Can the political philosopher help?

London in the moment resembles a zone of civil war. The pictures in the news highlight how much the city has changed in the last 48 hours. Riots are happening in the streets, and rioters are breaking into stores, carrying as much out as they can. Restaurant owners have to defend their guests and everyone has to start to worry about break-ins in private homes. However, the weirdest fact is, is that there is no rhyme or reason for all this. Yes, there was a deadly shooting when the police attempted to arrest a man in London. But that does not explain why protest against the police shooting spiralled out of control and is now spread over the whole country. David Cameron now tries, together with the Ministry of Defence, to find solutions to the problem. But when the reasons for the riots are not clear, how do you fight it? Continue reading “Can the political philosopher help?”

The Prisoner Dilemma

It is an issue that has been brewing for almost a decade now, since prisoner John Hirst first had his case dismissed by Britain’s High Court in April 2001, and, because in November 2010 the Council of Europe gave Britain six months to bring themselves into alignment with the judgements of the Strasbourg Courts, the question is now on everybody’s lips: Should prisoners be allowed to vote?

Back in March 2004, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that a blanket disenfranchisement of prisoners, irrespective of crime or sentence, was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. By the time of the 2010 elections, the British government had failed to materially respond to these rulings, but now Europe has mounted pressure to change – forcing the new Conservative government to tread carefully the line of avoiding in the future paying out tens of millions of pounds in compensation to prisoners while still keeping sweet the Conservative supporters who want to see Europe’s power over policy in Britain lessened. Continue reading “The Prisoner Dilemma”

Dangerous Combination: Weak Democracy and Bad Media

This last week all we could hear about in the Brazilian media was the excessive coverage of Isabella Nardoni’s trial. Isabella was a five-year-old Brazilian girl who died in the first semester of 2008 due to a “fall” from her father’s sixth floor apartment in São Paulo. To get a brief summary of the whole tragedy, go here.
As distressing as Isabella’s horrible end has been and still is, we are – or at least one would expect us to be – aware that it is only one of the many innocent children victims of unacceptable behavior by their parents. In 2008, right after her death, BBC News published a short article about the tragedy, emphasizing that “The case has prompted Brazilians to reflect on the kind of cruelty that adults seem capable of inflicting on children. Well, that’s the kind of discussion one would expect from a strong democratic society of well informed and active citizens. Nonetheless, that was not the case in Brazil. Instead what we saw was an endless exposure of the little girl’s death as if it were merely a show, an isolated case in such a “fair” society as the Brazilian society.
This last week we again passively watched the end of this “show”, closed last Friday with the condemnation of both her father and stepmother to about thirty years in prison. There were no debates about the rights of children in Brazil, about the conditions in which we inactively allow them to live, about the thousands that live in the streets with no parents, no love, no education, being mistreated every day of their young lives.
This is what happens with a weak democracy composed of poorly educated people. The media should be playing the role of democracy’s right hand, but all we can see is sad episodes like this; never accompanied by any kind of serious debate and action.
The media’s meat-grinding machine never stops. It needs to produce continually. And to produce, always, something sexy — in the worst meaning of the word. Children being thrown through windows, or dragged by automobiles, anything goes as long as the death has some ‘market value’. That means that the death of a child by starvation, little by little, right in front of the Folha de S. Paulo’s building, in the Barão de Limeira [avenue], has zero value in the news scale. Dead children in indigenous reserves, or in the child-care units, are already part of what is trivial.”

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What is to be understood about war!?

In a times on- line article from today, General Sir Richard Dannat claims that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has not understood until fairly recently the significance of the war in Afghanistan. The article states that the General was critical of how the Government had handled war-related questions, like equipment-shortages and other failed forms of financial backing. As irritating as this criticism might seem, it is not as unflattering for Gordon Brown as it migth sound. I can understand that Gordon Brown cannot understand the war. Who ever really does? Theoretically, it is sensible to free Afghanistan of the Taliban. But for many people it is not really logical that so many soldiers are killed. And it is not clear why? For democracy? A greater good? A humanitarian ideal of freedom? Since the war started in 2001, the “why?” question has become manifold and more and more complicated to answer. The wikipedia definition of war is that it is a “reciprocated, armed conflict between two or more non-congruous entities, aimed at reorganizing a subjectively designed, geo-politically desired result.” A definition that probably helps neither Gordon  Brown nor us. War is not a logical behaviour. As much as war historians are trying to argue its logic. Plato’s ideal state was based on the Good. And the beautiful. Not on war and conflict. No wonder Gordon Brown does not understand the sense in war. Neither do most of us. In Antiquity or today.

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