We think we live in a democracy, which is the type of society in which ultimate power lies with the people. Our leaders are supposed to be our servants, accountable to the people and fulfilling the wishes of the people, making decisions for the greater good of all.
Of course, for the people to exercise this power responsibly and wisely, they need to have an accurate picture and understanding of what is going on in the world, so that they are able to steer society in the best direction. (Driving with poor eyesight is a recipe for a crash!)
Our leaders don't seem to care about democracy. Why should they? After all, being accountable to the people only reduces their power, and as George Orwell said, "no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.
Power is not a means, it is an end. The object of power is power." Governments and institutions work hand in hand to erode democracy because that is in their interest.
That is their nature. But for how long can democracy be eroded before it becomes a dictatorship? How much democratic savings do we have left in the bank before we wake up to the fact that we are merely a pseudo-democracy? (Some might argue that we are this already.)
If we want to live in societies that are democracies only in name, bearing all the attributes of dictatorships, then we only need to carry on in the direction we are headed: trust the government, wave our flags, support our boys and girls being murdered and humiliated and vote every few years.
Then we can congratulate ourselves that we are the "free world", looking with scorn on the barbarity of dictatorships in many other countries like ours. If that is what we want, then we will have it soon, sooner than we can possibly imagine.
If we the people decide that democracy is not worth giving up, that power is safest in our hands rather than in those who have the pathology to be driven towards power in the first place, then we need to be more proactive.
First of all, we need to fully realize that whenever any group of people has a disproportionate influence over government policy, democracy has suffered a severe blow, period.
There are no exceptions. If criticism of government in Ghana, for example, is automatically labelled" unpatriotic" or "un-Ghanaian", then the Ghana that is being defended is decidedly not a democracy and therefore not worth defending.
Secondly, we need to understand exactly how the people are manipulated into doing the bidding of their leaders and the multinationals, so glaringly against their own interest. We need to understand the methods of manipulation. (I deliberately use the term propaganda sparingly as it is more difficult to define and understand.)
1.Patriotism: At first patriotism might seem a show of solidarity of people and country, but it is actually one of the main methods that people are manipulated into serving their government in ways that may not be in their best interest.
Tolstoy wrote: "�the subjection of men to government will always continue as long as patriotism exists, for every ruling power rests on patriotism � on the readiness of men to submit to power� " As long as people are patriotic, they will overlook the sins of their government towards their own people.
2.Repeat A Lie: Joseph Goebbels said: "Never admit a lie - simply keep repeating it." This works wonders for government�s intent on misleading its citizens. This is why most Ghanaians do feel that the government is always right. The government propaganda machine just keeps repeating even lies over and over.
3.Hide Truth in a Barrage of Lies: This is a very useful method of not getting caught making a lie. The lies that go along with the truthful piece of information spin that truth so that it is no longer any use.
When questioned on this method, governments can always hold up their hands in mocked surprise telling us that they give us the truth all along. During national crisis like Erratic Power Supplies and flooding, for example, truth and fiction were deliberately mixed together by the government in a very confusing way.
4.Unnecessary Secrecy: Every government needs to have some level of secrecy in military matters to protect its boarders and its people.
But when this is used to withhold information from the people, which is not necessary for national security then the position of governments to classify information, is being abused.
This is now happening on a daily basis in so called democracies as governments take a dim view of the people's right to know. When the public is kept in the dark, democracy itself is dimmed.
5.Evasion of Responsibility: Leading politicians know exactly how to duck and dive their way out of sticky situations by setting up a string of fall guys and girls.
Master manipulators are great at throwing up smokescreens, at being evasive. The people, therefore, are continually manipulated into thinking the problem is everyone except the leader or institution involved.
6.Debt: A people and a nation in debt is far easier to manipulate than one that isn't because its members are so busy paying off their mortgages and rents that they don't have the time, the energy or the inclination to challenge the status quo.
The average person is deliberately kept just short of bankruptcy so that he remains a slave to the system. (Slaves only question the system if they can imagine freedom; a slave who has no concept of freedom does not need much control or cohesion.)
7.Insults: It is remarkable that in the 21st century, name-calling is still one of the major techniques of political "discussion" at the highest level. Branding someone as belonging to "Party A" or "Opposition" is still considered a terrible slur.
