TUMBY BAY - Bernard Corden, in commenting on Chris Overland’s article about neo-colonialism, made an interesting point about indoctrination as a function of education.
For the ruling classes in any political system - be it democratic, autocratic or totalitarian - inculcating an ideology in the young is an invaluable tool in exercising and retaining power.
Knowledge is power but, if you can manipulate what sort of knowledge is available to people so it serves your own ends, it becomes even more powerful.
Knowledge can be manipulated in many different ways. Media, for instance, play a big role in deciding what sort of knowledge is available to the population. Conversely, withholding knowledge can be a very powerful social tool.
It is in schools, however, where most people are first exposed to different sources of knowledge and develop the lifelong habits that dictate what sort of knowledge they will seek.
If those habits can be programmed by the education they receive, they are likely to remain captive to the ideals of those who trained them and to the social systems these people represent.
Such indoctrination will determine what sort of lives they lead and what their aspirations in life will be.
Indoctrination through education is why so many young men and women are happy to march off to war without really understanding what they are fighting for and exactly who is likely to benefit from their sacrifice.
And at a more banal level, it is why young men and women are prepared to slave at mindless jobs in the hope of achieving goals that often turn out to be superficial and of fleeting satisfaction.
Ironically, it most often in old age that such realisations become apparent. Wisdom comes with age and it is only then people discover that they have been fooled by vested interests that have used them for selfish interests and ends.
Of all the people who pass through the education system, only a few will question what they are being taught.
Most students will develop into what Martyn Namorong calls ‘sheeple’, the trusting majority of the population that follows the leader wherever that might take them and at whatever cost.
For any thinking person, the only viable alternative in life is to be a sceptic. Take nothing at face value, be it what your teacher is telling you in school or what your local politician, prime minister or pastor is telling you when you are an adult.
Seek the evidence, look for the facts and work things out for yourself. Just because someone has high office, apparent success in business or a cupboard full of degrees and honours doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about.
It could be they are lying to you for their own wicked reasons or, perhaps worse still, actually believe the bulldust they are spouting.
If you study the important events that have turned the tides of history for better or worse, you will find at their base a contrary view that questioned established beliefs.
That is, they questioned the idea that what they had been taught was normal and in everyone’s best interests.
And the way they did this, at least in the last 300 years or so, was overwhelmingly through the written word.
Those of us who are part of the baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) saw this happen in the 1960s.
This was a period of massive upheaval in which many accepted ‘truths’ were overturned and that saw the beginning of a new and progressive way of thinking.
Books like Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’ and Kurt Vonnegit Jr’s ‘Slaughterhouse-5’ laid the foundations of the 1960s revolution. Among other things they spearheaded opposition to the Vietnam War and ridiculed the mindless pursuit of power and money.
All that is now past however and we now find ourselves entering another dark and selfish period that eschews equity and ridicules ideas like man-made climate change.
The contrarians and writers who are prepared to question the status quo are now needed more than ever.