An interesting discussion over the dangers menacing our democracies was kicked off by our latest post “Will Fascism Come Back? Easy, a Bit is There Already.”
Most participants asked themselves whether democracy is at a turning point in many countries.
I am fortunate to have such great commentators. I’m also glad I received additional insight on the American mind I always found fascinating also because elements of it are not that easy to be grasped by Europeans (the collectivism vs individualism thing, for example.)
I’ll freely transcribe here a few sentences of the said dialogue where the dear-to-me topic education in a democracy stands out a bit.
A scene from Videocracy, by Erik Gandini, an Italian Swedish film director
The idea behind this is a follow-up post on a work experience I had in Russia where I was sent in the year 2000 in order to carry out a TACIS* financed educational project for the integration of military personnel into civil society.
It seems very much to the point since it regards the topics discussed in the said conversation, ie individualism, collectivism, education in democracies or in flawed (or almost non existent) democracies.
[*TACIS was a programme financed by the EU for "grant-financed technical assistance to 12 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia"]
MoR: Is fascism coming back in a way or another? We see “the contempt for the composed reason replaced by the reason of those who shout louder, by the hubbub that rages every evening in the televised debates etc.”
Paul: I’m afraid [fascism] has never been very far below the surface. [Paul's blog]
Douglas: “I cannot think of any true democracies. Republics, yes, but democracies, no. [Douglas' blog]
MoR: I agree. Demo-cracies are often aristo-cracies, ie the rule of the happy few. There is in fact a prerequisite imo for a democracy to work correctly: a solidly educated people. Without such prerequisite, demo-cracy degenerates into dem-agogy, ie a rule manipulative of the people via their emotions, fears, bias etc. The health care debate in America is an example of that I presume. Berlusconian Italy a much bigger one.
Andreas: Nobody actually fears fascism will win in America. But the rancor, the shrillness, the animosity obscuring reason and thought: that is everywhere. [Andreas's blog]
Cheri: On both sides of the aisle, I might observe. [Cheri's blog]
[Everybody seems to agree that it is not a Left or Right thing. The attack to freedom after all has historical roots in political 'churches' of any colour, and often in churches tout court (and, alas, especially in one Church)]:
ZeusIsWatching: Fascism is the kissing cousin of communism, the similarities are clear enough. [Zeus' blog]
Sledpress: Fascism [will live] with us as long as authority and submission are considered vital components of human culture … conditioning from birth onward … [cult of] “strong leadership” … We’ve all seen people bounce from Catholicism to Communism or whatever. [Sledpress' blog]
Douglas: [he gets back to the educational thing] Do you really believe, MoR, that any country will produce a solidly educated people? …I think that as long as education is in the hands of the government ….there will only be people educated to support that government.
An image from the Italian TV. Click for credits
MoR: I understand America is suspicious of any state intervention in society …continental Europe, and possibly French Canada, have a rationalist, non empiricist, tradition (‘reason’ moulds society or kinda) so that a state should be ethical enough to try help the ‘losers’ of societal Darwinian competition, ie the poor, the uneducated etc
Portions of the sotosay winners’ income – a widespread mentality here, not necessarily leftist – should go to the less wealthy, without condoning tho those who take advantage of such a system (many of course do, tons of money gets wasted to the extent of foolishness).
While (almost) not spending a euro I have an excellent medical care, I myself once was a state school teacher trying to do something for the uneducated in the poorest districts of Rome.
And in Russia, a great but nightmarish place where I worked in 2000 (a moment when ALL was crumbling down there,) the masses were nonetheless amazingly educated in S&T and were reading Tolstoy, Pushkin in second class trains. Education didn’t save them from many forms of tyranny, big and small, which they accepted as their tradition, but I’m sure after these 10 years they are still bearing their tyrannies but must have copied the worst from us and are now reading crap in trains as well, as we do in moronic Berlusconian Italy.
Ana Téran: [a Mexican writer I just met at Andreas'.] Public will is a powerful weapon. Why in the hell don’t we use it MoR?
Lichanos: The “masses?” I wonder what percentage of people were reading Tolstoy and Pushkin. On the other hand, I meet lots of technically educated Russians who are surprised to find that I, an American engineer, know their history and literature, as they know ours. So, clearly there is a difference. [Lichanos' blog]
The final twist of the conversation brings me then to talk about Russia a bit. A marvellous (but puzzling) place from any point of view. See you soon then.
[The 3 posts below illustrate - with really ample discussions - the notion of 'personal knowledge' related to what I mean by 'solid education', ie specialisation plus general knowledge. There is for example a difference (diminishing, alas) between the Latin countries plus Germany and Austria, on one hand, and the Anglo-Saxon countries on the other hand.
As Magister wrote, before the young are inserted into specialised activities they should first attain "a certain amount of maturity, of capacity of autonomy, orientation, initiative." The last 30 years have seen in Italy the debacle of any effective education - both the Left and the Right having responsibilities, but Berlusconi added a big cherry on the pie by the propagation of a degrading culture in which he sincerely believes, it seems. I invite you all to get a copy of Videocracy. Here is the film's official web site.
We had good ‘general culture’ orientation according to Italian traditions (but less specialization, a flaw, ok,) but now we have none of the two. AND Berlusconi has now convinced many Italians that priority num 1 is a reform of the constitution that will give him the power of a French (or American) President without any French or US counterbalance. And the economy? And unemployment? If this is not manipulation ....]
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath
American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci