Intervention vs. Interference

Peace making. Peace building. Providing a helping hand. On a ‘totally amazing gap yahh’. However you look at it, Western involvement in other areas of the world is increasing. Intentions are good for the most part. At an individual level, when people sign up to go to an African country and build infrastructures, or irrigation systems, or work in a school, they do so because they want to provide any relief they can to a community that has little in the way of resources. At a much larger level, often, Western political forces get involved in conflict zones as a part of their own political agenda.

Liberal peacebuilding is a concept that is being highly contested by scholars as I type. Can liberalism exist alongside a notion of intervention? Debatable. The main foundations of liberalism denote that individual rights and cultures are fundamental creating a harmonious society. Whether or not intervention can even nod towards acknowledging existing traditions and individual rights is a tough one to answer. Creating a democratic environment in which people can flourish individually would be the argument that this is not, in fact, a contradiction of terms. However, I see the paradox as being that the concepts of ‘democracy’ and ‘liberalism’ are highly Westernised in how they are conceived. Why should local people in less powerful states be indoctrinated by Western values? Is democracy really what is the most effective method of building peace?

Imposing values which are alien to the local people can only cause friction. Often, there is a development of resentment towards those who are intervening, as there is little local understanding of what is important in the society. A rejection of the help is seen in West Africa now, as the Ebola crisis unfolds. Local people who are in small villages are having strangers in white biosuits turn up, with unknown accents, taking away their sick children away, and coming back with their lifeless bodies. Then, to add insult to this injury, the medical professionals are not allowing the grieving family to bury their loved ones in the traditional way that they are used to. Obviously, there is valid reasons for this, as the containment of Ebola needs to be prioritised. However, education is what is important. In order to meet in the middle, the Western intervening forces cannot solely provide a solution with a legitimate local understanding; local people need to have some kind of education in matters such as this, and local understanding should also be utilised. So, in this case, there is a ‘meet in the middle’ solution.

However, whether the notion of liberal peacebuilding is ideal or not is the main issue here. If women are second-class citizens in a village in Nepal, why is democracy considered to be the best solution for that village? Westernising the world is not the be all and end all for the world’s problems. Often as well, Western intervention is done with a hidden agenda of gaining a foothold in a place where potential interests lie. Again, with the Ebola crisis, there was no Western action until the fear of it hitting Europe was close to becoming a reality. Shouldn’t we see the world as a population of human beings, and if someone is in need, that is when to step in and give a helping hand? Although this is unrealistic, it is an attitude that could provide a less politically fuelled plan of action.

The overarching issue I have with the intervention vs. interference debate is the Western, mainly white superiority complex that is felt throughout the main actions that are taken. Why does it seem like a white person will step in to a project in, for example, Kenya, and bring a new hope to the community? Is it purely a selfish act of do-good-feel-good? Or is it genuine delusion that these short-term actions will make a real difference? The fact that there is a market for these sort of projects says a lot. Selling places on a volunteering project for white teenagers to go over and construct a poorly-built school that the villagers will only knock down and re-build with their own skills is evidence of the Western pedestal that we place ourselves on.

We do not know better; we know differently. The sooner we acknowledge this, the greater the improvements will be in our intervention at every level of scale. It is about communication, education and compromise. We cannot force one set of ideals upon an existing society. It simply will not work, and it does not work.

This is something to be continued, so keep an eye out if you’re interested.

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Burglar Bashing: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…

On the 9th of October, the Minister of Justice, Chris Grayling, announced the proposal to change law which stops homeowners being able to attack burglars, or those breaking and entering into their home. In 1999, the farmer, Tony Martin, was prosecuted for shooting a burglar dead who was aiming to intrude Martin’s home. The Conservative cabinet reshuffle has brought Grayling into a promoted position to Minister of Justice, replacing Kenneth Clarke; Grayling is said to be bringing a harder stance into the role than Clarke, but how tough is too tough?

