Freedom is like respect - you have to earn and fight for it every day, or you'll lose it.
I can be wrong - quite often actually, as my wife keeps reminding me. But the minute you hold a gun to my head and threaten me - I rebel and push back. It takes quite a lot of willpower to be grown-up and stay in control of myself whenever anyone tries to intimidate me, not that that happens too often these days.
There is some human nature in there somewhere - I don't think anyone likes being threatened, but you have to be pretty sure of something to risk getting knocked down. We tend to live in a world of compromise, and as one discovers in life - there are very few times when holding your ground is the only option. Most things - you can turn the other cheek and should - but there are moments when you are just unable to look the other way.
I also have learned - that whilst I am not a great believer in punishment per se - the absents of any form of "tough-love" can have devastating effects on individuals, both the perpetrators and those on the receiving end. In other words, if people get away with really bad behaviour - they will tend to keep on doing it; it gets repeated until it is stopped, and in the meantime, those on the receiving end continue to suffer the consequences. Hence the success of restorative justice.
And when it comes to the leaders of countries in our world - many of them don't behave like grown-ups - do they? We could be talking about Trump or Johnson or, more sinisterly, Putin or Xi Jinping and, alas, many others besides.
All human beings, but so many who have picked up some deplorable behavioural habits that appear never to have been corrected - so they keep misbehaving.
It would be unfair to put Johnson in the same box as Putin or Mohammed bin Salman, so I guess there are degrees of poor behaviour - from stupid, impetuous and juvenile through to sinister, psychopathic and evil.
Let's face it - none of us are perfect, but leadership is something we should all take a lot more seriously than we do. It is not unreasonable to demand that our leaders at least maintain a certain standard of ethical behaviour.
So the rather unedifying spectacle of our Prime Minister rushing off to suck up to Mohammed bin Salman was, to me, quite shocking. Mohammed bin Salmon is the same gruesome man who had Jamal Khashoggi so brutally murdered in his Saudi Embassy in Turkey; he also had Mustafa Al-Darwish - A young boy who had the audacity to criticised him - executed. And then - a couple of weeks ago, executed eighty-one individuals in one day - only a couple of days before Johnson goes in person, cap in hand begging for more oil to compensate for Russian oil. An unedifying sight.
I am sure we are all familiar with the adage - "my enemy's enemy is my friend" - but bin Salmon is not Putin's enemy - I understand they are on very amicable terms.
So, where does this leave us Brits? Obviously not on any high moral ground. But in Bojo's defence - we Brits, like many other Europeans and Americans, want to have our cake and eat it. We are happy to condemn the atrocities that these evil heads of state commit on their own people but only so long as we are not negatively affected.
Politics being what it is - politicians and civil servants conduct all sorts of dark deeds that contradict what is said or admitted to in public, and we hear nothing about it, which is probably best. But I - rather naively, I suppose, would like to see a higher bar of public ethical behaviour.
These heads of state should be held accountable for their behaviour, and we should adjust our behaviour towards them accordingly.
So if we had the courage - all of us - to say, we are not going to buy anything from China, for instance, so long as Xi Jinping keeps incarcerating and mistreating Uyghurs, Turkic Muslims, Christians, Tibetans and protesters such a Jimmy Lai. Innocent people who just happened to be born into different traditions and religions. So - China would need to accept that if it wants the trade from the west - it has to change its behaviour. The end game being no different from how Russia is now hurting from sanctions.
But the flip side is that we don't escape pain either. But the pain is not really pain, more inconvenience. Not really comparable with being at war and living in constant fear for your life and the lives of the ones you love. Or - being locked up and tortured all because you had the strength of character to stand up and voice your disagreement or courage to protest.
So we could say; Russia, Saudi Arabia, China (and their ilk); if you want a place at the international trade table, you will have to behave in a civilised way and treat human beings fairly and respectfully - or else we will not buy anything from you.
But - are we prepared to go without the imported "tat" - (much of which we don't need anyway) to live a happy and fun life? Terribly inconvenient but perhaps necessary.
Perhaps this is the time - our human-being chance to do the right things - our final wake up call? Is it a basic human right to be able to go on holiday, own a television, a car, a computer and have a mobile phone? I think not. But perhaps it is a basic human right to live without fear, to be able to say what you feel, to discuss, argue and persuade - to be free to live your life in your way so long as it does not hurt others?
I am one of the "haves" - the lucky ones, but gosh, I would not want to be one of the "have-nots". Imagine being an Uyghur, persecuted because of who your parents were. We abolished the abhorrence of slavery yet appear to accept how China, Saudi Arabia, and so many others behave - it is utterly illogical. We condemn the cruelty and lack of transparency in Saudi Arabia - yet sell them armaments and buy their oil.
We behave just like slack, uncaring parents - no tough love, which is, of course - Real Love. We speak one thing from one side of our mouth and then send a completely different message from the other side - no consistency at all. Let's face it - we are hypocrites, indolent hypocrites.
Here we westerners are with our butts in the butter but complaining about our cost of living, still with our esteemed western leaders - you know the ones, the guys who espouse the merits of freedom and the western values of civilisation. Yet we deserted the good and now forgotten people of Afghanistan after promising we would stand by them. We promised the Kurds we would stand by them - but Trump again lied and left them to it, to fight Putin and Assad alone.
And here we are again, right on our own doorstep, with the brave and stoic Ukrainians fighting our war for us. Yet again, we promised that if they denuded themselves of nuclear weapons, we would defend them. What have we done? Yes - again - made our apologies, given them some weaponry and Pontious Pilot like, washed our hands on the premise that we might make Putin use his nuclear arsenal if we get involved.
Well, I say to our Western Leaders - Grow a pair! Does anyone really think that it is ok for Putin to behave like this while we stand on the sidelines and do nothing about it because Putin threatens to throw his toys out of the pram if we get involved?
When it is wrong - it is wrong. The elephant is clearly in the room, and we are pretending this is not our fight - and it is. We are behaving like feckless, weak teenagers. It is frankly shaming and pathetic. We will regret forever if we fail to step up now and go to the aid of Ukraine. Lots of European and American sweaty handwringing will not get the job done here. If we don't get in there and fight for freedom, civilisation, for our own dignity - now - it will only get much more challenging further down the line.
And what is the message that China is receiving? They take the long view, and in ten years' time, when they have manipulated the dollar out of their economy and built up their armed forces and are ready to strike at Taiwan - what will the western powers do then? What will happen to freedom and civilisation; to the people and the inventive searching souls who have moved us all forward through the ages.
If we want to be free, we have to be prepared to fight for freedom at every turn - and yes, die for it as well. Freedom is a gift that we should treasure, but during the last sixty years or so in Europe, we have only taken it for granted, and we are now paying for our past neglect and arrogance.
If we decide to avoid the hard decisions and choose to take the short term view and bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is fine, we will pay for our indolent ways at a later date. Lazily living in denial will lead to the demise of much of what we love, and when it has gone, it will be too late.
I suppose what I am saying is this; there are many more important things in life than money and cash. If we fail to maintain the foundations of freedom, of our ethics, of truth - our building will fall.
Rikki - Suffolk - UK - 26th March - 2022
Appendum: Despite all the human and humane goodness witnessed during the last month since Putin invaded Ukraine, it does strike me as somewhat distasteful that we did not see the same reaction when Assad and Putin subjugated Syria and all the refugees flocked to Europe for safety.
To her eternal credit, Merkel and Germany stood their ground then - when most, if not all others, failed the test of human decency. Including our own, seemingly rather spiteful Home Secretary, Ms Priti Patel and her boss - Johnson.