Monday, 4 April 2011

Condemnation: A New Vogue

I hate having to read news headlines these days, because, in all honesty, they make me doubt myself. They are outright condescending, with a hint of chauvinism.

Recently, in the Arab world, things have gone awry, especially for the Arab leaders. They’ve all faced dissent, and not the “give me a raise” type, but the “Mr President, we’re fed up” type. As expected, the leaders did what they’ve been trained for by their western counterparts, and subjugated the protests in the most reprehensible manner.

I could easily go on to criticize the fact that all the Arab leaders’ reactions to protests were the same despite previous admonitions from those abdicated before them, but I won’t, because it’s obvious.

The worst part of this wave of dissent is the western world’s reaction; not going too deep into politics, I will highlight why news headlines incense me.

The most recent headlines have been related to violence in Afghanistan. Here’s one from the BBC: “UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon condemns “an outrageous and cowardly attack” against the UN in Afghanistan.”

Another one from the BBC: “President Obama condemns “in the strongest possible terms” the attack on the UN mission in Afghanistan.”

These headlines are not unique. I don’t have enough references but I can remember reading at least another 10 to 15 saying how Obama, Cameron or Ban Ki-Moon condemn acts of violence by Arab leaders on their citizens.

Condemn, in The Free Dictionary, means “to express strong disapproval of.” This is exactly what the western leaders have been implying when they use the word “condemn.” They strongly disapprove of the actions of the Arab leaders towards their people.

The same scenario pops into my head every time I read these headlines about the western leaders condemning acts of violence, and this is how it goes.

Picture an Arab leader sitting at a round table with his cabinet, advisors, ministers, and anyone who matters. The topic at hand is a way to suppress the protests in order to keep a grip on power. Suddenly, the president’s aide rushes into the room in panic urging the president turn on the TV. Everyone’s attention turns to the news channel where the headline reads “Obama condemns acts of violence by ‘Arab Leader’.” Everyone in the room becomes mute, exchanging worried looks; small whispers of concern fill the room. The president’s senior advisor and confidant turns to him and says ‘Sir, Obama condemns our actions, we must stop, now’. The president nods in approval, and issues a presidential decree that stops the violence against the protestors; two days later he steps down.

This is exactly the opposite of what actually happens. This will never happen, ever. I’m sorry to burst your bubble Mr Obama but this is not a Hollywood film. Condemning enemies and giving operations stupid names will not win you anything.

It is actually absurd that these western leaders think that by condemning someone’s actions something might change. It’s ludicrous.

Primarily, if you have to go on a live broadcast to declare your disapproval of killings and violence, there’s something wrong with your morality. The default sentiment towards violence is disapproval, if you’re human. But as I mentioned in my previous post, politicians are not humans.

Now that condemning acts of violence is in vogue, western leaders will have to condemn everything, just to keep their backs covered. Fortunately, it has already started. It’s not condemning, but it’s equally farcical. A couple of days after Japan’s earthquake, the BBC reported that: “PM Cameron is shocked and saddened at earthquake in Japan”. Well, sorry Mr Cameron, I think the earthquake owes you an apology, how dare he not tell you he was coming for Japan.

So it seems Obama and the rest of the gang have been condemning many things lately, and in the same tone too. However, condemning has been notched up a level.

The BBC headlines I mentioned in the beginning were of comments made by Obama and Ban Ki-Moon regarding the Afghans’ storming of the UN building in protest of the Quran burning that took place in the US.

Here, Obama played his cards right. He let Ban Ki-Moon have the first statement. Obviously enraged with the attack on his organization, Ban Ki-Moon made some tweaks to his customary condemning statement to make it more potent; he said he condemns “an outrageous and cowardly act” against the UN. This had been the strongest condemnation statement made by any leader of any organization or country thus far.

By that time Obama – probably sitting in his oval office in deep thought – was preparing for his statement regarding the Afghan violence. He hadn’t expected what had preceded him. So he too makes some tweaks, and finally says that he condemns “in the strongest possible terms” the attacks on the UN mission in Afghanistan.

After reading these headlines – Ban Ki-Moon’s first of course – you get the impression that when Obama was done with his statement he phoned Ban Ki-Moon and said, very briefly, “In your face”, and hung up.

So now that politicians are obsessed with condemnation, not only do they condemn someone’s actions, they have to specify the extent to which they condemn it. Ridiculous!

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