“Grossly disproportionate”. That is the phrase Grayling is throwing around, saying that a homeowner can only use force to remove an intruder as long as it is not to a “grossly disproportionate” level, which to my mind already sets off alarm bells. Should this law come into place, and this term be used as a part of enforcing said law, what is seen as “grossly disproportionate” to one person may well be changeable for another. If the judge who is ruling the case has been burgled him or herself, then this could lead to subtle cues being subconsciously fed into the judge’s decision making. They could press in favour of the homeowner more so than the burglar than, say, a judge who has never first hand experienced an intruder in their home. The risk for me, in this situation, is that there is far too much room for interpretation within this phrase, and whether the burglar has rounded up the family and held them at knife-point (as in the Minir Hussain case, 2009) or has simply broken in and nicked a camera, could change the decision as to what degree the burglar was intruding. Isn’t intrusion intrusion; black and white, illegal, end of story? Or is the mindless torture that an elderly woman with boiling water and brute force worse than someone smashing a window, and stealing something to sell on? This is where the line becomes blurred.

Let me say now: I am never in favour of harming another human being. I am against death penalty; I am against corporal punishment; I even was offended by people celebrating the death of another human being, even if it was Saddam Hussain. However, I am in favour of family’s being able to protect their homes, individuals being able to look after their belongings and loved ones, and private property remaining a safe, and enclosed area where someone can feel safe. I think the notion of ‘home’ should never be undermined, and as seen in the latest burglar alarm advert (I’m a sucker for marketing) – it’s not always what is taken, but what is left behind. Intrusion can cause huge amounts of psychological damage upon the victim, and I do not believe that anybody should be subjected to that kind of fear in their own home.

Let’s look at it another way: when a pedestrian runs out in front of an approaching car, even when the red man is shown, the driver is automatically prosecuted for dangerous driving if they are even a smidge over the speed limit. The pedestrian acting foolishly is automatically not to blame, and it is seen as should the driver have been driving at the limit, the collision may not or would not have happened. So, why should a homeowner be prosecuted for chasing a burglar out of their house with the use of force when the intruder was the one who initially broke the law? When the burglar walked into the house, they were aware of the risk of the homeowner being there to force them out physically/the driver was aware when speeding that they were putting others on the road at risk. The dilemma stands as this: a homeowner is protecting their home from an intruder, but they are prosecuted for attacking the law-breaking burglar. “No! That is unfair! They are keeping a criminal out of their home!” some may argue. However, does the law turning a blind eye to violence mean that the government is saying one wrong cancels out a consequential wrong-doing? Doesn’t this mean that, actually, beating another human being is okay, as long as they’re a burglar? Hm. Something doesn’t fit here for me.

This potential law is far too swamped in Gray(ling) (sorry) area for my mind. Yes, batter somebody who comes into your house. Does it mean it’s okay to end somebody’s life, or harm them through force just because they’ve entered your house illegally? That person has a family, friends, maybe a spouse and children; maybe money is so tough that crime is what they’ve been pushed to, or they’ve ended up in a bad group, turned to gang crimes, and have been coerced into breaking and entering. But then again, maybe they’re just thoughtless yobs, pinching stuff from your grandmother’s dresser. Yes – protect your house and family. What I really feel is, by this law coming into place however, is that a whole new gateway will be opened in which people will say that their actions in “the heat of the moment” need to be lawfully protected as well, and a floodgate will open, and unprecedented issues will arise. Human rights will be invoked, and homeowners will maybe begin to argue harassment is the same level of intrusion in terms of psychological harm to their family.

I am sooo not pro-burglar. I think that they should have all their stuff taken, or their house trashed, and see how they feel. However, I do not know still, how I feel about the legalisation of so-called ‘burglar bashing’, especially with such a loosely phrased T&C attached. My head is saying it’s fine, but my heart is saying, doesn’t this mean that the homeowner could be just as bad as the burglar? I could just be overly brain-washed by my slightly eccentric father, or I could be a child of the ‘Politically Correct’ Age. Or a total Leftie?

Maybe I need to invest in a guard dog to do my dirty work for me…

The Shadow of the Gallows

Following the tragic events in Manchester this week, where two young female police officers were murdered after a hoax call lured them into an ambush, Conservatives are now speaking of re-introducing the death penalty for the murder of police officers. The former chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Tebbit, and Nick de Bois, who is a member of the Commons Justice Select Committee, are two prominent Torys who are pushing this suggestion forward.