Like appeals to patriotism, insulting someone in this way is used as nausea by government, institutions and other fascist representatives who have been presented with undeniable facts for their wrongdoing against the people. The Founding Fathers of Ghana would no doubt be liable to this insult if they were alive today for their people-oriented constitution.
8.Physical Intimidation: Of course, if none of the above techniques are working, "democracies" can resort to physical intimidation.
I have a friend who was beaten by police in the country for just being on the street during a political protest� he wasn't taking part and was just watching the marchers pass.
In Ghana intimidation of the people is used to keep society in line, and it is absolutely incorrect to believe that physical abuse of captives only happens in far off dictatorships and socialist countries.
It is happening right here in our backyard.
All these methods and situations are used to manipulate society. Of course, it has been argued that some manipulation is necessary in order to have people fulfil their "function" or "role" in society: give their life to the corporate world, obediently pay off their bills and taxes, and silently succumb to injustices like lambs to the slaughter.
Otherwise, God Forbid, the corporate world would crumble, the banks might lose the interest that they charge on imaginary money (fractional reserve banking) and a lot less innocent women, men and children might be sacrificed to poverty, hunger and injustices.
What some call the positive or essential role of this manipulation or propaganda still takes away power from the people and puts it into a societal structure that benefits the few at the expense of the many. This clearly contravenes the ideals of democracy in which the people hold the power and make the decisions.
If democracy is something worth preserving (it might not be ideal but history bears testimony to the disasters and terrible suffering that inevitably happen when the people do not hold the power) then we have to reduce the level of manipulation on our lives so that we begin to act consciously in our interests rather than unconsciously in the interests of the few.
Reducing our susceptibility to manipulation is actually relatively easy, although it does take effort. Part of it is just becoming conscious of the methods of manipulation above by thinking deeply about them, but this must be accompanied by an effort to push against the norm, against what everybody else does.
However, it is a small price to pay when one considers that democracy itself and the freedom of our children is at stake. Manipulation may well be endemic in society, but the following steps will be more than enough to immunise us against its influence:
1. Become Politically Involved: Although this means more than a vote every few years, a vote is a good place to start as voting turnouts have never been as low due to the increasing insignificance that people feel.
Being politically active also means lobbying your local MP or MCE/DCE over injustice in society and the environment (both in your own electoral area and other parts of the country), protesting against institutional behaviour that is at odds with the interests of society and humanity, and discussing matters over with friends and associates.
2. Free The Mind: This is the hardest and most profound of all the steps to stop manipulation, and comes from a combination of self-education, focus and self-belief. A mind that knows itself knows how to be free and knows when it is being manipulated. Self-knowledge makes us much more aware of the processes of enslavement.
A technique that works wonders on the mind is to stop wearing a watch as often as possible� time synchronizes our mind energy with society's control systems.
3. Defend human rights and freedoms: If those in authority violate our human rights and freedoms, it is our duty to fight back for them in the courts.
Increasingly, this is one of the only remaining places that we can challenge the system � mass protests don't seem to be as effective as they used to be. Do not let those in authority walk over you. If you do, you just make it easier for them to do the same thing to others.
4. Protest at every opportunity: Even though protests seem less effective these days, they serve the important purpose of uniting the people protesting. There is nothing more inspiring then physically marching with others for the common good of society.
5. Network, network, and network: We become free as we grow independent and matured, and it is natural to then want to go back into society and network with others like ourselves who are working for the liberation of humanity.
Community is very important to help us stay awake, for mutual inspiration, and because we are much more effective when we work as a team. Each of us undertaking this journey has been helped by others who came before us, and we can express our gratitude to them and to the whole grand process of awakening by expressing that freedom in each situation and to every person that we meet (it could be just a simple smile to a stranger). That is our soul responsibility.
Anyone who follows these steps above and will be immunised from 95% of all societal manipulation. If a critical mass of people follows them (perhaps no more than 5%), power will gradually begin to return to the people and democracy will be restored.
Otherwise, we will continue to unconsciously squander the democracy our forebears literally died for (THAT is the value of democracy), and we will wake up one day, sooner than we think, in a dictatorship. The choice is ours.
Source: Nsiaba Nana Akwasi Kobi/ email: [email protected]
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