*fact-checked the above quote for accuracy
DEMOCRATIC SOCIETIES ARE FUNCTIONAL TO THE EXTENT THAT THE PEOPLE ARE INFORMED
This is not a project for a political science class, however we are studying social problems, as well as the development and structures of our society. Social justice and political freedom are directly related.
Good luck addressing (or even discussing) social problems under a totalitarian regime. If your particular passion is women’s rights, have fun going about your activism, or even blogging, in Saudi Arabia. A prominent female human rights activist has recently been arrested and locked up for allegedly running a Twitter account. If you question religion in these 13 countries where atheism is illegal, including SA, you run the risk of being executed by the state. Saudi Arabia leads Arab regimes in internet censorship.
I challenge you to find a government where there is this degree of knowledge/information control by the state, but the human rights situation is perfectly fucking dandy.
What’s worse than not being able to act on what you know to be unjust is not knowing about it at all, and not having access to that information. You’ve probably seen the above image of the 1989 pro-Democracy Tiananmen Square protests. A man stands in front of Chinese Communist Party tanks in an act of defiance. Hundreds if not thousands of protesters were killed.
THE MOST FUCKED UP PART?
JOHN OLIVER EXPLAINS…
THERE’S PLENTY OF STUPIDITY OUT THERE
But there are also people keeping us stupid:
It’s tempting to shift the blame solely onto individuals who lack the resources and/or are too exhausted running on auto-pilot survival-mode to have the luxury of picking it all apart, let alone taking effective action. However, I think it’s worth also looking upwards at where information does (or doesn’t, deliberately) come. At the end of the day though, poorly informed people make poorly informed decisions.
A representative democracy can either thrive the way it does in the world’s top 5 ranked democracies (Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark), or devolve into a confederacy of dunces, as John Kennedy Toole once put it.
Democracy rankings are of course not “scientific”, but going back to what Christina said on the topic of visceral feelings in these instances, I think we all know that there are issues we cannot afford to ignore.
EVEN WORSE THAN THAT…
It can devolve into an all out dystopian nightmare. Multiple organizations including Freedom House are concerned with the state of our democracy, citing that “Donald Trump’s unorthodox presidential campaign left open questions about the incoming administration’s approach to civil liberties and the role of the United States in the world“. The report also states that “there were setbacks in political rights, civil liberties, or both, in a number of countries rated ‘Free’ by the report, including Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States“.
This is alarming, to say the least.
GOVERNMENTS DO NOT BECOME OPPRESSIVE OVERNIGHT
They chip away at your rights before your very eyes, and with your consent (whether it be passive or active). Often times people do not notice or pay attention, and when the topic is brought up they brush it off as if it’s not big deal and maybe even a good thing these things are going on.
After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush Administration (with congress on board) passed The USA PATRIOT Act, which stands for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001“. Patriotism at the time meant giving up their (and your) Constitutional 4th Amendment right to “…be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” without probable cause and warrants.
We don’t allow the state to send its forced into homes whenever they feel like it, so why did we agree to let them into our digital lives, which is arguably far more intrusive? If your home were to be searched right now, your every text message, email, and Google search would not be visible. Now, all of this is collected and stored in government facilities just in case you commit a crime later on. Knowledge and information isn’t just kept from you, but it is also used against you.
It used to be that anything you say could be used against you in a court of law.
Now it’s anything you type into a search bar.
…I HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE
Here’s Edward Snowden’s response to this common non-argument:
“Privacy is the fountainhead of all other rights…Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say”:
Snowden is currently in Russia because the U.S. Government wants his head on a platter for sharing the knowledge with us about the fact that the NSA is doing far more in terms of broad drag-net surveillance of average citizens than they said they were.
EVEN GOING SO FAR AS TO LIE TO CONGRESS
JOHN OLIVER INTERVIEWS KEITH ALEXANDER
(FORMER HEAD OF THE NSA)
John Oliver’s full episode on government surveillance is not only hilarious but incredibly informative. He interviews Edward Snowden at the end:
The take-away is that information is utilized in various forms, whether it’s kept away from us, used to influence us, or used against us. Bullshit is everywhere, not just at the level of what Louis Althusser called the Repressive State Apparatus which operates through mental and physical coercion, often violently (army, police, judiciary, prison system). There’s also the Ideological State Apparatus (family, religion, law, political parties, mass media, etc.), and everyone that unwittingly participates, regardless of which end of the bullshit they’re on.
As George Carlin famously said, this entire country is full of shit:
SO WHY DOES ANY OF THIS MATTER?
Well, I don’t literally think any of you will be detained tomorrow for your text messages, but I do think that at the very least there’s value in not actively or passively participating in the bullshit we’re fed at various levels and to varying degrees. Whether it’s in your personal day to day life, like not being fooled into taking shitty advice based on some pseudo-scientific nonsense your friend posted to Facebook, or you’re trying to figure out which candidate is less full of this than the other ones, I think there’s value in at least attempting to filter out as much bullshit as we can. After all, a bullshit artist was just elected president.
STUPID PEOPLE ELECT STUPID PEOPLE
…or (arguably) worse, smart people who know how to take advantage of stupid people.
It doesn’t necessarily have to work like that.