For international relations to work, all parties must at least speak the same language when they use concepts like freedom and occupation. By putting themselves in the same boat as the Israelis, rather than the Palestinians, the Ukrainians are ceding a large chunk of the moral high ground.
LJUBLJANA – I once asked my younger son if he could pass the jump, only to be met with the response, “Of course I can!” When I repeated my request, I snapped back: “You asked me if I could do it, and I answered you. You didn’t tell me that I should do it.”
Who was freer in this situation – me or my son? If we understand freedom as freedom of choice, my son was freer, because he had an additional choice about how to interpret my question. He could take it literally, or he could interpret it in the usual sense, as a request that was formulated as a question out of politeness. By contrast, I effectively renounced this choice and automatically relied on the conventional sense.
Now, imagine a world where many more people acted in everyday life the way my son did when he was teasing me. We would never know for sure what our partners in conversation wanted to say, and we would lose an immense amount of time pursuing pointless interpretations. Is this not an apt description of political life over the last decade? Donald Trump and other alt-right populists have capitalized on the fact that democratic politics relies on certain unwritten rules and customs, which they have violated when it suits them, while avoiding accountability by not always explicitly breaking the law.
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