How Can I forgive a man who pretended to be my friend?

MUST I FORGIVE A FRIEND WHO KILLED FRIENDS?

A South African journalist, Jonathan Ancer, recently published a book “SPY: Uncovering Craig Williamson.” Ancer interviewed me on Skype for this book because I knew Craig, whom I thought was my friend. I met with him often over meals to catch up. But his friendship was a deception. He was a spy, a Captain in the South African State Security. For several years he pretended to be an activist working to change the racist political system. He not only infiltrated the international organizations but also killed and injured numerous people, including some friends.

During the late 1970’s, I was working at the International Headquarters of the World University Service in Geneva Switzerland. My job was to raise funds for and to support the movements fighting the racist system within South Africa. One of them was “National Union of South African Students” (NUSAS). I met Williamson first time at the Johannesburg Airport in 1975. He came to meet me in place of Karel Tip, who had just been jailed. Tip was President of NUSAS and Williamson was Treasurer. By then I was a persona-non-grata in South Africa, so I met with my contacts in neighbouring Lesotho and Botswana, or in the airport building which was outside of South African jurisdiction. Eventually he came to Geneva pretending to be a refugee. He spied on many international organizations with the help of naive armatures like me.

In April, 1994, I was back in South Africa as a member of the International Election Monitoring Group. Immediately after elected President, Nelson Mandela announced a plan to introduce “Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” The idea was to allow people on both sides to come forward and confess what they committed during the Apartheid offing amnesty. I said, “No, you can not do that!” I could not bear the thought of a person like Craig Williamson walking away scot-free. The fact is that was what happened.

I read Ancer’s book. Craig admitted what he did and was never charged; now a wealthy business man. He showed no remorse: “I did my job. It’s a soldier’s job to kill.” It’s difficult to forgive him. I am not a good Christian. However, without the Mandela/Tutu “tell the truth and be forgiven” measures, South Africa would have had a horrendous blood bath, and may be like another dysfunctional Zimbabwe.

Words lost the power

WORDS ARE NO LONGER RELIABLE

New immigrants face many challenges. Language for one. It is impossible to start a life without it in another country. I was recruited to come to Canada because I could preach in Japanese. I was too dumb to realize that in Canada the working language was English otherwise. To learn English as a primary language of work was hard, because learning a language is not just a matter of correct grammar, pronunciation, and sufficient vocabulary. Language is a product of culture, history, society and many other factors. You must understand those determinants to know the language. It can be disastrous to use the language you hear on the street.

A same word can mean different things. For example, “trespass” in the familiar Christian prayer is translated into “sin” in Japanese. But the original Greek and Hebrew word is “debt.” We don’t pray “forgive us our debt” because if debt is bad and must be forgiven, our economy will collapse. Investments, stocks and bonds, credit cards, mortgages are all debts, borrowed money, in different names. Debts are forgiven if you are too big to fail. So we call it “trespass.” But a socialist says that to equate trespass with sin is a capitalist’s spin. How can a new immigrant learn so much complexity and subtlety of culture and society in a short time?

Another problem: Word of mouth used to be as good as the speaker. “I give you my word,” was like a notarized affidavit. But now, do you trust the word of all politicians? How did word become like shifting sand? I wonder if, in the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” art, music, and stories are more reliable means of communication. My language teacher, Ntate Tente, commented after my first sermon in Sesotho, a Bantu language, “You may be a good preacher. But I didn’t understand what you tried to say. We are story tellers. Tell us stories like Jesus did.” To make a point with life stories? I wonder how many politicians can survive if their livess are their words.

When you see an immigrant, listen to the story, not the imperfect English. If a person speaks in broken English, he/she must be bilingual. You must give compliments. With three acquired languages, I am no longer perfect in any of them including my mother tongue. So I tell stories.

Missionaries were agents of Imperialism

A GLORIOUS MISUNDERSTANDING
“The Church misread Matthew 28:19 for a thousand and six hundred years.”

One of the most influential theologians of the 20th Century, Emil Brunner, Professor of Theology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, called the Church’s application of Matthew 28: 19 “a glorious misunderstanding.” For nearly two millennia, the Western Christian Churches had followed the dictum, “Go out into the world, make all people my disciples, and baptise them…….” Some still do. However, the Biblical ground for such aggressive way to expand the Church is a very thin ice. There is only one mention of such commandment in the Bible. There is no other passage in the whole Bible commanding proselytization.

Why then did aggressive evangelism become a powerful doctrine? I am convinced that it was the influence of the Roman Empire on the fourth Century church leadership. By then the Roman Catholic Church was an integral part of the Imperial political structure. It was convenient for the proponents of the empire expansion to embrace an aggressive religious doctrine. Matthew 28:19 was a useful passage to justify the imperial expansion in stead of encouragement to being the witness to God’s love. It was a misreading of the passage. We must recognize the fact that it was originally written for a different reason.

This verse has been misunderstood and abused first by the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church, and gave birth to the missionary movement of the Protestant Churches as an agent of colonialism. Consequently, colonialism, destruction of non-Western cultural traditions, and even military actions like Crusades and European colonial wars used Matthew 28:19 as the Divine Commandment to expand.

From Africa , Cecile Rhodes famously wrote to the Colonial Office, “Send us more missionaries. They are cheaper than policemen.” The Residential School system for the original population of Canada was another infamous example of corroboration between colonialism and proselytism. Empire expansion is as old as human race, from Mongolian Empire to British Empire. However, Matthew 28 gave an added sense of God given rights to the basically theft of other people’s land. Granted, missionaries brought benefits as education and western medicine. But even those good deeds were used as the tools of propaganda. On the other hand, Japan and Thailand, both had prohibited Christian missionaries during the time of European expansion. Consequently those countries were never colonized. They adopted Western science and technology on their own volition to suit their needs and kept the religious heritage intact.

In short, the missionary venture legitimised the incorrect interpretation of the word ‘evangelism.’ “Evangelism” comes from the Greek word, “evangelion.” Actually, it means “to convey good news.” It never meant “converting pagans into Christian faith.” The missionary movement of the western churches was an invention of the Roman Empire, not of the Bible. Therefore, other non-Western Churches did not have a missionary movement. Orthodox Churches of the Eastern Europe, Greece, Middle East, North Africa, and Russia have never sent out missionaries to win converts; likewise neither did non-conformist groups like Mennonites and Quakers.

As for the Gospel according to Matthew, you have to take into count its particularity to understand the reasons behind 28:19. Matthew was written in Antioch, present day South Eastern Turkey, during the Second Century by a Greek speaking Jewish Christian. Greek language of the Gospel of Matthew is in such a refined quality that only a Greek mother tongue person could write it; not the disciple Matthew from Galilee who had no Greek. In comparison, the writer of the Mark’s Gospel uses only elementary Greek indicating he was not a person of Greek mother tongue.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke, called Synoptic Gospels, represented three distinct groups in the early church. Two of them retained Judaism: one group spoke Hebrew and remained mainly around Jerusalem; while the other was made up of diaspora Jews who spoke Greek as mother tongue and lived outside of Palestine. Both were a reform movement of Judaism. The group based in Jerusalem disappeared when the Roman army totally destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The second group lived mainly in Asia Minor (Turkey) and continued to exist. Those two groups believed that Jesus never abandoned Judaism. So they continued to practise Hebrew religious customs. Meanwhile, Luke was speaking to the third group who were made up of some Greek speaking Jews with an increasingly large number of Gentiles. They accepted Christ as a founder of a new inclusive religion. They did not observed Hebrew practices such as circumcision and Kosher foods.

The most important issue that separated them was the question of “how much should Christians retain Jewishness?” The group Matthew was addressing itself to believed that the message was Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law and Prophets. For Matthew, Jews were Christ’s target group. So he recorded Christ’s words like “I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel” (15:24) And “Go nowhere among the Gentiles.” (10:5) In contrast, Luke believed that Jesus Christ founded a new religion for all nationalities: the Law of Moses had completed their assignments hence not to be imposed on non-Jewish converts.

The challenge was, even among the group Matthew was addressing himself to, there were increasingly large number of non-Jews joining up. The Church grew very fast in number without conscious effort to expand. This happened despite the difficulty to engage in open observance of Christian faith: because it was often illegal. But people willingly joined often secretly. Sociologist Rodney Starke attributes such attractions as the women’s enhanced positions in the Church, caring nature of the community to the orphans, the poor, the widows and the sick. The church was a very attractive alternative to the old religions and the oppressive political system.

What do you do with those gentiles who were attracted to the group of Jewish Christians? That was the challenge Matthew had to address. Kick them out? Making them Jewish by circumcision and Kosher food? Matthew 28: 19 was written in order that Christian Jews would welcome the Gentiles as brothers and sisters. The only condition was baptism, which interestingly was an initiation ritual of one Jewish sect, “Essene.” Nevertheless, it was an appeal for inclusion. Unfortunately it was used by the Roman authorities to justify imperialistic aggression. We do believe in evangelism as a good news but not as a tool for aggrandisement of the Christian Church. .

