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Mediocre and ignorant with power


Published in

Diario de Navarra

Gerardo Castillo Ceballos

Professor at the School of Education and Psychology at the University of Navarra.

Mediocre means "of quality average and of little merit" (RAE). Alain Deneault is the author of Mediocracy, a essay where he warns of the anaesthetic revolution that is bringing the mediocre to power. To be mediocre is to embody the average, to conform to a social standard.

To rule in any area of political life today, it is enough to be submissive to the ideology of the dominant party, to be silent and not stop applauding its leaders until your hands ache. The jurist Antonio Fuentes argues that "democracy has become the misgovernment of the mediocre. It is an endemic evil of our politics to allow great ignoramuses to decide the most important issues. What would be unfeasible in a business, becomes rule common in our governments, appointing to complex matters those who have no academic merit, those who have no experience, those who, because of their youth in some cases or for a thousand different reasons, could never be the best".

The philosopher Emilio Lledó states that "it is terrible that an ignorant person with political power and full of ignorance determines our lives. Individual ignorance is innocent, but an ignoramus with power is catastrophic for a society. Unfortunately, it is at agenda of our politics".

Intelligent, competent and educated people have doubts (a symptom of the search for truth with critical rigour) while mediocre and ignorant people are full of certainties. Certainty is a subjective conviction that does not always correspond to truth. The latter is the concordance of what is thought with reality. Whoever habitually confuses certainty with truth denotes ignorance and poor discernment.

There are different kinds of ignorance: innocent, guilty and stubborn or insurmountable. The blameless ignorant are those who have never had a chance to learn. The contumacious are those who stubbornly remain in error, because they ignore that they are ignorant.

Some great thinkers of the ancient world, being aware of the danger of being led by incapable people, proposed the aristocratic republic as the best system of government, which would be led by an intellectual elite, thus differentiating it from the vulgar and the uneducated masses. This system, defended by Plato in The Republic, was called sophocracy or government of the wise, in civil service examination to the government of the foolish.

It is a fact that ignorance is very bold, which makes it all the more dangerous. The theory of "the audacity of ignorance" is known as the "Dunning-Kruger Effect", which was described by psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in 1999, earning them both the award Nobel Prize in Psychology in 2000. According to this theory, the ignorant are unable to recognise their extreme inadequacy, tend to believe that they are better than they are and, moreover, do not recognise the wisdom of others. Because they themselves believe that they exercise their work optimally, they cannot realise that there are better ways of doing it. Stifocracy is equivalent to today's noocracy, which is considered to be a social and political system based on the prioritisation of the human mind. In 1987, sociologist Benjamin Oltra defined noocracy as "a new class made up of those who dominate ideological, cosmological, expressive, scientific, technical intelligence or reason, the kinetic image and the design, as a productive force and a new power in advanced capitalist and collectivist social systems".

People who have a diminished metacognitive capacity for self-knowledge, if they gain political power, give rise to oclocracy or rule by the masses, which is one of the forms of degeneration of democracy. A comic cartoon by Ramón puts it this way:
-Either us or chaos!
-Chaos, chaos!
-It's all the same, it's us too.
Political leaders, if they are patriotic, should promote the most qualified for each function, without replacing them with those who simply agree with their ideology. By putting merit and exemplarity first, they would contribute to the regeneration of politics.

It would also require a new political praxis that deepens democratisation, encouraging greater and more direct participation by citizens in the decisions that most affect them. This requires moving away from voting for certain acronyms to voting for specific candidates, with names and surnames.