A Society of Lemmings

Emily - Berwyn, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 7, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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Some say ignorance is bliss. That knowing how to manage your world is more important than being swept along by it. Could this be the justification for why only 69% of the public could identify the current vice president in 2007 but 93% could identify Arnold Schwarzenegger? (Pew Research Center). As our world changes dramatically with each day, I cannot help but pity the citizen who cries for world peace, yet cannot identify the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Thomas Jefferson once reasoned that, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” What hope do we give future generations to maintain stable government, if they are without a practical understanding of political systems? With only catchy slogans, mass media and false campaign promises to educate them, how can the average citizen be expected to make informed decisions about their own government? Politicians become caricatures and doctrine is deliberately vague. Candidates know that they can win votes by simple bribery: tell the public what it wants to hear. By letting people entrust major decisions to charismatic, but synthetic politicians without adequate understanding of intricate issues, we are only superficially supporting democracy. Ultimately, citizens must make an effort to educate themselves about the important issues of their time. This requires work, and very few are willing to go that extra mile.

Perpetuation of ignorance leads to oligarchy. When people vote based on factors such as a candidate’s personality, their vote — and their voice, is swallowed up by elites who know how to manipulate public opinion. And so, people become lemmings. Through lack of knowledge, they are unable to see where their leaders are heading — too often it is over the cliff. In our political environment, is there hope for the lemming in the back of the line? Congressional disapproval hovers at an all-time low, which fully demonstrates the public’s disillusionment with leaders they have chosen. There is only one way out: the American people must respect their responsibility to understand the contemporary world, despite its complexities. When the electorate is knowledgeable, they will vote for representatives who actually represent them