Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Learning a new world

"The rectification of government begins in the rectification of names," wrote Confucius. 

The first 'name' that must be rectified in response to today's annexation of the Crimea is that of democracy. A pattern of living and government that is always aspirational, rather than simply given, and which in its 'home' in 'the West' needs a thorough overhaul. 

It is not something that can be imposed from above (following violent intervention) nor manipulated from below. Its results may sometimes (fairly) bring to power, people we do not like. But it is a long game and we must learn again to play it well - for ourselves first and then as a hope for others.

It must be reconnected, once again, with a political economy that generates a felt fairness. Inequality of both opportunity and outcome must be reduced so that everyone feels that there is a binding social contract that is shared by all. It must be lived out in economies - both regional and national - that enjoy a greater sense of self sufficiency, most urgently in Europe of energy. For as Thomas Jefferson noted genuine democracy can only be built within communities that are genuinely economic of themselves, and not dependent elsewhere.

It must rediscover not only that it has people who are dismissive (or disinterested in it) as not fit for their purposes (a category in which I would place China) but who are enemies of it. 

Foremost in that category is Mr Putin who believes that a 'strong Russia' requires not only an authoritarian state within (one that grows tighter by the day) but that must project itself abroad the better to protect itself (and which too is in post-imperialist spasms that a British person can have a certain reluctant sympathy with - been there, done that, but eventually, and slowly, you do grow up - though it is a maturity that is not yet finished in the UK, alas).

A re-set with Russia (to use an unfortunate phrase of an American President for whom, with deep regret, I have no time for whatsoever) needs both a robust handling of the state, modelled probably after relations with the Soviet Union (however depressing it is to write that), and yet with a wholly open attitude to its people.

I have been wracking my brain on the flight home from a quick trip to Moscow this weekend for my 'best' sanction and it would be to deny the crony elite all access to 'the West' - physically, financially, commercially - and to incorporate every ordinary Russian (and Belorussian and Ukrainian) citizen in the free movement of labour that is the EU. It would undoubtedly be a wild ride for a time (especially I imagine for the UK) but would be a 'live experiment' on which 'system' would people actually like to live in and help create! It would hopefully create binding and reciprocal ties (underneath the state) that would slowly bring about transformation...






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