There have been several tyrants in the past that have at times appeared to be the ones bringing salvation or democracy and then they have turned out to replace one tyrannical regime with another tyrannical regime. These people include Robespierre, Napoleon, Lenin, Trotsky, Hitler and many more. These tyrants have often told the people what they want to hear or they actually provided some good advise in the beginning but the people weren’t educated enough to understand them and implement them. In Hitler’s case I think it is pretty clear that although he provided a few good ideas they were very few and he relied much more on manipulating people’s emotions and prejudices, but others like Robespierre may have actually been sincere in the beginning. Robespierre was initially against the death penalty and censorship. He may have truly wanted a democracy for France but when it came time to implement it the public may not have known how to respond to educational ideas. He isn’t the only people who spoke out against censorship and found out that when the public starts speaking they often express some very bad ideas which reflect the bad education or indoctrination they received in the past. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson also ran into this problem.
They spoke out against censorship when it was used against them and later they either advocated it or came close. This led many of their opponents to use some arguments many of which were unreasonable that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams wound up opposing sometimes with what seemed like some justification. In order to find out whether the opposition has a good argument the debate has to happen. In some cases if it goes to far it may lead to distractions that effectively censor good ideas that are being drowned out. Sorting through this takes time. If the public didn’t have an adequate education they may have only been willing and able to understand emotional pleas at that time. This is because they never had the education they needed to implement a true democracy. This is why we need an educational revolution preferably without an armed revolution.
Prior to the Russian and French revolutions as well as many other revolutions the lower classes were never provided with the education they needed to know how to run their own government. In many cases the general public may have understood two things generally speaking. One was how to do the menial tasks that they were trained to do from birth. This may have included farming for some people or others may have been trained to do factory work. This didn’t include an education about the basics about how the economy was run.
Another thing they may have learned was how to strike out in anger. In many cases these people were raised in violent homes where parents were often taught that if they spared the rod they spoiled the child. Parents weren’t taught to spend time to teach their children. Many of these parents often beat their children when they disobeyed or disagreed with their parents. This is a very important fact that is often overlooked when it comes to peaceful revolutions. In the long run children need to be taught at an early age to behave in a civil manner if they are going to participate in a successful democracy. So in order to this there needs to be a strong campaign against child abuse.
The United States is often considered the exception where the revolution was successful and they set up a government that lasted. This is partially true; they did set up a government that lasted and it was better than the one before but it wasn’t nearly as democratic as it has often been made out to appear. The reason they were successful in setting up a new government is because the people that arranged the revolution had some experience running a government. Most of the organizers of the revolution were the people that were selected to run the colonial government. They were primarily property owners that were selected to do the work of the king in the absence of the English government. The King couldn’t handle the details from afar so he had to allow the local leaders to partially govern themselves. This experience is what made them capable of running a government after the revolution.
The problem was they were only a small percentage of the population. The original republic didn’t allow blacks, woman or many uneducated poor whites to participate. These people didn’t gain their rights until the civil rights movement more than a hundred years later. They had to learn more about how the government worked before they could participate in it successfully. When they saw the arguments the founding fathers mad against the king they realized that they could also be made to defend the rights of the lower classes. Through many civil conflicts since the revolution minorities and woman improved their status when they held their government accountable but in many cases if they weren’t vigilant these improvements have been rolled back. The majority of the public still doesn’t truly understand how their government works so they only have the illusion of a democracy now. In order to have a sincere democracy in the USA there needs to be a better educations system available to everyone including the poor. The public has to understand how the government works and how they have been manipulated in the past.
Woodrow Wilson once said "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." What this effectively means is that those who don’t receive a good education often wind up being manipulated by those who do especially when that education includes political activity and understanding tactics to manipulate those that are less educated. There have been many cases where members of the upper classes have criticized the masses for being uneducated and at the same time the upper classes have often either withheld the education the masses need or provided distorted indoctrination to the masses. In many cases the same people indoctrinating the public are the ones criticizing them for being uneducated.
In order to have a successful Educational Revolution the public needs to have access to data about any given subject in an organized fashion starting with the basics of each subject. This is easier said than done; in some cases the basics may be very obvious like in math. The basics start with arithmetic followed by fractions, decimals, algebra, geometry etc. However in other cases the basics aren’t so clear like in chemistry. Now the basics may start with the table of elements and electrons and protons etc. but for thousands of years most people didn’t know that. They had to do a lot of research before they could organize the basics in a way people could understand it and there are still a lot of people that have a hard time with it.
This is also true about other subjects that are considered the most important to the public right now including Climate Change, Health Care Reform, the War on Terror etc. The information being presented to the public on all these subjects by the Mass Media is very biased. They are ignoring some of the most important facts about each subject.
In the case of Climate Change or any other type of pollution the public needs to know more about the conclusive facts about each subject. The information the Mass Media is providing over and over again is the controversial facts. The Mass Media isn’t making any effort to let the public know about how many people are dying due to carbon monoxide poison. I believe I have seen a few studies that said that this may contribute to as much as fifty thousand deaths a year in the USA alone but it receives only a rare brief mention. There is little effort to inform the public how many oil spills there are around the country or the world and many other important facts are being almost totally ignored while the Mass Media obsesses on the most controversial subjects that go no where.
