This "featured article" by Amartya Sen in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion website argues that democracy isn’t a Western tradition and includes the following illustration:
Since traditions of public reasoning can be found in nearly all countries, modern democracy can build on the dialogic part of the common human inheritance. In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela describes how influenced he was, as a boy, by seeing the democratic nature of the proceedings of the meetings that were held in his home town: "Everyone who wanted to speak did so. It was democracy in its purest form. There may have been a hierarchy of importance among the speakers, but everyone was heard, chief and subject, warrior and medicine man, shopkeeper and farmer, landowner and laborer."
When I read the piece, I was reminded of (among other stray thoughts) something Resty Odon wrote about two weeks ago, when he argued about the need to equip our minds with the right tools to depoliticize language. Resty’s inventory included the following:
– advancing our arguments
– deciphering ‘spinned’ information
– discerning between primary resources data and secondhand lies
– second-guessing things left unmentioned or unsaid
– getting down to bare-bone facts
– sifting through propaganda materials
– identifying unimpeachable evidence
– winnowing the chaff from the essential
Ah, yes. The syllabus for a new Orwellian age.
PS. In two posts, Resty suggests a list of essential books. I would like to add: anything by Timothy Garton Ash, who may be George Orwell’s true heir in political reporting. I only have The Uses of Adversity at home, but somehow I think that’s more than enough.