Monday, June 13, 2016

US Election: Ignorance in Charge

 Republican despair over the fact that Donald Trump has managed to become, for all intents and purposes, the Republican nominee for President, shows one striking thing: for one man, one vote, to ensure enlightened governance, democracy has to be backed up by a very high quality compulsory education system.
Donald Trump won more primary votes than any other American candidate ever, forcing the Republican establishment to anoint him as their candidate, against their better judgement. But if you are going to limit voter education to television reality shows and video games, you should not be surprised if anger over government failings leads a lot of ordinary people to vote for the candidate who encourages them to have a gun. Donald Trump didn’t become a billionaire by being a couch-potato or toting a gun, but his message is clearly designed to appeal to such voters.
That message is the equivalent of Hitler’s appeal to disenchanted 1920’s and thirties German voters, who longed for past glory, and it’s a stinging indictment of a century of compulsory eduction. Television is a wonderful means of mind control, and when its appeal began to fade, video games and smart-phones came along to pick up the slack. Technology opens up a world of unlimited information if one cares to look for it, but obsessive use of computers and its offshoots leaves little time for independent thinking, which requires a silent environment without too much visual stimulus.
In mid-nineteenth century America, education was seen as the key to democracy: voters needed to master the three r’s (reading, writing and arithmetic, sic!) to make meaningful decisions in the voting booth on issues facing the country.  But at some point, the decision to invest in advertising in order to sell more stuff, rather than in schools, meant that more money was invested in ‘fun’ than in knowledge, filling the coffers of manufacturers while emptying minds. Most progressive analysis since the end of World War II has focused on the ever-growing role of publicity in consumer choices.  But advertising also plays a crucial role in the willingness of voters to pay attention to what goes on beyond their neighborhood or town - not to mention their ability to do so meaningfully.
The American population can be divided into two main groups: an overwhelming majority that hardly knows there is a world beyond our borders, and a very small minority - probably no more than 10% - that pays attention to international developments.  

That is why a year-long presidential campaign - longer than those of any other country, by far - holds Americans spell-bound, to the exclusion of wars or natural disasters occurring elsewhere. And when someone like Donald Trump comes along bragging about his commercial - not academic, scientific, artistic or spiritual - accomplishments, large numbers of voters, especially men who have seen their dreams of success (those promised by television ads) fade away, leaving as only recourse access to a gun with which potentially to alter reality, literally rise up, as we have seen at countless rallies, giving him the primary votes needed to become the candidate of a Republican Party whose 2012 candidate was the milk-toast Mitt Romney. 

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