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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • So little Billy goes to school,

  • and he sits down and the teacher says,

  • "What does your father do?"

  • And little Billy says, "My father plays the piano

  • in an opium den."

  • So the teacher rings up the parents, and says,

  • "Very shocking story from little Billy today.

  • Just heard that he claimed that you play the piano

  • in an opium den."

  • And the father says, "I'm very sorry. Yes, it's true, I lied.

  • But how can I tell an eight-year-old boy

  • that his father is a politician?" (Laughter)

  • Now, as a politician myself, standing in front of you,

  • or indeed, meeting any stranger anywhere in the world,

  • when I eventually reveal the nature of my profession,

  • they look at me as though I'm somewhere between

  • a snake, a monkey and an iguana,

  • and through all of this, I feel, strongly,

  • that something is going wrong.

  • Four hundred years of maturing democracy,

  • colleagues in Parliament who seem to me, as individuals,

  • reasonably impressive, an increasingly educated,

  • energetic, informed population, and yet

  • a deep, deep sense of disappointment.

  • My colleagues in Parliament include, in my new intake,

  • family doctors, businesspeople, professors,

  • distinguished economists, historians, writers,

  • army officers ranging from colonels down to regimental sergeant majors.

  • All of them, however, including myself, as we walk underneath

  • those strange stone gargoyles just down the road,

  • feel that we've become less than the sum of our parts,

  • feel as though we have become profoundly diminished.

  • And this isn't just a problem in Britain.

  • It's a problem across the developing world,

  • and in middle income countries too. In Jamaica,

  • for example -- look at Jamaican members of Parliament,

  • you meet them, and they're often people who are

  • Rhodes Scholars, who've studied at Harvard or at Princeton,

  • and yet, you go down to downtown Kingston,

  • and you are looking at one of the most depressing sites

  • that you can see in any middle-income country in the world:

  • a dismal, depressing landscape

  • of burnt and half-abandoned buildings.

  • And this has been true for 30 years, and the handover

  • in 1979, 1980, between one Jamaican leader who was

  • the son of a Rhodes Scholar and a Q.C. to another

  • who'd done an economics doctorate at Harvard,

  • over 800 people were killed in the streets

  • in drug-related violence.

  • Ten years ago, however, the promise of democracy

  • seemed to be extraordinary. George W. Bush stood up

  • in his State of the Union address in 2003

  • and said that democracy was the force that would beat

  • most of the ills of the world. He said,

  • because democratic governments respect their own people

  • and respect their neighbors, freedom will bring peace.

  • Distinguished academics at the same time argued that

  • democracies had this incredible range of side benefits.

  • They would bring prosperity, security,

  • overcome sectarian violence,

  • ensure that states would never again harbor terrorists.

  • Since then, what's happened?

  • Well, what we've seen is the creation, in places like Iraq

  • and Afghanistan, of democratic systems of government

  • which haven't had any of those side benefits.

  • In Afghanistan, for example, we haven't just had one election

  • or two elections. We've gone through three elections,

  • presidential and parliamentary. And what do we find?

  • Do we find a flourishing civil society, a vigorous rule of law

  • and good security? No. What we find in Afghanistan

  • is a judiciary that is weak and corrupt,

  • a very limited civil society which is largely ineffective,

  • a media which is beginning to get onto its feet

  • but a government that's deeply unpopular,

  • perceived as being deeply corrupt, and security

  • that is shocking, security that's terrible.

  • In Pakistan, in lots of sub-Saharan Africa,

  • again you can see democracy and elections are compatible

  • with corrupt governments, with states that are unstable

  • and dangerous.

  • And when I have conversations with people, I remember

  • having a conversation, for example, in Iraq,

  • with a community that asked me

  • whether the riot we were seeing in front of us,

  • this was a huge mob ransacking a provincial council building,

  • was a sign of the new democracy.

  • The same, I felt, was true in almost every single one

  • of the middle and developing countries that I went to,

  • and to some extent the same is true of us.

  • Well, what is the answer to this? Is the answer to just

  • give up on the idea of democracy?

  • Well, obviously not. It would be absurd

  • if we were to engage again in the kind of operations

  • we were engaged in, in Iraq and Afghanistan

  • if we were to suddenly find ourselves in a situation

  • in which we were imposing

  • anything other than a democratic system.

  • Anything else would run contrary to our values,

  • it would run contrary to the wishes of the people

  • on the ground, it would run contrary to our interests.

  • I remember in Iraq, for example, that we went through

  • a period of feeling that we should delay democracy.

  • We went through a period of feeling that the lesson learned

  • from Bosnia was that elections held too early

  • enshrined sectarian violence, enshrined extremist parties,

  • so in Iraq in 2003 the decision was made,

  • let's not have elections for two years. Let's invest in

  • voter education. Let's invest in democratization.

  • The result was that I found stuck outside my office

  • a huge crowd of people, this is actually a photograph

  • taken in Libya but I saw the same scene in Iraq

  • of people standing outside screaming for the elections,

  • and when I went out and said, "What is wrong

  • with the interim provincial council?

  • What is wrong with the people that we have chosen?

  • There is a Sunni sheikh, there's a Shiite sheikh,

  • there's the seven -- leaders of the seven major tribes,

  • there's a Christian, there's a Sabian,

  • there are female representatives, there's every political party in this council,

  • what's wrong with the people that we chose?"

  • The answer came, "The problem isn't the people

  • that you chose. The problem is that you chose them."

  • I have not met, in Afghanistan, in even the most

  • remote community, anybody who does not want

  • a say in who governs them.

  • Most remote community, I have never met a villager

  • who does not want a vote.

  • So we need to acknowledge

  • that despite the dubious statistics, despite the fact that

  • 84 percent of people in Britain feel politics is broken,

  • despite the fact that when I was in Iraq, we did an opinion poll

  • in 2003 and asked people what political systems they preferred,

  • and the answer came back that

  • seven percent wanted the United States,

  • five percent wanted France,

  • three percent wanted Britain,

  • and nearly 40 percent wanted Dubai, which is, after all,

  • not a democratic state at all but a relatively prosperous

  • minor monarchy, democracy is a thing of value

  • for which we should be fighting. But in order to do so

  • we need to get away from instrumental arguments.

  • We need to get away from saying democracy matters

  • because of the other things it brings.

  • We need to get away from feeling, in the same way,

  • human rights matters because of the other things it brings,

  • or women's rights matters for the other things it brings.

  • Why should we get away from those arguments?

  • Because they're very dangerous. If we set about saying,

  • for example, torture is wrong because it doesn't extract

  • good information, or we say, you need women's rights

  • because it stimulates economic growth by doubling the size of the work force,

  • you leave yourself open to the position where

  • the government of North Korea can turn around and say,

  • "Well actually, we're having a lot of success extracting

  • good information with our torture at the moment,"

  • or the government of Saudi Arabia to say, "Well,

  • our economic growth's okay, thank you very much,

  • considerably better than yours,

  • so maybe we don't need to go ahead with this program on women's rights."

  • The point about democracy is not instrumental.

  • It's not about the things that it brings.

  • The point about democracy is not that it delivers

  • legitimate, effective, prosperous rule of law.

  • It's not that it guarantees peace with itself or with its neighbors.

  • The point about democracy is intrinsic.

  • Democracy matters because it reflects an idea of equality

  • and an idea of liberty. It reflects an idea of dignity,

  • the dignity of the individual, the idea that each individual

  • should have an equal vote, an equal say,

  • in the formation of their government.

  • But if we're really to make democracy vigorous again,

  • if we're ready to revivify it, we need to get involved

  • in a new project of the citizens and the politicians.

  • Democracy is not simply a question of structures.

  • It is a state of mind. It is an activity.

  • And part of that activity is honesty.

  • After I speak to you today, I'm going on a radio program

  • called "Any Questions," and the thing you will have noticed

  • about politicians on these kinds of radio programs

  • is that they never, ever say that they don't know the answer

  • to a question. It doesn't matter what it is.

  • If you ask about child tax credits, the future of the penguins

  • in the south Antarctic, asked to hold forth on whether or not

  • the developments in Chongqing contribute

  • to sustainable development in carbon capture,

  • and we will have an answer for you.

  • We need to stop that, to stop pretending to be

  • omniscient beings.

  • Politicians also need to learn, occasionally, to say that

  • certain things that voters want, certain things that voters

  • have been promised, may be things

  • that we cannot deliver

  • or perhaps that we feel we should not deliver.

  • And the second thing we should do is understand

  • the genius of our societies.

  • Our societies have never been so educated, have never

  • been so energized, have never been so healthy,

  • have never known so much, cared so much,

  • or wanted to do so much, and it is a genius of the local.

  • One of the reasons why we're moving away

  • from banqueting halls such as the one in which we stand,

  • banqueting halls with extraordinary images on the ceiling

  • of kings enthroned,

  • the entire drama played out here on this space,

  • where the King of England had his head lopped off,

  • why we've moved from spaces like this, thrones like that,

  • towards the town hall, is we're moving more and more

  • towards the energies of our people, and we need to tap that.

  • That can mean different things in different countries.

  • In Britain, it could mean looking to the French,

  • learning from the French,

  • getting directly elected mayors in place

  • in a French commune system.

  • In Afghanistan, it could have meant instead of concentrating

  • on the big presidential and parliamentary elections,

  • we should have done what was in the Afghan constitution

  • from the very beginning, which is to get direct local elections going

  • at a district level and elect people's provincial governors.

  • But for any of these things to work,

  • the honesty in language, the local democracy,

  • it's not just a question of what politicians do.

  • It's a question of what the citizens do.

  • For politicians to be honest, the public needs to allow them to be honest,

  • and the media, which mediates between the politicians

  • and the public, needs to allow those politicians to be honest.

  • If local democracy is to flourish, it is about the active

  • and informed engagement of every citizen.

  • In other words, if democracy is to be rebuilt,

  • is to become again vigorous and vibrant,

  • it is necessary not just for the public

  • to learn to trust their politicians,

  • but for the politicians to learn to trust the public.

  • Thank you very much indeed. (Applause)

Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

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【TED】Rory Stewart: Why democracy matters (Rory Stewart: Why democracy matters)

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    陳奕穎 posted on 2016/06/06
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