The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) informs us that we live at a time in history when literacy is the norm. Moreover, in the (more or less) free and democratic nations here in North America, UNESCO informs that our literacy rates are among the highest on the planet.
Even the lowest (Mexico) has a literacy rate of almost 95%. Ninety-five percent of the Mexican population can read or write while the Canadian and American numbers are almost 100%. By comparison, places such as Niger (19%) and Sudan (31%) are frightening low. Ranked among the world’s most troubled and war-torn nations, places such as Iran; Iraq; Pakistan (56%); Sudan and Syria are nations in which one in four cannot read or write.
However, there is a huge difference between possessing a skill as literacy and utilizing that skill. Literacy is a pathway or a road towards knowledge and intelligence. Unless one determines to make the journey along such a path, one is doomed to one’s own uninformed intuitions. Such is the case (apparently) in Canada and the USA.
The Fourth Estate
When one chooses to ignore history, one is doomed to repeat history’s errors, disasters and (yes) wars.
The evolution of the “Fourth Estate” is a troubled one and came at huge cost in terms of human life.
But, what of the other three “estates? They each held sway or control at some point in history. The First estate (nobility) owed its prominence to warring monarchs who were traditional and hereditary war heroes leading their nations into wars and defending the populace from attack. The Second traditional estate was/is the clergy. It was the clergy who finally pushed their way into equal power with the nobility by offering to protect the spiritual happiness of oft down-trodden populations by teaching that humanity was more significant than caste.
The Third estate is a diverse group regularly referred as the commoners. Though, there was and still is little in common among such a diverse segment of society where some such as professionals often hold wealth equal to that of some nobility and others merely survive in lives of cruel poverty. The urban poor along with those living in remote and isolated regions are among the most impoverished. But, along with professionals such as doctors, lawyers and engineers are commoners and theoretically equal members of the Third estate.
You may quip, “those are archaic, out dated notions that ceased existence in medieval times”. You could not be more incorrect however as modern history still has nobility though some of it is ceremonial. Though, I would not hesitate than nobility and monarchs presently hold sway over a number of nations and even some of the world’s most affluent countries (Saudi Arabia, Monaco etc). The Second estate (clergy) has NEVER been more prominent than in current times. The raison d’être behind ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is to create a caliphate throughout the “Levant” – namely Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey. Such a caliphate if it occurs would entail creation of a state ruled by clergy (mullahs) and governed by religious law (Sharia – or Islamic law as interpreted from islamic dogma.
But’ let’s not neglect to point out modern influence of clergy in North America. I could begin with Dr. Martin Luther King (a clergyman) who attempted to make positive change in a nation badly divided by race. Nor should one forget the clerical (religious) involvement of Maurice Duplessis (legendary Quebec premier for over 18 years who was aided greatly by Cardinal Rodrigue Villeneuve, (Quebec’s senior prelate) and others in the Roman Catholic Church by way of partisan political support for Duplessis – who opposed women’s right to vote and fueled partisan favoritism towards an asbestos mine in Quebec. It was a lengthy and painful strike at Asbestos (Quebec) that saw a young Pierre Trudeau make his first foray into politics.
While still speaking about the “Second estate”, its legacy is deeply engrained into Canadian history and culture. It was (French) 16th century Cardinal Richelieu (Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duke of Richelieu and of Fronsac) who’s loyalty to the monarch of the time in France (persuaded the French monarch (aw, yes: the First Estate) Louis XIII to hand over day to day power permitting Richelieu to hold the “Third Estate (the commoner) in check and act for the monarchy. Richelieu is popularly known (still) as the father of the modern-day civil service as we know it today. Richelieu’s conniving led to the creation of an all powerful position of “Intendant”. (The title of intendant (French: intendant, Portuguese and Spanish: intendente) has been used in several countries through history. Traditionally, it refers to the holder of a public administrative office. The modern day heirs to that exalted and omni-powerful rank are present day “Assistant Deputy Ministers”. In Canada, it is those individuals who hold and use power.
And Then came the Fourth Estate
Democracy works and thrives by way of checks and balances. Whereas the nobility and the clergy hold great and powerful advantage over the Third estate (the commoner), the commoner represents a majority within the democracy.
Wide economic gaps exist within that huge group called the “commoner” including very large financial gaps. In a multicultural society (or a society of immigrants) those differences could easily result in an inability to find and form consensus as to how we are governed. Thus, the Fourth estate – the media evolved.
The premise was (still is) that if the individual (the Commoner) is well informed he/she will make wise electoral decisions. Therein is the role of the media. Fair, balanced and unbiased journalism dying quickly in North America and it is worrisome. To attempt to take away freedom of the press by force there would likely be riots and insurrection from the populace.
Sadly, that singular freedom (of the press) has been freely thrown away by the media itself. The vanguards of journalistic integrity have long ago been abandoned by those in that industry. No longer are things such as objectivity, journalistic integrity, values or attribution of any concern. Heaven-for-fend that a present day writer would deal with mundane concepts such as “WHO; WHAT; WHERE: WHEN AND WHY” get in the way of the writer wanting to tell you/I what he or she thinks.
On that note, amazement never ends when I consider that number of TV talking heads that eventually find a happy home in politics. I am unsure of which transferable skill they bring along from their days of reading the news from a teleprompter. It always seemed to be that the ability to read from a teleprompter is a skill set that the average eight or nine year old possesses.
Little wonder that readership of newspapers and magazines is quickly dying. The product of bad journalism has killed something that is of paramount importance. Not only are the media outlets laying off, but the same readership declines exist with the electronic version produced by the same corporations.
I genuinely worry that in this society where so much information is so easily available, that we as a society have things badly confused. Ability to access data (even not credible data) has never been easier. Along the way, it seems that we (as a society) have freely abandoned our ability to think and determine objectively. That, to me is far worse than any invasion as it represents a betrayal of debts paid long ago for those freedoms.
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