There is a subtle assault on the long term well being of New Zealand by politicians going on. It is mirrored in other western countries such as the United States, Britain, France, Canada and Australia. In our case, I call it the “Dumbing down of New Zealand”. It is a slow sustained and very deliberate attack on the intelligence of this country’s citizens. The methods are deliberately subtle, so as not to arouse undue suspicion. Quite deliberately, we as a nation, as a people are being dumbed down to believe whatever the Government of the day wants us to believe.
Both major political parties are guilty of it to some extent by slowly but deliberately squeezing the budgets of the arts departments at university. The effect has often been to lose academics in fields of research where society is finding it has significant short comings. Despite them saying to the contrary, there is a distrust among politicians of scientists, social academics and independent journalists not tied to a media agency.
There is also the collective and individual behaviour of politicians and the political parties that they represent. Despite attempts in a number of countries to improve transparency around the conduct of politicians, many people believe that the default setting of an elected official is to lie when under scrutiny. The use of Parliamentary privilege as well as the influence that goes with being an elected representative o . This was made demonstrably clear with the Todd Barclay scandal, where an incumbent National Party Member of Parliament has been made to quit in disgrace after it was found that he wire tapped the conversation of a senior staffer without her knowledge or permission.
A well known economic measure is the deliberate promotion of a low wage economy. This has the effect of forcing people into trade jobs, retail and the service industries. The hours can be long and the wages can be not much more than the minimum permitted by law. Workers come home and are generally too tired or distracted to read a newspaper. Playing games and surfing social media is much more appealing.
It happens in education too. I have mentioned academics, but I have not explained the flow on effects. The sciences are particularly vulnerable since a lot of research gets done using Government grants, public scholarships and so forth. One example is climate change – whether one believes it is occurring or not, there can be no doubt that it has been subject to political machinations by politicians who might have lobby groups telling them that they will donate to the representatives campaign if s/he does/does not do x, y and z. The constant putting down of science by politicians has had a negative net effect in that it has driven people away from wanting to do field research.
Whilst politics and politicians must share much of the blame, the media has a a role to play too. It has methods such as click bait articles which have no educational value, and rely on people’s natural curiosity to look beyond the attention grabbing visual such as a scantily clad woman. Corporate networks such as Fox, C.N.N., R.T., and others (Al Jazeera, Sydney Morning Herald)often require their reporters to follow a script about what is considered acceptable in terms of covering events, The same behavioural patterns have been noted among New Zealand media as well, with Stuff, 1 News, Newshub and New Zealand Herald particularly guilty of putting up click bait in place of actual news, or talk about rugby players and their upcoming fixtures instead of covering events like the attack on the Iranian Parliament, Saudi Arabia’s bullying of Qatar and the rise of New Zealand First.
What can one do? Become aware of what is going on around you. You can do it easily by spending 10-15 minutes a day looking at what is happening nationally and internationally:
- Do not look at just one source. Cross reference reports against those from other sources. If the same thing is being said from many sources, it is probably true.
- Note the biases of individual sources – R.T. in Russia for example is told how to report by the Kremlin; Fox is a conservative American network that tends to tint anything about Muslims and Islam in a negative light; New Zealand media try to minimize their coverage of New Zealand First.
- If you use social media and you see obviously biased reporting in progress, correct them by writing in the comments sections and mention the name of the offending source so tthey know people are aware of what they are doing
Oh, and if you are eligible to vote, make sure you are registered. As we sometimes find out in New Zealand when electorates call for recounts of votes cast, because the numbers are so close it could be the difference between whether an elected representative still has a job or not, your vote counts.