The Death of democracy
This is a talk given by an American writer, Naomi Woolf author of The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot, Chelsea Green Publishing Co, 2009, 192p. It’s interesting for TOK purposes for the way in which it analyses a common myth we have about history: we study history to learn from our mistakes.
Woolf argues that history actually enables those in positions of power (especially budding tyrants) to extract a template for the policies and laws they create to organize their people; a template, moreover, which is designed to reduce the democratic rights of people. She calls it a ‘blueprint’ for the death of democracy. Dramatic language, but she appears to have cause for using such a tone. The message appears to be: we surely do learn from our mistakes, but only to reinforce that other tenet of historical truth – history repeats itself.
Look out for the following phrases and examine how they relate to knowledge and its use and abuse:
‘the blueprint is predictive’
‘it was human nature to abuse power’
‘the fascist shift’
‘the patriots' task'
The full talk was given at Kane Hall, University of Washington, Seattle, October 11, 2007, but you can also watch it in small chunks with visual representations of the arguments and examples presented by Wolf: