Discussing Mohammed bin Salman’s Crackdown on Corruption

William Morris, Secretary General of the Next Century Foundation, on Press TV, discussing Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on corruption.

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Discussion with Adel Darwish on Current News and Events

William Morris of the Next Century Foundation in discussion with Adel Darwish reviewing current news and events.

Is Parliament’s allocation of time and resources to alleged sexual harassment becoming blown out of all proportions? BBC stars threatening a Christmas walk out because those highly paid stars are made to pay tax like the rest of us; University Students being marked down when their essays suggest Brexit economic benefits; famous stars how much they make per-day? Bill Gates makes £7.1 while Theresa May only makes 400 quid. Do we burn Guy Fawkes on November 5th because he was Catholic or because he wanted to blow up Parliament?

 

On Power and Leadership, Love and Hope

Jackie Autumn

British Prime Minister Theresa May continues to serve as a world leader out of a sense of duty. The 1922 Committee that controls the Conservative Party to which she owes her allegiance is frightened to allow her to fall on her sword. So a lame duck Premier limps on way past her sell-by date, an embarrassment to the nation at a critical time, with the Brexit negotiations collapsing around her ears.

Why is the 1922 Committee so very frightened? Evidently because the leader of the opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, is both charismatic and effective. The Committee feels it needs to face like with like and, alas, there are just three charismatic public figures in today’s Tory Party with any real high-profile presence. They are:

Boris Johnson,

Boris Johnson and

Boris Johnson.

I had thought of including other names but there are only two bitter choices for the Conservative Party: either win the 2021 election with Boris – or lose it. A difficult choice, because the British Foreign Secretary is a wildcard, a maverick schemer and a narcissist. He is no predictable pragmatist. He despises Bashar Al-Assad, or so he claims, whilst seemingly being complacent about the blockade on Yemen. Boris as Premier is a catastrophe waiting to happen. The current Tory Party only has one other charismatic public speaker and that is the foppish Jacob Rees-Mogg. There is a drive to polish him up and bring him out of the dark ages and shape him into an alternative to Boris, but that would perhaps represent too great a challenge. Difficult times for Britain, because to limp on with Theresa is to lose all credibility.

Iran faces a similar challenge. President Trump intends to defer to congress the decision on whether to reintroduce sanctions on Iran. This act of moral cowardice is no doubt prompted by his friends in Saudi Arabia and Israel, who so fear a hegemonic Iran. Iran for her part is concerned about the US returning to a hardline position. As a consequence, Iranian President Rohani has chosen to visit Oman and use the occasion to offer, astonishingly publicly, to reign in Iran’s client group, Hezbollah as well as encourage the Houthi of Yemen to attend peace talks. Curious that last point. Our experience at the Next Century Foundation in promoting second track discussions in Switzerland has been that the Saudis are the reluctant party when it comes to discussing peace. That aside, Iran’s offer on Hezbollah is nothing short of astonishing.

How does this impact on leadership? Well, Iran has made it clear in private discussion with the NCF that she will face a hardliner with a hardliner. Which means what? It means that if Trump’s hardline approach is to be the order of the day, then at the end of Rohani’s current term he will be replaced by Qasem Soleimani, the head of the foreign division of the Revolutionary Guard (the Quds Force) and a charismatic hardliner.

Charismatic leaders are in vogue. Sissi in Egypt, Mohammed Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, and the emergent Hadi Al-Amri in Iraq and Haftar in Libya are examples of hard men who through sheer grit and determination have seized or are seizing power.

We are moving out of an era of mediocrity, simply because the people of the nations of the world have had enough of the complacent establishment, that has led to an era of the rich-poor divide becoming more acute, and increasing globalization. There is a clear difference between commercial globalization with the uneven playing field that rewards the sweatshop and the polluter, and the advocacy of a world without frontiers, in which we should  all believe.

So the world has leaned, and is leaning, toward a preference for ‘What-you-see-is-what-you-get’, transparent leaders and protest ballots. Hence the Brexit vote and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. Hence Trump. Hence Mohammed Bin Salman’s incredible popularity in Saudi Arabia. These are all anti-establishment trends.

