Lessons to learn for Europe and the West


With technocrats replacing politicians as prime ministers in Greece and Italy, and the Occupy Wall Street protesters driven out from their camping ground by Mayor Bloomberg in New York, there are many questions being asked about the future of western democracy.

The countries and leaders of the West that gave the impression it was their God given duty to teach democracy to those of us in the other regions of the world, are suddenly  unable to face  up to the realities that threaten democracy in their own countries. They are groping for solutions to meet the minimum expectations of their people,   while not having the strength to touch the huge benefits enjoyed by a very small minority in their countries.

While the banks are being blamed for most of the problems plaguing   western economies, two important countries that are caught in the whirl of crisis in the West - Greece and Italy - have chosen bankers, although of the non-corporate brand, to head the new coalitions that are expected to deal with problems caused by bankers.

With Silvia Berlusconi finally giving up power in Italy, the days of ‘bunga, bunga" politics in what is still considered the third largest economy in Europe is not yet over. New Prime Minister Mario Monti has already been called "The Full Monty", for his keeping the posts of prime minister and finance minister. Meanwhile in Greece, the people continue to protest on the streets, while another big banker of the European Community has been given the reins of power at the head of an uncertain coalition.

As the writer Niall Ferguson, the well known writer who  recently published a book on the crises in of Western Civilization,  has observed in a recent piece in Newsweek, there are; "simultaneous crises in Athens and Rome, the cradles of the West’s Law, Languages, Politics and Philosophy. "

It was only a few weeks ago that this column observed how the entirety of Europe seemed to be frightened by the prospect of the Greek people, deciding what they want for their own country, when the European "powers" led by Angela Merkel of Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy of France, turned their wrath on former Greek prime Minister Georges Papandreou, for daring to suggest a referendum on the latest bail-out package from the EU and the austerity moves that were tied to it. It was the fear of the will of the people in what is known as the Mother of Democracy.

As the crises grow we are seeing the real weakness of Europe, and by necessary connection in the USA and the entire West, with the failure to cope with the problems of their own creation, those of profligate spending, giving free-rein to banks and hedge fund managers, and paying little heed to the real needs of the people. We now see the reality of how hollow democracy is in those parts of the world, when the Occupy Wall Street protesters, who have called themselves the 99 %, are being thrown out of the park they were camped in and later prevented from carrying out a non-violent protest to block entry to the New York Stock Exchange.

No doubt the   Mayor of New York with the New York Police justified their actions against the protesters   on grounds of law upheld by a court. But, what they have forgotten is that the protesters are using the strategy   of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, as they used non-violence to fight the most ruthless of oppressors, and achieved success, not at the outset, but as their demands became more compelling with the passage of each day.

Those who opposed Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela all had the law of the day fully behind them. It was the law of British colonial rulers against Gandhi, the law of anti-civil rights whites against Martin Luther King, and the laws of Apartheid in South Africa that prevailed against Nelson Mandela – until those laws were of no effect against the tide of public opinion.

The irony today  is that  Mayor Bloomberg in New York, and others such as David Cameron in the UK, who  will be ready to use  existing laws against the rising tide of anger by the people,  are from the same countries that were  full of praise of the Arab Spring uprisings,  which their leaders  embraced with  some hesitation, only after they saw the powers of their favourite authoritarian rulers  fading away  as the people took to the streets.

These leaders had their day in  Libya, where they used maximum  military power to overthrow a leader who had clearly overstepped his time and had lost favour with the people, to install a new colonialism in that part of the world.  They are struggling to show any success in the regime change they carried out in Iraq that remains bleeding with sectarian violence sowed by the USA – UK invasion. They are now struggling to work out how the crisis in Syria is to be met, and are quickly lining up behind the Arab League in a desperate move to show that they side with the people, but remain determined to oppose the people in Bahrain and Yemen.   Their hypocrisy cries out loudest in Afghanistan, where they are ready to abandon a country they forced themselves into, saying they would make it a bulwark against terrorism and a new frontier of democracy.

The crisis in Europe has a long list of political casualties, from the time that Lehman Bros crashed In the USA.  Those who lost power in the sweep of the crisis are the leaders of Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Belgium, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Poland, United Kingdom – and now Greece and Italy, too. It is now clear that Spain will soon have a new leader, and the fate of Nicolas Sarkozy, for all his attempts to lead Europe in an alliance with Germany’s Angela Merkel, is very much in the balance.

Those who tried to thrust democracy without the consent of the people in other regions and climes will soon have to learn the dangers to democracy in their own regions.  The warning signs have some from several European centres, with the massacre of 77 youth by a rightwing extremist in Norway giving one bloody example of what can await Europe. This is now buttressed by the neo-Nazi killings of Turks and a policewoman in Germany.

Western civilization is clearly in crisis. Are the leaders of the western world ready to learn the lessons of history and give way to the new world order that is emerging? Are the voices of the people to be heard or will the powerful coalitions of bankers and financial manipulators, and related militarists, continue to hold sway, as the West continues its tailspin to disaster.  

Who is listening to the lessons of history?

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