Over-Education of the Masses – Good Thing or Bad Thing?

Which is a question Hosni Mubarak must have asked himself a lot lately. It is an issue which troubled the Victorian British businessmen who had to put up with all those tedious trades unions and Suffragettes after the lower orders were taught to read and write, and also all generations of businessmen since. Not to mention all the Popes who’ve had to suffer the humiliation of the Reformation since Gutenberg’s bright idea freed a lot more ideas from the monastic scribes.
For the exploiter, there is always a fine line between educating the workforce enough, and educating them too much. And so far, each economic stage of history has managed with a largely under-educated workforce because each relied largely on brute force to build its pyramids, Hadrian’s Walls, Great Western Railways and Hoover Dams. The people have always been taught enough to increase their profitability, not their intellect. Their education was not for their benefit, but their employers’.
But if advances of industrial technique were to make it necessary to educate a near-majority to a non-physical level of work, or if the majority were ever to acquire the same skills and technology as the exploiters, the game would be up.
That is what is happening now. The technology lag between the ruling elites and the masses has been eroded by the simple advance in technology which gave us the internet. And so the kinds of hierarchies and alienation we are used to are in now in real danger for the first time in history.

That is a good thing, and like every step from feudalism to democracy, brings socialism one step nearer. Hence the constant howls of warning by the Ignoranti, which go something like this:

There is no successful socialist government anywhere in the world that has not brought depravation and poverty on its people!

Which conveniently ignores the fact that only because of what was flatteringly condemned as ‘socialism’  has British society advanced beyond sending children up chimneys.

Left to its own devices, the ‘free’ market would still send pregnant women down coal mines. If left to their own devices, without the inevitable attacks by paranoid reactionary countries and corporations, most attempts at socialism would have worked out fine – where the appropriate conditions prevailed, of course.
Socialism cannot be created overnight from either feudalism, tribalism, or any pre-industrial society with no educated working class. Until peasants become workers you can’t have socialism.
Which is why every socialist applauds the Arab revolutions, even thought they are only calling for democracy. That’s the necessary first step, so revolutionary socialists like Gigi Ibrahim may have to wait a while for their political ambitions to be fulfilled, but since the political compass is being recalibrated, and all revolutionary socialists are currently opening up all kinds of boxes to see what springs out, the ambitions of a month ago may look like small beer today.
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