An Educated Population and Culture

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The absolute core of any democracy is, of course, that very population which the democracy concerns.

An uninformed or uninterested population cannot sustain a democracy. In addition to schooling and other training, participation in the public debate is therefore important, as is a rich and varied cultural life, including for example literature, art, music and movies.

Schooling and education can be transformed into marketable skills, money and national prestige, which is why even dictatorships usually show interest in having an educational system that works.

But through books, films, art and all other kinds of culture, one meets world views and values that are different from one's own. One is provided with an opportunity to get to know other people's ways of living and their ways of understanding the world. Art and culture challenge one's personal opinions, and one gets the opportunity to ponder whether there could be other ways of understanding things. Through good literature, TV shows and movies one gets a chance to identify with people who are very different from oneself. This kind of identification opens up the possibility of respect for those who are different; respect which is necessary if one wants to make a democratic community work.

One of the roles of art in a democracy is to criticize and challenge our habits and traditional ways of thinking. Art and culture show us that things can be different from what they are now. Art may even indicate directly that the way we do things is wrong.

Democracy cannot survive in societies where art is not permitted to criticize traditions, habits, those in power and religion, the holy scriptures and the priests. In order for a democracy to function, one must be free to talk about and experience that there are alternative explanations and solutions to problems.

Next chapter: About the Emergence of Democracy in Antiquity