Northern Dragon

… life in the twilight years of modern-day democracy …

The Price of Democracy

Democracy was invented by the Greeks. But their philosophers had very grave doubts about it and generally did not believe that it could be brought to work. Socrates explained it like this:

Imagine an election between two candidates: a doctor and a sweet shop owner. The sweet shop owner would say of his rival:
Look, this person here has worked many evils on you. He hurts you, gives you bitter potions and tells you not to eat and drink whatever you like. He’ll never serve you feasts of many and varied pleasant things like I will.”

And then, the doctor – how can he respond? Would you really, honestly, vote for someone who could only reply:
I cause you trouble, and go against your desires, in order to help you.

Some 2.500 years ago, a Greek philosopher – using only his mind and skill at deduction – foresaw the exact dilemma which is destroying our democracies today.

There are many, many “sweet shop owners” in the world today. Politics is rife with them; demagogues with outrageous promises, easy lies, and emotional appeals. People like Trump, who promised to “drain the swamp” while he himself has proven to be by far the worst such creature America has experienced for more than a century. Or Boris Johnson, who twisted statistics to claim that Britain was sending £350 million a week to the EU and who may be handed the honourable position of Prime Minister of Britain as a result.

Why is it that we ignore the honourable politicians and are so attracted to the lying ones? Are we really unable to perceive what is best for us?

Yes, we are – because the fourth leg of democracy has failed us.

It is commonly said that democracy is a building resting upon three pillars, all of them equally important: the government, the parliament, and the courts. Unfortunately, that is not true – it omits a crucial fourth leg without which no modern democracy can ever function: the media.

Democracy can only work if voters are informed about what is going on in society. It is an absolute requirement. Without information, we cannot know what is actually happening and who or what to vote for. The instant that free and objective information is missing, slanted, or manipulated, democracy starts to sicken and die.

Once media are no longer free, independent, and able to report without bias what goes on in society, democracy cannot function.

We see an extreme form of this today in the US, where Fox News – by far the largest TV news channel in the States – was the main source of news for 40% of the people who ended up voting for Trump in the 2016 campaign.

Fox News may give the appearance of being free. But in reality, it is hobbled and chained, bound to the will of its owner: the Murdoch family. It is, in fact, a propaganda tool for the ultra-rich. And yes, Rupert Murdoch is easily in that elite – currently worth more than $21 billion and the 52nd richest person in the world today.

Do you really think Fox News would show something which did not align with his interests? Or that it is a coincidence that the Trump tax break overwhelmingly went to the ultra-rich, while Fox News is one of Trump’s staunchest supporters?

In my previous post, I argued that the upper class of society would take control of democracy and twist it to its purposes. Today – well, look around you, and you see the result.

The crucial fourth pillar of democracy – the media – is up for sale. And the ultra-rich are buying it, pure and simple – share by share, company by company.

Capital has entered government – through the back door.

We can no longer trust the news.

Northern Dragon © 2019. All rights reserved.

Categories: Reflection

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. ohh wow,amazing post,thanks for sharing this to us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was sold some years ago, sadly. Journalistic impartiality that is. All we hear now here on ‘news’ bulletins is tabloid news about cosmetic implants, how a reality TV star is selling her wedding dress and interview from rightist politicians about how bad refugees are and how the centrist – leftist opposition caused each and every problem, even though they haven’t been in power for the last six years. And now the public broadcaster is to be savagely cut – so any left leaning journo is to be made redundant, and sympathetic journos who write twoddle, given a gig. Even though newspapers are dying, the media is still the method of control and propaganda. Murdoch was beleived to say that it was he and his shock jocks like Alan Jones on radio 2GB who dictated the decisions in Australia. If there is no independent media, how does another point of view get across to the masses. And here everyone has to vote…..

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s an interesting point, Amanda. If everyone has to vote, then those people who wouldn’t usually vote – but who now have to do so – will presumably (mostly) vote for whatever the captive news have prepared them for…
      So in this way, the Australian system of universal voting actually works against you.
      Of course, the reason why it is so is because your “fourth leg” (the news) has been corroded and enslaved. (harsh words, I know, but what else can I say?)
      To some extent the Internet should be able to substitute. But the sheer mass of information there will work against you.

