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Editorials and Opinions

Libya and England divided by protest seperated in response

By Hattie Gawande
Published: April 2011
At first glance—and even second, third, and fourth glance—England and Libya are polar opposites in terms of political situation.
England is a democratic country—the people have a role in the government and the separation of powers within the government prevents the absolute power of any ruler, much like here in the U.S.
People are allowed to speak against the government without consequence and they employ this right frequently.
Conversely, Libya is ruled by mentally unstable, violent Arab supremacist Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. He bombs his citizens for protesting his rule. According to the Freedom of the Press Index, Libya is the most censored country in the Middle East and North Africa.
On the surface, England and Libya have nothing in common.  Let’s take a closer look, however.
At the end of last month, massive protests occurred in England over public spending cuts that will limit welfare benefits for citizens, raise the retirement age to sixty-six, and slash 490,000 jobs.
Over 250,000 demonstrators marched through London protesting the cuts.
Unfortunately, things quickly turned violent. Flares, fireworks, and petrol and paint bombs were thrown, banks broken into, fires started, stores trashed, and police attacked. Protesters as well as five police officers were injured in the anarchy.
In Libya, Colonel Gaddafi has ruled with an iron fist since 1969. 10 to 20 percent of Libyans are under surveillance to monitor for rebellion. Public executions of dissidents are broadcasted on state television. Uprising has been rare until recently.
Recent protests against Gaddafi’s autocratic rule have provoked a shockingly violent reaction from the government.
Gaddafi has declared all-out war on his citizens, and the death toll has already surpassed 1,000. Threats from the western world have done nothing to deter him.
There is a disturbing similarity between these two situations,
In Libya, people are protesting an autocratic ruler who denies them their natural rights.
In England they’re protesting autocratic measures that they feel are being put in place against their rights (it’s ironically reminiscent of the idea that started the American Revolution—taxation without representation).
This begs the question: how could such similar circumstances occur in both a democracy and a dictatorship?
To answer that, we must look at the differences between the two situations rather than the similarities.
The same problems will always occur in both abusive governments and just ones—there will always be a question of how much power a ruler should have over his or her people.
The way that such crises are handled distinguishes democracies from autocracies.
First of all, in England, the protesters aren’t being condemned for speaking out against the government but rather for the destructive way in which they choose to express their displeasure.
Bob Broadhurst, the London police commander, told Reuters that it was the violence that angered him, as opposed to public sentiment against the government’s handling of the economic crisis. “It’s really just criminality.
They’ve attacked buildings, broken windows, thrown paint at them, and not been afraid to attack police officers trying to protect these buildings,” he said.
In Libya, on the other hand, violence escalated because of the government. Gaddafi’s bloody attempts to completely quash the public uprisings catapulted the country into civil war.
Gaddafi was blatantly indifferent to what his people had to say and was concerned only with his own power, stating that he would rather die a martyr than relinquish authority.
Back in England, the protesters were lent far more credibility. Many blamed banks for the shocking public spending cuts (which is why many were vandalized).
The government, aware of the public hatred for banks, expressed a willingness to levy higher taxes on them and made a previously temporary tax on bank balance sheets permanent, rather than ignore the people (which they had the power to do).
To put it simply, democracies care about their citizens. England isn’t taxing its people to boost their power, or to be cruel, and Libya is massacring its people to maximize the government’s power and to extinguish the free thought of the citizens.
Both Libya and England may be going through a period of public dissatisfaction, but in Libya they are stifling the emotion with death whereas in England they are appeasing it with compromise.

At first glance—and even second, third, and fourth glance—England and Libya are polar opposites in terms of political situation. England is a democratic country—the people have a role in the government and the separation of powers within the government prevents the absolute power of any ruler, much like here in the U.S. People are allowed to speak against the government without consequence and they employ this right frequently. Conversely, Libya is ruled by mentally unstable, violent Arab supremacist Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. He bombs his citizens for protesting his rule. According to the Freedom of the Press Index, Libya is the most censored country in the Middle East and North Africa.On the surface, England and Libya have nothing in common.  Let’s take a closer look, however. At the end of last month, massive protests occurred in England over public spending cuts that will limit welfare benefits for citizens, raise the retirement age to sixty-six, and slash 490,000 jobs. Over 250,000 demonstrators marched through London protesting the cuts.Unfortunately, things quickly turned violent. Flares, fireworks, and petrol and paint bombs were thrown, banks broken into, fires started, stores trashed, and police attacked. Protesters as well as five police officers were injured in the anarchy.In Libya, Colonel Gaddafi has ruled with an iron fist since 1969. 10 to 20 percent of Libyans are under surveillance to monitor for rebellion. Public executions of dissidents are broadcasted on state television. Uprising has been rare until recently.Recent protests against Gaddafi’s autocratic rule have provoked a shockingly violent reaction from the government. Gaddafi has declared all-out war on his citizens, and the death toll has already surpassed 1,000. Threats from the western world have done nothing to deter him.There is a disturbing similarity between these two situations,In Libya, people are protesting an autocratic ruler who denies them their natural rights. In England they’re protesting autocratic measures that they feel are being put in place against their rights (it’s ironically reminiscent of the idea that started the American Revolution—taxation without representation).This begs the question: how could such similar circumstances occur in both a democracy and a dictatorship? To answer that, we must look at the differences between the two situations rather than the similarities. The same problems will always occur in both abusive governments and just ones—there will always be a question of how much power a ruler should have over his or her people. The way that such crises are handled distinguishes democracies from autocracies. First of all, in England, the protesters aren’t being condemned for speaking out against the government but rather for the destructive way in which they choose to express their displeasure. Bob Broadhurst, the London police commander, told Reuters that it was the violence that angered him, as opposed to public sentiment against the government’s handling of the economic crisis. “It’s really just criminality. They’ve attacked buildings, broken windows, thrown paint at them, and not been afraid to attack police officers trying to protect these buildings,” he said. In Libya, on the other hand, violence escalated because of the government. Gaddafi’s bloody attempts to completely quash the public uprisings catapulted the country into civil war. Gaddafi was blatantly indifferent to what his people had to say and was concerned only with his own power, stating that he would rather die a martyr than relinquish authority.Back in England, the protesters were lent far more credibility. Many blamed banks for the shocking public spending cuts (which is why many were vandalized). The government, aware of the public hatred for banks, expressed a willingness to levy higher taxes on them and made a previously temporary tax on bank balance sheets permanent, rather than ignore the people (which they had the power to do).To put it simply, democracies care about their citizens. England isn’t taxing its people to boost their power, or to be cruel, and Libya is massacring its people to maximize the government’s power and to extinguish the free thought of the citizens. Both Libya and England may be going through a period of public dissatisfaction, but in Libya they are stifling the emotion with death whereas in England they are appeasing it with compromise.

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