Progress or Suicide?

ARE WE HEADING FOR A WRONG DIRECTION?

“China, a land of famine” used to be a common characterization of the now prosperous country. Korea too used to conjure up an image of hunger and poverty. In fact, a biggest non-governmental international charity, “World Vision” began to help Korea in the 1950’s. Japan was not too much behind on poverty index. Now, some Americans want to build trade barriers against their cars, clothes, and electric gizmo. There are people keen to stop Asian money spiking up the price of real estate beyond the afford-ability of ordinary Canadians. Where are those former recipients of charity today? They are economic success stories.

Now China and India are top green house gas producers kicking off the U.S. to No.2 status and the European Union to No.3. Should they celebrate the biggest polluter status like a badge of honour? They are the successful story of free market system and industrialization. In fact during the 1950′ s, a teacher in social studies at my middle school in Japan suggested that the degree of success in advancement of civilization could be measured by the amount of water consumption and the volume of trashed garbage. The bigger the better: he said seriously. Japan, Korea, and China were the first success stories of the development model advocated by the Western countries since the end of the Second World War. Foreign aid worked for Asia like “Marshall Plan” did for Western Europe.

Science and technology; exploitation of natural resource, production and consumption; competition and free un-tethered market: those are some of the buzz words to be successful economy. They were encouraged to follow the Western model of development and succeeded. Asians have proven themselves to be good in the imitation game. But now some Americans hate it because they see Asians succeeding in what they had been encouraged to emulate. Ironical, isn’t it? What is scary is: what’s going to happen if and when Africans catch up with the rest of the world. The day is coming fast. That’s why China is furiously investing in Africa as their future market.

More scary is the fact that very few people are questioning the direction of the development model. I am not rejecting progress. I am not a romantic advocate of the paternalistic and racist notion of “noble savages.” But I think we have to slow down to survive: sustainable development.

You don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree.

Sadly I sense that civility in our day-to-day conversations is diminishing recently. Is politeness no longer important? The hallmark of democracy, I believe, is to agree to disagree without being unpleasant. Dictators, tyrannical kings, and self-righteous religious leaders, all tend to be thin-skinned egomaniacs, persecuted and even killed those who disagreed with them. Those days are supposed to be over in democracy like ours. So why insult someone who doesn’t agree with you.

It is not only unpleasant to hear gratuitously disrespectful words but also it is an ineffective way to communicate if you want to influence others. If hurtful words are thrown at me, I get annoyed and will stop listening. Are you trying to persuade oppositions into your way of thinking, or do you just want to insult them? When insulted, the opponent only gets angry and thinks of a way to get back at you. It is a waste of time to engage in a debate where the participants are determined to tow the party line or are not ready to change mind.

When I was teaching at an university in Southern Africa, I doubled as Dean of Students for a while. I often had to be involved in the court cases when students appeared. One student stabbed a man in a fight causing a none-life threatening injury. The village chief who normally acts as the magistrate, gave him six lashes. On another occasion, a student verbally insulted a female server at the cafeteria. The offender was sentenced to prison for several months missing exams. In Basotho culture, they believe that a mere physical injury can heal but words can destroy a person profoundly therefore more serious offence.

I am not advocating respectful language just to show-off our civility. I believe a society functions better when people demonstrate respect to each other despite the difference in opinion. I prefer to live in a society where respect for each other is the norm.

Middle Class Left – Traitor to the class

Dilemma of Middle Class

When Donald Trump was elected President, I felt lost, was puzzled and upset. Megalomaniacs are always around. There have been some who caused terrible devastations and deaths, like Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo. But I thought history gave us good lessons not to repeat it. “Those who can not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)

What scares me is not so much the President-elect but it is the fact that so many people voted for him. I am sure there are such people in Canada too. I wonder if we are too conceited to think we have right answers but only failed in communication. Maybe we don’t have answers and don’t want to acknowledge our blindness.

When Ronald Reagan was elected President, I was staying with a friend of mine who was teaching at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. We were appalled by the prospect of the former actor’s presidency. My friend said, “the trouble of self-appointed intellectuals like us is we don’t know the language of people who are edged out of the mainstream society and are angry.”

