BY: T. Franklin Murphy | November 2018
The power of a democracy is the people. When the people, surrender critical thought to the leaders, the democracy fails. We must educate ourselves on the issues and make our voice heard.
We place too much value on certainty. We fear looking stupid, so we rarely admit to lapses in knowledge. We fool ourselves into accepting tidbits of thought and blind ourselves to a more comprehensive understanding.
Knowledge is wonderful; but learning how to think is better. We learn by venturing into murky unknowns, where facts are indiscernible from theories, and complexities confuse the known with the unknown. We learn best when not frightened by our own ignorance. As a democracy, the people have a responsibility to learn—not blindly accept.
Our institutions are shaken by the wave of ignorance, not from the politicians. We accept and defend whatever our political party dictates without skeptical examination. Our representatives and elected officials know that laziness of mind prevails, with the people easily settling for tribal dogmatism. They obtain favor with the voting public, not with knowledge, but sharp quips and nasty threats.
"Knowledge is wonderful; but learning how to think is better. Learning only occurs by venturing into murky unknowns, where facts are indiscernible from theories, and complexities confuse the known with the unknown."
I find it ironic, during the lively fight against bullies in our schools, we tend to elect those most skilled at bullying. What message are we sending to the children? We know what is wrong; we identify it; our public opinion polls clearly present that people are interested in issues over hate speech, but when we elect, we reward the attackers--the ones we supposedly detest.
We must challenge the candidates to know more, not just dazzle with performance. Tribalism isn’t good enough. We don’t want an idiot congressperson who relies on a crutch of political affiliation for every issue. We want someone who studies history, causes and effects. We want someone that works to educate the public rather then expect blind acceptance.
Are we all fools? Has economics, technology and national survival become too complex for understanding by the lay public? Do we vote with our hearts without bothering our minds?
Now, more than ever, polls indicate we don’t trust the politicians. But if we don’t take time to understand the issues, the present and future impacts of policy, how can we call the politicians to task? Tribalism doesn’t require representatives to understand the issues. They can vote with their parties while in Washington, leaving their brains happily sitting on the mantel at home, which seems to the case after watching the fiasco in both houses over the last several years.
I don’t have the answers, but I strive to understand the issues through a constant diet of skeptical examination from the recent and distant past, sprinkled with commentaries from experts in the fields of the many applicable domains. I understand that information funnels through a subjective understanding.
My past, my experiences, and my hopes color my learning. One person cannot figure it out alone. A nation is composed of millions of minds and subjective understandings that can’t fit neatly into two very defined political parties. We need a democracy of more independent thinkers, challenging the politicians to be more representative.
Instead of the population defining the platform of the parties, the parties define the beliefs of the people. The ever-widening gulf between the two ideals fragments society, alienating groups, and justifying political corruption that willingly deceives to obtain their self-righteous objectives. The forefathers seen the potential for these evils in frail human societies. The constitution was established to fight against the destructive propensities. The constitution empowers the people. The people then empower the government.
We have allowed ourselves to become too busy chasing wealth and happiness to burden our lives with the responsibilities of wise participation in governing our nation, leaving the work to the officials, and then griping over the outcomes. Nations have come and gone. The United States of America is not immune to collapse. Democracies have collapsed, and powers dissolved. The constitution only protects when the people governed also lead.
We must face our lack of knowledge with disgust and work to understand, seeking more than what our political party dictates. We can’t accept claims without unbiased studies. We can’t justify political lies and assertions of fact without support. We must take back our country, demand more from those we elect, and call for action when trusts are violated.
We the people are responsible when government fails.
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