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Should majorities also have a say?
November 4, 2002 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Should majorities also have a say? Why doesn't Russia get to vote on Chechen independence? Why can't Britain vote on expelling Northern Ireland ... or the English on Scottish devolution? Should minorities be allowed to hold a gun to the heads of the majority?
posted by bonaldi (35 comments total)

 
Well, that pretty much abdicates all authority to Chinese, I guess....
posted by namespan at 6:39 PM on November 4, 2002


I propose a vote: Everybody in my neighborhood will vote on whether or not Mike from up the street has to wash our cars once a weel. I feel the majority should be given the chance to exercise it's democratic rights for a change.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:41 PM on November 4, 2002


We elect our leaders to act on our behalf if a leader thinks he has popular support to cede part of the country he could run for office and win.
posted by stbalbach at 6:57 PM on November 4, 2002


vote your conscience. Or something better.
posted by Postroad at 7:00 PM on November 4, 2002


The chinese do not make up a majority of the world's population.

Another thing to bitch about, the US relations with Cuba. Why should US citizens be restricted from going to cuba... even facing jail time to apease a vocal minority in a single state?
posted by delmoi at 7:30 PM on November 4, 2002


SpaceCoyote: once per week, or once per wheel?

Much better Quod Erat Demonstrandum* than mine, though.

And I'm not one to talk. I meant to say "the Chinese." Talking of which...

The chinese do not make up a majority of the world's population.

True... but if states were blocs, they would be largest, right? And if you want, for effect, we could throw in India and maybe the rest of Southest Asia....


*Just doing my part to live up to a new metafilter mandate or two
posted by namespan at 8:03 PM on November 4, 2002


Week, obviously :P After that we're going to exercise our democratic rights on the slightly smaller, poorer neighborhood across town and use their park as a cemetary.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:11 PM on November 4, 2002


No agglomeration of nations, especially a centralising unitary state like the UK (and, I guess, Spain) has the right to forcibly maintain the Union after the consent of the constituent peoples has gone. The British (read: English, predominantly) acquired Ireland by brutality unparalleled in its history: why should the Irish await the permission of their conquerors to be self-determined in their national interests?
posted by dash_slot- at 8:20 PM on November 4, 2002


The article puts up ridiculous strawmen. Where's the movement for an independant Yorkshire?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:23 PM on November 4, 2002


dash, are there any mainstream politicians or parties in England who call for the independence of Northern Ireland?....(i'm really curious-my friends there used to say that i would be in the "wine and cheese" party (social dems? liberal dems?) so i hope they would...)
posted by amberglow at 8:28 PM on November 4, 2002


If it's any consolation, tomorrow all Los Angelinos get to vote on whether Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley get to be their own cities, abdicating from the La Ciudad de los Angeles. But then, you don't find valley punk skaters taking Mann Chinese Theatre (or whatever it's called now) by storm...
posted by kfury at 9:05 PM on November 4, 2002


Well, hardly anyone (excepting embattled , so-called 'Unionists' in times of crisis) feels that The Six Counties*/Northern Ireland/Ulster* would be viable as an Independent state. The s-c Unionists in the meantime, wish to remain in the UK [of GB & NI], but are on a losing streak, longterm, as the Catholics make more babies ('twas ever thus).

Personally, I say if they wish to remain British, then come to the mainland (most Brits would eat donkey vomit rather than live next door to one of the bigots that constitute an Ulster Unionist); otherwise, the time has come to recognise the historic wrongs which occurred in the name of the Crown (as recently as 1972, in the case of Bloody Sunday; or, 1989, when solicitor Pat Finucane was shot dead by loyalist terrorists who had links with British Security Services/Forces)

*The original Ulster, 1 of the 4 provinces of a singular Ireland of 32 counties, contained 9 counties. It has become almost synonymous for the British statelet of N.I., tho' the Republic has in fact 3 counties 'of Ulster' in its territory. The Six Counties refers to the 6 of 9 which the British retained when they partitioned the Island in 1922.

