Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Recurring Theme with Me

Here's a snippet from a recent essay on counter-punch:
In 2008 Rick Shenkman, the Editor-in-Chief of the History News Network, published a book entitled Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter (Basic Books). In it he demonstrated, among other things, that most Americans were: (1) ignorant about major international events, (2) knew little about how their own government runs and who runs it, (3) were nonetheless willing to accept government positions and policies even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggested they were bad for the country, and (4) were readily swayed by stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears, and public relations babble.
Unfortunately, we learn, that this is the default position for all countries. It's pretty depressing. The majority everywhere are either ignorant or stupid, if not both, and narrowly focused only on those matters that affect them or a close associate directly. But it's really no surprise for anybody who is paying any attention. There are factors that explain this phenomenon, such as geography and ideology and even bureaucracy, but as the article also observes that this doesn't make the facts any less depressing.

Be that as it may, it is in the national interest of countries to keep critical thinking at a minimum. Which is why it doesn't get taught, and even if it does, critical thinking presupposes knowledge of a subject at hand, and that's hardly ever there. If people only think about things critically when the matter impacts them directly, that's fine with most governments. This is just what's needed to keep the population hostile and always primed for whatever propaganda the government wants them to believe.

So what's the bottom line? I'm afraid it's been a recurring theme with me: there just aren't many critical thinkers and the ones that do practice the craft aren't popular even with governments or with the people around them. If they really get annoying, we know what societies do to them.
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