I believe that many people lack a real political education. From what I see around, it seems that people (and politicians, and media, everybody) are taking for granted that people just “know” how to make a good choice – that it’s somehow natural, and doesn’t require any form of training or education.
I beg to differ.
I have witnessed, and perhaps others had as well, people who relate to the democratic vote (over members of parliament, country President, etc) like this:
* Voting the guy who looks better in his suit.
* Voting a man or a woman for the sole reason that he or she is beautiful.
* Voting a person for the sole reason that he’s wearing national traditional garments for the public, is video recorded kissing religious relics and entering a monastery, and affirms strongly that he believes in the right God / religion.
* Driven by a strong tribal loyalty, there are people who vote the same party over and over again, no matter what the Party does or if it’s doing anything at all. It’s simply a pride, just like the nationalist pride, of having supported that Party for their entire life and will do the same unto the end. And you can even put Adolf Hitler there, to be the leader of that Party, they would still vote for it, just because it’s the same political party.
* Many people are not sending much time mulling over ideas, sending time and effort into thinking, and being interested in debates, rational arguments, and communication with people of different beliefs. Rather, they are waiting for their preferred media (or, social media) and the politicians they favor, to tell them how things are, how to understand them, what to believe, and how to feel about it – and then go ahead and rant and insult everybody who disagree with them for being idiots and evil. In other words, many people do not have well defined beliefs of their own – so they are willing to believe anything that a politician or the media is saying.
* There may be thousands of experts crying out loudly that a certain judicial measure, if implemented, would be destructive, or that a certain economical measure would be destructive – but there are too many people who don’t / can’t understand such things, it’s simply beyond their intellectual capacity, and so they choose to follow their gut = believing whatever they want to believe = believing whomever promises the nicest fantasy.
* People tend to trust the politicians who have personality attributes that resemble their own, politicians who are more like themselves (not as regard to wealth; instead, behavior, attitudes, way of talking, etc.) So disrespectful people seem to trust more the politicians who are disrespectful towards others such as their political opponents, sexists trust sexist politicians, homophobes trust politicians who openly show homophobia.
* There are many people, even intelligent ones, who are willing to spend weeks or months in deciding over a new washing machine, but are spending only 2 to 3 minutes in reading news and deciding over which politician / political party to vote for. I mean, really, for a day-by-day minor detail they spend dozens of hours, but for a most crucial issue that will affect their future and the future of their children and of everybody else, they are relying on the first impression they are getting when they watch the guy at the news for just two minutes, in the one day of the election.
* There are also poor and uneducated people who are more than willing to vote for whichever political party is giving them a pack of flour or a bottle of oil in the period of the campaign, right before the election. They simply cannot see farther, that democracy and politics is more than that, that the politicians are supposed to ensure their future and provide for them a better life, that that vote will affect everybody in the country and it can’t just be sold for an instant gratification of “here and now”
So I believe that EU should invest some time & effort in finding a way to provide political education for its citizens, at least education in public schools, and for all member states: From what democracy is, to why it’s important to go to vote even if all the political candidates are all utterly pathetic, and to inspire them with some basic guidelines on what they should be attentive about, when deciding over a political candidate (e.g. “If he’s not beautiful, that doesn’t matter. Potential qualities might include: If he’s not charged for having committed bribery, murder, rape, etc.” – they might sound as for retards, but there actually are people who lack even theses basics), to tell them that it’s important to have some guidelines that they can articulate and debate over, and not simply go over gut feeling.
If I have learned anything painful in my life about human beings, then two of them are:
1. People are capable of believing anything.
2. Many people either don’t have any criteria, or they are having outrageously stupid criteria (which also change swiftly just as the wind blows) over what they should seek in political candidates / parties, when they go to vote. Just the same as they are incapable of separating good-willing politicians from blatant charlatans.
So yes, I truly believe that people should all receive some basic political education, from having democracy explained, to having some good criteria for providing an educated guess over who would be best to have the power for the next 4+ years. Something to give the people the confidence that they vote on beliefs, reasons, arguments, criteria, not just over blind trust or tribal loyalty towards a party or a new-found messiah. And it should come from some trusted organization / institution, something that can’t be suspected or accused of trying to indoctrinate people in supporting a political party or in embracing a certain party’s ideology.