In urban areas with street crime the idealized figure of the honest cop has long been deeply popular, especially among children.
Asked what he wants to be, a young boy in a poor household cries out, eagerly, “Polisi!”, and, on getting his ear twisted by an angry mother, amends, “All right, I’ll be a doctor!”
Actually, his chances of rising to doctorhood are slim — no spare money, no free education — but they may be greater than those of his becoming an honest cop, since that’s a species that, in this community, only seems to exist on cartoon TV.
The police almost never enter the alley (which happens to be in Indonesia) except via proxy cop-protected drug hoodlums, but poor adults with real, off-screen, experience know that to see a police officer is to tense up and then brace for a shakedown (or beating), even if you’re feeling idealistic and furious enough to walk into a station to report a crime. (The practice of demanding a bribe from someone trying to report a crime sets up an infinity paradox, since the demand is itself a crime, and to report that one you’d have to pay again…)
At one of the main traffic roundabouts there’s an enormous full-color poster of three top uniformed commanders, in medals, posing sternly under the slogan “Honesty!” It commemorates World Anti-Corruption Day and is directly across the street from a huge new bright-blue brothel that’s advertised, in part, as a hotel, but if you walk in and ask about a hotel room, they laugh, and can’t stop laughing.
This facility is on the former turf of the legendary crime lord, Olo, who went down in a power struggle with the old district police chief, Sutanto, who later became the national police commander under the president, Gen. Susilo, who ran for and won office on a platform of anti-corruption.
The other big posters are for April elections, the largest of them being for two mass-murdering, US-protégé generals (Prabowo and Wiranto, Adm. Dennis Blair’s old associate [See my News and Comment postings of Jan. 6, 9, and 22, 2009, as well as Dec. 7, 2007]), and — perhaps with the male electorate in mind — for several parliamentary candidates who also happen to be beautiful women.
Elections would be one thing if you could vote consequentially against official murder, against withholding food from the starving, and against things like police-as-criminals. But elections become something else if you can’t cast such big choice votes. In such typical cases, elections become diversions of popular hope and energy that end up legitimating and reinforcing unjust orders rather than reforming them.
But even if you get a rare chance to vote on basics, or on sensitive power issues, watch out if you’re invadable, since if you vote wrong, there could be trouble.
Condoleezza Rice pushed for the ’06 Gaza / West Bank election that Hamas surprised her by winning, and which was acknowledged by President Bush as valid, before he OK’d punishment (see footnote).
On Bloomberg TV this week, from Davos, George Soros, when asked about plunging oil prices, said that the drop was unfortunate in that it’s, for example, hurting Dubai property, but on the other hand “however it’s not all bad news because the main oil producing countries have been the enemies of the prevailing world order” and the price drop is now hurting them, specifically Russia, Iran, and Venezuela, where, Soros said “It’s not so easy to finance a Bolivarian revolution with $40 oil.”
Soros, anticipating further good news regarding Hugo Chavez, said “probably his days are numbered” — and estimated that Chavez would last less than a year, which means that according to the world’s top “democracy-promotion” funder, Venezuela’s freely elected president (whose legal term is due to last 4 more years) should perhaps start looking out his window, looking not for voters, but tanks (“For the Record,” Bloomberg TV, aired Jan. 30, 2009).
More fundamentally, one might wish to hope that a major US left-liberal like Soros might also want to consider himself to be an “enem[y] of the prevailing world order,” a world order in which, as a text scroll from Davos noted: “More than 24,000 people die of hunger every day” (CNN International, January 30, ’09, during an interview with the Oxfam executive director). But that would be a poorly informed hope, at least regarding billionaires (who could each personally feed those 24,000 people, instead of choosing not to), and also regarding most anyone in the current top US leadership and funding strata.
But, given free will, it is indeed possible for them, and especially, less-rich people, to say “Enough!”
If something kills innocent people en masse, it deserves to have enemies.
If a rich-world figure says they’re pro-democracy, start off by asking them this: How would they feel about running the UN Security Council based on direct world popular vote, instead of nuclear weapons (vetoes are now held by the Permanent Five, the immediate-post-WWII nuclear powers), and the same with the world distribution of wealth and key questions of murder law enforcement?
That’s not to suggest democracy as cure-all. Rule by the people is largely myth. Except possibly in small (non-family) groups, strong people will tend to dominate — the questions are under what constraints; don’t pretend everyone’s in charge.
But the point here is merely that when today’s rich leaders talk democracy, or just talk elections, they usually don’t mean it if that raises the specter of a world with less-insanely-skewed wealth or power, or of a world where honest cops run around in life — and not just on cartoon TV, arresting any evildoer who has wrongly caused, or permitted, people’s deaths.
Bush said, for what it’s worth as testament to pre-punishment homage to democracy:
“[T]he Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy. You see, when you give people the vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls, they — and if they’re unhappy with the status quo, they’ll let you know. That’s the great thing about democracy: It provides a look into society. And yesterday, the turnout was significant, as I understand it. And there was a peaceful process as people went to the polls. And that’s positive. What was also positive is that it’s a wakeup call to the leadership. Obviously, [Palestinian] people were not happy with the status quo. The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care. And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories. I like the competition of ideas. I like people that have to go out and say, ‘Vote for me and here’s what I’m going to do.’ There’s something healthy about a system that does that. And so the elections yesterday were very interesting” (“President Bush Holds a White House Press Conference,” transcript, The Washington Post, January 26, 2006).