As for the Libdems - they have a radical past, and occasionally make a stir with calls like the legalisation of heroin (the Youth Wing likes to make a splash) or voting age = 16; but they get slapped down in short order. The majority of the party is vair, vair naice people from the Home Counties who see the Tories for the unreconstructed bigots they truly are, but couldnt bring themselves to vote for Labour ( even with that naice Mr Blair for PM).

Haing said that, my mate Andy ( a radical fairy, who organised Summer Balls here in Oxford, helped found our Gay Centre, and thought he'd make a great Dictator...) worked for our local LibDem mP, Dr. Evan Harris - who kicked out a Tory Cabinet sleazeball minister in 1997.. and I once campaigned for their forerunners, the Liberal Party. Theyre not too bad ( I vote Green these days...)
posted by dash_slot- at 9:21 PM on November 4, 2002


holding a gun to the head of the english? theres a nice change.
try not invading anywhere for a little while and then you wont have to bother about nippy wee things like devolution,oil, and where to put your nukes.
the sooner the scots are entirely independent of the uk the better, so we can focus on constructing a time machine to travel back to 1966 to assassinate geoff hurst.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:53 PM on November 4, 2002


oh and celtic to beat blackburn in the return leg.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:54 PM on November 4, 2002


why should the Irish await the permission of their conquerors to be self-determined in their national interests?

The Irish did choose at one point to join the UK. The Act of Union of 1800, they dissolved their Irish parliament, and became one with the rest of the Kingdom, based on the promise of Catholic emancipation. (Though they were double crossed on, and not until O'Connell ran for Parliament, did Parliament emancipate the Catholics) Is this no longer relevant? I could very well be wrong, as I am no expert on the intricacies of the English-Irish balance, but I would think this would be a legal obstacle...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:48 AM on November 5, 2002


amberglow - as I recall the Labour Party is historically committed to a united Ireland 'by consent'. (The 'by consent' is important because of the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland; however, due to demographic factors, it's quite likely that the Unionists will lose their majority in the North at some point in the future. Even so, in practice it's likely that a future Labour government would look to accommodate both communities in the North).

The SDLP in Northern Ireland is the party of moderate nationalists (i.e. the party of peaceful unification of the island). The SDLP is a sister party of the mainland's Labour Party by virtue of both parties belonging to the Socialist International.
posted by plep at 12:57 AM on November 5, 2002


dash_slot - the Irish Republic is already an independent country. Northern Ireland remains part of the UK, though, and Northern Ireland has a slight Unionist (pro-British) majority. The 'independent Northern Ireland' line was actually one more likely to be taken by the more extreme Protestants, in order to maintain their superiority free of outside influence (rather similar to the argument for 'states' rights' in the American South as a way of justifying segregation).

It's also no coincidence that the electoral rise of Sinn Fein coincides with refocusing away from issues such as nationalism and more on bread-and-butter/civil rights issues, such as education and policing. The economic success of the Republic as a model - which is partly due to membership of the European Union - also has a role in this.

The future of Northern Ireland very much depends on finding common ground between both communities in Northern Ireland, as well as the people of the Republic, and finding a solution reasonable people on both sides can live with. This might mean changing the focus from the theoretical issue of national identity and concentrating on the practical issues of living together and decent living standards for all.
posted by plep at 1:07 AM on November 5, 2002


More on Northern Ireland from all sides at CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet), University of Ulster.
posted by plep at 2:25 AM on November 5, 2002


"The Irish did choose at one point to join the UK. The Act of Union of 1800, they dissolved their Irish parliament"

Steve_at_Linwood, to say this is just a bit of an oversimplification: The "irish" who "chose" to disolve the irish parliament were all protestant landowners, the vast majority of the irish population at the time were catholic, and they did not receive the right to sit in the westminster parliament until 1829. This wasn't the only barrier in the irish participating in their own affairs: A succession of english acts passed from 1691 to 1775 known as the Penal Laws prevented Catholics from contributing in practically every facet of public life, thus preventing the majority of the irish population in participating in this act in any way. Furthermore, the corruption that surrounded the passing of this act has been well documented, with recent documents discovered showing the extent to which illegal funds were used to ensure the passing of the act. So basically, the "Irish" at the time were a tad disenfranchised, and to say they chose to dissolve their own parliament of their own free will just rubs me up the wrong way. You are correct to say though that the Act of Union still has a strong impact on legal issues today.
posted by kev23f at 2:29 AM on November 5, 2002


never mind devolution, lets try this again!
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:57 AM on November 5, 2002


