April 12, 2012
Liberty and Justice...when convenient.
The state may indeed be an institution that is meant to support the people; we all hand over some of our autonomy in exchange for governmental protection and services. However, even the most ostensibly democratic system is an entity unto itself. It is important to keep in mind that each actor on the international stage has its own interests. The state may have been created with good intentions for the good of its citizens, but the fact remains that what benefits a state is often far removed from the best interests of its people. This is the key to understanding human rights violations by the state.
I admit that I was skeptical that Statecraft would teach me anything about politics that the classroom could not. But I must say that within the Democratic Republic of Tatooine, the simulation very clearly demonstrated the difference between state interests and people’s interests. A few months ago, I was prone to asking rather whiny questions about the international system. Most importantly, I constantly wondered why governments aren’t more conscientious about responding to the people’s requests. I couldn’t forgive our world leaders for ignoring marginalized groups. When I found myself at the helm of my own virtual state, my views changed almost overnight. My fellow leaders and I quickly found ourselves saying, to put it kindly, “Forget the capitalists - they’re only 5 percent strength anyway.” I didn’t want to personally target any particular beliefs; it just didn’t make sense for us to cater to their interests. If the leaders wanted to stay in office and maintain national stability, we couldn’t afford to waste time coddling the capitalists when we had a huge faction of environmentalists banging down our door. The fact was, we could afford to have the capitalists go on strike every turn because they had so little power.
My point is that if the leaders of a completely virtual state could be convinced to shove less influential groups off to the side, it should come as no surprise that this happens in the real world, where much more is at stake. Even the most well-intentioned leaders have to ignore and sometimes exploit certain groups for the sake of the whole. Add a less-than-democratic system or a few corrupt leaders into the mix, and of course you will see human rights begin to suffer - as long as those being exploited are not strong enough to fight back.
So all in all, Statecraft has given me a rather depressing view of world politics. I have to conclude that wherever there is government, there will be some form of oppression. But we must remember, as difficult and miserable as life can be under repressive regimes, things could be even worse if we had no governments at all...couldn’t they?
Posted by smythecm at April 12, 2012 01:41 PM
I agree that Statecraft made it easy to ignore weak factions and placate the stronger groups with little to no consequences. But in the real world, oppression does not come without a price. Even when groups do not represent a large portion of the citizenry, oppressing them can come with huge audience costs. Take the movement for gay rights in America. If we were faced with this issue on Statecraft where religious fundamentalists represented the majority and the LGBT population represented only a tiny fraction, it would be easy to ignore the LGBT group in favor of the majority. But in real life, this decision is not so simple.
Small, oppressed groups can make public their grievances, and they can gain support from people who are not like them by creating awareness about injustices. In a more globalized world where governments are having a harder and harder time keeping their oppressive tactics quiet, human rights advocates and liberalized peoples tend to step in to protect the oppressed minority.
Posted by: hmburns at April 19, 2012 02:29 PMLogin to leave a comment. Create a new account.