      By the way – the recent numbers for news papers (in the EU, Britain, US) do show, that the decline has halted. It seems that the surviving papers are, generally, moving to a business model which looks sustainable for them. Which is pretty amazing and positive. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sustainable newspaper numbers, interesting. Is that because everything is syndicated? It seems things are still heading downwards here but perhaps for not much longer. Change take a while to filter down given our geographic position in the world. Lol.
        Re the voting – Absolutely, now the news is so pedestrian, compulsory voting IS working against us. I never thought I could possibly advocate anything less, but there you have it. A different perspective reveals hitherto unseen possibilities.
        In this scenario, it would be better if those who are much more motivated, and politically aware, alone get to decide. The real danger in any democracy then has to be the amount of control the media has over the population’s hearts and minds. An unquestioning public who don’t challenge a wrongful system could also be unwittingly coerced to go up and voluntarily vote a certain way by the now influential media. Pretty much doomed either way once the media has control, don’t you think. Independent media is vitally important.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Quite so, yes – independent media are vital. I am entertaining the idea however, that education – especially during the formative first 10-12 years – is a possible equalizer. At least somewhat. The point being that the ability to think critically and independently is at least as important as the ability to read independent news.
          Without independent news, we will have a hard time figuring out what is going on in society. But equally, without critical thinking (which is really hard and does take a lot of input, training, and dedicated teaching to install in people!), we will still have a situation where most people are likely to just follow along with the things they read and hear. Which in the last analysis actually means that we will be delegating a significant part of our democratic decision making to very few people – namely the journalists.
          Or, to put it bluntly – we will be exchanging one oligarchy for another.
          Critical thinking – or intellectual independence, or whatever you prefer to call it – is not an inborn human trait. It is something we learn. Preferably as early as possible. By nature humans will conform – in behaviour *and* in thinking – to the main pathways of the herd they belong in. And yes, I am purposefully using animal husbandry terms here, for this aspect of our being is founded at that level. Leaving the herd and seeking out your own truths is not only hard; it is also something which will leave you ostracized and alone – psychologically and physically vulnerable. Generally speaking.
          Society today is significantly more fragmented than ever before in human history – because the Internet actually enables us to find herds (groups) which conform to almost any ideal/behaviour imaginable. Which again means that it is far easier to leave the herd and find a new one to join, than ever before.
          And – the consequences of that are really, really bad.
          You see – the “herd instinct” not only suppress individualism. It also suppress aberrant behaviour and drives. But if you feel strongly enough about those, then today you can actually leave the communality and seek out other people who feel like you, on the Internet. Join a new herd… and live out your dreams and ideals there.
          Which is not necessarily… a good thing.

          But I digress. Let me sum up: education, an overlooked and critical ingredient of any democracy. The Greek philosophers (again! they were really amazing, those people!) actually did regard education to be vital for democracy to work at all.
          But guess what – in Europe, for ages and ages, we did not educate the main mass of our populace at all.
          When did it start?
          Mass compulsory schooling was started in Prussia. Laid out in a directive by Frederick the Great, in 1763!Do you know why? The Prussians needed more skilled and better behaved and obedient soldiers!
          The whole idea of modern education is founded on … the need for better soldiers in war.
          Amazing.

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          • Education started by the Prussians for the purpose of better war ‘teams.’ I guess the Germans have been focused on efficiency in all quarters. Maybe some men even joined the army for educational purposes. Australian army recruiters use this line. Come join the army, get trained, learn a trade etc. Having said that, I do like that the Prussians were interested in education. Anything is better than ignorance and compliant masses. Education is a way out of poverty. Education is the key to scrutinizing everything we see and here and making judgement on it. Do we believe it? Do we trust in it?
            Primary schooling is all about conformity, and can be very unforgiving to anything who is different. I have always despised that. But education does offer possibilities to change. If a child grows up in an authoritarian environment they shut up and conform, until the day someone throws a light switch and opens their eyes (via schooling) to other possibilities. I remember the day I learnt the lesson to not simply sit on the fence, but instead to analyze which point of view is better and comment on that. I also remember the day I learnt you have to be careful about rebelling. You have to be smart about it. Otherwise you are slapped down for being a “tantruming” child. You have to know your rights, and other’s rights, and you have to logical, calm and well-read.

            The Greeks were indeed amazing in realizing how vital education is to democracy.

            Is it important that society’s values progress in line with education?
            By this, I mean the more education and prospects we have, the more we want for ourselves. OUr standards and “wants” increase. In securing our own future wants, we can be selfish, guarding what we have, for fear of losing our way of life.
            Universities used to be places where you would find lot of new ideas, thinking, radical alternatives, and I hear from my son who works at one, that he fears Unis are beginning to resemble a chaff cutter. Spitting out graduates that are only interested in passing grades, some gaining entry initially through dubious methods. Universities that are funded by ‘cash cows,’ – read: full fee paying students ( slight conflict of interest there), and are beholden to gaining more if they pump out more students. The standard of education he maintains is dropping, whereas one would hope that education might enlighten our younger folk to more liberal concepts and acceptance.
            Universities used to be free, and that changed Australia’s social fabric, suddenly the majority of high school graduates could go to University and get a degree. The working class diminished and upwardly mobile folks were living a good life. The graduates however don’t give a rat’s ass about the conditions of those who didn’t go to University, as they are too busy enjoying the fruits of their own work and have a privileged attitude. That is the only concern for me, in placing all our eggs in the ‘education’ basket.
            Your comments about community and herds are very interesting. I quite agree we look to find our tribe or herd where we feel comfortable and I never thought of that as fragmentary but it may well be. Are we happier if we find our own tribe? Quite possibly. Do you feel it has some potential ramifications for politics?
            Is my blogging community a negative thing?

