The devaluation of knowledge (or how culture must come out of democracy’s closet)

Here’s a thought and a half:


My thought and a half, but even so … no less true?

It’s maybe the result of a devaluation of knowledge: as social media disperses and amplifies so much information about what traditional makers and shakers do/have done with their lives, posts and roles of responsibility, so we learn/are taught to accept the growing unimportance of evidence.

Over the past few years, the opinions of the professions – of all professions – have been progressively (regressively, IMHO!) undermined by those who find such evidence-based mindsets an irritant to their goals. The general public, those of us still – even now – with time to think and cogitate, have become accustomed to such levels of shameless porkie-telling amongst our leaders that, in a sense, they too have become accustomed.

The battle to sleep well at night has been hard fought by those shameless souls I mention – and now, more or less, seems to be won.

Knowledge is no longer power, because power no longer has control over knowledge. And once this control has been lost, it’s a natural instinct of clever human beings to find something else to control exclusively. In this case, as already suggested, the right to edit and define our perceptions of reality.

Little does it matter that we know, deepish down, it’s all a game. The game of democracy has been gamed for so long … what else to expect, after all?

So is there anything to be done? Can we hope for better times – or better leaders even? Today, in a number of European countries and cities, people have marched in substantial numbers in favour of ending austerity.

Should that give us hope? Or is this a foolish hope which leads us to chug harmlessly along, as our sclerotic society proceeds to continue to freeze our ability to do anything essentially useful or productive for the medium-term?

I’m in two minds, as I am of a mind – often – to be.

What’s absolutely clear is that whilst knowledge is no longer the giver of power it once was, we need – similarly – to change our focus: not begin to tell equally shameless porkies; no, I’m not suggesting that. But attempting to simply knock back such lies with sense and sensibility is not strategic enough by half.

We need narratives which tell truths not to power but to people: the people we want to support and connect with.

For there’s no point any more (I don’t think) in telling truths to a hierarchical power which no longer believes in evidence; a common perception of reality; or democratic debate – as a starter for three.

But telling truths to people who do not currently make and shake may still serve to do good. And in that sense, just as much as we need our evidence-based professions, so we also need our artists and storytellers.

Time, then, for culture to come out of democracy’s closet?


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