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No man is an island, entire of itself - The rise of the Middle East [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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No man is an island, entire of itself [Jun. 14th, 2009|08:22 pm]
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I'm having a temporary change of heart. As far as Sultan Al Qassimi is concerned, I've started, so I'll finish. One day. But a point-by-point defence of so many points, many of which are frankly new to me, and some that are indefensible, is not an easy task.

And so to offer a breather - although it is a while since I have written on here, shameful really - I'm going to do what Titian (probably) did half way through painting Bacchus and Ariadne: step back and look at the big picture. Depending on the size of the room he was in obviously. Otherwise he may have fallen off his Venetian balcony. Ouch.

So to the point: all countries have problems. The purpose of government cannot be to solve them all. This can never be, because people are complex creatures. One man's utopia is the next man's Doncaster (yes, I have been actually - check out my profile pic - see that mid-Yorkshire sun tingeing my face?!). The purpose of government can really only be to align such problems, prioritise them, and attempt to deal with them by whichever means brings the largest net benefit to the largest number of people.

If we expect anymore, we will only be disappointed. And so we can write 900 words, or 9000, or 90,000 for that matter, pointing out the problems in one another's countries. They will always be many, some severe, some less so, and some will affect the many, while some will affect the few.

All that we wind up becoming are willing participants in an historical axe grinding contest, where the size of our axe can be attributed to the depth of our nationalism and belief in national stereotypes, or our definition of fairness, or the degree to which we are not willing to accept, or the degree to which we are prepared to listen provided we may immediately strike back. Pointing problems out, great. But accepting them, even better.

So from Titian's view point, before I tumble backwards and fall four storeys onto the gondolier below, ruining his lunch-time Cornetto in the process (national stereotypes anybody?) there is another way to view such complex and interconnecting problems, with a two-pronged approach.

First of all, as with any entity, be it an individual, a family, or an entire nation for that matter, the first step to solving a problem is recognising the existence of that problem in the first place. From an individual perspective, the first step to Robinson Crusoe's personal betterment was the acceptance that week after week he was stuck on some sodding island-hell off the coast of Venezuela in the first place. "Stop trying to swim for it Robinson! You've survived a week, and it's not so bad. Just go and make friends with the rough-skinned fellow over there in the trees - it is Friday after all."

Similarly, the first step to Dubai's improvement of its disgraceful treatment of migrant labourers is to admit the flaw. Just like the first step to solving all of the UK's woes is to accept the problems as they come.

And here is the second prong. In order to do so, a society must have the self-correcting mechanisms in place. Freedom of association, a free press, opposing political parties, and so on. All facets of democracy, apparently. Exemplified by the simple fact that Johann Hari's article that furthered all of this was published by the UK media. As was Sultan Al Qassemi's response. Mr Hari's article has since been blocked, and un-blocked, in the UAE. Mr Al Qassemi's has not. Denial, or acceptance? Which path to choose? Had Crusoe trod the former, he'd still be supping coconuts.

But yet, as we know, not even democracy can provide perfection, for one man's island-hell off the coast of Venezuela - was another man's home. At least democracy, in its inherent ability to point out and accept the problems, at times, some may say, with a little too much gusto, gets half-way there. What to do about them? Now...that's the hard part.

In the UK, in Dubai, everywhere, we face global warming, financial crises, religious intolerance, poverty, and if we ever thought reaching for the heavens would save us, we now have a cloud of space junk baring our entry to the stratosphere. In the words of Robinson Crueso when he first laid eye's on Friday's spear - "shit". 

Societies have problems. It doesn't hurt to occasionally shout about it. It took Robinson Crusoe 28 years to escape his. It will take the human race a little longer.
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