Friday, October 30, 2009

The Tyranny of the Ignorant

Clameur de Haro was amused to read today that Mr Simon Cowell (whom he respects as an entrepreneur astute enough to identify a market opportunity and then create wealth out of the resultant product – but er………………not as a judge of artistic talent) has threatened to quit our fair shores in high dudgeon should the Twins Jedward win the current series of The X-Factor. “This really wouldn’t be in the script” he is alleged to have said. "If they win, it will be a complete and utter disaster".
Ignoring the hyperbole, and the implied admission that there is a pre-determined “script”, CdeH is quite tempted this weekend to watch the show, just this once, solely for the pleasure of joining the growing movement to deliver an Agincourt Salute to the phalanx of up-my-own-fundament judges by derailing said predetermined script – just as millions did, to the consternation of the panel of equally up-my-own-fundament judges, by persistently refusing to eject John Sergeant from Strictly.
However, there is, sadly, a serious side to this knockabout. Clameur de Haro is no fan of either show, which he regards as the two supreme examples of the dumbed-down saccharine pap, deliberately and cynically targeted at the unquestioning and the undiscriminating, in the cultural and political elites’ present-day replication of the Romans’ “bread and circuses” policy.
CdeH’s fellow blogger Behind Blue Eyes put this, and the causes and implications of it, superbly in this recent post.
Many dystopian novels have, as part of their premise, a tyrannical government that hides from public view information and opinions that could embarrass the authorities. In Fahrenheit 451, an elite squad of “firemen” go around burning down any house down which is discovered to contain books. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the newspaper archives are altered retrospectively to ensure the state’s narrative is maintained.
Some say that in the information age such restrictions could never be enforced. In reality, the government does not need to go to any effort to hide the truth or subversive texts. All it has to do it ensure that sufficient numbers of people are not interested in the world around them.
Make sure enough people get a s**t education so that they grow up lacking curiosity in the way things work, are comfortable with their mundane existences, and that mass entertainment is sufficiently banal to stop them from opening their eyes and engaging their brains. As long as the number of people who can be bothered to keep themselves informed and are experienced enough to be able to form their own opinion is kept small enough, who cares what those people think?
If you want “power” in this country, you don’t need to have the best thought-out policies: you don’t need to be the brightest mind. This is socialism’s legacy: a nation where the majority are so ill-educated that they haven’t even heard of the classics, where vast swathes of society don’t have to engage their brain to feed and clothe themselves, where generations of parents don’t feel the need to encourage their children to explore the world.
This country is no longer run by a patrician elite, but by a cynical class of populist authoritarians who pander to every ignorant desire of the largest minority. Britain is a tyranny of the ignorant.
Clameur de Haro has on occasions been incredulous at the extent to which some of his acquaintance, by no means unintelligent people, deliberately eschew the acquisition of knowledge about, and the habit of questioning, what goes on the wider cultural, economic and political worlds outside their immediate occupational and domestic environments.
Of course, the right to choose to remain ignorant or unaware is an indivisible concomitant of a free society, but it is in the ways such as Behind Blue Eyes describes that we as a society unwittingly acquiesce in allowing our independence and our freedoms to be gradually eroded, one by one.
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