Um, I don't know how to put this, but, uh, California, we've all voted and um, you're out of the club, yeah its back to the Republic of California for you. Its been nice, don't be a stranger.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:11 AM on November 5, 2002


Space Coyote: Funny, but better, I think, is:

The whole street gets to vote on whether or not Mike gets to come round their homes and steal their stuff whenever he likes.

The point of the article is that minorities such as Northern Ireland are continually allowed to be a drain on the resources of a majority that has very little say over that fact. To tie the analogies together, it's as if *Mike* gets to vote on whether or not he's allowed to take your stuff ... and his vote is binding, you don't get a say.

It's about a majority having some sort of self-determination, not about it using its power to abuse others -- or make them wash its cars.
posted by bonaldi at 6:43 AM on November 5, 2002


Kev: I didn't mean to rub anyone the wrong way, I know of the Penal Laws, I was just lead to belive that the people who voted for the Act of Union, though they were protestant landowners, did it based on the idea that they the Catholics would then be emancipated. Like I said, I am not expert in this area. I guess I was just wondering how the act was relevant to curent times....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:52 AM on November 5, 2002


Sorry but I don't really understand what is the point the author of the article is trying to make. Is he postulating that Britain should abandon its deeply democratic approach to dealing with the fact that different nations coexist within the same state in favour of the bloody Russian, Indian or Turkish military approach or the denial practised by the Spanish of French Governments?

As a Catalan I have, certainly, more than a passing interest in this subject and after living in the UK for the past few years I can only admire (and envy) the truly civilised and respectful general British attitude to the plurinational nature of the UK. The potential risk of disintegration that the author sees in the Devolution process has to be balanced against the new "voluntary" character that belonging to the UK seems to acquire as a result of that process, as it's always easier to be comfortable with something that you don't feel it's being imposed upon you.

It's very easy to mock Switzerland as a boring country with an almost tribal approach to democracy but let's not forget that in Switzerland three nations, four languages and two religions have coexisted for the last 500 years without major confrontations. Frankly a boring system with ludicrous monthly low-turnover referenda where nothing actually seems to happen and where no majority tries to impose it's views or ways on the minorities looks to me preferable to the "exciting" way the French majority has discriminated other nations in the French republic for centuries or the bloodshed and national and linguistic repression prevalent through much of Spain's history.
posted by blogenstock at 6:57 AM on November 5, 2002


Should minorities be allowed to hold a gun to the heads of the majority?

Dick Cheney loves this kind of stuff.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 7:12 AM on November 5, 2002


to be honest steve, i wasn't really rubbed up the wrong way, just overly cranky. You're right in saying that it'd be more interesting to look at the impact the act is still having today, but i was just too lazy to look it up properly. I still can't find anything much except this which just shows how complicated the whole issue is. Apologies to everyone else who has no interest whatsoever in irish history, back to the thread...
posted by kev23f at 7:33 AM on November 5, 2002


---
The point of the article is that minorities such as Northern Ireland are continually allowed to be a drain on the resources of a majority that has very little say over that fact.
---

Actually, I thought the point of the article was to argue against minority referendums - and even referendums in general - with a heavy slant in favour of retaining central control and avoiding disintregration within the UK.

Oh, and the poor are a continual drain of resources too. Perhaps we should have a UK-wide referendum on a motion to expel them?
posted by digiboy at 8:00 AM on November 5, 2002


Bonaldi I'm lost here:


You say that "The point of the article is that minorities such as Northern Ireland are continually allowed to be a drain on the resources of a majority that has very little say over that fact".