Once I lived in Cabbage Town in Toronto. I took a street car to downtown. The tram runs between Cabbage Town and Regent Park. The former is a ghetto of the smug middle class living with gentrified early 20th Century brick houses: the latter is the first urban renewal housing project, a.k.a.”’slum.” Occasionally, I had to go to work early, like 6 a.m. Fellow passengers were mainly construction workers, cleaning ladies, and new immigrants. They read the Toronto Sun, a right-wing tabloid featuring crime, sex, and sports. At 8:30 a.m., my usual time, commuters were business people and professionals. They read the Globe and Mails or the New York Times.

The liberal/progressive camp occupied by the middle class has a problem. A friend of mine said, “the problem of the middle class left is: They are traitors to their class.” They claim they work for the cause of the poor but hopefully without sacrificing their comfortable life-style. We must stop talking disdainfully of the people who supported Donald Trump. We should try to understand their hopes and aspirations with respect agreeing to disagree. They must have good reasons to be angry. Come to think of it, back in the day, I was also against Sales Tax and Free Trade proposed by Conservatives.

Dilemma of Middle Class

Dilemma of Middle Class

When Donald Trump was elected President, I felt lost, was puzzled and upset. Megalomaniacs are always around. There have been some who caused terrible devastations and deaths, like Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo. But I thought history gave us good lessons not to repeat it. “Those who can not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)

What scares me is not so much the President-elect but it is the fact that so many people voted for him. I am sure there are such people in Canada too. I wonder if we are too conceited to think we have right answers but only failed in communication. Maybe we don’t have answers and don’t want to acknowledge our blindness.

When Ronald Reagan was elected President, I was staying with a friend of mine who was teaching at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. We were appalled by the prospect of the former actor’s presidency. My friend said, “the trouble of self-appointed intellectuals like us is we don’t know the language of people who are edged out of the mainstream society and are angry.”

Once I lived in Cabbage Town in Toronto. I took a street car to downtown. The tram runs between Cabbage Town and Regent Park. The former is a ghetto of the smug middle class living with gentrified early 20th Century brick houses: the latter is the first urban renewal housing project, a.k.a.”’slum.” Occasionally, I had to go to work early, like 6 a.m. Fellow passengers were mainly construction workers, cleaning ladies, and new immigrants. They read the Toronto Sun, a right-wing tabloid featuring crime, sex, and sports. At 8:30 a.m., my usual time, commuters were business people and professionals. They read the Globe and Mails or the New York Times.

The liberal/progressive camp occupied by the middle class has a problem. A friend of mine said, “the problem of the middle class left is: They are traitors to their class.” They claim they work for the cause of the poor but hopefully without sacrificing their comfortable life-style. We must stop talking disdainfully of the people who supported Donald Trump. We should try to understand their hopes and aspirations with respect agreeing to disagree. They must have good reasons to be angry. Come to think of it, back in the day, I was also against Sales Tax and Free Trade proposed by Conservatives.

In search of good government

First ISAIAH – Chapters 1 – 39
In search of the good government

As you begin to read the Book of Isaiah, you can feel trapped in doom and gloom. You must understand that Isaiah was angry and afraid of the future of his nation of Hebrews. He condemned not only his own country but also many of the surrounding ones. He was fed up. It is rumoured that because of harshness of his criticism, he angered the king and was executed. You have to read it patiently to see beyond the angry rhetoric. You will find here and there his yearning for an ideal ruler – a good government. His dream is so alive that it looks like he was seeing a figure of Christ. This is why Isaiah became known as the prophecy of Jesus the Christ. “Christ” is a Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” meaning “anointed one”.

Isaiah condemns nations in many parts, (Chapters 1,2,3,13,15,17,18, 19, 22 – 39.) Isaiah criticised them for their bad governments (kings), corruption, and immorality. He predicts destruction and suffering as the consequence. He condemns not only Hebrew states but all nations in the Middle East. (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 22 – 39.) God is also non-discriminatory in choosing his agent. For example, he chose non-Hebrew Persian and Assyrian kings to be the messiahs. (chapter 10). I don’t think Isaiah intended to predict appearance of a person like Jesus. He just wished there was a government (or king) which was faire, just, merciful, and wise.

