In all society there is a numerically superior group of people that appear to follow leaders and trends without rational, critical thinking either through lack of interest incapacity or sheer laziness. I do not categorise myself or you, the reader, as belonging to this group, but to what extent is this inbuilt elitist prejudice? Do we underestimate ourselves i.e. the ‘non-masses group as a large social group? Populist sentiment suggests not. Mass media, populist politics, soap operas, celebrity, distinctly resemble what Marx would define as ‘opium’, in the sense of religion distracting people from questioning authority and oppressors: http://atheism.about.com/od/philosophyofreligion/a/marx.htm. Society risks indecency and indignity at best, and human abuse and social destruction at worst in the majority of cases where we allow populist sentiment to reign unchallenged: clichés are the common tongue, human interaction is reduced to sexual titillation, immigrant ‘others’ breed hatred, and violence is the most effective solution! The masses evidently operate in superficial assumptions, sexual objectification of fellow human beings, hating innocent bystanders, and allowing anger to govern behaviour.
We can however identify ‘mass’ values, and we ought to, to determine the democratic direction of society. We cannot ignore the feelings and beliefs of masses because that would only lead us to elitist manipulation. I would suggest acknowledging the beliefs and values and looking for ways to include masses in deeper, more meaningful discussions of politics, the arts, society, and culture. History shows us that not to do so is to require solutions of state control that amount to abuse and oppression: Orwell would argue that mass culture is an instrument of state control. http://mashable.com/2014/04/10/youtube-turkey-btk-ignores-court/. How do you enforce social good behaviour without the commitmentand agreement of the masses? Where does the downward spiral of sink estates, petty crime, overenthusiastic penal justice and prison derive from, if not from denial of denying their engagement, participation and ultimately well-being?
To aim to do this through the short period of an education cycle is clearly over-ambitious. Society should reiterate and reinforce the need for critical thinking, shared thinking, and democratic contribution at every stage of life. Participation is necessary to avoid these populist risks and ‘opium’ addiction. The mass media, populist politics, soap operas and celebrity all have a role to play because they are appreciated by the masses. Our struggle should be against ignorance, not entertainment and gratification. For the sincere democrat, which means a true believer in the sense of well-being and social progress, we should aim for connection and enlightenment through participatory processes. These sentiments highlight the great value and potential of social media: cartoon strips educating about political messages https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc (12m views), viral messages against sexism and discrimination: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4UWxlVvT1A; and outweigh by far the social media‘opium’ of internet pornography and “Farage” xenophobia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5zQT6jLarE (128k views), because these simply reflect what’s available in mass media while revealing the numerically insignificant minority support of hatred.
Interaction, dialogue and communication enable participation and thus progress. If we are to treat each other with humanity then we must respect and recognise each other. To quote David Held, “it (the principle of reciprocal recognition) requires the active engagement of all individuals without exception.” We can judge the extent that people (the elite, politicians, leaders) wish to live in dignity with others, i.e. the masses, by the degree to which they attempt to actively engage them.