29 April 2008

What's wrong with Italy?

Dear readers,

This morning, the results of the elections in Rome have been confirmed and published: The PDL (People of the Freedom Party) Gianni Alemanno, actually a Neo-Fascist, has been elected mayor of Rome by a large margin of 7.4 points. The centre left Francesco Rutelli admitted his defeat, due to a combination of voters bored with the 15 years of ruling of the capital city by the left and to their adhesion to the anti-immigration and security promises of the right. The right wing party scores is also a reflection of the national level elections two weeks ago.

But what does this mean? It means that it is nowadays perfectly ok for millions of European voters to put a yes bulletin in a ballot box for parties which are openly claiming the inheritance of Benito Mussolini. And I can already hear the allegations of some pundits that this is an Italian specificity and that Italian elections and politics have never been really that serious. To these I will tell: wake up! Italian elections might have some folkloric elements (how could it be different with a clown like Berlusconi heading the right wing alliance), it is very serious that only 63 years after World War II, Europeans have learned nothing. And it is really not limited to Italy.

The positive point with Italy is that at least they don't mind calling the thing by its name. After all, how could they hide it when the head of one of the right wing parties is Alessandra Mussolini? But look at facts: Austrians have voted neo-nazis in a coalition government for years and "tolerant" Dutch regularly vote for parties such as the PvV (Party of the Freedom, a fascist group) or ToN (Trots op Nederlands, from ex-prison guard Rita Verdonk). What is wrong with Europe?

In my views, two things, none of them easy to reach:
- lack of ambition and vision for its politicians and intellectuals
- lack of education and awareness for its citizens.

Edit: thanks Paco for the correction about ToN... ;-)

22 April 2008

Free Tibet or free China?

As usual, I prefer, dear readers, to comment on things after they have happened. Some people could call this a lazy habit, but I call it a safer one.

So here are some simple, proven facts:
- China is going to host the Olympics this year (whose boycott I support, just like I support Chiquita banana or Monsanto products boycott).
- At the occasion of the anniversary of China's invasion of Tibet, Tibetan demonstrations in Lhasa (and other regions) turned to violent anti-Han riots.
- These riots were suppressed violently and a ban on foreign press was imposed in Tibet.
- No free/critical information (even non political) can be published without dire consequences inside the Great Firewall of China.
- No free/critical information published outside the Firewall can be accessed from inside (such as this blog, for instance)
- The People's Republic of China is neither a Republic nor democratic. It is the uncontested rule of the Communist Party clique over the multitude.
- China is not a communist country, it is an oligarchy (and a very corrupt one).
- China does not tolerate any separatism, not even autonomy of peripheral regions.
- China does not tolerate freedom of religion.
- Many Tibetans are asking for independence, though the Dalai Lama (the head of their exiled government) is only asking for total religious freedom and an autonomy which would maintain its cultural and ethnic identity.
- Pro-Tibetan groups and free press activists have used the Olympic Torch relay to demonstrate against Chinese position.
- The Chinese government had promised some substantial Human Rights improvements to the Olympic Committee, ahead of the Games and in exchange for being allowed to organize them.
- None of these promises have been hold. Actually in some areas, the situation has become worse, arguably because of the Games.
- Chinese netjects (a neologism, contraction of "net" and "subjects", that I just created to replace the term "netizen" in places where citizenship is not obvious) have massively used the internet and messenger services to show their unconditional support to their government.
- Such netjects have shown no ability to hold an argumentative and rational conversation, using rather pre-digested babble and nationalistic rethorics.

My conclusion: if you want to make everyone happy (and that includes Taiwan, Macao and Hong-Kong), don't free Tibet, free China!

19 April 2008

Geert Wilders and the Koran II

Gert Wilders eventually published his film on the internet. Fitna (that's the title, and it means division in Arabic) is a sixteen minutes montage of archive images (international and Dutch) and tacky music. It also shows gruesome news archives, such as a beheading and various terrorist attacks by some extremist Muslim groups (mainly Al Qaeda). There are also a couple of provocative pictures such as one of the caricatures of Muhammad from the Jyllands Posten and a short view of the Koran (read in the wrong direction), followed by the noise of pages torn. Fellow Muslims, don't worry, the film production informed us that the pages actually torn off were from a telephone book. Yeah, right... The symbol is there. Anyway, to summarize on such a non event, it is a totally uninteresting film with no original image whatsoever and a poor message. It can be summarized as: "Some Muslims do horrible things and follow some very extreme surates from the Koran. Ergo, most Muslims are dangerous people and should radically change their views and amend their religion or get the hell out from the Netherlands".

Needless to say that the film was not welcome in the Netherlands (a traditionally very tolerant country). Politicians from practically all parties did what they could in term of damage control before the publication and after. But the law in the Netherlands is fortunately very liberal and protects freedom of opinion. So the film was published on the Internet (no TV station wanted to take the risk to publish him in its entirety, which is I think a shame). And now that it is done, I could also add: why all the trouble? There is nothing interesting there. It is a non event. Ok, it is more of a media event than a real event. The film is provocative but pretty mildly, the images are gruesome, but they are only archives. And the film is full of mistakes and approximations.

In the end, Geert Wilders managed to get sued three times for it. The Muslim associations in the Netherlands sued because it attacks religion (under the anti-racism laws). This has no chance of success because of the prominence of the freedom of expression laws. The caricaturist of the Jyllands Posten sued (and might win) because his caricature was used without his authorization, which is a violation of European laws on copyright. And a Dutch Muslim artist sued (and won) because his picture was used in place of the face of a Dutch-Moroccan terrorist.

As we say in French: "Circulez, y a rien à voir" (go on, there is nothing to see)!