From The New Yorker’s After the Fact:

“People who care about civil society have two choices: find some epistemic principles other than empiricism on which everyone can agree or else find some method other than reason with which to defend empiricism. Lynch suspects that doing the first of these things is not possible, but that the second might be. He thinks the best defense of reason is a common practical and ethical commitment. I believe he means popular sovereignty. That, anyway, is what Alexander Hamilton meant in the Federalist Papers, when he explained that the United States is an act of empirical inquiry: “It seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.” The evidence is not yet in.”

What an amazing article…and how relatable to Malaysia. To progress from this vulgar political freak show of mud-slinging, empty can-rattling, shit-stirring, we as a civil society have to develop a shared respect for and recognition of empirical truth…and eventually reach a collective consciousness that prizes this truth above all other considerations influencing our political choices. What was it that Jonathan Haidt said in his book? Something about how a democracy only works if the ruling class genuinely believes that the citizenry is informed enough to call them bluff.

As long as we remain the way we are – spreading ridiculous hearsay on Facebook, falling for every lie spilling from politicians’ mouths without checking against an independent opinion or inquiry of our own, or, equally unreasonably, disbelieving without a second thought every claim made by the same politicians (depending on whom we think we like), obsessed with the latest sensational who-said-whats – we will forever remain captive in this bubble of manipulations, an eager, gullible, stupid audience perpetually diverted by trial by combat rather than trial by jury.

In the meantime, they will go on with their secret machinations. In between doing all that routine maintenance work on the illusion that we are a modern democracy, they will zip back and forth the fast lanes from one golf course to another in their chauffeur-driven fancy cars. We, on the other hand, will wake up to one interminable day after another, wondering when that damn pothole will ever be fixed once and for all.

Advertisements