Friday, January 11, 2008

The Positives of Culture Critique

Norman Geras of normblog:
It's a fact of life that where people perceive things to be bad in some way, they try to make them better; they work to change them. Perhaps at first they only criticize those bad things, criticism being an initial step towards effective change: if you can persuade others that the thing you think is amiss actually is amiss, this can improve the chances of getting something done about it. . .

It is now the fashion in some quarters, however, to lament this attitude when, roughly speaking, Western leaders or other commentators speak critically about something they think worthy of criticism that is in some loose sense far away. Who are we, the lamentation goes, to lecture them about whatever it happens to be? Such is the column, today, of Simon Jenkins. . .

Contrary to what Jenkins says, reasons why those who represent even flawed democracies - and all democracies are flawed - may continue to exercise the general right of criticism and speak to democratic deficiencies in other countries include the following. First, as a general maxim his 'We are not so clean...' would silence everyone except out-and-out saints, if there are any. Second, some countries have stronger and longer democratic traditions than others; it isn't the case that all the blemishes on the democratic record of the countries of the world are equal. Third, there are globally agreed human rights standards and these include many of the constituent norms of democratic life. It is one of the ways of encouraging the spread of, and fidelity to, these norms that actors on the international stage speak up for them.

No comments: