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A Matter of Principle

There is little doubt that the world has some big problems at the moment, although to be fair, there have always been problems of different sorts and it is debatable whether things are better or worse now than they have been in the past.

What are these problems as I see them? Well there is Islam for a start, which is probably the biggest current threat to world peace and stability. I don’t want to dwell on that in this entry but I will repeat one of my favourite quotes which I think is relevant: “those who believe absurdities will commit atrocities.”

So now with that out of the way, what other issues are worthy of discussion? I think it might be the increasing failure of western democratic and economic systems. By that I mean how the military, big corporations, and other elites are taking control of the world through their escalating influence over governments. And I mean how governments are increasingly working against the people they are meant to represent, through secretive trade deals, laws favourable to the economic aristocracy, and increasing surveillance of citizens.

It’s as if the majority of decent reasonable people have become the enemy. Generally these draconian rules are rationalised by saying they are to protect us against terrorism, or weapons of mass destruction, or disruption to essential services such as the internet, but how true is this? There is a certain amount of credibility to these claims but I don’t think that is the primary purpose of the new laws.

In reality these laws are designed primarily to protect the rich and powerful. I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory but remember that sometimes there really is a conspiracy. Look at the most prominent people who are being persecuted by the establishment around the world at the moment. That would be people like Julian Assange, Kim Dotcom, Edward Snowden, and Bradley Manning.

Are these people terrorists? Are they likely to cause death and destruction by using weapons of mass destruction? Are they causing disruption of services to the average person? Of course not. Their only crime (if you even want to call it that) is to threaten the established powers by doing things like exposing information that those powers don’t want released. If that’s a crime then I say we need more criminals!

Most of the people of the western world are too apathetic to really try to fix these problems but there is an increasing level of discontent which must eventually overcome the current corruption in governments. For example, in a recent poll 54% of respondents agreed with Edward Snowden’s actions but in another survey only 15% approved of the performance of the US Congress.

So what is the biggest cause of the world’s problems? Is it a person who tells the world about how they are being spied on or is it the people who are doing the spying? Is it a person who offers an efficient file sharing system or is it the corporations who lock up and excessively profit from the world’s musical and other creative talent? Is it a person who releases a video of American military killing civilians or is it the killers?

Clearly the majority of the population see through the feeble excuses offered for the actions of our leaders. If they really have our best interests in mind what’s the harm in us finding out about it?

I think there is far too much secrecy in both the public and private sector. Whenever I hear a politician saying that he can’t comment on or give details about a government activity because of security policies, or the risk of terrorists using the information, or some ridiculous excuse involving weapons of mass destruction (now who could I be talking about here? that’s right: the NZ prime minister) I naturally assume he’s lying.

And when I hear a company refusing to comment on something because of “commercial sensitivity” I naturally assume they are engaging in some dirty deal that they don’t want us to know about.

I won’t always be right in these assumptions because there are probably some rare occasions when secrecy really is required, but the right to secrecy is misused so often that it has now lost all credibility in most situations.

I joined a campaign today emailing the US president demanding that he not interfere with the travel of Edward Snowden. You might think that such campaigns are pointless but I think they are one of the few tools available to the average person. And yes, I am broadly speaking an Obama supporter but although I believe he is one of the better presidents the US has had recently he still needs a reminder occasionally on who he is there to server.

You see, here’s the thing Barack (hope you you don’t mind if I call you that?) You’re not there for the corrupt and greedy 1% who probably didn’t vote for you anyway, you’re there for the other 99% – in which I’m not included, since I’m not a US citizen, but you see the principle here, right?

Or is that word “principle” not in politicians’ vocabularies any more?

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