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January 3, 2020

Freedom, peace and neutrality


January 3, 2020

In our daily life we use notions like freedom, peace and neutrality without understanding their essence and meaning. We aspire to attain freedom and peace as ultimate political goals to lead a happy life but we hate revolutions as a means of achieving these goals, and dismiss them as an act of violence and conflict.

We prefer to remain neutral rather than confronting oppression, and by being neutral we assume that peace will prevail – as though peace is a mechanical function of society. These frequently used notions of peace and freedom have long-term political implications in a society founded on structures of exclusion, inequality and oppression.

All modern capitalist societies have some elements of exclusion, inequality and oppression which are imbedded in political and economic structures. Those who hold power are the ones who own the means of production (industry, land, corporations and media etc) and they also control the institutions which reinforce exclusion, inequality and oppression to rule the people.

Then there are those who do not own the means of production and are employed to create wealth and produce knowledge but do not have any control over the institutions that shape social, political and economic life of citizens. When societies are shaped on an unequal keel, peace and freedom cannot be achieved without transforming the institutions of inequality and oppression. Reformists generally argue that by fixing the nuts and bolts of the political and economic system governance can be improved – without restructuring or radically transforming the institutions of control.

For instance, in his election campaign Imran Khan claimed that his party would transform Pakistan into an inclusive and equalitarian welfare state simply by inducting honest people to run political institutions. However, his reforms agenda failed to address the fundamental problems of inequality, exclusion and oppression which are embedded in the extractive state institutions. The PTI acted as a neutral rather than a transformative force when it came to transform the power structure of the oppressive state machinery so as to build an inclusive Pakistan.

Thus the exclusive, oppressive and Leviathan state cannot be transformed by a neutral and submissive political government unless its institutions are radically transformed through citizens’ action. Freedom and peace cannot be achieved unless the citizens of a state have the vision, will and conviction to fight for it and until power inequalities are fully abolished. There is no such thing like neutrality in politics; it is about taking positions and asserting the right of freedom and peace by dislodging the institutions of oppression.

George W Bush, the former president of the United States spoke the most untold truth in the history of politics – without being conscious of its significance though. Admonishing the international community in his first speech after the 9/11 attacks, Bush warned the world that ‘you are either with or against us’. By uttering these historic remarks about the underlying reality of politics, he reminded us that, from ancient Babylonia to the modern American empire, the human instinct to dominate has not changed much.

The will for freedom in reality is the will to dominate and in this war of domination there is no middle ground unless an equalitarian system is established. As long as the war for dominance shapes our politics there will be no end of ideology, and history will continue to advance.

Those who claim to be neutral in a world of will to dominate are either hypocrites/liars or just idiots. Neutrality favours the status quo and it allows the powerful to establish domination for plundering society with impunity. The American empire plundered Afghanistan and the Middle East under the pretext of spreading democracy while in reality supporting dictatorial regimes. Those who stood by the American empire or those who remained neutral in this plunder and pogrom in their territory were installed as new rulers of invaded countries, and those who opposed it were maimed into silence.

I still remember the anti-war protests of February 15, 2003 when a million people marched in the streets of London against the imminent war on Iraq. This was the largest ever neutral protest I attended in my life, and that too in a European capital. This peaceful march was not taken too seriously by the British government as Tony Blair, the then prime minster of Britain, proclaimed this to be a neutral march. Very few among a million neutral protesters of the London march chanted slogans in front of the British parliament against the war; they could only stir some debate on the media but then the impact of the march fizzled out.

Despite the anti-war protests worldwide, Iraq was invaded again – killing a million of civilians and turning historical cities into ruins and relics of Babylonian times. Those who opposed the war or strived to expose the lies behind invading Iraq within American and British administration had to face severe consequences. One such character was Dr David Kelly, a British weapons expert who revealed some facts to the BBC which suggested that Tony Blair had misled the British people and that there was no convincing evidence of Iraq having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

Dr Kelly was found dead in the woods at Harrowdown Hill in Oxfordshire a few days after his revelations on BBC. The invasion of Iraq was justified by Bush and Blair because they claimed that it would lead to the WMDs which would then be disposed of to make the world a safer place for all. It was so hilarious when the WMDs were not found and President Bush was quoted by the Western corporate media saying that ‘we could not find the WMDs because they were hidden by Saddam Hussain.’

All post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East brought huge fortunes for American corporate giants. The war fought with taxpayers’ money ended up filling the coffers of American construction and oil companies and their partners in Britain. So the world shaped by global corporate entities is a dangerous place to live in because it feeds corporate greed with people’s blood. It is the ugliest monster which can devour bones and flesh to survive and can suck the blood of all humanity to fill its bloated belly. All imperialist wars were painted as crusades against totalitarianism but in reality these wars destroyed the possibility of democratic transition and installed puppet regimes at the service of big business corporations.

Imperialism and democracy cannot co-exist as both are diametrically opposed in their essence and political intent. Imperialism is about the will to dominate while democracy is about the will to participate and about reining in individualistic and institutional ambitions to curb social and political freedom. For democracy to function in the age of neoliberal globalization, citizens have to assert their power through ideological fight and through political resistance to regain their democratic spaces. Solidarity of global citizenship can be cemented through digital technology with an alternate narrative of economy and politics.

At the national level, citizenship must be cemented through an organically rooted civil society rather than a foreign-funded time-bound development programme. Resistance must evolve as a transformative force from within a society that calls for universal citizenship beyond ethnic, religious and racial differences.

The writer is a social development and policy adviser, and a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AmirHussain76