Monday, 14 November 2016

Opinion: Education still remains the safeguard of democracy

The worst form of government
Observing things in our world today and how democracy has yielded interesting dividends and results, you begin to wonder whether choice and consequence are properly informed deliberations of the people who exercise the privilege to choose who presides over their affairs.
Winston S. Churchill did say, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” This would suggest there is no better means of choosing a government except through democracy.
The safeguard of democracy
Yet, a quote I came upon this morning through the post of a tweet which had the picture of a London Underground notice board with an inscription encapsulated in one thought what I have been trying to say for months.
Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt was a contemporary of Winston S. Churchill and in the quotes above they seemed to grasp both the inadequacies and the consequences of democratic choice.
The absence of immediate feedback
Unfortunately, when a voter enters the privacy and sanctity of the ballot box to place a tick or a cross against the name of a person, a party or a plebiscite option, there is no immediate feedback as to the consequence of that choice. The kind of feedback you will get from sticking your finger in a live electric socket would by terms be the necessary democratic component for those who have not bothered to safeguard their democratic choice through education.
The knowledge that sticking one’s finger in a live electric socket would cause an electric shock leading to possible death through electrocution can be one gained from personal experience, the experience of others or facts about what electricity can do. That becomes the applied wisdom that prevents us doing harm to ourselves and what compels us to inform others of the impending harm to others who might not be aware of the dangers of playing with electricity.
The new anti-intellectualism
Yet, in the recent rancorous #Brexit debate of 2016, we had the then Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, of all people say that, “I think people in this country, have had enough of experts.” In a nutshell, Mr. Gove had defined the strain of anti-intellectualism that feeds the populist mantra of politicians who were once confined to the fringes who have now taken the spoils of democracy and won at the polls.
With some of the recent democratic results, it is amazing how many have eschewed education, logic, truth and facts in making their choices. We have adopted the better of the worst form of government and made choices that appear to have not been done wisely, or where we have fully convinced ourselves that we are wise, it does not appear to be wisdom based on fact, truth or evidence.
The rhetoric has won us over and like someone hypnotised or mesmerised, we have confidently and collectively stuck our fingers in a live electric socket, the consequence of which would be lasting.
The dangers we face
We must, in the end, respect the majority decision of the electorate, but we must not ignore that in some cases where life and livelihood depend on these choices, the wisdom of fools in the setting of a rampaging mob on the move, has won the day.
It goes without saying that democracy is the worst form of government and it will get no better with anti-intellectualism, misinformation, propaganda, rhetoric and outright lies captivation our ability to reason with the reasonable and exercise all the virtues of reasonableness in the voting booth.


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