Clearly people seek something new from their leaders. What I believe the people of the world now yearn for in leadership is integrity. That is far more than mere box-ticking honesty. Integrity is empowered honesty in action.  Integrity means that you mean what you say when you say it. But that is not to say that there isn’t still room for old-fashioned loyalty. Theresa May and Sultan Qaboos of Oman are both examples of people who live for loyalty, by loyalty, with loyalty. And that is admirable. Combine loyalty with genuine risk-taking integrity and you get a leader who may truly change the world.

And so to Love, the other quality necessary for leadership. Here we are not talking of sit-at-home, watch television and weep sort of love. We are talking of love-in-action. This means love for all those for whom you are responsible. I have just returned from Kirkuk in Iraq where, questioned about care for the refugees in his province, the Governor of Kirkuk told me, ‘They are not my responsibility’. His issue was that they couldn’t vote for him, so why should they vote? 

This is not genuine leadership. Genuine leadership means that you take responsibility for everyone for whom you have responsibility, even if you don’t particularly like them. This is a key aspect of leadership. You do not have to like people to love them. There are those who advocate the practice of loving your enemies. That is the nature of truly great leaders. Sissi of Egypt and Al-Amri of Iraq, take note. Great leaders care for the minorities, for the vulnerable. You could do better if you wish to build the nations we know you cherish.

We seek heroes,

We need heroes,

We demand heroes.

And we expect heroic leaders to love us, to protect us, to nurture us, even if they don’t particularly like us. That way they earn our loyalty. And people can be incredibly loyal.

And when we meet gross failure in love and leadership, we must call those responsible to account. Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar for example, who has let herself down, let the world down and, most importantly of all, has let the people of Myanmar down by being complicant in the Rohingya genocide.

Cruelty in all its dimensions is unacceptable. May God have mercy on the souls of all those world leaders responsible for the blockade on Gaza. The collective punishment on a people is an act of great wrong, whether in Syria, Gaza, Yemen or in Qatar. Leadership without love is not leadership – it is oppression. Even Machiavelli understood the need for wodges of love. He advised his disciples that, if they needed to use a heavy hand to keep things in order, they should do so ruthlessly and severely, but then stop, let go and treat people well. For he recognized people deserve love and care, and must get it if stability is to be engendered.

And then there is hope. We have an obligation to hope. Indeed without hope the very fabric of the universe could fall apart. And there is much reason to hope. We live in one of the most peaceful eras in all human history. You don’t think so? Remember our parents lived through the twentieth century with its two World Wars, its genocides in Europe for the Jews, in Turkey for the Armenians, in Africa for the Tutsis. The Vietnam and Korean wars, plus the partition of India. I could go on and on. Names parade through my mind. Aden. Kenya. Uganda. Then famine on famine. Live Aid was not for nothing. Ah, and Sudan. Misery on misery on misery in the twentieth century. And so many miserable footnotes. Little Kashmir, for instance. A century defined by human suffering. Things are better now in terms of sheer numbers of the dead in wars: the world has improved.

Plus things have got better in terms of war avoidance. We, as already stated, are just back from Iraq. There could reasonably be a war- a new war – between Baghdad and Arbil in order to curb Kurdish aspirations for independence. There won’t be, because Washington and Tehran want war avoidance so that they can concentrate on the existing war against Daesh. They have said so both publicly and privately, which is hope in action. Leaders, just like the rest of humanity, but even more so, have an obligation to hope. Whichever obligation or duty the rest of us has to be moral, the responsibility on the shoulders of our leaders is greater still.

The women of the little Christian town of Alqosh in the Ninevah Plain keep suitcases by their bed in anticipation of the coming war. But now they can unpack. There will be no new war in Iraq. Hope? Write the word large. It is often all that we live for.

Dr William Morris

On Barcelona

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The events in Barcelona are a crime at the most fundamental level, a crime that offends all that stands for justice and peace.  What was done was profoundly wrong.

Nice on Bastille Day, Germany’s Christmas Market, Stockholm, Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, Finsbury Park, Charlottesville – and now Barcelona. Add to this terrorism by bomb and bullet and the list would seem unending.

Barcelona is unique amongst the cities of the world. Barcelona, the city of hope sheltering under the shadow of the exquisite spires of Gaudi’s fairy-tale church of the Sagrada Família.

In Barcelona they commit this crime? May God forgive them.

This heinous act redoubles our determination to build a world founded on a new kind of social contract, a society that measures progress in terms of our opportunity and freedom to each have a role we find meaningful.

