Education can overcome politics of fear

In her commentary, associate Opinion editor Lydia Lim concluded that we need politicians of moral purpose to lead society to overcome today's politics of fear ("What the world needs is courage"; last Sunday).

However, it is important to remember that politicians do not exist separately from a population.

In most democratic countries, politicians are a product of a population's fears and desires.

The results of their election campaigns are dependent on their popularity. Their popularity is ultimately a reflection of how much their ideology and arguments resonate with a population.

In today's world, there will always be demagogues who stand ready to exploit a population's worst fears.

It is thus society that needs to overcome the politics of fear, to show that it does not respond to calls for xenophobia and discrimination. Only then will politicians take heed.

Some argue that what we see now is but part of the natural ebb and flow of the history of ideas.

Others argue that it is unclear whether the current Westphalian notion of sovereignty can lead us to a place where our shared humanity, or what Ms Lim calls a common moral purpose, can override the tendency to take action solely by virtue of our "nationality".

Does this mean that as countries oscillate wildly between extremes of globalisation and isolation, we will forever be at the mercy of these forces? Not necessarily.

One answer is to ensure that as much of a population as possible receives a proper education.

Educating people that the world is, was and always will be more diverse than what they see around them produces minds that are much less susceptible to corrupting influences. The more exposed we are, the less likely we are to respond to the politics of fear.

This is not a foolproof method, but certainly one that works quite well.

Ajinkya Chougule

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 03, 2016, with the headline 'Education can overcome politics of fear'. Print Edition | Subscribe