The Act of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer’s startling documentary The Act of Killing has attracted praise and controversy alike. The Independent’s reviewer called it ‘without question one of the most horrifying films I’ve ever seen.’ The reason is not hard to see. The documentary features real mass murderers re-enacting their crimes for the camera. That The Act of Killing is neither voyeuristic nor sensationalist is a testament to the thoughtfulness that Oppenheimer has brought to the making of this remarkable film. Continue reading

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In Democracy Building the Means are the Ends

A Blow to Democracy in Egypt

One year ago Egyptians were celebrating the end of thirty years of dictatorship and the beginning of a new era of democracy. Now Egypt’s first elected President Muhammad Morsi has been ousted by a combination of street protests and military intervention. This is a mistake. By adopting non-democratic means, Egypt’s opposition parties are unwittingly playing into the hands of those, on all sides, whose pathology makes them incapable of building democracy. Continue reading

Our Age of Unrest

This weekend marks the first anniversary of the election of Mohamed Morsi as President of Egypt. During the first year of Morsi’s rule, Egyptian society has become more divided. After his election victory, instead of seeking to build consensus around a new political order, Morsi sought instead to monopolise power. As a result, this anniversary is being marked by protests instead of celebrations. Continue reading

Empowering Women Reduces Violence

The global struggle for gender equality is not only about justice. Women’s equality is an essential precondition for the reduction of violence and greed in our world.

The debate on women’s rights is about to change radically. Continue reading

Dignity Violators

Donna Hicks is a leading professional in the field of international conflict resolution. During her decades of work trying to reconcile warring parties around the world, she realised that conflict resolution negotiations were often marred by the presence of a powerful emotional undercurrent – a force which could erupt at any moment and destroy the negotiations.  She eventually came to understand that destructive force as being rooted in violations of human dignity. Continue reading

Is Progress Inevitable?

I’m just back from the MatchPoints Seminar on ‘The Culture of Politics, Economics and International Relations’, in Aarhus, Denmark, where I gave a presentation on ‘Culture as Defence against Pathological Elites’. A number of interesting questions came up again and again over the four days of the conference. Is progress inevitable? Are human rights a western invention? Does modernisation have to mean westernisation? Continue reading

Cultural Tyranny

The biggest danger to our rights today is not from government acting against the will of the majority but from government which has become the mere instrument of this majority…. Wrong will be done as much by an all-powerful people as by an all-powerful prince.

James Madison

When psychopaths and people with other dangerous personality disorders hold power, the result is political tyranny. Continue reading