Q and A was back tonight.
I was out and only saw the end - quite delightful to see Gerard Henderson and Catherine Deveny seated side by side. Gerard is not a fan. (ses MWD, Media Watch Dog is back on the prowl for its third year. MWD commences 2011 with much material collected over the Silly Season and with the expectation that the usual suspects will provide much fresh material. Here’s hoping. [Why not encourage The Age to take Catherine Deveny back – that would surely help. – Ed])
Anyhow the bit that did have me paying attention was the discussion on Egypt, where GH was making the point that the champions of democracy in the Arab world were George Bush and Condy Rice. But he went on to say he couldn't see any reason why the Arab world couldn't be democratic.
Catherine Deveny almost answered for him by saying that we mightn't like the Governments they choose if they are Islamist.
This touched on Paul Sheahan's observant but pointless column in the SMH this morning. After detailing the fact that Mubarak came to be President after an Islamist assisnation of Sadat, and that Islamists have tried to assasinate Mubarak, he writes;
The words ''Arab'' and ''democracy'' have never coexisted in the same sentence as a political reality because of a third word, ''Islam'', which is not merely a religion, it is a system ordering the entirety of society, from government to law to social mores.
And there, indeed, is the rub. But we in the West should not be surprised. The Roman Catholic Church was just as opposed to democracy when it first appeared from the middle of the seventeenth century. The countries with democratic governments (England, Netherlands, Switzerland) were the countries where the protestants got their start - let alone the USA.
Gerard is a Catholic, and the Catholics have come a long way since. In Australia they've dominated the anti-monarchist cause and fostered the social democratic party. But that has not always been the way.
But it is not the religion of Islam we need to target, it is that Islam needs to accept the separation of church and state, just as Christianity had to learn to do.
If we acknowledge this and that it was a lesson we took a long time to learn, then maybe we can help the Arab states. What George Bush did in Iraq is unlikely to be of lasting value as this has not been part of this story.
NB Gerard Henderson has kindly pointed out to me that in the part of the program I missed he stated that while raised a Catholic he is and has been for decades an agnostic. He also rightly noted that the protestants weren't that "democratic" in that they usually outlawed catholicism, and for a long time much was denied to Catholics of which the British Crown is still one.
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est