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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, October 15, 2005

We, The People

I remarked to a friend last night that the United States had a singular, and truly revolutionary moment just once in its history, namely, its birth.

Since then, all its energies have gone into self-preservation, a very unrevolutionary state.

And the reason for that is that the United States is an idea, not a place.

It exists, it's alive in, and gives expression to itself in the US Constitution.

It was fought for the greatest ideal of the Enlightenment:

Freedom.

Freedom from tyranny. Freedom from illegality. Freedom from intolerance.

These are not the later revolutionary ideas of the 20th century, which were Marxist in scope.

They were fought for freedom from want. Freedom from monopoly. Freedom from joblessness.

Those are not the freedoms America are based on, because the Marxist ones imply a very top-down system which GUARANTEES certain things.

America, despite its constitution, guarantees you nothing.

You can fail, as much as you can succeed. And people have been doing both since 1776.

Yet regardless of outcome, by and large, they still call these United States the best place they know, because that is what true freedom represents.

The freedom to do as you will with your life -- knowing that the basis for that journey is not simply or exclusively protected by a piece of paper, but rather, that you have "inalieable rights" which as a human being are not given to you by the State, but yours by merely exhaling.

This US Constitution has been the basis for almost every other Constitution that followed it around the world, because people were quick to see its spark of genius.

The first republican Brazilian Constitution in 1891 almost copied word for word the US one, to the point of calling itself a constitution of "The United States of Brazil", in direct allusion to what it was trying to duplicate.

It failed.

This first Brazilian Constitution didn't live up to the example, and the latest one that this South American behemoth country has dates from 1988, a little over a decade away from where we are now.

It's their seventh.

Why?

Why didn't the same language, spirit and idealism its words proclaimed sustain the Brazilian nation, as the US Constitution has the American one?

- People will tell you it's the colonial infrastructure Portugal left behind.

- Another reason they will tell you is the system which followed that, which was a monarchy not a republic.

- And yet another reason they give is the culture, which was not of their making, and which was backwards as compared to the British one.

There is no one reason, but in these above, it seems to me that the people of Brazil are absolved of many of their modern-day problems by simply pointing to systemic failings which have nothing to do with themselves, or so they believe.

Their real problem is themselves.

That is the primary reason a people fail to sustain a democracy in their midst.

Haven't you ever asked yourself why do a people EVER tolerate madmen like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot as their leader?

How about worthless dictators like Castro, Mussolini, Mugabe...and Saddam Hussein?

I can't imagine for an instant a Stalin becoming Prime Minister of Britain or a Pol Pol coming to power in the United States -- can you?

And I'm not making a case for cultural supremacy, either, so don't mistake my words.

In fact, that's the very mindset which produced these charlatans, these two-bit politicos, and degenerate leaders. And these madmen.

That's the argument many South Americans use too, if they were to examine their arguments of colonisation deeply.

How many Brazilians have I heard say that if they had been colonised by the Dutch (who populated Pernambuco and stayed in the area from 1630 to 1654 -- 24 years), rather than the Portuguese, they would be another United States of America today?

Ask a Brazilian one day, you'll see.

Fortunately, there are some people who don't believe that their countries are incapable or find it very difficult to be democracies.

Japan, South Korea, India, and Taiwan are all democracies, with varying degrees of internal success, but stable successes nonetheless.

The lesson here is very simple, and which America believes in implicity.

You are the nation that you become because of your belief in the purpose of a democracy.

Responsible government flows from a true democracy.

Failures are not there to start the process over again, but to see what needs tinkering here and there, a process which takes a lot of time to get right.

And these young societies seem to have everything but time to get started.

This is the greatest problem facing Iraq today, as they vote in the 15 October Constitutional referendum.

Are there enough people to sustain this fledgling democracy -- people who believe in uncertainty over guarantees?

Who believe they as a people are capable of ruling themselves, without need of a strong man protecting them?

It's not just enough to copy the words of the US Constitution, or to use it as your guide -- a legal cheatsheet to try to get your country jumpstarted.

You have to believe in what you're doing, and that imperfect though it may be in the beginning, you will not tolerate Saddams or Castros or Hitlers (or Perons, Pinochets, and Stroessners) coming to power to "solve" your problems away.