But the article's author seems to be more concerned about the fact that people in NI can vote to leave the UK and a UK majority wouldn't be able to stop them, which prompts him to say that "Majorities have rights, too. They want their country kept whole, for fear of wholesale disintegration". So in his view it's more like the majorities are willing to waste those resources in the name of territorial integrity but are not allowed to.

As far as I know, a significant part of Northern Ireland voters would prefer to stop being a drain on the UK's majority resources by leaving the UK altogether but the UK preferred to sacrifice money and human lives to keep NI firmly inside the Union. The realisation of the enormity of the cost of that kind of "unity" is one of the reasons why the UK government is pushing for an agreement between both communities. But then may be you're referring to the Unionist community (a majority in NI but a minority in the UK) as the "minority" draining resources...which I'm not sure is a point of view the majority in the UK would share.

I'm sure that the Chechens, Kurds, Tamil, Corsicans (to name but a few) would be very happy to stop being a "drain" of resources for the majority that insist on keeping them inside a state against their will but also I have little doubt that the majorities exerting their power to avoid all those nations becoming independent states perceive that "drain" as a smaller loss compared to the economic or strategic implications of losing control of a part of their territory.
posted by blogenstock at 8:35 AM on November 5, 2002


The problem with the arguements basis is that it sees a country/nation as one unit which has a will and interest. This is patently an enlightenment fabrication, which needs to be taken outside and shot.

A political entity, such as a country should only exist because the people who make it up want it to. Terefore, if Chechnya, Scotland, Cornwall, Catalonia or the Basque country want to be independent of the control of others, why should they not have the freedom to do that? Anything else is dictatorship.

As interesting is the position of somewhere like Gibraltar that wants to stay part of Britain, but the Government don't want them. Who should decide?
posted by lerrup at 9:24 AM on November 5, 2002


... which brings us to the plight of the Chagossians ...
posted by plep at 9:42 AM on November 5, 2002


dash_slot - the Irish Republic is already an independent country. Northern Ireland remains part of the UK, though, and Northern Ireland has a slight Unionist (pro-British) majority. The 'independent Northern Ireland' line was actually one more likely to be taken by the more extreme Protestants, in order to maintain their superiority free of outside influence (rather similar to the argument for 'states' rights' in the American South as a way of justifying segregation). - plep.

Well, thanks for the lesson: why did you think you needed to address that to me? If you read this again, you will see I have a clear understanding of the relationship between Eire & the UK. Not surprising, really, as both my parents, all my uncles & aunts and most of my cousins were born in the Republic, whilst I was born in Oxford.

Where are you from: if I had your email address, I would have saved others from this reply.
posted by dash_slot- at 10:25 AM on November 5, 2002


Um, I don't know how to put this, but, uh, California, we've all voted and um, you're out of the club, yeah its back to the Republic of California for you. Its been nice, don't be a stranger.

Pro: Legalised cannabis.
Con: Not actually being allowed to smoke it within a five mile radius of another human being.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:31 AM on November 5, 2002


Blogenstock: cripes, didn't I read that article incorrectly (it was in the early am, right enough). I thought that the author was saying that majorities should also have a say in their future, that Britain should be able to vote on whether or not to continue having NI part of it, and so on.

But of course, that rams head-on into digiboy's expose of the gaping hole -- how do you prevent said majorities from getting rid of everything they don't like, whether or not it affects the subject. Perhaps the real reason we can't ever let majorities vote is that we're all too damn selfish to 'waste' our nation's time and effort on complex solutions to complex problems, and - in this example - would happily leave the protestant population of NI to their fate. That can't be right.

Ah well, it made me think, anyway...
posted by bonaldi at 10:37 AM on November 5, 2002


The only useful website about the realities of Northern Ireland ever. Totally unbiased with an equal hate for all sides: The Portadown News.
posted by Damienmce at 2:49 PM on November 5, 2002


Damn, plep, you had me going there. I went to the link and still couldn't figure out what or where the Chagos Islands were. Then I checked my Geographical Dictionary and discovered the main island is Diego Garcia! Trust me, they're never giving that up.
posted by languagehat at 5:58 PM on November 5, 2002


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