16 September 2021

PhiloMadrid on Skype 6:30pm Sunday 19th September: Political Education (cont)

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are continuing discussing: Political Education.

The topic was proposed by Alberto and Alberto and I have prepared an
essay on the subject.

A Political Education – essay by Alberto
https://zoonpolitikonspain.blogspot.com/p/a-political-education.html

Political Education – essay by Lawrence
https://www.philomadrid.com/2021/09/political-education.html

In the meantime you can link to the current news and notices here:
https://www.philomadrid.com/2020/10/news-and-notices.html

-Alfonso has a new website and he gave us link to his latest book of
poems: Después

-Oscar's book on his reflections on COVID-19 is still available

-David J. Butler has published a new book "Absent Friends" regarding the
Cementerio Británico in Madrid

Finally if you have problems with Skype try launching it again if you
have the App or browser. Send me a message for the link.

Best and take care
Lawrence

telephone/WhatsApp: 606081813
Email: philomadrid@gmail.com
http://www.philomadrid.com


PhiloMadrid on Skype 6:30pm Sunday 19th September: Political Education
(cont)

09 September 2021

PhiloMadrid on Skype 6:30pm Sunday 12th September: Political Education

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Political Education.

The topic was proposed by Alberto and Alberto and I have prepared an
essay on the subject.

A Political Education – essay by Alberto
https://zoonpolitikonspain.blogspot.com/p/a-political-education.html

Political Education – essay by Lawrence
https://www.philomadrid.com/2021/09/political-education.html

In the meantime you can link to the current news and notices here:
https://www.philomadrid.com/2020/10/news-and-notices.html

-Alfonso has a new website and he gave us link to his latest book of
poems: Después

-Oscar's book on his reflections on COVID-19 is still available

-David J. Butler has published a new book "Absent Friends" regarding the
Cementerio Británico in Madrid

Finally if you have problems with Skype try launching it again if you
have the App or browser. Send me a message for the link.

Best and take care
Lawrence

telephone/WhatsApp: 606081813
Email: philomadrid@gmail.com
http://www.philomadrid.com


PhiloMadrid on Skype 6:30pm Sunday 12th September: Political Education

Political Education

 

Political Education

Topic by Alberto

Essay by Lawrence

 

The genius of Descartes has nothing to do with the mind body problem. And although his rational scepticism is very useful he is not the only philosopher to suggest such a philosophy. Indeed his scepticism did not focus on finding the truth but rather at finding the evidence for his existence. But the genius of Descartes is that, as far as I know, was the first to question the integrity of god.

 

Descartes did not say god does not exist, or that there is no god or that god is dead. He simply asked can god be an evil deceiver or an evil demon. This is important for us because in the twenty first century we should also be questioning the integrity of governments. Integrity of governments should be demonstrated and not assumed.

 

Political education should help us ask the right questions about governments understand and identify the manipulation and lies of governments and of course, know how to protect our rights. Political Education also helps us understand the mechanics of the state and why governments act in some ways and not others. This is not about wanting to know the secrets of the nation but rather to hold governments accountable.

 

We must also distinguish between Political Education as a subject at school and Political Education as general knowledge we ought to know about. Teaching Political education at school might be a start to educate citizens about the political system and government power. The only question is what to teach: one necessary condition would be to avoid turning Political Education into a nationalistic fest the way history has become.

 

Still in the education environment we also need to distinguish education from ideology. We know what education is, we just follow the Cartesian style of looking for evidence and seeking of facts. Ideology is about dictating what the truth is and anyone who does not regurgitate the truth they are considered as failures or even enemies of the state.

 

Of course, we know about what could happen to Political Education in schools from real life such as the National Socialists (NAZI) in Germany, the Communists parties in the Soviet Union and China, not to mention North Korea. Some might object to comparing these cases with modern European democracies. I have already mentioned the nationalistic manipulation of history subjects at school, furthermore the fact that there is no standard Political Education syllabus (compare with maths) in countries including EU countries is itself a telling observation. And if this wasn’t enough teaching religion in school is still a hot issue if not a taboo.

 

However, the Council of Europe have established a network of Schools of Political Studies to engage with young people about politics, economic and leadership throughout Europe (https://www.coe.int/en/web/schools-political-studies/home). While the initiative is interesting, Political Education should first and foremost be about human rights and how to protect our rights balanced with our duties. And Political Education should not be limited by age or groups.

 

The lack of Political Education as a standard subject at school suggests that governments are not too keen on the subject, although many countries do have subjects such as Citizenship, social responsibility and so on.

 

Descartes did not set out to show that god did not exist, or for that matter that god exists, but rather he set out to find irrefutable evidence that at least he, Descartes, is not a fiction of some evil deceiver’s imagination. Likewise Political Education should not be interpreted as demonstrating the maliciousness and oppression of governments. The scope of political education is to give us the means and the mind set to go beyond propaganda.