The US Constitution sprung from some of the most brilliant minds this world will ever see.

Just thinking of the litany of the US Founding Fathers is mind-boggling:

Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams (Samuel and John), Monroe, Madison, Hamilton, Marhsall.

On and on and on.

A grouping of men that any other nation would be happy to have just one of, and the US was lucky enough to have them all living in one country AT THE SAME TIME.

When Iraqis look around their country, they may not see such a cadre of men, and women, forming their Constitutions.

But they have to make sure, at least, they don't have tyrants doing so either.

Tyrants don't care about their country and preserving their Constitutional blood, sweat and tears. They just care about themselves and their own.



If an Iraqi were to ask me to give him advice today, I first would thank them for asking my opinion, and then I'd say:

A responsible people don't tolerate the intolerable. Neither do they run away from themselves.

Believe in yourselves. Believe in your country. Believe in its laws.

If you do that, you decrease exponentially the advent of a Saddam Hussein ever again.

Good luck Iraq!

Let's see a revolution again. Of purple fingers.

Live-Blogging the Iraqi Vote

The Iraqi Constitution Online, translated by the AP into English. (Via The Mesopotamian)

3 PM EDT SATURDAY UPDATE:

From GettyImages.com - Editorial, 'The hopes of a nation.'

The Iraq referendum largely went by like any ole voting day anywhere in the West. Quietly. Purposely. Successfully.

Congratulations Iraq!

5 PM EDT UPDATE: Iraq The Model has voter turnout levels in each of the 18 Iraqi provinces. Only Al-Qadisiya Province has "low" turnouts levels, with under 33% of eligible voters having gone to the polls today. Everyone else is moderate, or high.

9 Comments:

  • Great post Victoria! I came to the USA from Cuba as a child and grew to love this country as much as anyone who was born here. This is truly the land of opportunity and the greatest country in the world. God Bless America, land that I love!

    Iraq does have many great leaders that will rise to the great challenges they will face over the next few years. The people showed great courage in their first election and I have high hopes for many more purple fingers this time around!

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Sat Oct 15, 01:04:00 am GMT-4  

  • Victoria,You obviously supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq. So in other words invasion and occupation is alright by you?
    Well not by me.

    By Blogger Janice, at Sat Oct 15, 03:37:00 am GMT-4  

  • Great post Victoria!

    Thanks Jose! :)

    I came to the USA from Cuba as a child and grew to love this country as much as anyone who was born here. This is truly the land of opportunity and the greatest country in the world. God Bless America, land that I love!

    I didn't have nearly the same sad, and dramatic youth that your country's turn to tyranny gave you by definition.

    I came from a country which was the motherland of this America I mention.

    We gave it its philosophical and moral foundations, but it was Americans themselves who forged this nation.

    And Iraq is in quite a similar position today.

    They have an ancient civilisation, the most of any Western society. But they have a fledgling democracy.

    These two forces are meeting each other in the pull of history.

    Which will win?

    I know which one I want to win.
    The same one I want to win in Cuba.

    Iraq does have many great leaders that will rise to the great challenges they will face over the next few years. The people showed great courage in their first election and I have high hopes for many more purple fingers this time around!

    Seems good so far. Forza Iraq!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Oct 15, 02:39:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Victoria,You obviously supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq. So in other words invasion and occupation is alright by you?
    Well not by me.


    And not for disagreeing, would I go to a blog like Iraq the Model, and harass people with those beliefs, pouring a bucket of cold water over them, just because I have a "right" to say them.

    That's classless. Ugh.

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Oct 15, 02:41:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Great Post. I had to read it twice.

    The United States has also succeeded because we adopted and co-opted british traditions. Our revolution did not attempt to sweep away the old world, it was only trying to improve upon many already proven ideas (such as the right to private property).

    The Iraqi Consitution will succeed if it does the same thing - keeps the traditional Iraqi things that work and improves upon the things that need improving.

    By Blogger Sloanasaurus, at Sat Oct 15, 10:59:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Great Post. I had to read it twice.

