Europe is wrestling with a crisis of confidence, they say, but my concern is that the post-Irish Lisbon referendum rhetoric echoes too closely Russia’s antics of ‘managed democracy.’ Suddenly Ireland is the scapegoat for ruining the dazzling future of Europe when the rest of us didn’t even get to vote. The Irish have had it before: if you vote wrong, they ram it down your throats second time to get it right. This was the previous treaty, Nice, in 2001-02. It seems that Sarkozy’s and his acolytes’ memory is very short and selective (as political memory always is) as nobody seems to link the Irish rejection to the French and Dutch rejection of the Lisbon treaty’s forerunner three years ago. The German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir said after the Irish vote: “We’re sticking firmly to our goal of putting this treaty into effect.” Is there a difference between a refusal to accept a defeat in Europe and Zimbabwe? When did this kind of selective, Machiavellian democracy become the norm and politics-as-usual in every part of the globe?

Besides being disgusted at the political rhetoric and the inflation of democracy everywhere, I’ve been lately being drawn to photos in news and asking the curious feminist questions a la Cynthia Enloe: who is where and why? How did they get there? And what are they doing there? It started with “Females in Front“, an online petition calling for “at least one female appointed as leader of the European Union.” The page shows a photo from Rome in 1957 and another from Lisbon 2007 – you can see yourself that not much has changed. And then, as if to confirm what I’d seen, we were flooded with photos from the G8 Summit and of our glorious global leaders.

In 2008, one woman has made it. And this is no less than the woman who is going to ram the Lisbon Treaty through no matter what the Irish people or other naysayers say or do, while lamenting in her letter to her fellow leaders that global food scarcity represents “a new threat to democracy.” Does democracy apply now only to circumstances related to global unrest and fears of terrorism, or has it become some sort of euphemism for something else?

Last week I saw a great video clip from the G8 meeting which brought the phony vacuous global leadership home so clearly. The G8 leaders were filmed planting some trees and walking to a photo-op. They were telling jokes to one another, patting each other’s backs and flirting with the audience like little boys putting on a show because they were so taken by the sudden attention. After the gleeful boys in suits, the short video clip presented some interviews with smart and articulate young(er) people expressing sharp and thoughtful criticism of the global leaders and their latest achievements hailed so spectacular in the mainstream media (e.g., halving the carbon emissions by 2050).

The generation gap couldn’t have been bigger than just there and then – and the younger generation seemed so much more savvy and eloquent in their perception of the world we live in. So I’m both surprised and amused to read that the Irish social welfare minister Mary Hanafin is quoted of being shocked “by the number of women she met who were worried about a perceived EU threat to Ireland’s neutrality. ‘What was striking was the number of young professional women … concerned about the creation of a European army.'” (Guardian Weekly 20 June 08, p. 3). I mean, what’s striking about that? I think young professional women have their fingers on the pulse of planet so much more firmly than those dinosaurs acting like little boys, corrupted by not age but by big money and dirty politics.

Last week I also read about Finland’s new gender equality plan that will seek to advance women’s rights, prevent domestic violence and reduce the gender pay gap. This was presented to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as part of Finland’s fifth and sixth periodic reports to the UN expert committee. In Finland, the lot of women is not as rosy as many might think both inside and outside the country. On average, they earn 20 per cent less than their male counterparts and carry less weight in the political arena and corporate boardrooms, the country report indicates.

Interestingly enough, the issues the Committee paid special attention to included marginalization of Sami and Roma women – an issue already mentioned in 2001 report. This is from 2008: “While lauding Finland’s progress in implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Committee experts expressed concern over the continued prevalence of violence against women, particularly domestic violence, discrimination against migrant women, the marginalization of Roma and Sami women, and female genital mutilation.”

And did you know that the suicide rate among young girls in Finland is the second highest in the world? I certainly didn’t and it left me wondering the potential causes. This was one of the other concerns the experts raised in the meeting. (You can read the entire briefing here.)

(I’m terribly sorry I don’t have a link for that fabulous little video clip – I think it was BBC but as I didn’t save it right away, a couple of days later spent hours looking for it, for no avail. Not finding it bogged me down so much I had to park this story for days. Now I hope I learned my lesson with web links…)


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