Spirit Quest


Some peace. Some stability

Trading freedom for false stability is no bargain

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

Have you ever had deja vu? It is the strange experience of feeling sure that one has witnessed a current situation. I have. 
For instance,  over the past weeks the press, including True North Perspective have given rapt attention to the events in Egypt and Tunisia. There are more coals in that fire. News correspondents and talking heads in safe locations are conjecturing how this conflagration will play out. Will it affect neighboring countries? Indeed, it already has. I doubt it will merely fizzle. 
Many of these dictatorships that are now smoldering are friends of democracies such as our own. It has been said, ”Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know.”  We have also heard a well-known saying that some dictators “are bastards but they are our bastards.” These bastards or devils have amassed fortunes, as has Mubarek, through the suppression of their own people. They are owners of dungeons in which unimaginable tortures were perpetrated. However, leaders of certain democracies have supported dictators to secure stability and "peace in our time".
The social media, Facebook, Twitter and other internet media have by-passed “legitimate” channels and communicated dissent by calling people to the streets. 
Our own prime minister has been “cool,” to say the least, toward the Egyptian crowd. Had Bush been in power, had McCain won the election, history might have been different. President Obama, however, much against many of his advisors, gave support, however mild, to the People in the Square. It has become evident that he whom the American people joined in his “Yes, We Can” campaign is fighting a continuous battle against those who prefer business as usual and supporters of “realpolitik.”
As I watched the events on the Square, I experienced a deja vu. A memory from my childhood came to me. I was only nine years old  when my parents moved us temporarily from our home on the Czech-German frontier to a farm in the interior owned by relatives where we would be safe from war.
The crisis that Czechoslovakia faced was Hitler’s demand for the Sudetenland, a part of the country that was predominantly German speaking. A mountainous border ideal for fortifications separated the Republic from the Reich. As well, Czechoslovakia had one of the best armies in Europe.
The event that I recalled most vividly was sitting close to a badly functioning radio bringing reports of the negotiations taking place between Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Bonet.  As we listened we could not imagine that the leaders of democracies, Britain and France, would give in to fascist dictators of Germany and Italy. However on September 25, 1938 the representatives of Czechoslovakia who had been kept out of the negotiations were summarily informed of the fate of their country. There would be no war and no really viable Czechoslovakia. The terms of the infamous Munich Agreement were read to them as a fait a complis.  The republic lost its highly industrial frontier area populated by 3 million citizens, not all German and certainly not all Nazi sympathizers. 
Six months later Hitler’s forces did what they had solemnly promised not to do. On March 14,1939, a day after my 10th birthday, they marched into the rest of the republic. The swastika flag fluttered from Hradcany Castle overlooking the ancient and historic city of Prague.  Fortunately we had escaped to Scotland.
Still there was no action from the democracies.  Not until five months later when Hitler’s army invaded Poland, on land and in the air, did Britain and France declare war. 
As a child I was nevertheless exposed to political table talk in my home. I could not understand that democrats would allow a dictator to have his way. Chamberlain justified his collapse before Hitler by announcing “Peace in our time, peace with honour.” The honour part I could not understand and the peace was short lived. Those events changed my life radically. My family became refugees eventually coming to live in Canada.
This memory recurred  like a deja vu (Its deja vu all over again) as I viewed the peaceful struggle for freedom and justice against Hosni Mubarak, the kleptocrat dictator, who for thirty years had his way with Egypt, whose police force had maintained dungeons and torture chambers to assure compliance and poverty of the people. We were, howver, told that Mubarak was essential for stability in the Middle East. 
The United States has a long history of backing ugly dictators from Central America  to Iraq, where Saddam was a friend and ally until he invaded Kuwait. Suddenly, we were told, he had weapons of mass destruction. He who disputed that information, Mohammed ELBaradei, has been one of the leaders in the revolt in Egypt. 
We are warned that the alternative to dictatorship is worse. Iran is referred to where Reza Shah (1925 - 1979) ruled for 16 years, bringing in many reforms and modernizing the country. He did, however, use brutal force and oppression. It is recalled to us that when deposed he was replaced by an Islamic dictatorship.  Here too unrest has now surfaced.  
Is there no alternative to these bastard/devils? The point has been made: “Its the oil, stupid.”   Had Iraq been known for its production of tomato juice there would  have been no Gulf Wars.  One wonders how plans for an oil pipeline through Afghanistan, passing almost under Kandahar, influenced our devotion to “democratic” Afghanistan, to the point of a willingness to sacrifice the lives of Canadian men and women?
In global esteem in matters of peace and international justice  Canada now stands near the bottom.  The fact that our country failed to attain a seat in the United Nations Security Council which should have been a slam dunk, illustrates our lack of popularity and trust abroad. 
We too have our disturbances e.g.. Toronto’s G20 violence as well as police action in Montebello, and Quebec City. It  bears evidence that we are also prone to police brutality on behalf of the power status quo. 
As Canadians face another election (?) is our concern for low taxes and stability, and a preference for a leader regardless of where he leads us as long as he is sure-footed, our guiding principle? Does this outweigh true democracy? Do we really prefer a prime minister who plays his cards close to his chest? 
We do not know the end results of the turmoil of our time that is spreading in the Middle East and Africa. History is ongoing but I believe that there is a Spirit of freedom alive among people everywhere. Do we want it to prevail or do we prefer peace at any price and a so-called political stability?