God be with the wonderful people of Barcelona. And God be with this wonderful world. We shall be unbowed. We shall build a new tomorrow, build a world based on love, trust and inclusivity, and turn our backs on madness, hatred and rage. Because we must. Because our children both expect and deserve this of us. Because of Barcelona.

Belonging

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People seek a sense of belonging, to family, tribe, club, culture or nation. Often they seek multiple allegiances, overlaying circle upon circle as they express allegiances and consequent loyalty to football team, gang or even fan clubs.

This approach to life is hardwired into our nature. It would be good to think we could escape it by going beyond group allegiance to express allegiance to one world in which we all care for one another. And we can. And we do. But we still need circles to which to belong, circles of friendship if nothing else, because we need to support one another, to love one another, to love and be loved. And to do so we must start somewhere. I must love you and you must love me.

However, in today’s world there are new pressures as people are stripped of their long nurtured identities in the modern state, where schools become larger and less intimately caring and where mosques, churches and temples become elitist and cater for the old and lose touch with the young. Then throw technology into the mix, where we are all subject to the uncensored influence of each other as we groom one another through Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram and some of us are a little better at it than others. Or perhaps sometimes it is down to mere chance as to whom you fall in with when society fails you and offers no hand for you to hold. But fall in with someone you will. It is human nature to want to love and be loved, to want to belong, to have values to aspire to and heroes to emulate; and if established structures fail to provide them we shall find them. And if traditional leadership, whether from politicians, or family, or friends, becomes vapid and remote, out of touch and complacent, we will seek out and find new allegiances. And thus we give a window of opportunity to the fanatic, the terrorist, and the cruel.

And who are most at risk? The most vulnerable. The disempowered and the lonely amongst the young that have vibrant minds undulled by age and habit, eager to absorb new ideas.

And the solution? We need to wake up and offer those around us hope. Embrace others with affection, most particularly the vulnerable. And the vulnerable amongst the young almost always go unnoticed. We can see, touch and feel the vulnerable teenager and yet still choose to ignore that most broken person. And so society as a whole becomes broken and we fail even to notice it happening even though we, you and I, are the ones that are breaking it apart.

Photo Jackie Richards

A Response to the General Election

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The outcome of the British elections, hung parliament though it may be, is in many respects encouraging. Though the Brexit issue may not have been in the forefront of all voters’ minds, this is a vote against hard Brexit, and thus a vote for less disharmony between Britain and the other nations of Europe. Furthermore the unique vote in Scotland, one place in which the Conservative Party did better, was a vote, in part, against the concept of Scottish independence.  And we see too much micro-nationalism in the world today. A world in which we all need to work together, rather than working against one another for our own selfish interest.
The true winner of the elections was democracy. The United Kingdom, in the face of terror and fear, provided the world with a prime example of how to respond. People went to the polls to participate in a peaceful democratic process. There is an example here for many nations across the globe, when faced with tyranny, a genuine respect for democracy is of the utmost importance. For if we resort to the ballot box rather than the bullet, to resolve our differences we build a safer tomorrow – and a better world for our children.

 

The London Bridge Attack

london bridge

The tragic incident on London Bridge has given us all pause for thought. This broken world is unbelievably cruel at times. And why? If you are capable of violence do you resort to violence merely because you can?

The concept of deliberately targeting civilians, the innocent, the young, to make a political point, is a familiar one. To merely say it is wrong seems trite but none the less it needs saying. It is wrong. Again and again it needs saying. It is profoundly and utterly wrong, both in the eyes of compassionate humanity and in the eyes of God.

Our hearts bleed for the victims. And at the same time we cherish and admire the response of those that went to their aid, whether from the police force, or from those many bystanders that stepped forward to help, or from the health service (and incidentally one in four of Britain’s doctors and one in six of Britain’s nurses are migrants).

We cannot and must not ever allow terrorism to succeed in its aim. And in this instance the aim is to sow fear and division, to foster hatred and spite. To allow our hearts to be hardened by this venomous act is to allow the perpetrators a frisson of success. Whereas what they deserve is our pity and forgiveness because then they fall subject to the judgment of God, and his judgment is and always will be remorseless when the innocent are the victims.

If we must be angry, better we rage against God for permitting such injustice, if the only other choice is to allow ourselves to become consumed with anger with our fellow man. Can we regard our enemies as our friends? For hatred can we return love? In so doing we break the power of evil and love casts out fear, if we allow it to do so.