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The Face of Ignorance: Dissent is Democracy

The Face of Ignorance: Dissent is Democracy


April 28, 2024


In a previous discussion, I expounded on the difficulties encountered by many in accepting that 70% of the population lives below the poverty line. This lack of comprehension results from a distorted perception of what it means to be poor. To some, a poor person lives in a house with a leaking roof, barely a floor, and no sanitation facilities. Moreover, we may not even discern someone as poor when they lose their job and can no longer meet their obligations. Similarly, concerning democracy, a clear understanding of what it means to be ignorant is lacking. In this context, ignorance refers to a lack of awareness or understanding of the issues at hand, which can hinder meaningful dissent and democratic processes.

Recently, I posted an article on my wall that expounds on the Netherlands' wealth: "Netherlands Among Top Three Most Prosperous EU Countries." Based on CBS statistics, the Netherlands is among the three most prosperous EU countries, with only Ireland and Luxembourg ranking higher. The economy has exceeded 1 trillion euros for the first time last year, with a GDP per capita of nearly €58,000. While GDP alone speaks to a country's prosperity, it fails to account for various determinants of the quality of life, such as safety, housing availability, income inequality, and healthcare quality.

Upon reading the article, Mr. B. commented on how pleasant it is to live in the Netherlands, highlighting its public spaces and various amenities, such as social care, healthcare, elderly care, the rule of law, and infrastructure.

I responded by comparing the Netherlands and Singapore to amusement parks such as Epcot Centre, to which Mr. B. strongly objected. He considered my comparison unsubstantiated, stating that I was off-topic and suggested that perhaps I was tired and should rest. In response, I provided him with feedback that he was engaging in ad hominem attacks, which are personal attacks on the character or motives of the person making the argument, and not making valid arguments. Ad hominem attacks can be detrimental to productive discourse, as they divert attention from the issues at hand and can escalate tensions.

This exchange led me to ponder deeply about dissent and democracy. When someone reacts defensively to a simple statement, it reveals a level of ignorance that one might not expect from a university-educated white man. It is surprising that we tend to associate ignorance with less-educated individuals or specific political figures rather than someone with a solid education and background. This complexity adds another layer to the concept of dissent. It is not innocent but contagious, as Mrs. L., who was just asking good questions, suddenly also stated that in her village in the Netherlands, it is not an amusement park because, at certain times, there are no buses for public transportation. This unexpected manifestation of ignorance in educated individuals is both surprising and intriguing.

To clarify my comparison further, I juxtaposed videos of Changi Airport, Schiphol, and Epcot Centre. All three locations boast futuristic settings with top-notch logistics, IT, transportation, and crowd management.

Despite my efforts to elaborate, Mr. B. did not respond further, perhaps having retired for the night. Nonetheless, his initial reaction struck me as profoundly ignorant. It is unexpected because we do not typically associate ignorance with someone of his background. This complexity underscores the nuanced nature of dissent.

In conclusion, this exchange has brought to light the intricate relationship between dissent and democracy. It has reminded me that ignorance knows no bounds and can manifest even in the most unexpected places. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of engaging in thoughtful, nuanced discourse, even when disagreeing. Through open dialogue and the exchange of ideas, we can genuinely understand one another and strive towards a better, more inclusive society. This emphasis on the importance of nuanced discourse in democracy should make the audience feel the significance of their role in shaping societal discussions.

Miguel Goede

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