This matter is not something to be taken lightly; it opens up the risk of the death sentence being wrongly given to innocent people, and the moral issue of whether a life for a life really is acceptable. Surely, most would argue (including myself until wavering recently) that to kill somebody for killing another person makes the justice completely out of balance, therefore making the sentence just as cold-blooded as the crime. After watching the Channel 4 programme, ‘Lifers‘, I really don’t think the death penalty is the right way to handle a homicide. There was one man on the show who really struck a chord with me, who had murdered his wife in the heat of passion, fuelled by jealousy, and repeatedly stated that he didn’t know why he’d done it, and how it felt as though someone else had done it. Even his daughters had forgiven him, as they knew it was so out of their placid, timid father’s nature. In spite of this, pre-meditated murder seems to raise separate debate, and warrant different punishments.

To push for the death penalty as a way of preventing crime is telling of society today. You see documentaries where young men who have already been behind bars casually talk of their time ‘inside’, and it has almost become a status symbol – “yeah, been inside on and off for the last four years” – brilliant. I am a strong believer in the suggestion that drugs have entry level and then those gateway drugs, like weed, lead people to experiment further to harder drugs as their confidence with drugs builds. In my opinion, this is also applicable to crime. I think petty crime leads gradually up to more violent or serious crimes. I’m not the biggest fan of the Lib Dems, especially after their betrayal to us students(!), but I think their ideological belief in rehabilitation is really very important in preventing the build-up to serious crimes. I think petty criminals should be rehabilitated, or relocated to help to stop them offending in the future. I know that this is a very loose solution, and is extremely utopian – ‘where is the money going to come from!?’ I hear you cry! ‘From us innocent tax payers?!’… Well, yes. Yes it is. A worthy cause when you see how terrible the crimes such as those in Manchester are, and if they can be prevented then so be it!

If you’ve managed to wade through my waffle so far, you deserve a medal. Unfortunately, I am going to continue on about my original point. Death penalty – how often would it actually be applied? This is a question I often ponder over. Maybe just the threat would be enough, but so often, rule-breakers are aware of the emptiness of threats. This is even visible at school, when people bunked off, knowing they could talk their way out of losing their free periods. Nowadays, surely talking their way out of the death penalty could easily be done should people pull in their oh-so-sudden extensive knowledge of their human rights. Conveniently, that knowledge obviously wasn’t available to them whilst they murdered another human being with those very same rights. Right…

Anyway – be it the threat is enough to shadow over people, or that some poor soul is used as an example (leading to two deaths conclusively) to scare the living daylights out of these thugs who go around killing, the death penalty simply cannot be used as a blanket punishment to all those who end another’s life. Spouses murdering their long-term abusive partner cannot be roped into the same pool of criminals as those who planned that hoax call, and ended the lives of two of Manchester’s police force with an ambush.

The final largest point of debate that I feel is vital when considering this question, is whether or not the death penalty should be applied for the murder of police officers. Surely this just adds a value to one life over another, purely for their choice of occupation. I am supportive of the police, and will never be one of those types to scrawl “fuk da police” on a tunnel wall. They make me feel safe, and I believe it is a highly respected job to have. However, this then could open up the argument maybe that, if a police officer is protecting the nation, teachers are educating the next generation, so should their occupation be less worthy of taking their murderer’s lives as punishment, should (touch wood) a teacher be murdered? Another issue that requires much thought. 1959 saw the last murderer of the police force sentenced to the death penalty – has society changed too much since then for it to be brought back into force? Red tape enforcers and human rights activists are a real stickler for this kind of thing, so maybe that ship has well and truly sailed.

This is an issue that requires a lot more debate, and I think that Clegg needs to pipe up and put in his two pennies worth to Mr You-Can-Call-Me-Dave, and the Liberal belief in rehabilitation over punishment should seriously be considered; that or isolation for prisoners to prevent the ‘cool’ status that prison gives people – two conflicting solutions, I know. I’m not saying that this idea of rehab is going to work for everyone; I am simply saying that a preventative beats a cure. I know I’d rather have the nation avoid more murders like that in Manchester this week, than lose more lives whilst the Government yet again flounders around installing stupid examination processes into schools.

Let me know what you think.