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minorityDemocracy means, literally, “the rule of the people”. It was invented by the Greeks, thousands of years ago, and it became the preferred type of organisation for their city states, like the powerful Athens. There’s a lot to be said about  democracy of a city state, where every citizen gets to vote. Well, every citizen that is male, owns land and is not a slave, that is. It also helps if your fellow citizens – and the local politicians alike – are practically your neighbours, so you’ve known them, or at least of them, your whole life.

But that was then, and this is now. Democracy is the preferred form of government for more than half of this globe’s population; from Greenland to India, from Russia to USA, Japan, Latin America and South Africa, democracy spread far and wide, much like a certain form of flu. And it likewise mutated.

How does it work? Well, people get to vote. Every 4 or 5 years, they vote a party, a platform, an ideology or, if they’re really lucky, an actual person. But who chooses the candidates? Who pushes them in the limelight, who writes their names on the ballots? In a democracy you may choose whosoever you desire – as long as you choose from our own carefully selected candidates.

Oh yes, democracy is the rule of the people in the true sense of the word – as long as you’re in the majority, that is. And if you, as a majority, vote to, say, deny utterly and unabashedly that a minority even exists, let alone is entitled to some rights, well, let it be so, right? The democracy hath spoken.

And even if you, as majority, do care about minorities, and treat them well to raise your status as a country in the world. You do your job, you elect your politicians, based on their platforms and their promises, and then… and then you go home, you shake your head and you fully expect to be disappointed yet again by them. They all lie, you tell yourself, but you still hope against hope that this time, this time you sent an honest man in office.

Have you noticed that, whatever the report or response of a politician, everybody expects him to lie? Maybe just a little bit. When Amnesty International denounced the war crimes committed in the Gaza strip in the latest soon-to-be-forgotten Israeli-Palestinian war (well, Hamas, actually), both sides jumped up and said that the report is biased and unbalanced.1 Accusations are promptly met by denials, rebuttals, counterclaims; proof is brushed aside, a counterfeit, an image coup manufactured by the political adversaries. Politicians cry their innocence on the way to prison – and then wonder why the vote turnout is low, why people loose interest and stay away from politics altogether. Why indeed.

Take the Lisbon treaty. It was shot down by Ireland, in what must have been the biggest news story of 2008 for the Old Continent. European political animals pulled a fast one and continued the vote in other countries, in spite of the treaty needing unanimous approval by the member states. Most of them didn’t even dare ask their voters via referendum, knowing full well what happened with the late European Constitution project. And now Ireland votes again. Who’s willing to bet it’s going to be a Yes this time?

And yet, when we do vote, we chose the trustworthy candidate. The one with strong moral values. They got a black man to take office as president of the United States and are now claiming that for an extraordinary feat, but mark my words: an atheist wouldn’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell. No, we need God-fearing politicians – at least they fear someone, the saying goes.

And the part that really cracks me up?

This is the best we can do.

  1. Yes, hello, Israeli can of worms, I’ve been sitting on you a long time now, but finally I couldn’t help myself – I had to look inside, you see. []



kindness What’s it like, being kind?

Is helping someone without an apparent benefit to your person enough to justify itself as an act of kindness? I don’t know. Some people genuinely like to help. Others do it as atonement for past or present sins. Or to impress someone, be it a potential future mate or a potential future employer. For the ones at the receiving end I guess it doesn’t matter much, as long as they get help. For them the kindness is the act.

But what does make a person kind? There’s got to be selflessness involved, that I know.  Kind people don’t help for their own benefit; they do it because they can’t afford not to. If they abstain from helping they deny their own nature, so helping others is probably as natural to them as breathing. It’s something you are, not something you do.

But being kind does not necessarily mean walking about with huge bewildered eyes, looking for kittens in distress. Kindness does not equal empathy or compassion. On the contrary, I’m guessing even a slap in the face may be construed as an act of kindness, if it’s done at the right time and with the right attitude in mind.

I have a small scenario in mind. Imagine that you have a friend who is in terrible pain. He is clearly out of his wits with suffering, literally writhing on the floor teary-eyed, begging you to just make it stop, please, make it go away. You’re standing there, looking at him, and seeing him in this state breaks your heart. He looks at you, and you realise that you hold in your hand a solution to his problem, and with a simple gesture you can make his pain go away. Yet you’re witholding it from him – you shake your head, and you watch him suffer. Is that an act of kindness?

And what if I told you that your hand holds a dose of heroin?

“You can’t always get what you want… but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.”

– Mick Jagger