The book of Isaiah is an influential book in Christian faith. Frederic Handle wrote the beloved oratorio “Messiah” often quoting verses from the book of Isaiah to characterize Jesus the Messiah. In the entertainment world also, the recent Walt Disney cartoon movie, “Zootopia” is inspired by an ideal world (11: 2-9 & 65: 25) where preyed and predators live together without being harmed. The first sermon Jesus gave when he began his ministry at a synagogue in Galilee was a quotation from Isaiah. (Luke 4: 16 – 19) Isaiah greatly influenced Christian idea of social justice too.

The question is: Is Isaiah predicting what the life of Jesus would be like? Was Isaiah describing a man yet to come eight hundred years later? Or did Jesus tried to emulate his life according to the image dreamt by Isaiah? Or did the Church altered, or fabricated some parts of the oral tradition about the life of Jesus to fit Isaiah’s prophecy? In my way of thinking, it really does not matter. Faith does not necessarily have to be based on historical facts. Spiritual truths can be expressed in different literal forms; fictions, history, or poetry. “What is it trying to tell us?” is the question we should be asking. I think that debating facts or fiction of the Biblical passages is a meaningless exercise in our spiritual life. Faith is a conviction of things not seen nor known. (Hebrew 11:1)

For example, in search of a good government, Jesus was made to be a descendant of King David in order to qualify him as the ideal king; “the King of kings” – the best government. Matthew made Bethlehem as his birth place. The city was known as the city of David, his birth place. (Chapter 9) The difficulty of this notion is that if Jesus was a result of immaculate conception (virgin birth), he was not the son of Joseph therefore not the descendant of King David. Isaiah traced David back to Jesse as his ancestor. (11:1) Matthew traced Joseph’s ancestry to David. Mary the mother of Jesus was not an offspring of David. So, Matthew’s argument is a bit of a stretch. It isn’t history. Matthew tried to build up Jesus’s image of the Messiah by manipulating some facts. But we get the idea. The life of Jesus was the model of the best king (government).

A prophet in the Bible is not a fortune teller. He/she does foretell the future sometimes but that is only one aspect of his multiple mission. Like Moses, a prophet conveys the word of God: in other words, he/she was a preacher. Like Miriam, she celebrates the miraculous God’s action after crossing it on a dry sea floor with dance and music by the Red Sea: a worship leader. Like Samuel, he anoints kings, advises and often scolds kings like Nathan. He declares justice on the street like Amos. The prophetic function is one of today’s preachers’ dual mission, proclamation and teaching. A prophet is a messenger of God.

The Book of Isaiah was not written by one person Isaiah. It probably began as the document recording the original words of Prophet Isaiah of the 8th Century B.C. It looks like his autobiography in many parts, particularly in chapter 6. But other prophets added their writings. It is a compilation of many prophetic works written in three centuries. In ancient days, it was not unusual for people who admired a particular writer to add their own writings to the original text. You realize that before printing press was invented in the 16 Century, all documents were hand-copied onto a piece of parchment or of skin or chiselled on a piece of flat stone. Copiers added, edited, and omitted freely as there was no copy-right laws. The book of Isaiah is the work of many people who agreed and admired the original prophet. Imagine editing Jane Austen!

Scholars agree that it contains the writings of at least three major prophets. The first is Chapters 1 – 39 written by the original Isaiah written just before the defeat of kingdoms of Israel and Judah by the Babylonian empire – the eighth century B.C. The second is the chapters 40 – 55 written by a nameless prophet in Babylon (the present day Iraq) just before the liberation of the Jews from captivity in the seventh century B.C. And the third is the chapters 56 – 66 by yet another nameless person after the return of the Hebrews to Palestine, in the sixth century B.C..

The prophets in the Bible speak about three dimensions of life: the relationships with God, with people, and with the world. In today’s preaching, the first two are major common themes; first about the nature of God; secondly about personal moral ethics. But rarely do we hear the third dimension; politics, foreign relations, history, and society.

Today, politics is often off limit in religion. On the contrary in the prophetic tradition, as you can clearly see in Isaiah, politics and society are dominant themes. He spoke prominently about morality of kings (politicians and governments) and foreign relations. He spoke about historical events as the consequences of political actions and God’s responses. In fact, politics and history are the major themes of the first Isaiah: 1 – 39. Let me pick a few salient points the first Isaiah raises:

– God hates empty words and showy rituals – worship service. Building, clothes, and ornaments mean nothing to God. They are like wine left to become sour and waterily. (1:12)

– God’s rule is peaceful and just. Beat swords into ploughshares. (2:4)

– A young woman will bear a child, who will be a wise counsellor and Prince of Peace. (7:10) The word “young woman” was changed into a Greek word “virgin” when the Catholic Church translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek. It followed the traditions of other religions which often made the birth of their gods the result of immaculate conception.

