Information illiteracy can be an inequality problem when only a minority of people are active citizens.
Even in the most developed part of the world there are inequalities that can shape the minds of a whole people. The tenth development goal set by the United Nations is to reduce inequalities. My priority inequality is information; my perspective is in reaction to less developed countries and people at war. An investment in information literacy, in education on culture and foreign and international affairs, is an investment in Europe. Where we have a chance in helping people outside our borders, people that Europe often sees as an uncomfortable problem when they escape prosecution and danger and seek refuge on a protected and developed land.
Information illiteracy can be an inequality problem, not because we have unbalanced opportunities of understanding or access to education in Europe, it is when only a minority of people are active citizens. When only a small part of society takes on the burden of protecting and preserving democracy. It is our wonderful right to know information, our privileged opportunity to shape our country, our Union and our lives, and our unfortunate circumstance of having a minority of people that are informed, engaged and active in civil society.
There are targets of empowerment, where we shall not discriminate against our nature, however empowerment comes with responsibility. The responsibility comes from educational systems, which have a duty to prepare the youth for their civil roles and for their global partnership through their international institutions they are part of. The European Union is a union of member states, and states are its people.
People in European countries not only fail to receive general and neutral information (news) but correct assumptions on the current political atmosphere of Europe in facts and figures.
People watch the main news channels and blindly accept the angle in which events are presented.
People have always naturally initially been afraid of what they don’t know and of what is new to them. Xenophobia is a natural phenomenon that has been tackled through the ages through exploration, education and repetition/practice. The news has always shown the negative events and connotations of the day/week/crisis, because that is what is interesting and mostly relevant to its audience. If the people are initially cautious of new progressions, then so are the protagonists of daily news. If news shows precaution about an event or crisis, then its audience will take that away from the presentation of the event.
People want to protect themselves and their neighbourhood/territory and would rather stay with what they know and trust, instead of gaining a new understanding and taking a presumed risk. They will reflect this upon the politicians they have, and the politicians (driven by their empowerment and duty to stay in office and maintain people’s trust) will find a way to make the public happy, but also do the right thing politically. Because of their education, experience and will to do their job, to be a politician, they should know what the right thing is. They are to balance the public’s wants and wishes, with what is politically sound.
So, despite their possible disagreement, they must oblige the public. They have the option to explain and compute the analysis they’ve come up with in their intellectual and professional capacity, but they risk losing the trust and vote of their public followers. There is a pressure to stay in office, and to stay popular. Popular means they are trusted and liked by the public, who, because of a lack of education or serious interest, don’t have the same capacity to understand the political issues at hand.
Therefore, the media show their spin on events, the public make an influenced opinion with the limited information they received and/or understood from the media, the politicians, who have a more in-depth and multi-sided knowledge and understanding of the issue listen to the opinion of the public they need to make happy to stay in office, and then make a decision based on the poorly-informed and cautious public, putting forth a campaign that reflects the general sentiment of their audience.
These campaigns can then naturally have a xenophobic, uninformed, rejectionist and protectionist base. When do we distinguish populism and manipulation?
Europe, are you not afraid of what Victor Orban is doing to Hungary? To free press? To Democracy and values in Europe? Are you not concerned with the rise of far right populism in Austria, Sweden and Croatia?
However, this first analysis assumes the politicians firstly have a more informed, multilaterally shaped and experienced opinion, which is not a certainty. Many politicians in the Czech Republic have a strictly economic background and went into politics because of their position and ambition, rather than because of their education in political science or experience in civil service. Not only can one doubt their agenda, one can easily be swept away by their peculiar background, confusing variation with ineptitude.
The tenth development goal highlights the facilitation of ‘orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration.’ In addition to that, it must be stressed that even with informed migration policies agreed by EU member states, there is no guarantee of implementation or even success. In the 2015 and 2016, there was the highest level of irregular migration since the Second World War, however Europe’s response was inept, late and incoherent. What remains is a problem, and Europe’s struggle to provide a collective response, and a responsibility to choose a reaction, there is no reversal.
This is the crux of the issue. It is Europe’s responsibility, whether chosen or left with, to respond according to international law and to inform its citizens of the facts and possible policy implementation. If this fails to happen, the public is misinformed, the media abuses the public’s misapprehension and the politician’s indulge the ignorant public and use the situation to promote a populist and reactionist program.
Generations are being born into liberal democracies and not having to fight for their civil rights and freedom, people are disconnected from the state, and their own responsibilities as the citizens of that state.
New generations are not taught that they need to nourish and protect their democracy and liberty and continuously practice their duties as the civil and main body of the state.
There are people who are disengaged and need to be reintegrated in their civic role, and there are people who want to be engaged but find themselves alienated because of misinformation, misguidance by institutions and political entities and an increasingly untrustworthy media and political body. This is enhanced by a radical change in the way mass media works; and while mainstream news is in crisis, more alternative sources are becoming more powerful, and many of them are lacking in accountability.
Those facts are leading to a political situation which leaves behind the ideals of openness, cooperation and unity that have led to the formation of the European Union, and most of the post-World War II accords and institutions.
The answer is always education and informing people of facts and possibilities. What are the opportunities in a crisis, to what extent is it really a crisis, what can be taught and learned. Inequality can be the unbalanced reality in which a misinformed public looses their right to speak out on our common right to humanity and dignity.