            Liked by 1 person

            • Traditions for primary schooling vary from culture to culture – and from subculture to subculture. The “black school,” as we termed it, was a despicable thing, designed to break down the children and enforce conformity. Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ is a splendid, musical depiction of that. But the counter-reaction to that often went too far, essentially giving the students control of the classroom and education.

              Your question, “is it important that society’s values progress in line with education?” – I tend to see it the other way round: education should install the fundamental values of society into the students.
              Which begs the question: what are “the fundamental values of society” actually? And that is not a question I am prepared to answer in any detail – the easy way out would be to say “that depends”, but that would be only half the truth.
              At a deeper level, I would say: teach the children to think, to be critical of what they see and hear, and to form their own judgements.

              Education is a cornerstone of any society (even if you don’t have it at all, in which case the statement is equally valid). And it is a very neglected one.
              Education is where we learn about the world we inhabit. What can be more foundational than that?

              Your son is quite correct – universities are turning into “chaff machines.” (wonderful expression, thank you, Amanda!) And my next post is actually looking at the reasons for that. It is a general tendency in all of the societies I am aware of, even in the Scandinavia you are so fond of. There, by the way, university education is still free – though students do have to pay for books and other resources. And your point about upwards mobility being linked to education is very well made.

              Generally, I don’t think a higher education is linked with a disparaging attitude towards the rest of society as such; but definitely, a university can have a culture which promotes such a view. Which is highly unfortunate and can actually have a large impact upon society, down the line. Again one of those unnoticed “small things” which flood together into major impacts…

              Humans are social beings. Always have been, always will be – generally speaking. Sure, some people are solitary. But even in those cases, the root cause will usually be found in an early rejection by the herds they tried to join, rather than a conscious choice made despite being a herd-member. What the Internet is doing in this regard is twofold:
              – It makes the world *significantly* smaller, enabling us to find and join herds which would otherwise be invisible or unreachable for us.
              – And, it allows herds to form and thrive around values, which would otherwise be inconceivable – simply because there wouldn’t ever be enough people in the environment which would be interested in joining such a group, and without people there will be no herd.

              So yes, your blogging community is enabled by the Internet and people are joining it from all over the world and being very happy there.
              But no, that does not make it a negative thing. A herd is entirely natural, for humans. It is harmful only when the values it promotes violently clash with those of the society around its members – which is hardly the case for your blog, despite the occasional criticism of “things as they are”. 😉

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              • So you say that it is within the school that present values should be taught. Interesting. I always thought values would come from your family – even if you reject them as an adult. I guess with both parents working, the school has a bigger role to play here, if for no other reason than due to time constraints, on working parents, but then, my follow up question would be: Would the teacher subconsciously instill her or his own values in the children, as she or he goes about their teachings? Overtly or covertly? Or inadvertently?
                Quite agree that education is the cornerstone of any society, it is foundational.
                I never knew that about the real meaning of Pink Floyd’s “Wall.” Wow.
                On it being the University’s culture that leads to arrogance in graduates: I had to think about this again. I was the one who suggested Uni graduates didn’t care about the lower socio-economic groups. They certainly don’t seem to have the altruistic views that supposedly pervaded in the sixties and seventies. But perhaps that was really only fanciful and wasn’t true of real life, anyways. This notion of privilege would I assume be more apparent, in English colleges, than here in the colonies (!) but as classless as Australia might or might not be, there is a snobbery towards those who don’t go to University. Perhaps the changes in University that made it free (until recently), means that graduates have a lesser attitude to those who don’t go. Universities, whilst not entirely free, are still very accessible to everyone, if they are happy to incur a no interest debt to the government.
                The first question anyone asks any high school graduate is what are they going to study at Uni, as it is assumed everyone will. If the answer is no, there is surprise and shock. For the kids that can’t go due to low marks or disabilities, there is a feeling of shame that continues into the workforce. I even experience this when friends ask me about my children and what they are doing at Uni…. or not doing as the case may be. That is something I don’t like about the upwardly mobiles. Then again, perhaps I am sensitive towards this but it does speak a little to our discussion on the professional young politicians who now nothing of the so called real world. If we could teach the values of humility in schools, that might change!! Or is that too Utopian?
                I do agree about the herd comment and early rejection – you are observant to notice that! Although I would qualify my comment by saying that some folks are more self-contained in their own company and now have the written word and the internet herd to fulfil their needs. Like a lot of what we are discussing, it comes back to values, that each of us hold dear.
                I look forward to your next post to read more.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Just to clarify – the full fee paying University students are the foreign students who have to pay tuition fees upfront and are not subsidized under the Government’s HECS interest free loan system. They are regarded by some as cash cows for Universities.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Oh, touché Amanda!
                  You are entirely correct – I should have said that it is *also* the responsibility of primary school to install values into the children. For of course, as you point out, that is one of the primary functions of parents and family as well. 🙂

