ICHR controversey

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Thu Mar 2 23:28:37 UTC 2000

Narayan S. Raja [SMTP:raja at IFA.HAWAII.EDU] skrev 02. mars 2000 22:07:
> While I agree with most of what Dr. Fosse says,
> I perceive (perhaps mistakenly), in this
> particular posting from him, a European
> "holier than thou" attitude which is not
> justified by the facts:

First of all: an apology for sounding "holier than thou". That was not my
intention, but I see that what I said can be interpreted that way.

We are able to discuss these things freely because (with the
> > exceptoin of the former Yugoslavia) we do not base our modern policies and
>                                       ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> > attitudes on the idea that we can make right was done wrong decades or
>   ^^^^^^^^^
> > centuries ago by maltreating the descendants of the ones that wronged our
> > forefathers.
> I presume you refer only to "official"
> policies and attitudes, as opposed
> to individuals' prejudices, which
> are alive and well in Europe as elsewhere.

I think I hinted at individual prejudices. You are perfectly correct, if you
start scratching the surface, you will find both racism, religious prejudice
etc. in European countries.

> And even when it comes to "official"
> policies and attitudes, your observation
> is not quite correct:  for example,
> I vividly remember how, when I was
> travelling in Europe some years ago,
> even I (a brown-skinned third-worlder,
> i.e., a leper to most European consulates)
> was granted a Greek visa on the spot,
> while the Turk behind me in the line
> was told to come back in 1 month.
> Apparently, the Greeks still hadn't
> realized that it was un-European to
> seek petty bureaucratic revenge from
> the Turks.   :-)

I can assure you that similar and even worse cases of bureaucratic harassment
occur here in Norway, too. And here as elsewhere in Europe, you have political
parties that would like to kick out most foreigners. But my point is: the
majority of politicians and people in responsible positions actively try to
avoid and oppose attitudes and policies that would lead to discrimination of
large groups of people. Extremists are not encouraged.

> Other problem areas such as Northern Ireland,
> Cyprus, and the Basque region of Spain come
> to mind.

This is a slightly different matter. The Spanish government is dealing with a
problem that was caused by discriminatory fascist politics of the kind that I
fear India is introducing. As for Northern Ireland, this too is an inherited
conflict where oppression of Catholics by Protestants created a situation that
has turned out to be rather difficult to handle. Again something India
shouldn't copy.

Then one hears of official harassment
> of Gypsies in various European countries.

This is certainly true, particularly in The Czech Republic and the former
Yugoslavia, where the Kosovo Albanians believe that the Gypsies were in cahoots
with the Serbs (there is no evidence for that, but the Albanians act as if
there were nevertheless).

> I won't even go into details of the
> problems Europeans have with third-world
> immigrants, because they are not "traditional"
> chronic problems of your societies.

Again, you are perfectly right: there are problems. But the authorities try to
combat racist attitudes. Please notice the reaction to Joerg Haider in Austria:
a man and a party that has made fairly unpleasant statements. The reaction from
the European Union has been quite blunt.

> > After Germany had been beaten in WWII, Europe reached the
> > conclusion that we all needed to be friends because being enemies was so
> > costly.
> This is not quite analogous to the
> situation in India.  The European Union
> was not achieved by suppressing
> discussion of Nazi atrocities.

The origins of the EU was the understanding that enmity between European
countries was catastrophic to all concerned. After all, this continent has seen
two major wars this century alone. As for suppressing discussion of Nazi
atrocities, there was hardly anything to be gained by that. The Nazis had been
whipped good and proper, Germany was partly occupied by the Allies, partly by
the Soviet Union. I think the example with France is better: by suppressing
discussion of French collaboration, France obtained a degree of social peace
avoiding the disruptions that a bitter national debate could have created.
Today, France has the distance it takes to discuss collaboration without severe
social disruption. You will find similar policies in Latin American states that
have emerged from a dictatorial past partly by renunciating a settlement of
accounts with former dictators and their henchmen, because these individuals
enjoy substantial support in some sectors of the population (not to mention
that they control the guns).

> This is no longer a live issue for most
> Europeans (well, except Northern Ireland).
> But how about a live issue -- can one study the
> modus operandi of illegal Turkish immigrants
> into Germany without Neo-Nazis "rushing into
> the street to take revenge"?

I am not sure the motive of the Neo-Nazis is to take revenge: it is rather to
run the "foreigners" out of Germany. Civilized Germans protest against this.
Immigration of orientals into European societies is a matter that is hotly
debated in many countries, also in Norway, but the vast majority - whatever
their feelings - reject violence. The few that perform acts of violence are
dragged before the courts, sentenced and jailed.

> I don't mean to gloat at the many social
> problems of Europe.  I just want to point
> out that a "holier-than-thou" attitude
> about "European" tolerance vs. BJP fanaticism
> is not justified by the facts.

Yes it is. Not because we are "holier" than the average person in India or
elsewhere, but because responsible politicians here reject violence and
discrimination and actively try to do something about it. The Council of Europe
recently published a document on human rights that address different kinds of
discrimination and discusses ways to combat such discrimination. The document
 expresses the ideas that most European governments (with the possible
exception of Austria) adhere to. The fact that individual bureaucrats and
private citizens can be both racist, intolerant and downright evilminded in
their attitude to other social groups is beside the point. Their attitudes are
not encouraged by the state apparatus. You pointed out that we can discuss
Catholic and Protestant cruelties because these largely have ceased to be a
living issue. That is indirectly the point I was trying to make in connection
with the study of Muslim iconoclasm: it should be treated with extreme care
because it is still a living issue. Again, I would point to the alleged
initiative of general de Gaulle.

I think that the definitive criterium when we discuss these matters is the body
count. In the period 1870 to 1945, the European body count was horrendous: p
eople dying by the millions on the battlefields and in concentration camps. In
this period, I believe (guess) that some 50-60 million Europeans may have met a
violent death of some sort. The Nazis murdered some 6 million Jews, 1 million
gypsies, an unknown number of homosexuals, retarded people, mentally ill people
etc. The Stalinist terror seems to have cost the Russian people some 20 million
dead. The history of Europe after 1945 is among other things the history of a
concerted effort to avoid such horrors in the future. Not because we are holier
than others. We - or at least some of us - have just learned our lesson. Why
should India repeat our follies?

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Dr. art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo
Phone/Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at online.no

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