You don’t have to be Christian to get it about helping sick or injured strangers but the parable of the kindly Samaritan does have its limits. What happens when the Samaritan notices the packet of smokes and the crumpled betting tickets? Irritation then becomes outrage – could that be a bottle of liquor in his pocket? And how can anyone be reading rubbish like that? “Thank God I stopped to help him. We’ll fix him up in no time. Let’s start with…….” Most people have started to feel uneasy before this point, sensing that simple kindness is changing into a darker something else.
Unfortunately this sense of moral prudence doesn’t extend to our international behaviour. Outright wars of conquest are banned under the UN Charter but “limited” actions to “help” others squeeze around this barrier. And they are politically attractive; they unite the simple elements of the Right who just like blowing up foreigners with the secular evangelists of the Left who cannot tolerate a world where their ideas do not reign.
Democracy is mandatory (a whiff of paradox here?) and for that, read Western liberal democracy. Guided democracy or mass democracy need not apply. And even liberal democracy is only acceptable if it delivers the right answer. Putin in Russia and Ahmadinejad in Iran both won elections where there were few restrictions on voting, opposition groups were allowed to rally and the two victory margins were clear but not ridiculous. Yet they remain very much works in progress for our own ayatollahs.
For a great analysis of this ideology, see http://www.counterpunch.org/
2013/02/01/the-good- intentions-that-pave-the-road- to-war/ by Diana Johnstone.
For people who are wedded to evidence-based policy, the enthusiasts for “humanitarian intervention” are strangely blind to the scorecard. Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have hardly worked out well and Syria is supposed to be the next triumph. The idea that people there might prefer security over freedom is repugnant and is hardly discussed.
Christ is a risky source of quotes to justify human enterprise. If only he had shut up and left off at the Good Samaritan parable. Unfortunately he went on to say other awkward things like “Do unto others…”, “Physician, Heal Thyself” and so on. In this context, does that mean that people here who are so relaxed and comfortable about our Army doing a big resto job in Afghanistan would have no problem with foreign armies coming into Australia to fix up our indigenous policies (and us)? I suspect not.
Let’s continue to give to the poor and destitute, both personally and nationally. But understand you’re helping them buy their life back, not tossing them in your own shopping trolley.
Greg at Cottesloe