Languages Contents Introduction
24 September 1988 (continued)
Every people acquires a right to autonomy, while living in a specific region. Acquiring such a right requires an amount of time which is difficult to specify precisely, but it is measured in hundreds of years, or in generations. Whether a group of people is to be considered a people can only be decided by those people themselves.
The right to autonomy can be implemented either as a people’s own state, or as self-determination within a federative state. Whether the second possibility is acceptable must be decided by the people itself, not by the government or other peoples of the federation.
If two or more peoples rightfully claim the same region, all those peoples should mutually recognize each other’s rights. Anyone who denies the right of the other people, or even terrorizes it, puts his own rights at stake. If one people has been living somewhere for several hundreds of years, their right becomes equivalent to the right of an other people, that has been living there much longer. This also applies, if the people that came last, came without right: the sin of the forefathers may not be held against today’s inhabitants.
Warfare is almost immoral. Heroism and martyrdom are often lies, misused to make immoral violence seem acceptable. Even if a people fights against oppression, the cause is just, yet the violence is not. But one shouldn’t victimize oneself, it is good to be prepared, and ready to defend oneself.
From history, also from recent history, we know many examples of infringements on autonomy rights: China occupies Tibet; the Soviet Union Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and Afghanistan; Indonesia occupies east Timor, and the South Moluccas; Ethiopia oppresses Eritrea; France and Spain (though decreasingly in recent years) begrudge the Basques their independence; Morocco occupies the western Sahara. Iran, Iraq and Turkey deny Kurdistan freedom; Armenia is another country that has never been granted its autonomy.
It is difficult to understand why governments refuse to give autonomy to other peoples. Even in case the disputed area has mineral resources, or a prospering port, trading with an autonomous state with a contented and peace-loving population is much more advantageous than to fight a war against them or to oppress them. Or is the reason just the evil pride of a head of state, who only wants to expand his empire? Such rulers do not deserve to rule!
Many peoples live on soil that was stolen long ago. For example the English once moved from northern Germany and southern Danmark into the British isles, dislodging the Celts. The Celts probably were not the original inhabitants either. Later English people (and many from other peoples too) emigrated to north America, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Tasmania. The subdued, dislodged or even killed the original population. Yet this historic injustice today cannot be a reason to send the immigrants’ descendants back. On the other hand there is no reason to be proud of it, as the Americans seem to be of their victory over the Indians in the second half of the nineteenth century, which in fact meant little else than genocide to many Indian peoples.
Palestine/Israel is one country with two peoples. The Israelis have lived there, both for a short period in recent years, and for a very long period in the past. For that reason they certainly have a right to live in that country. The Palestinians also have a long history there. When the Jews came to Palestine from Mesopotamia, and later when they returned from Egypt, there were other peoples living in the country already. One of those peoples were Filistines. Etymologically that is the same word as the arabic “filasṭīn”, which means “Palestine”. Even if they are not exactly the same people as today, this shows that the Jews, over a long period, have not been the only people living in the country, and therefore, although they do have rights, these rights are not exclusive.
The Palestinians did not recognize Israel’s rights for a long time. Palestinian terrorist groups even committed horrifying attacks against Israelis. He who does not recognise legitimate rights, or uses violence, loses his own.
But, and increasingly in recent years, the Israelis also use violence against Palestinians: they bomb refugee-camps, shoot demonstrators, destroy houses. He who does not recognize legitimate rights, or uses violence, loses his own.
Both peoples suffered terribly under violence by other peoples: the German nazis killed Jews; in Lebanon arabic christians killed palestinian refugees, and later arabic shiites (whose leader is the Lebanese minister of justice!)tried to starve them. Numbers and situations differ, but blood is blood, and agony is agony, no matter why or who or whose.
Israelis and Palestinians have equal rights to Israel/Palestine. They are predestined to live together in that land, maybe as two autonomous states, better still as two peoples in a common state, living together peacefully.
Also between population groups there should be mutual acceptance. That applies to ethnic groups, speakers of a language, followers of a political view or party, members of trade unions, adherents of a religion, people with different sexual habits, people with different moral standards, etc.