The Mass Media is doing similar things with Health Care Reform and War Propaganda. They are paying no more than a toke amount of attention to preventive medicine, patent laws, the basics about how insurance companies pool money from the policies to pay for ads profits then health care. There is an enormous amount of waste by insurance companies that are doing more to convince the public they are providing health care than they are to actually provide health care. When ever you see a commercial that spends a lot of time telling the public you are “covered totally covered completely covered” keep in mind they spent a lot of money on that commercial and that money comes from the premiums. The money spent on commercials isn’t being spent on coverage.
In the case of Wart propaganda they spend much more time telling the public about all these people that want to kill us but little about why. Many of these people lack the education and opportunities they need to have a good life so they strike out. By providing more education before people are driven to desperation they could do much more to prevent terrorism that by intimidating the public with exaggerated terrorism scares over and over again.
In order to do this successfully there has to be a closer look at the domination by the Mass Media and the copyright laws that are being used to maintain control over as large amount of information. Robert W. McChesney has explored this in his book “The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century”. The Mass media is controlled by a small percentage of the public. Most of the media is under the control of only five corporations many of whom share a lot of stock holders. Although the board members aren't the same they do meet in other boards of other corporations that they also belong to. There needs to be a much more diverse influence on the Mass Media that includes more input from many academic experts in any given subject as well as the public themselves. The public may not understand any given subject as well as they could and should but in order to change that they need to be allowed to be more involved in the discussion.
Copyright laws were created originally to provide compensation for people who did a lot of work to sort through the details of many different subjects. I’m not sure this is the best way to compensate them but even if it is it has gone way too far. It is now being used to protect the rights of corporations that obtained the copyrights and heirs to the original writers. Corporate copy writes are now 95 years from the date they are issued and personal copyrights are 70 after the death of the authors. This is way to extreme and it is being used to control the information available to the public and provide profits for corporations more than it is being used to compensate the original authors. In some cases new copy writes are being issued hundreds of years after the original writings to people who shouldn’t have any rights to control the information at all.
In “The Debate on the Constitution” There are over 2,000 pages of papers that were originally written over 200 years ago. In the front of the Book as usual it says “all rights reserved”, then it goes on to explain that some of the papers not all were issued copy rights to colleges in the 1970’s and 80’s almost 200 years after they were written. They take credit for keeping them in print and making them available to the public but they don’t do a good job distributing them and they withhold the right to put many of them on line for free. This should be considered an outrage especially since these papers had a very important influence on the way the US government was created. The general public should have full rights to read this without paying for the copyrights of colleges. Copyright reform is especially important when it comes to major issues that have a major impact on how our governments are run. This should include when there are books about political or corporate wrong doing. In some cases there are authors who investigate the wrong doing then righting about it but instead of making it available to the public in the most efficient way possible so the public can act on it they control the distribution of this information with copyright laws. Only those who know where to look and pay for it have access to this information.
There also needs to be a better education available to the public so that they know how to process this information. This should be done in the regular school system but since it hasn’t there should be a public relation campaign to encourage those that didn’t learn to do this the first time around to learn. A much better effort needs to be made to make education as inexpensive as possible without sacrificing the quality. A big obstacle to this is the copyright laws and how they apply to text books. With the new technology provided by the internet this should dramatically reduce cost since it makes it much easier to exchange and organize information if it is done right. This could include making some of the best educational lectures by teachers available on tape to every one. There is no reason why these teachers should have to repeat them over and over again; if the students watch them ahead of class then class can be used for discussion and those that can’t afford complete education can get a head start by watching the tapes and follow up at a later date when the financial situation is better. Perhaps the most determined should qualify for scholarships.
Unfortunately this isn’t happening instead they are searching for new technology to prevent people from cutting and pasting and making information available to everyone. In some cases even though operating costs are going down there are attempts to increase the cost of education. Some teachers may be more concerned with protecting their jobs than providing the best education possible. I doubt if this represents most teachers but it may represent some of the ones with the most political power. The fact that some political figures including William M. Bulger have been appointed to head major colleges should raise some red flags. When William M. Bulger was the President of the Massachusetts State Senate he was involved in a lot of political scandal and when he moved onto become President of the University of Massachusetts System in addition to influencing education policy he also help organized a major presidential debate between All Gore and George Bush. Having educational institutions help with the interview process for political candidates is a good idea but if it is organized by corrupt political appointees it defeats the purpose.
One good way to improve education without increasing cost could involve encouraging people, young and old, to help educate themselves. This can involve looking up information on their own and forming study or discussion groups. This doesn’t necessarily have to involve putting any teachers out of jobs since they will still need them. This would just allow the public more educational opportunities. Existing teachers can still provide advice at these study groups or when there are unresolved issues they can consult with the teachers. In many cases this can help people prepare for college at a low cost and enable them to get the best out of the system.
This isn’t entirely a new idea the sit down strikers and others recognized how important it is to provide a better education to the working classes. In some cases during the sit down strikes the unions brought in people to help educate the workers. Strikes are generally inefficient but settles on the demands of the capitalists has often been even worse and this is one good way to improve the effectiveness of strikes if they can’t be avoided.
The bottom line is that in order for the public to have a true democracy they have to understand how it works and what they are voting for.
First posted on tripod 1/4/10
Free Press has done some good work on this subject: