The Dartmouth Observer
Friday, August 23, 2002
Democracy's #1 Enemy
Good luck to all of you schlogging through finals on the Hanover plain.
In answer to John's Question 1, "What is the greatest threat(s) to democracy today?" -
The answer can be summed up in one word: stupidity. I guess one could call it "ignorance," but I've good reason for making the delineation. For the sake of discussion, let's term ignorance lack of any more than the knowledge about one's surroundings - in this case, let's speak of the United States ("the greatest democracy on earth") - than is necessary to exist in those surroundings. Stupidity will be ignorance coupled with an unremitting desire to completely avoid obtaining anything aside from this knowledge. The common understanding of democracy suggests that as a system of getting things done, it works best when the constituent members of said system are well-informed. In America, what I hope is just an extremely visible minority has enough of an understanding of "their Constitutional/God given rights" to insist that basically, they have a right to remain stupid if they so chose. While they may have the natural capability to resist education, these people exist in this nation as dysfunctional citizens - they are not meaningful contributors to the forum necessary for the populace to make the Republic work.
I contend in fact, that they are detractors, and in their right to vote regardless of their inability to vote meaningfully, they are the greatest threat to democracy. That the "spirit of democracy" - it is more important that everyone gets to vote than that they make an informed vote - trumps the fact that these people are essentially made pawns of more monolithic forces vis-a-vis their self-imposed intellectual paucity...well, I am unsure that this will continue to be a workable notion in the future. Without commenting on any specific administration, remarkably poor leaders have been perceived as great men. Propaganda has become more important than actual leadership if one can win reelection based on how well you can indoctrinate morons. The question, then, is how "powers-that-be" utilizing the willingly stupid to keep them in office is any different than the powers-that-be utilizing some more outwardly despicable means of doing so. Stupidity can - and I believe is - changing democracy into de facto despotism.
I don't know when, why, or how anti-intellectualism became something for chic for Americans, but whomever is responsible for originating it is the one who has launched the most widespread and damaging attack ever on American soil, and as such, on the "beacon of democracy." Right now it seems that there will still be Americans smiling while the Osama Bin Ladens of the world dance a jig on the smoldering remains of what, if its people would only take the responsibility of making themselves fit to hold its reigns, could continue indefinitely to be known as the greatest nation the world has ever seen.