Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Court of Common Sense

TMP is concerned that one of the shining examples of common sense law and politics in the 20th Century may become one of the first constitutional disasters of the 21st.

It is ironic but not coincidental that this is occurring at the same time as the woefully misguided Archbishop of Canterbury has lost his few remaining marbles and even more of his followers with absurd suggestions around the acknowledgement of Sharia law in the UK. In the 1920s, Turkey was struggling to reconcile the many factions arising from its decaying position as a very long established empire power at the crossroads of Asia and Europe after backing the wrong side during the first world war.

The Turks were lucky to have found a genuine leader and visionary of the sort that scarcely exists in modern politics in the shape of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who had perfect grasp of the situation facing a Nation in desperate need of unification and realignment to a new world order, where Islamist religious discord had the potential to wreck any attempt at unification by adherence to its fundamentally medieval practises and concepts.

As the redoubtable and occasionally reliable Wikipedia says: "The goal of Atatürk's reforms was to create a modern, democratic, secular nation-state, one guided by contemporary educational and scientific progress and based on the principles of positivist and rationalist enlightenment." However, the new Turkish government has removed a ban on women wearing the symbolic and now provocative headscarves of Islam that was imposed in 1980 as part of an effort to reassert the separation of state and religion that was at the core of Atatürk's reforms.

Most educated Turkish folk regard this as the thin end of very dangerous wedge being driven by a cunning politician manipulating the superstitious. Many thinking people in Turkey have protested as this is the first time since the new constitution that the State has had the nerve to become so directly engaged in a clearly calculated attempt to reignite religion as a divisive factor in modern Turkish government.

The bad news is that the government performing this mischief was voted in democratically by the people of Turkey, who had a pretty good idea of what was being planned by it's overtly Islamist leader. Hitler was also elected democratically, and it is not at all clear at which point he lost the active majority support of the German people - although almost certainly not until after several million people had died under his "democratic rule".

Such events cause TMP to constantly review the axiomatic assumptions of the benefit of majority rule, and look for ways to ensure that TMP's proposed implementation can avoid its cause being hijacked by fanatical populists. Not allowing governments 5 year terms without further input from the electorate is a good start.

Education, and the communication of free speech and ideas -technology's core achievements of the last 20 years have clearly enabled aggressive Islamic fundamentalism to gain an ever increasing foothold in the feebly tolerant West - whilst being violently suppressed in the homelands of Islam in the regions around Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Turkish move was immediately hailed as "progress" by the region’s chief mischief maker and all-round agent provocateur (and we are not talking frilly knickers here), Iran. Once again TMP is obliged to point out that religion (and its bedfellow, tribalism) remains firmly entrenched at the root of many of the world's biggest and most dangerous evils.

Atatürk's achievement was to replace a thousand years of contradiction , superstition, bigotry and religion that had ensured that most Turkish people lived in the Dark Ages, by a very slim volume of common sense law. The UK and EU with its 40 tons of mostly pointless legislation could learn a lot from the idea that when a nation goes through as much change as we have in just the past 20 years, it's better to make a clean start.

Some estimates suggest that as much as 99.9% of current law has been devised and refined to deal with just 0.1% of obscure circumstances that cannot be easily managed by good old-fashioned common sense. There is now so much pointless law that it quite frequently criss-crosses and stumbles across itself, giving the opportunity to prosecute many offences under any one of several statutes.

Thanks to the fruits of technology, a fresh start would enable many more of the people to have a say in the process of judging the exceptions, and not just leave it up to a couple of old buffers in horse hair wigs, who are primarily bent on preserving the exclusive obscurity of the ultimate in self-serving professions. Hands up all in favour of The Court of Common Sense..?

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