Saturday, January 02, 2010

Essential democracy

I listened to Clive James on BBC World Service last week and loved hearing his commentary about teaching our young the lessons of the past.  Read the whole thing.  The last part is my favorite part:

'The importance of liberal democracy has been the only real idea I have felt qualified to pass on in these broadcasts.
Qualified because I was born and raised at a time when liberal democracy was under threat, and have lived into a time when it has become obvious that liberal democracy is the first and essential requirement for all the nations of the world.
Whether there is a painless way of learning that lesson, without having to learn it from experience, is a real question, to which I don't yet have the answer. I want to write a book on the subject, which is why this will be not only the last broadcast in my share of the series, but my last for some time.
A few years back I published a book about culture and politics in the 20th Century, and this new book will deal with the further subject of how historical lessons can still be learned if the prospect of political tragedy is eliminated.
But even more misleading than pessimism is optimism, and it's probably optimistic to think that things will ever get that good.
Pushkin knew the role of the young
There will always be a salutary disaster somewhere, even if it's not happening to us. At the moment, very slowly and quietly, just such a disaster is happening to Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. I want to end my stint by paying tribute to her, for her personal bravery, and for what her life under house arrest symbolically represents.
I am very conscious, when I think of her, that I am an armchair warrior and she is a warrior.
She was a child when her father was assassinated, but she must have learned a lot from his example. Spending his short life in the quest for Burma's independence, he rebelled against British imperial rule and backed the Japanese version of the same thing, until he realised that it was even worse.
After the war, having learned his lesson, he led his country towards democracy, and paid the price for getting too close.
And now his daughter is still paying the price, for her own people, and for us.
And for all the small people in my house except Tommasina, who will never grow up, never have doubts, never know disappointment, but only because she will never live. She doesn't know what she's missing.'

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