    Hey Sloanie! Good to see you around these here parts. :)

    The United States has also succeeded because we adopted and co-opted british traditions. Our revolution did not attempt to sweep away the old world, it was only trying to improve upon many already proven ideas (such as the right to private property).

    This is actually one of the reasons which many people consider the American (and before it, the Glorious) Revolution to be a "conservative" revolution.

    The French and Russian ones (more precisely, the Soviet version) are considered to be "liberal" revolutions -- because they tried to re-invent their worlds, and decry all their past traditions.

    Guess which two were the more succesful?

    Yep.

    The Iraqi Consitution will succeed if it does the same thing - keeps the traditional Iraqi things that work and improves upon the things that need improving.

    I want to agree with you, Sloanasaurus, but I don't think so.

    Not because what you say is not right, but because for Iraq to be truly successful a democracy, they do have to revoke some of their traditions, like Japan and Germany did.

    For Japan, they had to get rid of their samurai traditions, and their Shinto religion.

    For Germany, they had to get rid of their militarism as well, less so their religion (because it didn't have the same emphasis in Germany).

    But above all, they had to believe in democracy, and repudiate their past completely.

    I don't think Iraq can/will do that...that's my greatest fear.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Oct 16, 12:29:00 am GMT-4  

  • Well, I think you should keep the traditions that work and the traditions that don't. However, I admit I don't know what those traditions would be in Iraq.

    We get bad information about Muslim culture. For example, we often hear how Muslim women are oppressed in their family laws. Yet, we never hear the other side of it. For example, the men just can't get up and abandon their families like they do in the west (there are many more social penalties to pay). Anyway, I admit I don't know much either about islamic culture.

    By Blogger Sloanasaurus, at Sun Oct 16, 10:52:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Well, I think you should keep the traditions that work and the traditions that don't. However, I admit I don't know what those traditions would be in Iraq.

    The thing of it is, for all their various tribes, and sects, they're a homogenous society.

    America was not.

    It's easier to throw away which is not really cemented, without much cultural upheaval, IMHO.

    We get bad information about Muslim culture.

    Actually, we in the US get NO information about Muslim culture.

    It's not difficult to see why, either, Sloanie.

    MSM are scared to say anything too concrete about Islam, lest they (1) get it wrong (2) offend people (3) thus giving those people a reason to do something about it.

    Here's a quick example.

    I have a friend who worked at a bookstore once. She had lived in the Middle East as a child, since her parents were missionaries.

    One day, a family of 3 started braying at the top of their voices. When she saw them, she instantly realised what had gone wrong.

    The Qu'rans on display were on the very bottom rung of the bookshelf. They were virtually touching the floor.

    A deep deep insult in Muslim countries, and when she explained it to the store manager, they decided to heed her warning, and put the Qu'rans on top.

    Guess what got placed on the bottom? Yep the Holy Bibles.

    We just wouldn't take as much offence culturally.

    It's a difficult situation, Sloanasaurus, I think you'll agree: this shouldn't mean they shouldn't try more -- but it's tough.

    For example, we often hear how Muslim women are oppressed in their family laws. Yet, we never hear the other side of it. For example, the men just can't get up and abandon their families like they do in the west (there are many more social penalties to pay).

    Erm, well this is a good thing though, no? :)

    Anyway, I admit I don't know much either about islamic culture.

    Me neither. I can't pose like I do either.

    I'm reading a good book at the moment, which I'll be blogging about soon. Stay tuned. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Oct 17, 03:01:00 am GMT-4  

  • Beautiful work, Victoria! This should be required reading in all US schools.

    Maybe it takes an outsider to see what we no longer see due to our closeness. You have fallen in love with America by choice and free will. Many born here are in an arranged marriage, an accident of birth. That's why it troubles me so when the native born sing the praises of countries they've never lived in. "Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful to live in the Soviet Union with free healthcare for all!" Yep. Wonderful. Now, hold tight while I drill a hole in your tooth and fill it with cement...Woman in labor, will you please shut up! Do you think you are the first one to ever have a baby? I'll get to you when I do!

    By Anonymous Darrell, at Tue Oct 18, 01:04:00 pm GMT-4  

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