Musings from the padded room

torsdag 5 maj 2011

Politics, public opinion and other loose musings

These last few days the media seems to be wallowing in the news about Usama bin Laden's death. Wherever I turn the headlines scream it out (granted, I've mostly turned in places where the evening newspapers reign). First it was the whole deal about him "finally" being dead after a ten year long hunt. And now that the first awe about that seems to have died down speculations about how he died, when he died and so on have taken over.

While I am sure some people can finally sleep well at night now that he is supposedly dead (I'm still faintly sceptic since it seems the only picture of him "dead" so far seems to have been a photoshopped fake from 2009) the thing that affects me the most is the absurdity of how big of a news item it has become.

Frankly, I feel distinctly ill at ease when I see this type of single-minded focus, this right out wallowing in someone's death. I don't know how bad he was, I don't defend what he did, I know what his group claims to have done, I've seen the footage about 9/11 more times than I can remember, but still, while the Western world (including those countries that really haven't ever been in danger of the al-Qaida) celebrates they seem to forget that bin Laden was a human just like everyone else. He probably had people who actually liked him and who will truly mourn him, if he didn't have people following him most likely he'd never have been able to do what he's done.

Let's turn the scenario around: A charismatic ("good") leader of the West world has been killed (for the sake of reference let's remember the murder of JFK). The world is flooded with pictures of the place where he died, complete with pools of blood and what-not, speculations and so on about how it was done. And it turns out that there are thousands of people somewhere else cheering loudly because of his death, bragging even. How would those who relied on that person feel? We would immediately become enraged and filled with anger towards those people, right? So really now, is it any surprise so many in the Muslim countries hate the West? After all, we're doing exactly what the scenario above described right now that bin Laden has been killed.

Anyway, that wasn't really the main thing for me though. I'm neither happy nor sad he's supposedly dead. I haven't been affected either way by his existence and frankly haven't been all that interested in following what went on (other than being surprised to find out they were still looking for him). What goes on in my mind is more the issue of popularity. I know that some might think I'm way off my rocker and that my musings aren't nearly well-grounded enough for me to have an opinion. And I also admit that they're probably right. It still doesn't stop me from musing.

Apparently president Obama's popularity hadn't been all that great. And according to some sources it's better now that Usama is dead. This worries me. I've actually followed the presidency of Obama with quite a bit of interest. From my point of view (which, granted, is coloured by Swedish values and what is reported in the media, on the web and the likes) he seems to have really gone into it with a wish to make the US a better place, to improve the health of the citizens, to open up more opportunities for a better life for the majority. His health reform, the way he seems to have imposed regulations for credit card companies' right to raise interests and so on should be the good things. It should definitely gain him a lot more popularity than most presidents since he genuinely seems to care for his people and wish a better life for them. And yet I've seen a lot more negative, hard criticism from his own people about his reforms than George W Bush (who really only seemed to be aiming for more war, more oil and taking over the world while not caring a whit about his people) seems to have gotten during his time in office. At most Bush was ridiculed.

What I'm wondering is what kind of politic do people want when they think better of a head of state because a terrorist has been killed rather than for the improvements to their own everyday lives created during that head of state's time of office? Why should one person's popularity be boosted by someone else's death? To me it feels quite... nasty, really.

As for mass-murders and acts of terrorism I, under the threat of being mislabelled a religious fanatic, will now mention one of the few quotes I know from the Bible:

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"
What country hasn't got something like that in their history? The US quite often seems to conveniently forget the whole issue of what was done to the native Americans when the settlers (the future Americans) came to the continent and during the years of settlement. Or for that matter, the slavery. All those years white Americans treated other humans worse than cattle, forcing them to work their bones to dust and all sorts of other unpalatable acts. Or how the UK took over large parts of Asia and treated the natives there as servants, lower beings. Or South Africa with the apartheid. Or Scandinavia's vikings (who did indeed deal with slaves as well, both native and those they had stolen from other countries during their raids). The list could go on forever. There's Darfur, there's Zimbabwe and so on. Really, wherever you look, if you dare to dig deep enough, acts of terrorism, mass-murder and other dark acts of mankind will be found.

Terrorism by the way... It's a really hazy thing. In these last ten years the term has come to, almost solely, be used when Islamic groups have committed crimes against the West world. However, the Muslim fanatics does not have monopoly on committing them and is definitely not synonymous to the term. In fact, according to the UN's opinion on what is considered terrorism:

"Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."For reference of the exact place it was written

This text segment does not specifically point out that the act has to be committed by anti-government forces, religious fanatics or even non-citizens of the country affected. With a phrasing like that, governments, religious representants (The Catholic church and their threats of Hell, anyone?) and just about anyone else throughout history could very well have been labelled terrorists.

With that definition... Which country can, after looking back at what their own history holds, truly say they are qualified to throw the first stone?

(There are plenty more definitions of the term "terrorism", of course, but I won't list them all here. To those who really are interested Google is a great way to find stuff and Wikipedia has it's own merits).

With this I'm going to finish up for this post, I think. The gist of above text is probably just my own wish that people started to think for themselves, started to reflect on what's going on and learnt some self-reflection. And maybe a small wish that people realised that no matter who it is that died it is still a life lost, no matter what type of person it was that died.

Just because Hitler and Usama bin Laden is dead it doesn't mean the world is a better place. One or two persons' deaths can't make it so. Only the positive effort, energy and will-power of millions of people working together and helping each other, without fighting over money, resources or power, will bring about a true change for the better.

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