Friday, November 16, 2012

Rockets In Tel Aviv

- Why aren't you afraid? Rockets haven't landed in Tel Aviv since 1981.
- Why should I be afraid? I was here when the missiles from Iraq came, hundreds of them. What I didn't like was the gas masks we had to wear.
- But you weren't afraid.
- No. This for us is life as usual. Look around you.
- I am.
- Are you afraid? You were here in the neighborhood when the rockets came?
- No, I'm not afraid. I was here. When the alarm went off and we went down to the basement, and every wall and window was transformed into a possible danger, it wasn't frightening. If anything it was mildly exciting. Do you know what I think?
- What?
- Just before the rockets came within range and the sirens began to sound I was reading an article about whether democracy has been put into danger by the economic crisis, or rather redistribution of wealth, we are going through. Democracy may have to temporarily give way to dictatorship, the author argued, as the people can't agree on what to do. But democracies can temporarily transform themselves into dictatorships because people will want to get back their freedoms when the crisis is over. Dictatorships though fear transformation, that once they give people democracy they won't get their power back from them. I didn't like the argument.
- Why not?
- Because in the case of Russia we can watch the supposedly feared transition from dictatorship to democracy safely returning to dictatorship. And in the Western democracies we can see the supposedly safe transition from democracy to dictatorship showing signs of being a road of no return, particularly in the United States with its emergency laws eliminating legal protections.
- Then what do you think?
- The difference is not which form of government does the change, but the character of the people who live through the change. People who have been raised under dictatorship can't identify, don't understand and so can't resist the danger democracy faces from economic and social monopolies that quickly arise with the withdrawal of dictatorship. Dictators in fact can safely offer their people democracy because it is likely they, or people like them, will be allowed back into power as the lesser evil. But people raised under democracy feel the loss of their freedom under temporary dictatorship, and don't need theoretical arguments about democracy being the least bad form of government to know what they want.
- Most of the world thinks Israel is a dictatorship pretending to be a democracy. What do you think?
- That the opposite is more accurate. Democracy, temporarily a dictatorship. To decide whether the democracy is a pretense, whether the dictatorship is temporary or permanent, we have to look at the character of the people, the decisive factor. Americans born to freedom have let their freedom go without much protest because they've allowed monopoly economics and social division to erode their ability to appreciate democracy. They are in real danger of losing their freedom, or, in the terms of the argument, danger of their temporary dictatorship becoming permanent.
- And Israeli character?
- As you said, look around. Israelis take the freedom they can, where and when they can.
- We're strong people.
- And strong people can resist even their own dictatorship.