Letters & Opinion

Democracy And The Poorly Educated

By Clement Wulf-Soulage
By Clement Wulf-Soulage

IT was something that the polarizing and gaffe-prone frontrunner, Donald Trump said during his brief victory speech in Las Vegas last Tuesday which had me musing over some of the most profound words of Thomas Jefferson that “The greatest threat to democracy is an uneducated citizenry.” Salivating at the prospect of becoming the Republican nominee for President, Mr Trump declared: “We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

For anyone who has watched the 2016 race play out, it should come as no shock that most of the pitifully mediocre candidates on the Republican side have sought to exploit not only the anxieties of a section of the electorate, but also their ignorance and economic circumstances – by spreading calumnies and invariably presenting a sort of dystopian view of America. More than any other candidate, the political beast that is Donald Trump has fed off the ignorance of especially rural conservative voters – exploiting their cultural, economic and social fears.

As the rest of the world observe America’s political spectacle with an abiding sense of smugness and foreboding, I remain cautiously optimistic about Mr. Trump’s imminent departure from the race and take comfort in the words of Winston Churchill that “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

In a paper on systems thinking, Jack Harich, a systems engineer and sustainologist identifies and explains five common deception strategies which politicians are likely to use to hoodwink particularly an uneducated electorate: false promises, false enemies, pushing the fear button, wrong priorities and secrecy. Sadly, in any society, all these forms of deception will work well, if illiteracy and ignorance prevail, undergirded by the ovine docility of voters. And I suppose in an election year, the deception machinery will be at its peak targeting an especially gullible section of the voting public who are looking for something that sends them into raptures rather than a political discourse that informs and educates them about the policy choices on offer.

Now, lest I be misunderstood, let me make it abundantly clear that I believe, like most reasonable people, that democracy is the best system of governance that exists and its enlightened providence should be a source of comfort and service to everyone regardless of ethnicity, class, gender or socio-economic status. There is also little doubt that the meritocratic basis of any democratic society is majority rule, further strengthened by the principle of minority and individual rights and the need to guarantee due process and equal protection under the law.

However, a system of democracy where money rules and voters are treated as famished consumers rather than active stakeholders in the process, can be a double-edged sword. By reducing democracy to just tribal voting and a rhetorical race to the bottom – or treating it as a delivery service or entertainment programme for the navel gazer and the less discerning voter, is surely a recipe for socio-economic stagnation and the collapse of civil society.

The Greek philosopher Plato saw the system of democracy as the “rule of the mob” because of the “unjust condemnation by Athenian democracy of Socrates”, his mentor and friend. In fact, the original Greek Democracy was mostly based on the idea that only those that contributed to society by paying taxes had a vote. Of course this concept would most likely be rejected in today’s system of democratic representation and equality under the law, although the idea may be gaining traction in some “ostensible democracies” around the world devoid of vibrancy and accountability and frustrated by poor economic performance, in large part due to electoral tribalism.

At any rate, democratic and economic progress can be stymied by an inherently loyal, un-informed and poorly educated populace only interested in short-term, incentive-driven benefits. They are the ones most likely to be bought by politicians with promises of personal benefits and utopian living standards that cannot possibly be delivered.

In an essay entitled “Democracy and Political Ignorance”, IlyaSomin explains that “Democracy is supposed to be rule of the people, by the people, and for the people. But in order to rule effectively, the people need political knowledge. If they know little or nothing about government, it becomes difficult to hold political leaders accountable for their performance…Perhaps the solution is a better public school curriculum that puts more emphasis on civic education. The difficulty is that governments have very little incentive to ensure that public schools really do adopt curricula that increase knowledge.”

I have said before that democracy is a great thing if people stay interested in it and it works. The success of the system is premised on the principle of “informed exchanges”, i.e. citizens are expected to have a certain degree of knowledge about political matters. Above all, it thrives on a contest of ideas and voter participation. If people are not intelligent in their understanding of national development issues and responsible in the exercise of their judgement, the mistakes they might make could be disastrous for their country and for themselves. Hence, our people must embrace their civic duty and collective responsibility to rise above party politics and start putting the country first. As an Indian reformer and columnist once said, “We cannot continue to languish in 19th century politics aspiring to live in the 21st century economy.”

Any attempt to solidify our system of democracy and end the degenerating vicious cycle of political pettiness will require the attention of the voter to the issues that arise from day to day and their active involvement in discussions that help clarify opinions and positions. It’s a fact that voters particularly those from the lower strata of society often lack the educational background to understand the increasing complexity of many political and economic issues.

While the country has made much progress since independence, many of our people, not least the party delegates who choose leaders and representatives, have been blind to the need to educate themselves to better understand the nature of the issues that confront them. I am one of those who believe that all political party delegates should meet some minimum requirements before being allowed to participate in the process of choosing national leaders and determining the future of the country.

Let me once again invoke the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson that “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. . . The People cannot be safe without information. When the press is free, and every man is able to read, all is safe.” Does that mean in a half-literate society like ours, true democracy is only a fleeting illusion?

