Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Don't like majority rule? Deal with it or shove off

Blade crime is a problem. Hardly a day goes by without a report of a West Australian being stabbed or cut. The other day a young Perth man was hacked in the neck with  a tomahawk. The government, police and public are concerned. Legislation granting police increased stop and search powers is on the cards. Walk-through metal detectors will be installed at selected train stations. Anyone found carrying a knife could be in real strife.

For probably 20 years I have carried in my pocket, attached to my key-chain, a cheap folding multi-tool with knife blade and bottle opener - never can tell when I'll confront a beer-opening emergency. The blade itself has no point - it's strictly for cutting - making it pretty much useless as a stabbing implement. I have nonetheless removed the tool from my key-chain and leave it at home. I did this not so much out of fear I'd be nabbed by the police but rather because the prevailing view is that no one really needs to carry a knife.

I'm not happy about this but will go with the flow. The majority want a knife ban so knives will be banned, like it or not. That 50 percent plus one can impose its will on the rest of us isn't exactly fair but for the sake of community harmony I'll respect the wishes of the majority. Life in a democracy is full of such compromises.

If I thought the knife ban manifestly unfair I could write letters to politicians and newspapers, set up a petition, and seek to organize like-minded individuals into a protest group. There are established democratic processes for initiating change.

There is a nagging fear that some in the community will perhaps react violently - perhaps very violently - should they perceive their "rights" or even their wishes to have been violated. In writing "some in the community" I'm actually avoiding reality - Muslims are the only group I can recall being discussed as possibly reacting in some extreme way to a perceived slight. (Whether Muslims might react violently or whether the likelihood of violent reaction is overstated I cannot say.)

The latest outstanding example of speculation of a violent Muslim reaction comes from Switzerland, where over 57 percent of voters approved a ban on the construction of new mosque minarets - new mosques can be constructed but without minarets. The Swiss government fears what might happen as a result, the Foreign Minister using very carefully chosen words to express her concern:

Each limitation on the co-existence of different cultures and religions also endangers our security.

Here we have the government telling the people that some Muslims refuse to accept the democratic principle of majority rule. Voters should apparently bear this in mind when considering any issue that might in some way affect Muslims. This threat of violence - real or imagined - gives the tiny Swiss Muslim minority (less than 5 percent of the population) huge political clout. Thus is Swiss democracy undermined.

Actually, it makes no difference whether the threat of violence is real or imagined: mere perception of the threat puts pressure on voters and perverts democratic processes. It is a sad state of affairs when the majority must live in fear of offending a minority. Unfortunately, this fear exists not only in Switzerland but in all western countries with a Muslim minority.

Update: Atanu Dey on Islamization.


Anonymous verdi1996 said...

I'm a Marxist, JF, not the card-carrying kind but just the armchair variety. You and Atanu Dey have been giving the Muslims such a bad press that I thought I'll put in my two-bit worth.
You know, we Marxists believe that it's all about money and property, and are not convinced that anybody does anything at all for principle or faith even if they claim to. Consider this proposition: would Switzerland, or Sweden, or Australia, or any of those countries who you say are going to extreme lengths to accommodate their minorities, would they have done so hadn't the world's dependence on Arab oil been less desperate?
Wait, don't jump on me yet. I haven't even said 'Halliburton'. I believe that all politics is realpolitik and the rest is conversation. In history there have been any number of ways majorities have dealt with minorities: 1. If nobody was watching, they ehtnic cleansed them. 2. If the watchers were weak, they persecuted them. 3. If the minority had money, they borrowed from them and surreptitously kicked their shins in the football field. 4. If the minority was large in number, they gerrymandered to keep them out of legislatures. 5. If they came from powerful or resource-rich regions, they coddled them while suppressing a shit-eating grin. I'm sure examples of each approach are obvious.
I've gone long, but what I'm saying is: no majority ever indulged a minority if it didn't need to.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Atanu Dey said...

Very well said, Mr JF Beck. If the immigrant wants to drag his or her medieval beliefs and the attendant behavior to the adopted country, it would be better if they just stayed put in their homeland where they can be as uncivilized as they please. And if they cannot get along with others in the foreign land, they should -- as you put it -- shove off.

5:05 PM  

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