Wednesday, September 16, 2009

civic illiteracy, antiscience and anti-intellectualism


This is a great article from ZNet. As with many criticisms of US culture you can apply much of it to the UK as well. The premise of the article is an articulation of something I have been trying to verbalise for some time. As usual I am too lazy and too imprecise in my language to write anything so concise and linear as the arguments in Giroux's article and so I will simply point to his work and say "what that guy said!" Essentially I feel that democracy is meaningless in any society as dumbed-down as the one we inhabit. Evidence based decision making is merely a dream of people like me. Science is regularly exploited for political or commercial purposes or is simply wilfully misrepresented with little opportunity for recourse and even less understanding of the importance of such recourse to the health of society. Research goals are being similarly subverted. The education system seems to be on a permanent slide to nowhere and the goal of producing well-rounded personalities seems to have been replaced with one of producing well-disciplined automata.

Don't get me wrong, this is very much a "this country's going to the dogs" kind of rant. I'd like to think though that there's a lot more evidence to support my argument, thanks to the likes of Giroux, than there is to support rants on the same topic by oiks like Richard Littlejohn or Melanie Phillips- who tend to blame the imigruntz and the ecoterrorists as opposed to their own industry, the government and the marketing and PR campaigns of big corporations. They, of course, are terrified of democracy because it clearly doesn't agree with them (yet!) and therefore they, like the "anti-democratic forces" Giroux refers to, have a vested interest in perpetuating and extending social illiteracy and the dumbing down of society so as to subvert democracy.

'The death of a democracy is not likely to be an assassination by ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment'.

"The object of the educational system, taken as a whole, is not to produce hands for industry or to teach the young how to make a living. It is to produce responsible citizens"

--Robert Maynard Hutchins

" . . . from this fractured society come the feral, illiterate, innumerate children of those broken homes, who have seen what society served their parents and are now so filled with hatred and confusion and incomprehensible rage, that they wander the streets in gangs looking for something to fuck or fight . . . "
- errorgorilla

“Ignorance is like cholera, it cannot be controlled by the individual alone: it requires the organised efforts of society.”

-- Sir Muir Gray

“ The affair seemed symptomatic of the dumbing-down of public life in this country and the collapse of education, which has turned large swathes of the populace into pap-brained, illiterate TV-addicted hysterics.”

Bruce Anderson

The Independent

"It was not desirable that the proles should have strong political feelings. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working-hours or shorter rations. And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because, without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice."

- George Orwell, 1984


  1. Memo to self: dig up documents from 1950, 1900, 1800 and Ancient Rome lamenting the decline in civic literacy and intellectualism.

  2. Ahahaha, indeed.

    Are you suggesting my concerns are misplaced?

  3. I'm very very sceptical of any claim that Things Have Got Worse since some hypothetical golden age - whether that's a Littlephillips rant about how in the 1950s we never knife-crimed each other, a Bennite rant about how everything's gone to the dogs since Mrs Thatcher because people no longer get maimed for low wages in heavy industry, or a John Lloyd rant about how the meeja has made everything stupid.

    I'm pretty sure that the general standard of political (in the widest possible sense) discourse was just as ignorant in the 1950s and 1960s as today. We remember TW3 and Enoch Powell rather than (respectively) lame jokes about Wilson's pipe and saloon-bar rants about sending the nig-nogs home, because the former were articulate enough to be worth remembering. Similarly, people in 2040 will selectively quote the bits of 2000s political commentary that weren't ignorant bollocks to justify their belief that everything's gone downhill.

    (this probably reflects my wider political philosophy, which is 'everything's a bit shit, but we've coped with the fact that everything's a bit shit for millions of years, and on average very slowly made things slightly less shit over time, and this will probably continue'...)

    Captcha: "wines". No ta, not until my hangover dissipates a bit more...


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