Have we ever been in a world more divided by politics?
As a 30 year old, I am far too young to remember the World Wars. I was not interested in learning the details when I was being taught about it in school. The last few years has reignited my curiosity for this type of historical knowledge. As I had generally ignored this topic, I thought it would be interesting to finally try to learn. I have never articulated my emerging ideas on this subject so I thought I would give it a go.
I keep repeating that I am no expert and this remains even more apparent when it comes to European history. What I can surmise is that politics has always had a complicated historical origin and that wars are often fought over competing ideas on how people ought to be ruled.
Authoritarianism,, capitalism, communism, and democracy are examples of ideologies that govern different societies and have influenced the historical actions of nations. World War II saw capitalist nations join forces with communist states against the authoritarians that opposed the former. The latter sought to eliminate social divisions through the eradication of people who did not fit their ideas of perfection. Millions died because of a powerful and influential ideology that is slowly emerging once again.
I have loosely followed politics from an early age; I remember the election of Tony Blair in 1994, I still to this day have newspapers I bought in 2003 when the war in Iraq began. I have watched the rise of the so-called War on Terror, from a privileged position in a country that has started to forget the true destruction and devastation of being a nation under attack. I have kept my eyes open and yet I recognise that I know so little.
This is why it frustrates me when people dismiss historical events yet attempt to make claims that they know what is occurring in the world and the reasons for it. These people seem to be the type that place judgement on the value of the lives of people who are different thus creating a hierarchy of acceptability – using themselves as a measure for suitability. The idea that one race is superior to all others is a poisonous belief that is rooted in fear, hate, and prejudice.
Last year I took part in compulsory training called The Prevent Duty and Safeguarding. The reason this training was introduced is to help safeguard students against radicalisation. In theory, it sounded good; it required you to promote dedication to ‘fundamental British values’ which include equality and diversity. Again, this sounded respectable until I got to the part about democracy.
No political ideology is perfect and the ones that are in practice are less than adequate. Social inequality appears to grow despite the progress made against poverty. Democracy gave us both Brexit and Trump even though the rules of the two elections were quite different. In America, Trump did not get the majority vote but still won the election because the population of states are given equal value regardless of their numerical value.
In the UK we do not have such system and the majority voted to Leave the EU, even though it was clear that the margin of difference only demonstrated that the nation was divided. If the different ‘states’ of the UK were given proportional vote like the American system, the result would have been to Remain. If America voted based on majority alone – Clinton would have won the election.
The political events of 2016 in the UK and US demonstrated the disadvantages of democracy and the varying interpretations of how to put the idea of ‘one individual/one vote’ into practice. It also was the year that saw the rise of nationalism in the EU and the year that the term Post-Truth became relevant. The two elections were not won based on verifiable truths or factual reality; it was won based on appeal to the mistrust of difference. Giving every person an equal vote assumes either that everyone is capable of being rational – or assumes that the people can be easily manipulated for political gain. Unfortunate it is obvious which one is more likely.
My issue with democracy is that it gives equal value between someone who has no knowledge of politics and someone who has studied it scientifically for decades. This has led to people strongly believing that their opinions count as facts. I believe that if we want the right to vote then we must be willing to prove we are educated enough to do so. An institution independent of the state should be responsible to providing courses and exams. We have to pass a test to drive; why should this be any different when the future of a nation is at stake?
In state education, we are not taught about politics; only the elite private schools who have been grooming Prime Ministers from the upper classes for generations teach their students about the political process and its historical ideologies. There is no balance in Westminster, or in the Senate, that reflects the society it governs. This is more than about gender or race; the social economic division of power is terribly biased towards the wealthy.
It is no coincidence that those more likely to be seduced by the appeal to emotion are less wealthy and less educated. Academics and scientists can be just as elitist as the politicians and are now seemly as untrustworthy – their voices were drowned out by the hateful rhetoric of Farage and Trump. How can the people trust the academics and scientists if they too operate only in their own interests? The whole idea that science and politics should be separated is mistaken in my opinion.
Scientific technological advances should directly inform politics. Philosophers need to step out of the shadows of the ivory tower and start actively engaging with the people. There ought to be a law that states that politicians must be able to prove that not only are they educated adequately but also have enough experience in the areas of governance they are working in. Life experience should also be considered in its entirety. The elite should not be default leaders like they are now; they should be able to prove they can relate to the society they aim to govern.
For example, the Education Secretary must have had at least 10 years’ experience working within the education sector with at least 5 years in a managerial role. The Defence Secretary must have served for a minimum of 10 years in the military with at least 5 years’ experience in a managerial rank. For internal governmental positions, such as Secretary of State, the experience required would be through at least 5 years’ other governmental departments such as Education, Defence, and Environment.
These positions are not for the Prime Minister or President to fill but the people. This is what the people should vote on, in addition to the main ‘party’. So, imagine that for every election we have at least 6 different candidates for each departmental role, that are all similarly education and experienced. We do not need Labour or Conservative, Democrats or Republicans – we need qualified leaders. We would not have appointments such as Betsy Devos who is clearly not suited for the role and was only appointed because her family are wealthy donors.
What I describe is a type of Meritocratic Technocracy that keeps the idea of democracy for the people but strengthens the results by ensuring that those who serve are acting in the best interests of everyone. Take wealth completely out of politics by only providing a salary for those who earn less than the average citizen. No more part time politicians whose focus is on their own pots of gold. Maybe then the people will be able vote based on more than opinions informed by emotions.
If we are truly entering an age of Post Truth, then philosophy and science have utterly failed as generators of knowledge. The fight for liberty is only half the battle – the war on ideologies is fought on the grounds of belief – not fact.
Perhaps this is what we had wrong all along.