 

In the real world it is difficult for us to go beyond the propaganda: in English propaganda means manipulation and deception rather than just to give out information. There are many reasons why people accept propaganda as fact and as truth. One of the most serious reasons is that most of our childhood and teenage years we are indoctrinated with the imperative to conform. If people conform and repeat the doctrine of the state, religion, our ethnic background, they are praised for their efforts in the same way that a circus dog is praised for performing a pirouette.

 

But of course, conformity with the prevailing paradigm is important in many aspects of life: least of all the sciences, driving, using a mobile phone and so on. But political conformity, especially in the form of nationalism, can be dangerous to individuals and the country. Nationalism flourishes when the politicians persuade citizen to accept the mantra: my country right or wrong. Sometimes our country might be wrong and pointing this out should be part of the democratic process.

 

One of the ways governments neuter citizens is by giving the impression that as individuals we cannot change or alter the course of political events. For example health care services are sold to foreign companies so they can make a profit out of the ailments of people. The utilities are sold out and the new owners are given a free hand in managing these monopolies. A simple majority in parliament is enough to destroy the life and security of people, and then we accept it as a given.

 

If people are not educated in the matters of the state they won’t be able to recognise the failures of the state. It seems that everyone is happy with the idea of being victims of political events. There is nothing we can do; politicians are all liars; our vote does not count or is valid for anything. Unfortunately these attitudes are the product of people not educated in politics.

 

But are we the victims of the political state? We are victims of the political state as much as we can get wet in a heavy down pour without an umbrella. In other words, just because the state and government are bigger than us it does not mean that we do not have a duty to be informed and to inform ourselves when we cast our vote.

 

Even that modern bastion of democracy, the European Union, fails at the most crucial stage of democracy: we are all familiar with the American slogan from the American Revolution, no taxation without representation. Sure EU citizens can vote for Members of the European Parliament, or the community or local council we happen to live away from our country of birth, but what we are not allowed to do as non nationals is vote for the national government. The very same national government with the only power to impose taxes.

 

If this isn’t an abuse of human rights we need to rethink human rights: today we have the hindsight of knowing that EU citizens in the UK before 2016 were the only group of citizens who contributed the most in taxes and national insurance to the British state than any other social group. EU citizens paid more in social security than they took out, unlike say British citizens. Of course, EU citizens did not have a vote in the 2016 British referendum to leave the EU, and it comes as no surprise that EU citizen were the first victims of the UK leaving the EU.

 

To conclude, objective Political Education can be very helpful if taught in school, but it is an imperative that adults of voting age must inform and educate themselves about politics.

 

Best and take care

Lawrence

 

telephone/WhatsApp: 606081813

Email: philomadrid@gmail.com

http://www.philomadrid.com

02 September 2021

,PhiloMadrid on Skype 6:30pm Sunday 5th September: Qualified parliamentarians

Dear Friends,

I hope you had a good summer and an equally good rest.

The topic for the meeting this coming Sunday is: "Should politicians be
qualified to be members of parliament?" which was proposed by Sara. I
had to shorten the title for the subject line. We have two essays on the
topic one by Alberto and the other by me; links are below:

Essay by Alberto
A Political Education
https://zoonpolitikonspain.blogspot.com/p/a-political-education.html

Essay by Lawrence
Should politicians be qualified to be members of parliament?
https://www.philomadrid.com/2021/09/should-politicians-be-qualified-to-be.html


NEWS
One of the things I've been thinking about over summer was whether we
should move the meeting from Sunday to some other day and time during
the week.

Speaking for myself I don't mind either way, and nothing has been
decided, just opening the topic for discussion.

Cons for a change:
- The meeting was originally an opportunity to meet friends on Sundays
to discuss interesting philosophical topics.
- Many of us are busy during the week and difficult to plan in advance
for a regular meeting during the week at the same time.

- We are too busy during the week and, therefore, difficult to think
about philosophy.

Pros for change:
- The last thing some of us want is to spend another two hours in front
of the computer on Sunday evening.
- Although the pandemic is still with us, we are lucky in Madrid that we
can go out and meet some friends and socialise. Thus although I don't
see returning to physical meetings anytime soon, at least we have
Sundays free to meet friends and family in real life.

- Even if we were to have meetings in person, we would now exclude a
number of active members who don't live in Madrid.


In the meantime you can link to the current news and notices here:
https://www.philomadrid.com/2020/10/news-and-notices.html

-Alfonso has a new website and he gave us link to his latest book of
poems: Después

-Oscar's book on his reflections on COVID-19 is still available

-David J. Butler has published a new book "Absent Friends" regarding the
Cementerio Británico in Madrid

Finally if you have problems with Skype try launching it again if you
have the App or browser. Send me a message for the link.

Best and take care
Lawrence

telephone/WhatsApp: 606081813
Email: philomadrid@gmail.com
http://www.philomadrid.com


PhiloMadrid on Skype 6:30pm Sunday 5th September: Qualified parliamentarians

Should politicians be qualified to be members of parliament?

 

Should politicians be qualified to be members of parliament?

(Short: Qualified parliamentarians)

Topic by Sara

Essay by Lawrence

 

Our question is a popular idea at times of political crisis or turmoil. The idea is not to question the actions and behaviours of parliamentarians, but rather their intellectual ability to do their job well. If only parliamentarians were trained and knowledgeable in running the country, the argument goes, then the quality of legislating for the good of the country would be much better and more equitable.

 

This subject, unfortunately, has two issues. The first is that the idea of a qualification somehow guarantees skills and behaviour, especially morally sound actions, thus justifying their authority. A qualification does not logically lead to moral competence. This is a form of argument from authority or argument from status. The second problem is that there is no reason to suppose that just because someone is qualified in some discipline, they will always act morally or in the interest of the country. Many might, but not because they have some sort of qualification. There is absolutely no reason to assume that qualification is a sufficient condition to act morally.

 

The argument from authority works in two ways. The first and legitimate way of argument from authority is that for all the parties involved agree in advance that the said authority is a prima facie legitimate expert on a subject. Thus we can accept as true or acceptable the opinion of these expert people. We do this every day in our life: we ask an IT engineer about a problem on our computer, a Medical Doctor about some symptom or a car mechanic about a problem in our car.

 

Many times this system works, because most of the problems in such situations are straight forward and minor. But because an expert can solve a seemingly minor problem it does not follow that an expert alone can solve all problems: this is supported by the inductive argument that what is does not necessarily lead to what ought to be.

 

The other aspect of the argument from authority is that an expert’s opinion is not sufficient to establish the validity of an argument. For example many arguments might depend on the input of different experts and maybe experts at different times. This scepticism might make life very difficult or complex and may make life just unmanageable. The dilemma stems from the two situations where on the one extreme we take the opinion of the expert as a fact and the other extreme the opinion of the expert is not good enough.

 

In reality members of parliament do go through a process of qualification but it is not so stringent that the average voting citizen would not qualify. Then there is the argument what kind of qualification should a prospective member of parliament have to qualify. Would this qualification be a civil service type of exam, or a driving license type exam, a university degree?

 

We have no reason to assume that a qualified parliamentarian might not be subjected to the failure of the argument from authority. But there is another type of failure: basically the belief that an opinion of an expert is equivalent to a fact, being a scientific fact or a fact that can be demonstrated to be the case. In an emotionally charged environment such as politics and elections a qualification would make no difference in believing the propaganda of our favourite parliamentarian. In effect adding another qualification for politicians will not change any political turmoil but might exclude honest and prospective hard working parliamentarians.

 

The question we should be asking ourselves is what causes parliamentarians not to act in the interest of the country? Or to pose a philosophical question: what causes a member of parliament not to act morally? The answer to this question can be split in two parts. The first is failure of constitutional safeguards and means for citizens to hold parliamentarians directly accountable for their actions. This usually, might result in voters not participating in elections, or even worse, arguing that their vote makes no difference. In a way, failure to hold parliamentarians accountable in real time, just simply puts voters off political engagement. And a lack voter participation throughout the electoral mandate is the worst type of behaviour that makes it easy for members of parliament not to act morally.

 

The second part is that party peer pressure is incompatible with the duties of parliamentarians who are precisely to act in the interest of the state and not the party or worse some party donors. Basically, political parties do not belong in the environment of parliament since parliament represents the country, and parties represent tribal interests. This would be equivalent to giving the house pet a say in what the family should have for Sunday lunch. Members of parliament should be held personally accountable for their actions in parliament and the way to achieve this is either to exclude political party groupings or have secret votes in parliament.

 

In many democracies this one sided environment is mitigated by a number of instruments to balance fairness and justice, or at least give the impression of balancing the abuse of power. An independent and honourable judicial system is an effective way to hold parliamentarians to account. Another means of holding members of parliament accountable are the various committees in parliament whose function is to oversee the work of ministers, departments, and others who hold offices of power. Unfortunately, these can be as effective as the members of the committees who are themselves members of parliament and political parties.

 

The press and media were supposed to hold people in power accountable for their actions. Today those media that should perform this traditional function of accountability are few in number and certainly not well funded. Finally, many democracies organise many agencies to oversee many sectors in society such as data protection, the media, utilities, and so on. But what all these organisations have in common is that they are mainly passive: people have to go to them with their story or grievances. Of course, many investigative journalists do expose inequities or agencies do take action if they have the power to do so such as the electoral commission.

 

The traditional safeguards of democracy were always, an independent judiciary, accountability of government, a constitutional mechanism to protect rights, and a free press. But this is a 19th century and early twentieth century mind set. In the twenty first century politics is done at an international level. And one of the downside of international politics is that it lets in influences from other countries and from organisations who can buy their way to influence national parliamentarians. The full demise of the United Kingdom demonstrates the perfect storm of international interference, absolute corruption by members of parliament and party members and incompetence of a kind never seen in a civilized country before.

 

 

Best and take care

Lawrence

 

telephone/WhatsApp: 606081813

Email: philomadrid@gmail.com

http://www.philomadrid.com

 

 

 

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