Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Voice and Voicelessness

As we in Canada slink our way toward a completely unwanted, gloriously stupid national election in January and are (yawn) going through the motions of party support and door-to-door campaigns (BYOS, bring your own snowshovel), the mind naturally wanders to thoughts about how we can do things better.

I am currently thinking about a theory I have about radical politics. I'm pretty sure it relates to Quaker spiritual concerns as well. But maybe it doesn't. I'll leave that to you...

Here's my theory in a nutshell: When a people feels voiceless -- that is, they have yelled till they are hoarse and are still unheard; they are under the invisible thumb of another people or estate; or they sense a mismatch between their reality and a political construct being imposed on them -- when a people feels this way, they will vote radical as a block so that they get a voice. The politics of the radicalism in question isn't as important as how loud it is.

In Canada, we see this in Quebec. Quebecers don't vote for national parties anymore: they vote for separatist parties. Maybe these voters aren't even separatists. It doesn't matter to them. At least with a strong separatist vote, Quebecers know that Quebec will not be ignored. And it's true: the power of the Bloc Quebecois Party to force or block issues for the whole nation is very real. So from a Quebec perspective, putting up with separatist politics is just the price you pay to get a voice.

The same for Alberta. Albertans vote as a block for ultraconservative parties because that gives the West a voice. If they voted like the rest of the country, their concerns would be drowned out by Ontario. In fact, their concerns probably wouldn't even make the radar. They know this from experience.

If you have no voice, you will do almost anything to get one.

If this theory is true, then it can apply equally well to the Middle East.

Arabic nations have long been under the invisible thumb of Western nations, particularly oil interests and US politics. Leaders have been elected, propped up, or eliminated through silent Western intervention. A good example is the Shah of Iran. The West was dumbfounded when he was overthrown by streets full of raging theocrats. We either weren't aware of or didn't want to acknowledge how cruel a leader he was and how much support we gave him. In order to get a real voice, the Iranians turned to the Islamic fundamentalists.

We see a similar trend across the Middle East. The Palestinians, hoarse from protesting the abuses of Israeli soldiers, Zionistic politics, and American support of both, have come to embrace religious extremism as a way to have a voice. Violence and hatred of Americans comes as part of the parcel: it just makes the voice louder. Other nations are flirting with Islamist government simply as a way of escaping the puppet-nation status of being a non-Western democracy.

I note with interest how South America is becoming a leftist block. Rather than giving in to the global capitalism and commodification promoted by the North, the South is saying No with one voice.

Basically, these voting blocks spread because there is fertile ground: a hunger to be heard.

Something tells me that the solution to political extremism and conflict between powerful and powerless peoples is to give powerless people a real voice. If the North wants to woo the South back into global trade talks, then it's going to have to listen to the South instead of talking all the time. If the West wants to reduce the violence and tension in the Middle East, it's going to have to examine its silent politics and its silencing politics, including how it interferes in Middle Eastern politics to serve its own purposes. It's also going to have to de-silence these issues and give them a full perestroika.

There is a proverb somewhere in the Hebrew Testament to the effect that one should not condemn what one has created. Perhaps that's the spiritual implication of all this.


At 6:45 PM, Blogger david said...

Much wisdom here -- though I would love the citation for that proverb. It sounds -- so very unbiblical.

Have a great New Years Nancy (and sorry -- the bird's a gonner -- egg-bound) -- got 2 cats now.

If you get a moment email me. I'd love to hear how the Visitation from CYM Consultation & Renewal went at TIMM.


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