Friday, May 27, 2011


There are many ways to understand or decipher Arab Spring; historically, politically, and morally.

One way to understanding Arab Spring is to ask why the West are so eager to get involved. The narrative here is: What is good for the West is good for the Arab world, i.e., paternalism at work.


“Paternalism is the interference of a state or an individual with another person, against their will, and defended or motivated by a claim that the person interfered with will be better off or protected from harm. The issue of paternalism arises with respect to restrictions by the law such as anti-drug legislation, the compulsory wearing of seatbelts, and in medical contexts by the withholding of relevant information concerning a patient's condition by physicians. At the theoretical level it raises questions of how persons should be treated when they are less than fully rational. ( - Int)

Paternalism makes three claims

(1) You do not know what you are doing, in governance or self-determination.
(2) I know what is good for you.
(3) Let me help you to make things right, if need be by force.


There are a number of objections to paternalistic offer of help.

First, paternalism is a noble and chivalry enterprise. However, such a noble instinct is not without its corrupting tendencies and destructive impact. The impetus to help, arising as it must, from a sense of superiority and well being, will easily lead to an arrogance of power (intellectual, spiritual, physical, emotional or economical) in the helper. Dependency creates subordination in the helped and in time breed contempt in the helper. This is manifested in a relationship denominated not so much by the actual needs of the one that wants help but by the one who venture the help. Such tendency seems to grow directly, in proportion with the intensity of the willingness to help and conversely correlated with the helplessness exhibited by the deprived. In the end, the one being helped may be no better off, e.g. he may not get what he wants (only what others think he wants). He may even ends up worse off than before, e.g. he may get more than what he bargained for - a lost of self-respect for his own autonomy, and freedom. Such has always been the pitfall of paternalistic relationship!

Secondly, paternalistic motivation to help is never selfless. There is a certain kind of hypocrisy in all chivalry gestures. No one is totally, selfless, by venturing out to help others we are motivated by a need to gratify ourselves, i.e. an instinct to do good by our standard, not that of the person needing help. We should not for a moment think that the interest of the helper and the helped are one and the same. No assumption can be more wrong and more dangerous. A servant cannot be trusted to serve two masters. This is not an indictment against the integrity of the servant as much as it is a realistic assessment of such relationships. The annals of trust law are repelled with cautions against such divided allegiance. Our experience with others point unmistakably to that conclusion.


If paternalism works in making the world a better place to live, work and play as claimed, with the strong helping the weak, more developed nation coaching the less developed nation, I wonder what other CULTURALLY more advanced nations can help to improve the culturally less attuned - achieved nations, from managing deficits to reducing violence to decreasing drugs to building family to providing for seniors to protecting the young to improving morality….

The ultimate question to ask is why paternalism is only working in a one way manner, from the economically - military strong to the economically - militarily weak?

What is the relationship, if any, between economic and military proneness and cultural and moral goods?

Are rich people/country necessarily more cultured?

Are the militarily strong necessarily more moral?

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