Modern Totalitarianism

troopsIn “Comparative Government,” Samuel Finer describes Stalinist Russia as a system that evoked the determination of a single person. The hallmarks being that the state police and bureaucracy (that were subordinate to the Communist Party,)  wielded as much power as the leader (Stalin, in this case) would prescribe to it. A “de jure” grasp on the control mechanisms of government has seen Liberal governments fiefdom in democracies sustain itself inside Japan and Canada with the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party)  and The Liberal Party of Canada. Much has been accomplished in a  Post WW2 period through the adoption of  “First World” social planks.   I’m sure there are other notable examples, the point being that it is in the vanguard of modern democracies to expend resources to capture the attention of voters and maintain that control through whatever means possible, FaceBook and Twitter, be damned.  Voters saw this in Ontario recently. The lack of meritorius candidates did not impact voter turnout, which was the highest level in 24 years. Still, 52.1% voter turnout hardly provides a vote of con/fidence for our electoral system. As I said in a previous post, “Proportional Representation” can provide voters with more options at the ballot- box and reinforce the strength of our Democracy.

The collapse of the USSR has transcended so many areas of our lives on a social level: Globalisation has created soft borders and opportunities for many folks who were strictly limited to outward mobility prior to 1991. I can’t recall issues of “Temporary Foreign Workers” or “outsourcing” gracing the news media as it has in recent times.

There were seeds of discontent sown during the 1970’s and 1980’s with the angst in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Harvard Prof -Samuel Huntington (1927 – 2008)  predicted the rise in Islamic fundamentalim would eventually cast a shadow over those nation-states that were in any way, impromptu or otherwise, supporting Israel,or, ipso facto, Capitalism.

Indeed,  a “cult of personality” is fostered through the leadership and manifest through the mass media to the public. We saw this in Nazi Germany, and most recently with the Kim family in North Korea.Huntington said in “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” that “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion […] but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.

There is continuity in the Islamicisation of the world as borders have become softer. The presence of the “burka” in government institutions in Quebec has caused a stir in recent memory. Perhaps,  noteworthy for Canadians would be legislation passed in 1990 that allowed for the adornment of a turban and kirpan for RCMP officers. Calgary professor, Aaron Hughes, was faced with Islamicisation inside his classroom recently when he found a message on his blackboard supporting “jihad” and Hamas. Hughes stated that “I would have to go teach this class as a victim staring my aggressor in the face.” Professor Hughes left his position at the University of Calgary when colleagues refused to acknowledge the situation as problematic.Hughes, who is Jewish and knows a thing or two about Islamic Studies (his PhD) now teaches out of the University of Rochester, which begs another question: how can Canadian schools attract and sustain talent? That is for another day, however. Reid Southwick, Postmedia News, June 26, 2014.

Middle East policy remains the epicentre for discord and the sequestering of anti-West sentiment towards Israel with the election of Hamas in 2007 as leader in the Palestinian Parliament. Despite Hamas ties to purported terrorist states such as Syria and Iran, life inside Gaza and Israel remains fairly constant in an ongoing proxy war between pro-democracy nation-states and Islamic nation-states that are fundamental in religion and traditional in lifestyle.

Modern Totalitarianism can be  observed through the lens of the Syrian conflict pitting state against citizens, with some assistance from the U.S. to bolster the militants cause. The announcement of an Islamic Sunni caliphate that has gained traction and credibility in the Middle East is sure to cause alarm to its neighbours, and the U.S. As ISIS,  now known as “Islamic State,” the group is operating as a Theocracy within traditional Totalitarian principles; hardly modern.

Proponents of Syria include Russia, who has used it’s UN Security Council seat to block anti Assad resolutions. Modern Totalitarianism may be characterised  for it’s reliance on, or membership in  IGO’s (Intergovernmental Organizations)  to influence Foreign Policy without the high cost of military intervention. Thus, the post WW2 rebranding of  the League of Nations to the U.N., formation of NATO, and Warsaw Pact, helped to sow the seeds of dissension among competing Nation-States, while containing collateral damage.

The recent crisis in Ukraine and Crimea is analogous to China’s occupation and annexation of Tibet  in 1949, though, the UN, still in its nascent stage, and a reformulated post war International Community, could not muster the resources to challenge Russia or China in a Security Council showdown.

The crisis in Bosnia – Herzegovina gave rise to Western powers mandating NATO to intervene and assign peace-keeping units. We can see that, if it moves at all, Modern Totalitarianism moves slowly, not unlike Capitalism or well-developed  bureaucracies (tall or flat.) Consider that the victims are still similar; basic freedoms are constrained among the general population, though a mature military and other organs of the government remain steadfast with their appetite for political and economic power.

CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalist) reports that  56 journalists have been killed since 1992 inside Russia. China has unleashed another wave of suppression on Tibetans that restricts free publications and “illegal publications that promote separatism, terrorism, extremism, and Tibetan independence” as reported by China’s Xinhua news agency. To quote ‘The Tibet Post’…”In Tibet today, Tibetan writers, intellectuals, musicians, artists, environmentalists, and religious figures are being arbitrary arrested, imprisoned and tortured by Chinese authorities for merely posting an article to a blog, writing an essay, editing a magazine, sending information by text message, or singing songs that express the suffering of the Tibetan people.”

American Democracy goes through stages of rebranding according to the elected party, its principles, and membership. Strains of Modern Totalitarianism creep out periodically, and this was evident in the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison (Republican Guard or Republican Party ?)

The U.S. was a signatory of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” in 1948; the U.S.S.R. abstained. Meanwhile, (now-former) Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki has found competing Sunni & Shiite a “tempest in a teapot,” that is threatening to throw Iraq into civil chaos, once again. The need to “power-share” in the 21st century is necessary to minimise conflict, Messrs. Maliki & Jinping.

With American warships planted on the periphery opposite “Islamic Group,” the situation  provides a political game of brinksmanship, which should not escalate into a large-scale conflict as everyone involved seems to have a willing dance partner. Cha- Cha- Cha.

About Kevin Kieswetter

Hello, I have continued studying part-time at the University of Waterloo, with an interest in the political situation in Tibet, and North America. Recently, I have published a companion or white paper to an earlier work. If you have an interest in the situation on the Ttibetan Plateau, please have a look.
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