Examining the Concept of Western Values and the Case of the Murdered Saudi Journalist

Let me start by chasing that fast moving/sad story of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi then move on to the values bit because these issues do converge in a way. But instead of covering the details which have/continue to be analysed by experts let me make a few points;

  1. The only shocking thing in my mind about this brutal death of the Saudi journalist is the sheer stupidity of how he was murdered, and the official narratives don’t get much smarter. But when you consider that these kinds of actions happen all the time in the Middle East both to the famed and NOT so famed, you start getting a more accurate perspective along the lines of; this cannot be considered an Incident but indeed a Methodology that exists in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Terminologies like Appalling, Disgusting, Vile…etc. don’t even begin to describe what we’re seeing here – and only what we’re seeing. 
  2. The way Saudi Arabia chooses to address this issue internally and how they go about doing so is indeed an internal matter of sovereignty, but let me suggest a few things;
  • This gruesome crime was committed outside Saudi Arabia and as for Diplomatic Immunity this in not meant – or should be used – to protect crimes/criminals.
  • The one thing regimes like that can’t buy is Civility, that’s something you try to earn if you’re lucky to have wise leadership – NOT through ads/superficial action but through core changes – otherwise you end up with a massive moral debt that translates directly to political/economic instability. Reliance on the backing of rogue leaders is a temporary solution that can also backfire so it’s worth for regimes like that to truly Invest wisely in their future otherwise all investments are in fact a short term lease or at least will be under constant threat. So in my worldview I see that instead of spending billions to promote foreign investment, countries should start by investing in the foundation of political/social change closer to home, otherwise any sane business would consider any opportunity in that country a Gamble not an Investment – that’s logic. So when planning for the time when oil begins to dry up choices should begin to clear up.
  • The religious dimension to this story is also quite unfortunate where a country that purports to be the Face of Islam where Muslims visit annually for prayer/worship seems to be a regular violator of basic human rights/dignity – terrible optics to say the least. 

3. Finally, the approach we pursue in Britain and elsewhere in Europe in reacting to such actions is one that we need to rigorously scrutinise in detail to ensure it is proportionate to this atrocity committed in Turkey because it’s not only a matter of Values but also a matter of national security. Why? Well because inaction – or inadequate action – is in fact normalising the break-up of basic norms/rules/standards of conduct by nations which eventually results in World Disorder – a place we seem to be heading towards – with increasing threat levels of Conflicts, Terrorism, Economic Stagnation and Political/Economic Migration which are the symptoms we continue to see; and with extreme ramifications comes extreme politics and social fractures. Equally important is what such inaction would mean in terms of corruption and the extent of foreign influence infiltrating our policy eco system; so if all these reasons don’t get your juices flowing I don’t know what will. It was interesting to watch Trump defending himself by indicating this was a Saudi citizen a pretty much followed in the Saudi statement about the incident – possibly with a nudge from the White House. That’s what I’d call a Defence of the Defenceless, Covfefe; but of course we know your Peculiar/Valueless Business/Governance Model. 

Now to the question of Western Values. I decided to look this term up to determine what it actually represents and where the term originated. So here are some thoughts;

Western values/culture are pretty fluid and loose terms at least in the way they are used because they encompasses so much. Some of the central characteristics of Western culture include:

  • Democracy
  • Rational thinking
  • Individualism
  • Modern technology
  • Human rights
  • Scientific thinking
  • Freedom
  • Equality/Non Discrimination based on Gender, religion or sexual orientation
  • The Rule of Law/Justice
  • Human Rights
  • Tolerance

Are these really European, American, British or Western Values? To me they sound more like a set of basic universal common sense values/virtues, that have evolved through centuries of human experiences/history, let’s call them Human Values. But then it gets much more interesting having recently read a great article entitled An Eccentric Tradition: The Paradox of ‘Western Values’ by Peter Harrison, an Australian Laureate Fellow and Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland which I would recommend reading in full. The gist of the article in my view is that the question surrounding Western Values and/or the Judaeo-Christian Values/Culture are a convenient approach used by many – whether intentionally or otherwise – for political/social connotations which you can call what you will; but you can make your own judgement on this. While not taking from the fact that there may well be irreconcilable differences between different cultures/traditions it is only in extreme circumstances that they cannot happily coexist within the same border or even the same house; this while respecting/adhering to dominant cultures/traditions, national identity and allegiance. This concept of co-existence by the way is NOT a new one we face in this day/age, rather it has been the norm through ancient times.

The main take away from the talk about values/traditions is this; the norm should be applying critical thinking/analysis before reaching conclusions. To follow this approach myself and as this is a subject of great interest to me I intend to read some of the books referenced in this article and if you would like to suggest additional material please feel free to do so. 

Hope this helps.

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