Hugo Chavez is criticized by many. But not many of them are poor Venezuelans. This is bacause he made genuine inroads towards gaining their trust. One of the first things he did was issue the little blue book of the Bolivarian constitution to every Venezuelan. And many of them can today quote from it. How many Sri Lankans know their own constitution?
The posessers of knowledge have a vested interest in protecting it. It being the sole source of their income and status. This is obvious in the case of an opressive government, so let’s look at some slightly less obvious examples.
Take the Law (or the low, as our police calls it) for instance, there should be an easy to read guide to the laws of a country; instead laws are written in such arcane language that most laymen would never be able to understand if they got short-changed or not without professional advice.
This attempt to jargonize all sources of information in order to make it inaccessible to the public at large is a natural result of the institutionalization of a particular industry, profession, or government. Another example is the Medical profession;
In a book called The Undercover Economist i read about how the torture that medical interns go through in the US (after several years of learning theory) was largely unneccessary. They could easily become qualified surgeons at much less the effort but they are simply prevented from doing so by the existing system. Due to the vested interest of it’s existing stakeholders.
In the case of governments, public ignorance is often a boon to corruption and injustice, and governments that persue such activities will have the least to gain from empowering the public with knowledge. They will thrive on ignorance and exploit their own people’s rights.
Imagine if all Sri Lankans knew what the police could or couldn’t do. For instance i never knew that breathalyzer tests need to be taken at the point where you are stopped by the cops itself. Numerous threats of taking you to the Police Station are merely intimidatory. If more Sri Lankans knew their rights, a lot of injustice may stop.
But then again, a government that takes the effort to educate its public on their rights and the general law of the land would be less disposed to injustice against them to begin with, creating a bit of a paradox.