Monday, 18 May 2009

Witty bits from what I learned in the UK (9) [Vorbe de duh din ce am învăţat în UK]

A Scottish friend of mine correctly notes that today’s atheist Great Britain is living according to a bunch of unwritten (yet widely and often unquestionably accepted) ‘articles of faith’ – probably all of them being worth a separate blog post from my part. I will just stick to one of them now – my friend’s sixth, which states that “We have a two party democracy” – and try to expain how I remained with a very different idea from my stay in the UK.

Q: There’s hardly any doubt that, at least until recently, Britain has been governed by a very efficient political machinery (and I mean efficient from the point of view of politicians, not the one of citizens; see a summary of the latest scandal here :-)... But is the UK really a two party democracy?

A: “No, it’s an elected dictatorship,” I was once offered an answer by a professor who, instead of brainwashing us, the (possibly naive) Chevening Fellows, always seemed to express his views sincerely.
No matter what ‘democratic guarantees’ may be in place, the truth is that, during a certain legislature, the party which forms the government in the UK is in almost ‘complete control’ of the country.

The Prime Minister (PM) not only controls his cabinet, but also the ruling party, whose members are often puppets in his hands. Every now and then, a few mavericks may appear, nevertheless, the rule of the PM is rarely challenged.

Removing Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair was no easy task, as neither getting rid of Gordon Brown appears to be these days. He seemes doomed to face an electoral disaster next year, but I don’t know whether he’d be replaced as head of Labour.

Theoretically, there are some institutions meant to offer ‘checks and balances’ in the Wesminster parliamentary system. Practically, nothing can be done to sack an unpopular government until the next elections. See here, and here two critical views on the Westminster system.

He may not be as strong as the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth was 350 years ago, nevertheless, today’s PM of the UK is a little dictator. This allowed Thatcher to proceed to massive privatisations, Blair – to go to war in Iraq, and Brown – to ‘save the world’ by throwing billions of pounds to the banks whose recklessness took them on the brink of bankruptcy.

It’s really not worth trying to compare the British and American systems of government, because of countless historical, ethnical, demographical, political, economic etc differences.
Or, if I were to name only one essential difference which makes the two hardly comparable is the fact that the USA is a federation... which functions incomparably better than many unitary states.

I’d dare to say that the American President can be more effectively ‘checked’ by the Congress (especially by the 50 states represented in the Senate) or the Supreme Court than the British PM can be ‘controlled’ by anyone in the UK. The only thing that voters can do every five years is to choose another dictator :-(

[For all the episodes of this series, and all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate episoadele din această serie şi toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]


Gregor said...

Dear Bogdan

I agree with you here. I would also point out that Democracies can be every bit as totalitarian as any other type of government. Hitler was democratically elected.

I sadly did not bookmark it, but I found a survey on the internet that showed most Brits do not really care about civil liberties and think that CCTV is a good thing, despite repeated evidence that it does nothing to cut down crime.

Still, a more democratic system would be better, and I support Proportional Representation.

It is interesting that you mention America. In the British media, the USA is a religion rather than a country, and people who criticise it are automatically called 'Anti-American' (a subjective term I often think has an oddly Soviet ring to it). Yet there is no real interest in what we could learn from America.

Indeed, I think federalism is one thing. Someone who is closer to Amsterdam than Edinburgh can decide the course of Scottish politics. I do not have any sentimental attachment to Scottish music and traditions, but I think the SNP is the only party that can give us any kind of say at all.

I found this a profoundly disturbing article demonstrating the state of our 'democracy':

It is all the more disturbing because it is written in the gossipy tone of most British journalism. It is an interview with the 'opposition' leader who says:

"the country has been left with this appalling debt hangover by a government that now everyone can see has been absolutely incompetent... I don't apologise for letting my passion about this show."

This is all waffle. Has Cameron said anything against giving billions to the banks? Did he oppose the war in Iraq? Which specific New Labour spending policies has he opposed? But it continues:

'But, in the Commons next month, Mr Cameron has the potential to bring down the Government over the part-privatisation of Royal Mail. There could be as many as 120 Labour rebels against the Bill, forcing Mr Brown to rely on Tory votes'.

So in other words, the unelected leader of New Labour is going to be supported by an unelected leader of an unelected party to put through legislation that is vastly unpopular.

But what I find worst is that Cameron is portrayed as an 'opposition' figure when he is supporting Brown against his own party.

There is an American libertarian joke that in a two party system you have one more party than a dictatorship. Sadly in Britain we don't even have that.

