Thursday, 23 December 2010

Mission statement

“By making the individual both the means and the end of democracy, [society] committed itself to investing its energies into creating individuals capable of possessing a moral will that achieves enough autonomy from dominant social forces that it is capable of reacting back on those forces with intelligence and power.”
John Dewey

From the outset, the premise of democracy has been the rule of the majority. Yet public opinion is volatile and vulnerable
. Aristotle said, giving power to the people was a way of giving power to the ones who could persuade the people. This concern has been validated throughout the history of democracy. Demagogues can manipulate and inflame public opinion by playing on the very basest attributes of human nature, until the people act like a mob and willingly throw out the foundations of liberty and freedom. Many democratic societies have, like Germany in the 1930s, voted themselves out of power.

It is essential for the stability of any democratic society that there are individuals within that society who are able to distance themselves from the influence of dominant social forces, to question them and, if necessary, to react back on those forces with "intelligence and power". Thus they can stem the flow of public opinion when it would otherwise propel the people off the edge of a cliff.

Democracy works not by coercion but persuasion. Therefore it is crucial for a democratic citizen to seek and gain what I have called 'the intelligence of persuasion' in order to both recognize persuasive influences in society and, when necessary, be able to persuade others to reject those influences.

This web page is dedicated to learning and teaching the intelligence of persuasion in order to build a more democratic society.