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Western Values Monday December 10, 2012

WESTERN VALUES

Should those of us in free and democratic nations stand by and do nothing while Saudi Arabia treats its women like chattels? While Syrian rebels fight for their freedom from despotism? While nations use slave labor conditions and near slave wages to produce our cheap consumer goods? Should we in the Western world stand by and do nothing while workers burn in a factory in Bangladesh, where the doors were locked to prevent their escaping the fire?

These are all good questions we need to think long and hard about. But the sheer number of similar questions and concerns is overwhelming. Should the free and democratic - the ADVANTAGED - nations of the world intervene whenever and wherever we perceive injustice is taking place? Or should we only observe, and have the media report - but not interfere? Truly, it's a moral dilemma. What is the right thing to do for our own people? Should we send our young men and women far off into harm's way to mediate between foreign nations? Should we stand up to aid those who are suffering injustices? Should we be forcing Western values on the whole world?

The history of democracy teaches us that if we want our freedom and human rights, WE have to fight for them OURSELVES. No one "gave" America its freedom from Britain. Americans had to fight for it. Women weren't simply "given" the right to vote. They had to fight for it. Laborers were not simply handed the right to decent working conditions and wages. Workers had to stand, organize and fight for themselves.

Star Trek's "Prime Directive" stated that there must be no interference in the internal developments of alien civilizations. Maybe that premise, based on fictional leadership and planets though it may be, also has application between nations here in reality. Maybe no matter how much we'd like to right the wrongs we see committed in foreign lands, we need to focus on righting the wrongs in our OWN society. Maybe we have to let them take the same route that the oppressed have always had to follow.

Yes, I believe that there are some Moral Absolutes. Genocide should not be tolerated. Cross border aggression should not be tolerated. But short of that, do we have the right to tell another nation how it should conduct itself? Who its leaders should be? What form of economic system or government it should have?

All of us would like to cure the world's problems, just as we'd like to cure cancer and heart disease. So, it bears asking: are Western nations better off investing trillions of dollars to overthrow a tyrant like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, or are they better off investing that money and resources in the fight against cancer or providing better health care and services to their own people?