Few days ago as we were discussing about the nature of the three Bill of Rights, I took this chance to analyse the concept of universal suffrage and provocatively asked them whether it was actually right that everybody could vote or if they saw some faults in the system. Stupor and amazement was their first reaction, how can it be possible to discuss such a great achievement of modern history? Therefore, I decided to refresh what democracy means to add other elements to the discussion: “Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or indirectly through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.”
What makes a citizen eligible? Age? Profession? In my opinion education makes citizens eligible. I want to make myself clear. Few weeks ago I read on a newspaper the result of a survey about the quality of education here in Italy and the outcome was really disastrous. The survey states that 80 % of our population are “analfabeti di ritorno” that in English could be more or less: those who have” relapsed into illiteracy”. 80 people out of 100 may be able to write and read, but they don’t fully understand what they read, graduated included. This happens because we don’t read much in this country, in fact in the many years I spent in England, if there is one thing that really surprised me at first glance, apart from the habit of queuing, was the great number of people I saw reading everywhere.
Certainly my students, who are 18/19 and are going to vote soon, placed themselves in the 20% of the cultivated, therefore I asked them to explain the meaning of the expression “welfare state“. No-one was able to produce a decent answer. The question is, if you don’t know the meaning of a common topic such “welfare stare“, upon what ground are you going to give your vote? Politicians know that survey well, that’s why their speeches have become a sequence of catch-phrases in time, they talk to that 80% of people who don’t take the trouble to inform themselves and believe any given promise . 80 is more than 20 after all.
Has modern democracy become the dictatorship of ignorance?
An excellent discussion, Stefania, about a desperate state of affairs. And this from Italy, heir to a great classical tradition! Perhps Berlusconi and his friends have helped reduce Italian society to a bread-and-circuses mentality. Sad and a great shame.
They had their part, but it is also the new language of “modernity”, quick, immediate, with no room for reflection. Ignorance and speed make a deadly combination.
This is worldwide. Not only in Italy or US… The standards of individual nations are now global and bad customs (either of government or law or education or healthcare) seem to spread much stealthier and efficiently than the good ones. It’s quite depressing really!
As we are growing globally more ignorant,we are also becoming less aware , that’s why we tend to trust the first demagogue populist who shows up to the political scene. At least this what happens here. So sad.
Thought-provoking. People really need to be more educated on the issues.
But in the US we have moved from democracy to plutocracy: rule by the wealthy, who give large campaign contributions, making our representatives feel indebted, in a form of legalized bribery.
It seems there is no hope anywhere. 😦
I have more stuff to say about this, but I need to think about it for a bit. The short answer to the question is “yes, yes it has.” But electoral politics has always been vulnerable to the ignorance you’re describing, going back to the classical world.
Thank you for such an important post. Very well written.You really are a good role model for your students!
I’m trying to do my best 🙂 Thanks a lot for your nice words.
Yes, it has, at least here in the United States. Unfortunately, many people here either don’t bother to inform themselves or they live in a bubble where they choose “news” sources that will only reinforce their pre-existing opinions.
It’s really disappointing to see that there is no hope in any part of the world.
Time for my Sunday History class with Mrs.Tink.
As I was reading at the beginning I thought I caught her on this one when you asked the students should all eligible citizens should be aloud to vote. I thought, no, since thanks to a bunch of dummies we have here in Spain well we have ended up where we are. But then I got to reading the rest so that was a bummer that you already had though of that, you are a teacher so it shouldn´t surprise me.
What I did find quite astonishing is the percentage of illiterate population over in Italy. Yet again there are plenty of well educated people who are easily fooled by politicians.
Talking about a welfare state, it´s impossible to sustain. Spain is a perfect example of that, and it seems that back in the U.S with Mr.O, who this guy is a socialist no doubt in my mind about that, nothing wrong with it, but just call it for what it is since his policies and way of acting is the typical socialism I´ve seen throughout my life here in Spain. This guy when he said “he will fundamentally transform America” I don´t think people actually grasped where he really wanted to go with those words. And as it turns out, and actually I´m glad since it´s better for the U.S as a whole, there will always be people falling down the cracks, and different economic status. And that is necessary in order to maintain a society such as the U.S or for that matter any western style of democracy. The rich, have big houses, the house didn´t fall off from the sky and there it is, you need people to build it, electricians, carpenters, the guys in charge of insulation, e.t.c the bricks or wood, there is a whole industry behind that who in return employs more people, starting from the guys who actually cut the trees. And ofcourse the pay can´t be too high since the company has to make profits, and if it doesn´t it either has to cut down on employees or fire them. So for me better have a low paying job that at least if your are smart about it, and smart with how you handle your money it can be a platform to go on to a better job, and if not well tough luck at least you have a job and not running around in circles at the unemployment center.
Welfare state, impossible. Here you pay your taxes, acutally the tax you for everything included the IBI, which is a tax a year, that is related to the square meters your house has. And all this is goes out from the middle class for the most part, hence the middle class is shrinking. Hence we are at 27% unemployment is the official number and as always the unofficial is in the mid 30´s. So what happens then, there are more people getting benefits from the social security, so less people paying into the social security and more people taking out money from it, then they have to tax you in some other kind of way a sneaky way. When they say that the taxes on medicine pills are no longer, they have to make it up in some other way of taxing you. But, it´s a typical socialist way because it sure looks good for the people that know they don´t have to pay or be taxed for the people of pour health. How nice of them. So at the end of the day, it´s impossible to sustain a welfare state in the long run, the State as a whole will get slowly more and more empobrished, to the point of being bankrupt which is where we are now in Spain, and what does that mean also, that we have to borrow from the Germans, so basically the Germans have leverage and really dictate the politics of our nation, meaning you loose the concept of a sovereign nation.
And this has to be an double A+ paper.
Such a comment would have deverved a much prompt reply, but this time I am super busy , school has just started as you know 😦 As far as I can read, Spain and Italy are practically brother and sister. Same problems, same attitude. If you want to improve the political commitmemt and awareness of people, the only thing you need is high quality education. That is all.
I know your busy. No worries. You´re right on improving the education.