I have recently had an occasion to read the "Code of Ethics" promulgated by the Society of Professional Journalists.
It's a very good statement.
The Preamble indicates that the Society believes that "public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy." Enlightenment is, I definitely agree, a key requirement for democracy. That is, after all, what the First Amendment is all about. Our freedom to speak out, and to say what we think, must never be abridged.
I submit, however, that "enlightenment" alone is not enough. It is "necessary but not sufficient," as a logician might say. It's not "self-executing."
Where democracy is concerned, at least the kind of democracy that goes along with self-government, we need to go beyond "enlightenment." Actual "engagement" is required.
To my mind, the foundation of democratic self-government is our willingness to get involved, ourselves, and to become engaged in all the conflicts and controversy, debate and discussion, and in the campaigns and the struggles that lead to the decisions that democracy can ultimately deliver.
We need, in other words, to leave the role of spectator (where "enlightenment" may be enough) and to descend and engage on the battlefield of politics, which is where our democratic choices get made.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
273 / Enlightenment And Engagement
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