                  But yes, I do believe it to be very important for primary school to make sure that essential values are, in fact, internalised by the children. And the more so, as our societies are getting more and more culturally sprangled by the twin effect of constant immigration and the dilution caused by the Internet.

                  As for whether the teachers actually do that – install values into the children – yes, sure: they can’t help doing so. All children absorb values, norms, behaviour from the adults around them. But whether the teachers are aware of this aspect and makes use of it, that is another question…

                  I think the snobbery surrounding university educations, which you refer to, is very culturally dependent – and probably also (my guess) different from area to area within Australia? It is not that common in the States or Europe, as far as I know, though Germany does have a bit of it. I know for sure that it is generally far more important, when looking for job, what your actual, previous job experience is – rather than what education you actually have. Which is a significant issue for people who are just entering the workforce – often with a brilliant education, but… no actual work experience.

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                  • Oh yes, N. Dragon. The snobbery is culturally and regionally dependent. I feel it is also to do with the University’s ranking. However, the previous job experience is important and sometimes, more so in the workplace. They want you to have a piece of paper, and it can be any tatty old thing. We had a Senior Executive in a Disability Organization who held a Degree in Metallurgy, for goodness sake. They want to know you are capable of higher thought, not that the higher thought experience is necessarily relevant.
                    The snobbery factor, seems to be one prevalent in social settings. Therefore, the poor folks who do not attend or choose not to attend Unis and also live in regional areas, are knocked with a double whammy, perhaps. Sounds judgemental? Perhaps so. But there is anecdotal evidence.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • I never really understood snobbery, as such. As an intellectual thing, yes, but… it really isn’t part of that corner of the world which I inhabit. And never has been, strangely enough.
                      Can’t say I miss it, either 😉
                      From the intellectual angle, I believe it to be yet another manifestation of the human urge to strengthen the herd you belong to. You make it as attractive and as exclusive as possible…

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Snobbery and the motives of same, sounds like it could be a good topic for a Sunday discussion? You are indeed fortunate that you have found a society without any signs of it. I think your theory sounds entirely plausible. Strengthening the human herd to make it as exclusive as possible: ie -. To keep the privileges of that herd available only to those chosen few that appear to be of the same ilk. People of the same intellectual level are supposedly more compatible than others so whilst exclusivity seems based on fear, it could also be a natural tendency to be drawn to those who are similar.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Yes, well … it could also just be me who is blind to it. I grew up in a family which was both intellectual and rather uninterested in modern materialistic culture as such. They taught me to think – for which I am eternally grateful. But it also means that there are things which I do not see as easily, or the same way, as most other people…

                      I think it could very well be a good Sunday discussion, yes. 😉

                      Like

                    • Yes I will note that as a topic, N.Dragon. You were indeed fortunate to grow up in a household such as one that valued intellect. I wonder what it is you don’t notice, in others, other than perhaps class snobbery? (If that is not too personal a question.)

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I have been told that I sometimes do not catch subtle signs of emotion in people. But I think that is more an effect of a conscious decision I made when I was young, that if people were upset or disappointed by something, I would much rather have them tell me than have them expect that I should guess it. 😉
                      And then, the Internet – where the written word is awfully limited in the emotional “sidebands” it can express. Where we so easily read emotions on the face and body of people we speak with face-to-face, it is rather more difficult to read the body-language of the typed word…
                      Which means, of course, that people misread the mood and emotions of other people on the ‘Net all the time. So I am always very, very careful not to allow myself to “interpret” emotions on the Internet, unless those have been explicitly expressed (by eg. emoticon or word).

                      Like

                    • That sounds like good advice. I have had instances where the word had been misinterpreted. Even an emoji hastily typed could lead to confusion or conflict!

                      Liked by 1 person

  3. A.J. Liebling wrote, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” The problem’s become more acute in the U.S. since the government lifted its requirement to present–sorry, I’ve forgotten the exact wording–balanced news in order to keep a broadcasting license.

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