Friday, 30 August 2013

The Cowardice of the British People and its Parliament

Last night the British Parliament, speaking in the name of the British people, sent out a clear message to the world. This message, however, is not what the provincialist Little Englander conservatives or the posturing faux-leftists say it is. The message was not that Parliament, on behalf of the people, had stood up to the executive branch and forced it to bow to the wish of the electorate; neither was the message that Britain had finally learnt the lessons of its imperial and post-imperial past and was not going to turn Syria into another Iraq. The message was this: if you're foreign and far away, we don't care about you. It doesn't matter what happens to you, the British people don't give a shit. We'd far rather concentrate on important things like Gareth Bale and Kate Middleton than be forced to take a stand against a brutal dictator slaughtering a captured population. We are a small-minded, uncaring, inward looking nation that is happy to allow people to die in their tens of thousands as long as they do it far enough away that it won't make us feel bad.

It also sends out a clear message to the dictators and tyrants of the world: Britain will do nothing to stop you from slaughtering civilians, even with WMD, there will be no consequences at all. Tolerance of the use of illegal WMD is now the UK's official position.

It has always been difficult to get people in general to take a stand on human rights, especially the human rights of people who are not their own and especially during times of economic difficulty. A large section of the British right will always put what they claim to be the national interest (as if the use of chemical weapons was not against Britain's national interest) over the defence of human rights. They will say that we should look after our own and only our own, people in other countries are not our responsibility. This sentiment has grown alarmingly over the last few years since the start of the Great Recession. Historically conservatives have only supported military involvement in other countries when it consisted in invading them, occupying them and stealing their natural resources. That's what happened in colonial times and it's what happened in Iraq. But when it's something boring like human rights violations and no occupation or plundering is proposed, well that isn't any fucking fun, is it?

It's far more painful to denounce the failings of the British left, as they are my family and I don't like having to criticise my family. But I cannot and will not allow simple partisanship to stop me from calling out some catastrophic mistakes made by the left.

The British left and the Western left in general is usually very good at pointing out and denouncing injustices perpetrated by European and North American governments and their allies. Atrocities, murder and injustices committed by regimes that are anti-Western, however, are often given pass by the Western leftists. The explanation is simple: the moral compass of the European and North American left is set by the policies of the United States and her allies. What the United States does is by definition bad and so anything that is against the American position is automatically good. The left has become so inundated by this moral relativism that we are chronically unable and unwilling to oppose a regime like that of Bashar al-Assad, whose ideology can be accurately described as fascist. The Assad regime is one of the vilest there is, however because it is anti-Western many leftists find it difficult to condemn it in the clearest possible terms. They show no solidarity, that greatest of left-wing virtues, with the people of Syria. Instead they start to talk in Kissinger-esque realpolitik speak, saying that Assad may be bad but the alternatives could be worse and that this conflict is not our business. These are both very cynical, isolationist perspectives that reflect a more conservative view of the world and do not reflect the vibrant optimism and internationalism that is supposed to be the benchmark of being left-wing.

A combination of an economic downturn at home, bad memories of the Iraq war and a natural vein of cynical, uncaring conservatism has led the British people to ignore the plight of the brave people of Syria in their struggle against a brutal dictator. And it is not “neo-cons” or “warmongers” in Washington and Whitehall who will ultimately suffer from this. No, it is the Syrian people and the eternal struggle for democracy, freedom, equality and fraternity that will suffer.

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