I was recently asked by one of my boys – ‘Dad, what is politics?’
I sighed because what a huge question and thought, where to start?
But this morning, the answer hit me with the news that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died – a death which I imagine few people listening to BBCR5 was too mournful over.
Because how many people have much affection for Saudi Arabia? A ‘Kingdom’ which is the source of Wahhabism, an ultra-interpretation of Islam which is said to be the bedrock of jihadism.
Saudi Arabia is not known for its tolerance either unless one happens to be a lucky member of the ruling family – whereupon, it seems none of the rules of constraint apply.
For everyone else in Saudi though, basic human rights are scant. Women being unable to drive cars is the emblem of this dysfunctional place but it pales against people being whipped in public for minor transgressions and public executions and limb amputations remain ever popular.
And now that the King is dead – there is an outpouring of reverence from the leaders of the Western world. Explaining to us that he was a moderator and a peace maker. That he was a progressive and a good man.
On his watch – Saudi along with Bahrain is a major funder of ISIS who have stated that their intention is to destroy the Western World. Ironic then that the funders of ISIS enjoy the fruits of capitalism so extravagantly? Saudi is also a major contributor to the religious schools of Pakistan where three of the 7/7 bombers attended. On his watch, wasn’t Al Qaeda born? Osama Bin Laden was a Saudi as where all of the hijackers of 9/11 – and yet we went to war with Afghanistan?
The liberal line is that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam but is to do with poverty and inequality – which if correct, where else in the world is inequality greater than Saudi Arabia. A place where men who happen to have emerged from the correct tribes when oil was discovered – now live in gilded palaces and gorge themselves on luxury – whilst the masses in their country and beyond live off scraps and in squalor.
And from this poverty, the whole world is now touched by terrorism – Sydney, Bali, London, Madrid, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Mumbai, Nairobi, New York, Paris…
And when the King of Saudi Arabia dies – our politicians queue up to lament his loss. Go figure?
‘So, in a nutshell – that is politics.’ I said this morning, pleased with myself.
But my lad looked back at me, blank.
‘So what would you do then dad, if you were in charge?’
Now it was my turn to blank – which is another beautiful answer to the question – what is politics?