Are governments asking us to choose between health and democracy? Surely, this is a false choice

It is my understanding that to keep ourselves and our children healthy we need education more than we need propaganda and media hype

Editorial Comment

It is a duty of a democratic government to educate its citizens. This can be by setting up teaching institutions (nursery onwards), licencing private schools and supporting people in educating themselves. One outcome of such education is that everyone comes to understand the situation the world is in, their country is in and they themselves are in – and can then make informed and intelligent responses. Education is a duty of governments, parents and teachers.

In my experience, any democratic government can, from time to time, be tempted to move from education to persuasion in its effort to achieve something it feels is very important. We should then beware.

When US and UK embarked on their illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 there was no effort to educate their populations about Middle East politics, about the recent historical background or about who was responsible for the destruction of the Twin Towers. Instead, my government (and yours?) became hysterical about imagined weapons of mass destruction and then the press and media followed. It seemed if we didn’t invade then our lives would be in danger. The hysteria was brought to such a pitch that we could imagine our children being blown up on the way to school!

And then, after all the destruction and death in Iraq (including many uncounted thousands of children), it was admitted there were no weapons of mass destruction. But by then US and UK governments had, presumably, achieved their aims.

Part of the mechanism a government can use to persuade rather than educate is to vilify anyone who holds a different point of view from their own. People like me who campaigned against the invasion of Iraq became traitors. This is always a component of jingoism.

On a bigger scale, many governments are using heavy persuasion rather than education in their efforts to promote Covid vaccination. It is such an important subject that I feel citizens in all countries have a right to proper education on all of its aspects. In my country, people who question the government view are vilified by ministers, press and media as ‘conspiracy theorists’ in the hope that their valid questions can then be discounted. When propaganda comes in through the door, education goes out through the window.

Rainbows are relevant. At one end is red and at the other is violet. Using the non-educational approach to national debate, some will argue for red and suggest violet is the work of the devil. Others, supporting violet, will characterise red as hellfire. This is how mass persuasion works best for governments whose ambitions require citizens not to be educated. But between the two colours are orange, yellow, green, blue and indigo. This is what white light is made of. Exploring all spectrums between their extremes is what education is made of. And education is what true democracy is made of.

Between the extremes in the Covid masks/lockdowns/vaccines debate are very many doctors, scientists, lawyers and others from orange to indigo committed to educate rather than persuade. But we cannot take education like a medicine. We have to respond to it with discernment and with questions about how much we trust the source. We have to evaluate if the information is respectful of us as citizens. We have to decide if it is education, advertising or propaganda. Welcome to the rainbow!

Here are some relevant links set between the extremes:

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