Monday, 12 September 2011

Economics, Morals, and The Bystander

I note that UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and his colleague William Hague, were optimistic yesterday about ongoing relations with Russia...

I heard a few stories too about the approach of the Russian regime that we're familiar with ... torture, murder, and the corrupt dealings of business and government.

Of course, there are many other administrations in the world that show a dubious morality - Japan continues to promote 'scientific' whaling, Canada continues to allow seal culling, and Zimbabwe is just one of the African states where murder and all sorts of other grievous violent acts are taking place daily.

The Russian story got me thinking today in particular because one could almost hear in Cameron and Hague's voice a slight hint of economic desperation. Oil and gas, oil and gas.... the economic climate in the UK is such that Cameron is flirting with China, and basically turning down the volume on any residual issues with Russia. The economic pressure on him to work in the UK's interests are too high.

At a high political level, then, there is discounting at work. Not the kind of discounting one might encounter in therapy, though - out-of-awareness, just-under-the-cognitive-surface discounting. This is a kind of active, purposeful discounting. I fact, I'm reminded of Petruska Clarkson's writing on The Bystander. Are we, as nations, becoming more prepared to take the bystander role with each other (on, for instance, human rights abuses), in order to keep trade moving and support the global economy?

This is the tightest economic era in generations. I worry that more international bystanding will result; more abuses of self (the citizens) and each other (armed conflict, over oil and resources, for instance?) that gets overlooked in favour of economic harmony.
Maybe there's a risk too that we become more bystanderish towards each other, as our own economic safety makes us more prepared to overlook the sufferings of others.


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