing their own people. Did you know that since 1968, we have killed around 7 million people in our country? Yes, that's how many abortions have taken place since the abortion act. All the so-called dictators in our present world - and perhaps in the history of the world - put together haven't killed that many of their own people.

"Ah but abortion is not the same as shooting your own people in the streets."

4D Scan of 24 week old child
Dead right it's not. A man in the street can choose to be somewhere else, he can run, he can fight, he has friends to help him to hospital. A child in the womb has no choices, nowhere to hide and no friends to fight their corner.

Dead right it's not the same: the child in the womb is the most defenceless and vulnerable form of life in our country: unseen, unnamed - and completely unprotected. (Thanks to  David Steel).

It would be better for our politicians to stay at home, shut up, repent and weep. Gadaffi should listen to Cameron, Clegg and their shadows, only when they first end the massacre of the innocents in their own country. Then they'll be more fit to ascend the hill of judgement and condemn their eastern counterparts.


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