– The poor will be protected and widows and orphans will be treated justly. (10)

– A non-believing foreign king, Syrian, can be an instrument of God. (10:5)

– The vision of the world under God’s rule. A David’s descendants will produce a new king who will rule with wisdom and treat the poor fairly and defend the rights of the helpless. Wolves and sheep will live in peace. (11: 2 – 9)

What is Christmas in a Multicultural Society?

MERRY CHRISTMAS OR HAPPY HOLIDAY

This year, we will go to Toronto and cook Christmas dinner for our extended family: our turn. Diners around the table will be more Jewish than Christian. No matter, everyone loves turkey dinner. It’s our family tradition. Except one time, my son-in-law had to go out to buy sundries to make sure all cousins, Christian and Jewish kids, get to open presents. Nobody care how we greet each other. We are family and enjoy each other’s company with good food. Isn’t that this is all about? Celebrating togetherness though we may live and believe differently.

Ostensibly, many Christmas customs come from pagan traditions anyway. So, strict Calvinists banned Christmas celebration at one time. For example, Christmas tree: Prince Albert introduced the German pagan tradition to enjoy colour and scent of evergreen trees. December 25 was a pre-Christian Roman winter holiday. A fat jolly bearded man in red costume is an invention of Coca Cola company. Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on January 6; Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Epiphany rather than Christmas; in England once a friend roasted a traditional goose for us. In Switzerland, we used to get together with friends on December 6 for an evening of conversation over spicy mulled red wine, oranges and walnuts.

In Japan, Christmas in the cities is an evening of serious drinking. At their favourite watering holes, they raise the glasses and shout, “Merry Christmas.” Most of them are not Christians. My father who was a United Church minister in Tokyo scandalized a barber cutting his hair when he said he was busy for Christmas preparation. “You? Christmas?” He thought my father was a sober clergyman. In Japan, Christians celebrate Christmas only at the church, not with family. It is because Christians are less than 1% of the population and most of them are only Christians at home. Christmas at the church is a special worship service, sometimes with meal afterwards. No turkey: when I ate turkey first time at an American missionary’s home, I though it was bland and tasteless. Gift-giving is not the custom. Inebriated husbands buy cakes to take home for the family; peace offering perhaps.

If you really want to bring Christ back into Christmas, in stead of wondering how you should greet, you should , “Feed the hungry, give a cup of water to the thirsty, and love your neighbour:” as Jesus said.

PEOPLE MUST BUILD THEIR OWN DEMOCRACY

Syria is a mess, so are many Middle Eastern and North African countries. The West including Russia, by their intervention, have to take much of responsibility for this mess.

I do believe in democracy. But it is a messy system. It requires informed citizens and their ability to live with difference. Founder of the Fifth French Republic, General de Gaul said, “How can you conceive of one party system in a country that has over 200 varieties of cheese!” It has taken centuries since Enlightenment for the West to achieve today’s democracy: it has taken millennia since the ancient democratic Athens. Building a democracy takes time. We can not expect it to be successful in a few years.

Even the United States, the most advanced democracy somehow managed to produce Donald Trump; Russian revolution begun by liberal democratic groups was quickly taken over by Bolshevik dictatorship in 1905; Germany. Italy, and Japan democratically elected fascist dictatorships during 1930’s. History is full of failed democracies. Democracy is still work-in-progress; often causing much suffering like the current Middle East.

The mistake the West keeps making is; we assume we can build a democracy for other people: “Just get rid of dictatorship and unleash people power.” It’s not that simple. Once stability is lost, the chaos ensues. Then it is very difficult to bring back order. Chaos produces bloody conflict. This is why China is trying to maintain order and stability at any price; even indulging North Korea. I don’t condone it, but I understand it. I am also critical of the West’s hubris which makes us think that outsiders can create a “people first” political system for them. That’s a delusion.

Democracy can not be imposed. It has to come from people who would build it in their own way and in their own time. The Western allies are proud of the Second World War’s success in creating democracy in Germany and Japan. You have to remember, however, that both countries had thriving democracies during the 1920’s. They were destroyed by right-wing nationalists. Democracy requires people to be informed and have ability to live respectfully with oppositions. It takes time .

It is frustrating to watch people struggle and suffer while working toward democratic society. But intervention from outside rarely help them. Often foreigners make the situation worse.