Saturday, September 28, 2013

An Insult to Camels

In September 2002, parliamentary elections took place in Algeria resulting in the formation of a new government. The King retained powers to appoint key ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice. Thus, the illusion of a democracy began to take shape in the northwestern corner of the Sahara Desert.

Moroccan journalist, Ali Lmrabet, is the general manager of Demain, a weekly satirical magazine, and a correspondent of the French media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres. In an October issue of Demain, he published an article about the possible sale of a royal palace to foreign investors.

In November, Lmrabet was arrested and prosecuted for ”diffusing false information in breach of peace or likely to be a breach of peace.” According to the prosecutor, Lmrabet was undermining the authority of the state. He was sentenced to four months in prison and any future publication of Demain was banned.

Ten days later, the prosecutor appealed the case, seeking a more severe sentence.

On May 22, the First Appeal Court of Rabat sentenced Lmrabet to four years in prison and also levied a fine equivalent to $2,000 US dollars. He was immediately sent to prison after the sentence was handed down.

On May 29, his royal majesty King Mohammed VI made a speech to his nation on Moroccan TV, announcing an end to leniency in dealing with those who “take advantage of democracy.” He claimed that some citizens had been misusing the freedom of opinion. He insisted, “exercising one’s rights and freedoms entails necessarily that the duties and obligations inherently attached to citizenship be fulfilled.”

In other words, one is free to express an opinion as long as that opinion reflects the opinion of those in power.

He ended his speech by claiming that Moroccans “will find me, as their first servant, in the front line, repelling anyone who attempts to pull the country backward.”

What a great guy – a servant of the people fighting on the front line to preserve the obligation of the people to speak favorably of his rule.

In the interest of humanity and for the sake my own sanity (such as it is), please allow me to address your royal majesty with a few observations:

1) A democracy is a government where the supreme power is invested in the people and exercised by them through a system of representation usually involving periodic freely held elections. If you are a king in a democracy it is your duty to pose for currency and to attend ribbon-cutting ceremonies. It is not your duty to repel anyone who is pulling your country backward. If anyone is pulling your country backward it is you.

2) It is not possible to use democracy to undermine the state authority. The democracy itself is the state authority. Suppressing the freedom of speech and freedom of the press undermines a democracy. It may make the state authority stronger but destroys any semblance of rule by the people.

3) A journalist is simply a person reporting the news, perhaps even satirically at times. To confine a journalist in a cement box to rot for four years for doing his job, or even expressing an opinion, is outrageous. Life is difficult enough without being under the thumb of barbaric rulers with no concept of common decency.

4) You are a disgusting human being. You should be chained to a heavy object outside your palace gate where children can toss peanuts at you. Comparing you to a pile of camel dung would be an insult to camels.

5) If there is any justice on this Orb of Wounded Souls there will come a time in every person’s existence, be it here or in another dimension, where they shall reap what they have sown.

Morocco is a wonderful place if you want to get a taste of what life was like in 1400. Needless to say, I won’t be travelling there soon. I prefer to stay here in Arkansas where it’s about 1959 these days.

Quote for the Day -- “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear." Harry S. Truman

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where freedom of speech is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Feeling Fuzzy All Over

A couple of years ago, ABC TV news had a fluff story about a six-year-old girl named Abby in Naples, Fla., who set up a lemonade stand at the end of her driveway. According to the report, one of the neighbors had complained to authorities that Abby didn’t have a license to conduct such a business at that location. Abby’s mother, with the press in tow, went to city hall and obtained a business license, issued for free on a temporary basis, for her daughter. Soon Abby was back in business and everyone felt fuzzy all over because of the happy ending.

Perhaps it’s just my nature, but I didn’t feel fuzzy all over.

First of all, I doubt if any of the neighbors cared if the girl had a business license. Most likely a neighbor was concerned because of the various problems caused by a lemonade stand at the end of a driveway. Abby’s neighborhood had narrow streets and no sidewalks. There was a column of bushes alongside the driveway blocking the lemonade stand, which appeared to be within two feet of the street, from oncoming traffic in one direction. It was an accident waiting to happen. Perhaps one of the neighbors perceived a dangerous situation and called authorities. Or perhaps one of the neighbors didn’t care to have cars stopping in the street or parking on their lawn.

Believe it or not, some people who don’t have kids don’t necessarily find the offspring of their neighbors to be delightful little creatures. Many kids tend to be noisy, reckless and downright irritating. They consider the entire neighborhood, including other yards and the street, to be their entitled playground.

Conversely, responsible adults assume the street is for automobile traffic, not a recreational area for rowdy children. A neighbor upset about a kid setting up shop at the end of a driveway has a legitimate complaint.

In my opinion, everyone except Abby acted inappropriately.

The neighbor who made the complaint was inappropriate. Enterprising kids all over America have been opening lemonade stands in their driveways ever since they invented lemons and driveways. I had one when I was in the third grade. Most kids learn the hard lessons of business right away. You sell several glasses the first day or two, mostly to kind-hearted neighbors, then it tapers off. You spend hours sitting there alone wondering if Bill Gates started this way. After about a week, you close up shop. If the complaining neighbor had a little more patience, the lemonade stand would have probably disappeared in short order.

Abby’s mother reacted inappropriately. Instead of recognizing the numerous problems of the stand at the end of a driveway, she was determined to have her way. If it disturbed some of the neighbors, the stand didn’t belong there. She should have taught her child to be more considerate of others and put a stop to it.

The City of Naples blew it too. They gave the girl a free business license. Soon other kids in Naples opened lemonade stands, wanting similar treatment. The city was then forced to accommodate everyone or shut them all down. Just because you’re a cute little girl doesn’t give you any more rights than anyone else.

With all the national publicity, including an appearance on the David Letterman TV show, Abby’s lemonade enterprise did volume business. She even had to recruit some friends to keep up with the demand.

In my warped sense of justice, it all disintegrated into a sad lack of closure. Traffic had grossly increased in the once tranquil neighborhood. The complaining neighbor will probably be ostracized and may even be forced to move. Abby’s mother had encouraged her daughter to be self-centered. The City of Naples undoubtedly incurred legal fees.

Abby has had her 15 minutes of fame and must now deal with the consequences, which may include being responsible for a neighborhood feud and the inevitability of closing a popular tourist attraction.

One person’s happy ending is another person’s notion of a big fat mess.

Speaking of being fuzzy all over, I recently discovered a fuzzy object on the bottom shelf in my refrigerator. It was dark blue and wiggled a bit when I reached for it. If I’m not mistaken, it was originally a lemon.

Quote for the Day -- "I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade… and try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka and have a party." Ron White

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where being fuzzy all over sometimes means it's time for the monthly bath.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Deception of Niceness

There are several schools of thought on how to raise your children.

1) You can teach them that if they don’t have something nice to say, they shouldn’t say it at all.
2) You can teach them to be honest at all times and let the chips fall where they may.
3) You can let them to learn life on their own and form their own set of values.

As long as your intentions are what's best for your children, there is not right or wrong way to raise them.

But no matter which method you use, your children are doomed to a life of conflict.

Those who are taught to only say nice things are doomed to be untrustworthy. These people try to tell you what they think you want to hear. They’d rather tell you a lie or say nothing at all if they think they might hurt your feelings. And when you catch someone in a lie, you can never trust that person again.

Those who are taught to be honest at all times are doomed to alienate people. A lot of people don’t really want to hear the truth because sometimes the truth is unbearable. Nobody wants to think they have faults and certainly don’t want them pointed out. They’d rather live a life of denial than face reality.

Those who are left to learn on their own are doomed to struggle through life with no direction. With no defined set of values, a person tends to experiment. Sometimes they will be honest, other times they will say what they think the other person wants to hear. And if it suits them they will lie through their teeth. Basically, they will take on the personality that fits the situation. Many in this category are in high political office or jail, depending on their guile.

I was taught to always be honest. This could explain why I live alone in the middle of nowhere.

I dedicate the remainder of this piece to all of those who were raised under the illusion you are being kind if your philosophy is the deception of "niceness" -- i.e., if you have nothing nice to say, you shouldn’t say it at all.

Butterflies and rainbows are nice.

Puppies and kittens are nice.

Babies are nice.

Well-behaved children are nice.

Considerate adults are nice.

People who help people are nice.

People who help animals are nice.

People who respect the environment are nice.

People who don’t litter are nice.

People who don’t smoke in public places are nice.

People who don’t use the world as an ashtray and discard their cigarette butts wherever they may be standing are nice.

People who don’t give their young kids ATV’s and allow them to drive like maniacs on dusty county roads are nice.

People who don’t play their music so loud that their neighbors are forced to take extreme action before they go completely insane are nice.

People who don’t discharge firearms so close to occupied dwellings that their neighbors are forced to duck for cover or return fire are nice.

I sense I’d better quit now. I can utter only so many nice things at one sitting.

If you want to hear only nice things, don’t bother striking up a conversation with someone who was taught to be honest -- they might wind up telling you something you don’t want to hear, like the truth.

If you are not ashamed to think it, you should not be embarrassed to say it.

When you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

Quote for the Day -- “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” Mahatma Gandhi

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where the truth will set you free, but first it may annoy you.