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Best of Blogs Round-Up: Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quote of the day: "The war on terror has failed—it has been the most catastrophic blunder in half a century of British and American foreign policy. Ill-conceived and spectacularly badly implemented, it was redolent of an old-fashioned understanding of conflict and quaint faith in superior military technology. It has had precisely the opposite impact from that allegedly intended, by significantly increasing the threat of terrorism while alienating Muslim opinion across the globe. Yet the politicians who made the decisions, who lied, and ignored and manipulated expert opinion are still in power and uttering the same platitudes.”Someamongus, South Africa

 

Featured Blog, I: Locke and Load
National Security vs. Liberty

The meaning of the word security has changed in the last decade or so. Where once it meant stability in defence from the Hobbesian nature of international relations; it has been turned inward to focus on domestic security. So much so that recent op-eds in the Washington Post have made the claim that a city that is not secure - is a failed one. Where once war was deemed an emergency period, with terrorism, Governments have claimed a permanent domestic emergency. This is at odds with Australian Republicanism.

John Locke is one of the most influential writers of Liberalism. His writings directly influenced the founding of the first post-enlightenment Government in the Unites States of America . At the James Madison's Montpelier, one of the most prominent displays is a glass encased copy of Locke's Two Treatises of Government.

Arbitrary Government and Tyranny

Locke's second book contains sections on tyranny and resistance.

... whenever legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves in a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience, and left to the common refuge, which god has provided for all men, against force and violence.

The keyword in that paragraph is arbitrary. The point of liberal democracy is law and order. Once government acts in an arbitrary manner toward those under its jurisdiction then it has broken the bounds of the constitution which describes the limits of executive and legislative authority.

Tyranny does not need to be absolute to be destructive; it only needs to be insidious to pollute the polity, society and economy. Recent legislation from the Australian government has placed into law the ability for Ministers in the Executive Cabinet to act in an arbitrary manner.

An example is the Migration Act;

Minister not under duty to consider whether to exercise power

(4) The Minister does not have a duty to consider whether to exercise the power under subsection (2), whether he or she is requested to do so by any person, or in any other circumstances.

Minister to exercise power personally

(5) The power under subsection (2) may only be exercised by the Minister personally.

When that prerogative is exercised we cease to become a nation of laws, and instead become a nation of men. Arbitrary government inevitably leads to tyranny and kleptocracy, the two most destructive forms of social organisation.

If The Constitution Is Breached

Locke writes that if the government succumbs to the negative passions of arbitrary government then resistance is permissible;

by this breach of trust they [legislators] forfeit the power, the people have put into their hands, for quite contrary ends, and it devolves the people, who have a right to ensure their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society. Read the rest at South Sea Republic...

 

Featured Blog, II: Cum to Jesus
Bookshop Confidential

CAPE TOWN, South Africa —One of life's minor pleasures, as I'm sure you'll all agree, is taking overseas visitors to a local shopping mall and watching their faces when they see we have an entire shop called CUM Books. You can see the thoughts rolling through their heads. "Wow, and they told me South Africa was conservative. This is going to be a fun visit!"

The best part, of course, is when they surreptitiously sidle over to the shop window to peek, and the slow look of befuddlement that crosses their faces when they see that all the books are about Jesus. Some of them are probably thinking, man, these people really are perverts. Others realise pretty quickly that CUM is a Christian Family Bookstore, to quote from the CUM website. And it's a big company - there are 31 branches of CUM Books across the country.

Inevitably, a visitor will ask the question: "But... but don't these people know what the word cum means?" And I have to answer by saying, a little like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland (except not quite as rotund) - "This is South Africa. Here, words mean what we want them to mean."

It's a kind of innocence, Iguess, the same kind of innocence that lets us name a type of biscuit Salticrax, and think that's a good thing. That's also a fun thing to say to first-time visitors to our shores, by the way. "Care for some butter on your Salticrax?" Beware the ones who say yes a little too eagerly.

I was reminded of how pure of heart we South Africans are (in Afrikaans, 'dof') by a shop display in Willowbridge Shopping Mall, that new shopping centre in Durbanville that professes to be a Johannesburg style outdoors mall, except with new improved gale force winds. In one of the pharmacies, they've placed a life sized mannequin dressed as a fireman, and on its chest a placard with the words "You can't swallow a fireman. For heartburn, try Maalox."

Can the people who wrote that possibly be as innocent as they seem? Have they never heard of fellatio? I wouldn't think it possible, but then again, we do have CUM Books as an example of blithe disregard for other interpretations of words and concepts. All I can tell you is, if that fireman was on display in Green Point, he'd have a very satisfied smirk on his face.

Words in South Africa are as flies to the gods, as Shakespeare once said. Or playthings to the gods, something like that. I'm not going to go and look the quotation up, because I am a South African, so Shakespeare will just jolly well have said whatever I decide he said.

This blithe disregard for other cultures is one of our strengths, of course. I see the same thing at work in the canteen in my office block. Currently, they're throwing a Festival of Food, and each day we get a meal themed around some famous festival.

Monday was Chinese Festival Day, so in honour of China, they served us chicken coconut curry (Thai) with Basmati Rice (Indian). Tuesday was Independence Day, so in honour of the USA, we were treated to a Boerewors and Mash Casserole (South Africa, although no part of South Africa I've ever been). Wednesday's meal is themed around the Running of the Bulls, the Festival de Pamploma (sic). So we're being treated to Tortilla Pizza's (sic). Which, as far as I know, would be some sort of strange Mexican Italian hybrid. Very sick.

Not one of the meals actually has anything to do with the country it's supposed to honour. Now this is a big catering company doing this, and they've printed big flashy posters and special menus to sell the concept. Where did it all go wrong? What genius of geography and cuisine was put in charge of the menu, and why did he decide, "Stuff this, if I decide that Tortilla Pizzas are Spanish, then they will be Spanish." At least you do actually get tortillas in Spain, but I'm not sure I'd make them iconic.

It's the idea of the Rainbow Nation, I'm afraid. We've been told that all cultures are good, which means that as long as you get enough cultural bits into the mix, you'll be okay. So what if they happen to be the wrong cultural bits. At least we noticed you. Do cum again.

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