BTW: one last irrelevant note. I was amused by the response to the fossil that's been discovered. In most media/ news outlets it was hailed as a missing link in primate/ human evolution that proves Darwinian evolution. Then I saw the date. 47 million years old. I knew that humans have only evolved in the last 2-3 million years, so the fossil cannot be what they said it was.

It makes me wonder about the type of atheism that is becoming a cult in Britain: they seem so profoundly ignorant of the science that they claim has destroyed religion.

MunteanUK said...

Dear Gregor,

It's always nice to see that your comment equals my blog post :-) And here are some answers from my part:

1. I also noticed that the Brits care very little of their rights, and 'safety' comes above anything else. Too bad that it's all about the 'safety' of an amoral consumerist society.

2. I loved my 20 days throughout America, as I found so many useful things, so many 'good examples' we could, as inhabitants of the Old (and arrogant?!) Continent learn from. We always tend to dismiss most Americans as stupid, ignorant, individualistic etc, but I'm afraid this only proves how arrongant Old Europe has become.

Far be it from me the thought of describing America as a 'perfect society' - of course there are countless shortcomings, and failing institutions! However, beyond these, the American federalism works very well.

In many respects, each of the 50 states is more independent from the federal capital, than the 27 independent states of the EU are from Brussels!

3. Is 'pulling the plug on Brown' a solution for Britan?! I don't know. I see that you're not enthusiastic about Cameron at all, and I agree that the guy has nothing special. He only seems to be in the right place, at the right time, so that he could trick the Brits into electing him next year.

It's rather sad but... that's democracy, isn't it? What else could there be expected from a world which had denied the Lord any place in human society?

4. Indeed, there's a strong 'atheist agenda' in the UK, and many people your age are so easily drawn into believing that 'religion is bad', and 'science is good'.

Didn't George Orwell write that...

Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
[] was very sad for me to realize that so many Brits really think like this, in antagonistic terms.

And maybe saying that people 'think' is too much. They only repeat ideoalogies to which they are exposed every day - human rights, prosperity, tolerance, success, equality, blah-blah-blah...

In the UK, Evolution is a 'sacred' theory, while Creationism is an 'unscientific' theory atheists say. One can't ever say that marriage is the union behind a man and a woman, because this automatically makes you 'homophobic'. It's alright to make jokes about men, but never about women, that's 'sexist'. And so on...

Let alone all possibile discriminations allowed against Christians, against common sense, and often against logic & reason. All these are allowed, but don't ever dare to 'discriminate' against what's really weird, peculiar, strange, and very often... outrightly sinful & satanic.

Oh, dear Gregor, you're living in a very sad country from this perspective! Unfortunately, Britain is just the tip of the iceberg. Your country is a 'preview' of how the 'civilised' world of tomorrow will be!

Gregor said...

I think you are very right when you say:

'Unfortunately, Britain is just the tip of the iceberg. Your country is a 'preview' of how the 'civilised' world of tomorrow will be!'

I've always held Greece as an example of how a country with a strong Church can preserve its civil liberties. Yet I've recently been reading that amidst mysterious waves of violence, the politicians in Athens want to install a comprehensive CCTV system.

As a friend said (called Andrew, I ask that you can pray for him because he is an agnostic, but he believes in freedom and seems to show sympathy for my Orthodox faith) 'It will be the government behind this violence, I guarantee it'.

Because Greece has been comparatively wise in its relations to the Muslim world (unlike Britain which is offensive abroad whilst allowing practically any Muslim extremist into the country: something I think is intentional) they do not have the threat of 'terrorists' to justify the CCTV/ government intervention. But now these mysterious people have attacked a state with the best civil liberties in the EU and the Greeks now have a very convenient excuse to follow the Brits.

I just hope that in this case the Archbishop of Athens and the Greek priesthood will protest against this from a spiritual viewpoint.

Whilst Brits tend to see democratically elected politicians as 'sacred', I think Greek is more democratic precisely because there is a spiritual counterbalance to the politicians, who question their motives.

A lot of Greek Priests seem to think that most of their politicians are Freemasons. I don't know if they are right, but it is sensible not to trust them, whoever they are serving.

MunteanUK said...

Dear Gregor,

You're such a fan of Greece, and a keen observer of Greek society, as if this blog would be dedicated to this country, not to the UK! :-)

Your comments are always welcome, especially since they enrich our discussion.


Therefore, here are some points I'd like to make this time:

1. In my view, the street violence that has been plaguing Greece for the past months (along with the decades of Greek 'anarchism', left-wing terrorism etc) is by no means a 'natural' phenomenon.

Many foreign powers have an interest of maintaining a potentially explosive situation in Greece, which they could 'detonate' at the right moment.

It's too bad that I couldn't find any link to a text in English, to show you what I read in Romanian some months ago - the view of a Greek Bishop concerning all these violent incidents. They surely are carefully orchestrated.

2. The present day Greek democracy, as well as the Romanian one are by no means perfect (not that there could be any 'perfect' democracy). But what bothers the antichristic forces in Brussels or elsewhere is that, in both these countries, the influence of the Orthodox Chruch can't be easily wiped out from people souls.

We, as unworth sinners, are imperfect, however, our faith is perfect, the Baptism which millions of Greeks and Romanians took soon after birth is a valid Mystery of the One Church of Christ.

Due to the growing secularism, consumerism, promiscuity, the huge abortion rates in both these Orthodox countries, due to mass exodus (millions of Greeks live in the USA, Australia, Britain etc, and it's the same for Romanians), our Orthodoxy is weakening. Nevertheless, it is not dead. Given the right circumstances (of which only the Lord knows), we could be resurrected!

It's rather easy to impose a Big Brother as a 'saviour' in the not only secular (but aggressively atheist) UK of today... while it won't be that easy in countries like Greece and Romania.

3. How I wish that what you say here - 'I think Greek is more democratic precisely because there is a spiritual counterbalance to the politicians, who question their motives' - was true! In theory, I can agree with you.

Practically, there are many instances when the secular state and the Chruch get into 'business' together, with very bad results. I am not necessarily speaking of Greece now, but of my country, where politicians hanging around Church hierarchy always offer 'explosive' stories for the media.

Politicians need votes, the Church needs money for different projects, as well as it needed political help to get back some property seized by the Communist regime... it's a very dangerous 'game of power' which rarely benefits the faith.

Many people are lead by real or imaginary corruption scandals into dismissing the Faith... which is so silly, but people are so weak... We can't judge the clergy, nor the people who invoke the sins of the priesthood to stay away from Christ, but it's really a sad situation. We should pray for everyone.

MunteanUK said...

[...and here's a 2nd part of my reply, as Blogger didn't let me load all the huuuuuuuge text that I wrote :-)]

4. I'm sure that many Greek, as well as Romanian politicians are Freemasons. The UN, IMF, NATO, and the EU are masonic creations.

One question rises: how can we oppose all these malevolent forces? Just by throwing rocks at state institutions or by making a case for withdrawl from the EU?

In my view, there's no 'political' means of fighting these, and Greece or Romania outside of the UE would have be at least in the same situation like now, if not even in a worse one!

We can only fight the EU's excesses from within, and we can make a better world around us only if we carry on the spiritual warfare inside ourselves! Always putting our trust in Christ's help, not in our own 'strength'!

5. The world is not moving towards a brighter future, technological or medical revolutions, neither towards a 'paradise on (this moribund) earth', 'world peace', 'sustainable development' or other blah-blahs like these...

As Orthodox Christians, we know that there's nothing good that we could expect from the future of this world! Our future is only in Christ, and our faith should help us never fear whatever happens in this world.

I think that neither an excessively passsive attidude (a complete reclusion, which is good for hermits, but not for us, who want to live as lay people), neither an excessive activism are solutions.

Only prayer, Confession, Eucharist, the Divine Liturgy, almsgiving should be our 'weapons'...


Instead of drawing any conclusion, just think a bit of these questions, my friend:

- Can we stop globalisation by throwing rocks at it? I'm sure that Freemasons have a plan of using evey little act of anarchy in their favour!

More protests equal more CCTV, not more 'gained' or 'defended' rights! I agreee with legally challenging authoritarian tendencies, with stirring debates etc, that is beating them with 'their own weapons'

See here a little step in this direction:

- Can we stop global warming with speeches, seminaries, 'awareness campaigns', without being more restrained in our insane consumerism? Can people be made 'aware' of the faith of the planet, when they don't even care about their soul, about eternal happiness or eternal damnation?

Fasting and prayer can stop global warming, not any political initiatives!

- Can we bring anyone to Christ by preaching Him with words or carefully crafted PR stragtegies, in this age when every satanic idea (even abortion, gay marriage, assisted suicide etc) can be successfully advertised?

No! We can only preach Christ by how we behave! Be a good man, Gregor, peaceful, patient, attentive to others, joyful etc, and this will help your friend Andrew more than any 'speech' about the Lord!

I'm sure that, little by little (whether this takes years or decades - only the Lord knows!), as long as he treasures your friendship, your friend will be attracted to Christ. Only our Maker can 'seduce' us, heal our spiritual blindness, and help us receive His love!

Gregor said...

'You're such a fan of Greece, and a keen observer of Greek society, as if this blog would be dedicated to this country, not to the UK! :-)'

Sadly I am largely ignorant about Greece. But as something of a 'lapsed liberal idealist' I discovered how interesting it is to compare the two countries. The media always encouraged me to see faith as a friend of totalitarianism, whilst I think Greece's civil liberties are largely due to the Church's influence; 'Put not thy trust in Princes, in Sons of Men' seems to be a moto of Greek Orthodoxy. Whilst here both 'left' and 'right' are relativist and utilitarian, believing that if we are 'safe' then we do not need freedom.

Still, I think 'soft' totalitarianism is the worst. This week the CIA World Fact Book was updated. I read that Britain has the world's second largest foreign debt after the USA (which has a population roughly 5 times that of Britain). Our foreign debt is almost twice that of France's.

Yet what were the yahoo headlines? Jordan has new hotpants. 'Hairy angel' struggles in tv gameshow.

Really, the classical dictatorships were stupid to use censorships. They should just have had a 'celebrity culture'.

.Only prayer, Confession, Eucharist, the Divine Liturgy, almsgiving should be our 'weapons'....'

Amen my friend. Let's just pray for strength to do these things.

As i said in the E-card, we had a lovely Ascension Service with Fr Marcel. It seems to me that Romanians are not as nationalistic in theological terms as many Greeks and Russians. It is iomportant that we do not go down the Evangelical path of carrying flourescent banners and baptising without catechising, but that is not to say that we should keep the truth to ourselves.

Do you agree or do you think that I am just being overly optimistic based on the Romanians I know?

MunteanUK said...

Dear Gregor,

I'm glad that we can - in spite of rather long pauses for what being a 'dedicated blogger' would mean - continue our discussion!


1. You may not be an 'expert in Greek affairs', however, you noticed another interesting aspect. Unlike in Greek mainstream media (I suppose, as I don't know this language), religion is often looked down upon in British media.

Officially, is not (yet!) politically correct to say anything bad about religions in the secular Britain which theoretically respects all religions. In the everyday practice of the media, I saw a subtle and continous disregard for what religions stand for.

Of course that there's only ONE 'true religion', but all others are worth of respect, as long as their are failed attemps of man to reach out for the Maker of all things visible and invisible.

In the UK, the atheist ideology doesn't 'frontally' attack religions, but one can 'learn' from the media how outdated and even 'dangerous' for present-day 'civilisation' they are...

Undoubtedly, Christianity is the most criticized, caricaturized, and scorn. 'We', Christians, are 'against' abortions, 'against' freedom (that is promiscuity)...

All the things atheist ideologies stand for is 'right', while religions (especially Christianity) are 'bad'...


2. Too bad you can't read Romanian, as in my latest episode of Femeile în UK [Women in the UK] I wrote about this 'celebrity culture', and how people (especially women) are slowly driven out of their real lives into imaginary lives.


3. The UK's debt is huge indeed. And I wonder how could the Brits ever repay it, as long as they have no 'state economy' as France, nor the military might of the USA.

I've got the feeling that people in today's Britain are as reckless as those in the Byzantine Empire were 556 years ago.

As a historian, maybe you could find many similarities :-) Too bad no one in the UK would be willing to hear any 'warnings' - everyone seems so crazy about getting 'good news' realted to coming of the current economic recession.

Whether this happens or not, whether it happens soon or many years from now - I don't know. What I am sure of is that Britain needs to get out of some kind of 'moral recession', and I'm not seeing any 'recovery signs' from that :-(


4. Indeed, at least when compared to Serbian, Greek and Russian nationalistic fanaticism - the Romanian Orthodoxy seems to be more open to the world.

The Truth can't be 'kept for ourselves', as you say, and Romanians appear to have known this for centuries.

After 1453, the three Romanian states (Wallachia, Transsylvania and Moldavia) were the only 'buffer zone' between the Ottoman Empire and Christian (albeit heretical) Europe.

Long before Peter the Great turned Russia into a world power, the little Romanian states were the only one fighting the Muslim advance in Europe.

Romanian Princes, boyars, and countless peasants died fighting for Orthodoxy against the Turks, then we also (from 1699 onwards)had to fight Catholic Austria...

Romania's history is quite 'bloody', however, in spite of this, we remained open to the world, always ready to share our faith with whoever wanted this, not to take it away from us!

On the other hand, I couldn't say that this 'openness' is 100% a quality. There may be risks involved, one being the extended relations with Papists in the past decade...

We can only pray that nothing bad would come out of that, as I have no hopes whatsoever that any 'discussions' with the perfidious Vatican can bring anything good! I so much wish that Catholics would want to find the Truth, but they are only after supremacy over all Christians, and other political goals!