Especially the last case shows a paradox: Very different moral ideas all deserve respect, also if they contradict the morality described here. But mutuality is a necessary condition, respect must not come from only one side.
The guarantee that many groups and organizations can exist in freedom is an important characteristic of a democracy. It is even more important than the democratic principle that the majority decides.
A democratic government should promote that groups of people live together symbiotically. Each group has its own interests, but these should be connected in such a way that the prosperity of one’s own group strengthens that of the others indirectly. Thus the groups will be inclined to live together in peace, without having to lose their identity, and without needing idealism.
Man is not idealistic, and we must not close our eyes to that and hope it will ever be different. Man does what is advantageous to him, and in the decision feeling and habit play a bigger role than does reason.
Under some circumstances he is willing to sacrifice for the sake or others, but only if he feels closely connected with those people, e.g. with members of his own family. This willingness has its roots in nature: any animal will defend its young, even until death if it has to. But this is no idealism, the animal does this only because in its offspring it lives on.
People are inclined to value short term profits above long term losses. One rather dumps poison somewhere if that seems cheaper for the moment, even if later it takes millions to clean the soil. One rather wastes energy now, if it takes a little trouble to save it, without having solutions for the energy supply of future generations. Governments have the task to translate long term interests into short term ones.
Governments can help fight the short-sightedness of cost calculation in business: A machine may not be more profitable than the employee it replaces, if also the unemployment benefits are taken into account, which are in fact also costs, because the company or its employees somehow, if indirectly, have to pay for them. Things should be organized such, that a company that employs more people, and thus reduces unemployment, contributes less to unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, the reverse is often true.
The traditional economic systems, capitalism and communism, in their pure form both fail to recognize the non-idealistic nature of man. Communism assumes that everybody will work for the community out of idealism. The result is stagnation. Pure capitalism believes the free market will bring everyone prosperity and employment. In reality many are exploited, or are out of work.
The solution can only be a combination of the good things of both. The market mechanism is absolutely necessary to adjust supply and demand. Private enterprise should be allowed, so talented people get the chance to stimulate the economy. On the other hand also social security and free trade unions are necessary to retain the balance between the social classes. There should also be laws that guarantee acceptable working conditions.
Both in pure communism and in pure capitalism power is in one hand: either in that of the party or in that of the entrepreneur. Every uncontrolled power without opposition will certainly lead to its abuse. The similarity of capitalist and communist abuse of power becomes apparent in Poland: here a trade union and the government are opposed, like in capitalist countries trade unions are opposed to company management, and often also to the government.
The state should be organ[ized: missing, RH] for shared power. A free press, and an independent judiciary, with the right to summon even the government, are of vital importance, as is the separation of church and state, because also religion can constitute a power, that needs limitation. Shared and distributed state power can only be democratic power, which is checked and elected by the people.
5 April 1989
It is often claimed nowadays that certain activities are not possible without sponsors providing large sums in exchange for advertisement facilities. This relies on two illusions. First, the consumers think they get the entertainment and information that they want for little or no money. They forget that if sports, television programs, newspapers, magazines etc. are cheaper, the products that the sponsors sell have to be correspondingly more expensive. In any case, the consumer pays for what he gets, only often the wrong money for the wrong product. Smart consumers should boycott companies that find it necessary to interrupt your favourite programme with messages that provide no information and that nobody really needs.
The second illusion is that advertisement is effective. It may be true that advertising a new unknown product will help find a market for it. Such commercials are quite acceptable because they give useful information, by telling potentially interested people where they can buy what they want.
But once a product is already well-known, further advertising is useless. Sales are influenced by a large amount of factors, and their impact is often non-linear, psychic or simply unknown. It is possible to measure sales, and to know exactly how much advertising was done in a given period of time, but if the other factors can’t be kept constant and it is unknown what exactly they contributed, you can’t prove that advertising is useful, so it is safer to assume that it is a waste of money. It certainly is a waste of talents too.
Chapter 3.1 Chapters 3.4–3.7
Copyright 1988, 1989, 2013, R. Harmsen, all rights reserved.