I’ve always known that a nation that stops reading will eventually stop thinking, needless to say Saint Lucians have always had an ambivalent relationship with books. How are we supposed to be safe, free and enlightened, as Jefferson noted, without doing due research, fact-checking and reading? As it turns out, the last time I checked, newspaper circulation was in decline and bookstores seemed set to go the way of the dinosaur.

For comments, write to ClementSoulage@hotmail.de – Clement Wulf-Soulage is a Management Economist, Published Author and Former University Lecturer.

8 Comments

  1. Okontwè [ ironically ], the political and civic ignorance exhibited – particularly in recent times, seem to be flaunted by those among us who so proudly purport to have attained higher education status.

    Surrounded by societal decadance, we proudly boast of holding degrees yet sadly we turn a blind eye to our communities’ plights. Of what good is an education if it doesn’t motivate us to effect change in our immediate surroundings? Listening to our reasoning in defending inequities, suggests an otherwise underdeveloped capacity for rational, critical, creative, and analytical thought.

    One is left with little wonder in deducing that there’s a void in the quality and scope of the general education base, upon which those diplomas were ultimately conferred. Clearly, we can see that there’s a huge gap between getting an education and actually using it to solve real world problems. One may be tempted to conclude that, “Collective Willful Ignorance” or a “Dead Social Conscience” could probably account for our current state.

    All things considered, our productivity is at an all-time low and we’re swimming in a social cesspool; this is unacceptable. Whatever the prognosis; we definitely need a reboot. Devine intervention Lord!

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    Why do you express such dismay at unveiling the face of Pax Americana? The true character of the Caucasian Christian? A people fed and bred on a diet of White Supremacy and hatred of people of African Ancestry, and continue to murder and teach the African American that God is a White man with a Son-of-God named Donald Trump?

    Let me suggest that you read all sections of this dynamic newspaper, where you are sure to be informed of the true character of the so-called white Christian/Supremacist. You as a person of African Ancestry can now begin to imagine the circumstance of the African American having to struggle against such an evil and wicked people who oppress and murder them with impunity, while telling them to worship a naked Caucasian as their God.

    Only yesterday this was the story: Pictured: Teen, 17, fighting for his life after being shot four times in the chest and stomach by police for carrying a BROOMSTICK in Salt Lake City

    Read more:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3467990/Boy-16-carrying-BROOMSTICK-shot-police-Salt-Lake-City-sparking-angry-protests.html#ixzz41Yyrcofy 

    And as if this was not bad enough, Caucasian Christians murdered two African-American parents for stopping to rest while driving. But our Great Prince Robert Mugabe spells it plain.

    https://www.facebook.com/urbanintellectuals/videos/10153492459654366/

  3. Inglewood, CA — On Sunday, police responded to a call of a suspicious vehicle parked on Manchester Boulevard around 3:10 am. When police arrived, they engaged in a 45-minute long standoff before opening fire on the man and woman inside the vehicle, killing them both.

    In the news release on Monday, following the shooting, police claimed that the woman in the car had a gun. Scott Collins, a spokesman for the Inglewood Police Department said that the couple refused to obey the officers’ commands to exit the vehicle. The officers then feared for their safety and opened fire on the car — killing the couple.
    The woman was pronounced dead shortly after the shooting, and the man succumbed to his injuries after paramedics transported him to a local hospital, according to the LA Times.

    The shooting seemed like an open and shut case until the next day. Mayor James Butts, while responding to questions about the shooting, opened up a huge can of worms — both the man and the woman were unconscious.
    For at least 45 minutes, police attempted “to rouse” them in an effort “to de-escalate the situation,” said Butts.
    After admitting that the couple was asleep, Butts quickly defended the officers, noting, “Obviously at some point they were conscious because somebody felt threatened.”

    However, that notion has yet to be proven and is particularly unlikely due to the fact that not a single officer received so much as a scratch, nor did the couple have any reason to be violent.
    Both of the victims were parents; Kisha Michael, 31, a single mother of three sons, and Marquintan Sandlin, 32, a single father of four daughters.

    Michael’s twin sister Kisha stated the obvious when she said that it’s possible that Kisha merely passed out on the way home from their night out.

  4. /

    Now Clement, how do we really dismantle this oppression and evil of the Caucasian Christian Pirates? We have to kill the cancer at the ROOT! This evil doctrine, that teaches Caucasians that God is a White Man has to be destroyed. It is the most toxic substance in the Universe, creating the God Complex in Caucasians, and the inferiority Complex in all others.

    IMAGES are the most potent medium of communication, therefore reflect on this story for a moment and ask yourself, why have you been brainwashed into seeing God as a so-called white man ? a RACIST AND SEXIST destroyer of the human being, creating the dangerous white supremacist infected with the GOD COMPLEX.

    https://www.facebook.com/SupremeScientistAllah/videos/10208797863372002/

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