The Laws of Informed Citizenry, and its Importance to Liberty

Informed Citizens always have the sun rising on their civilization.

Informed Citizens always have the sun rising on their civilization.

What is an informed citizen?

Before ascribing my own view, I would like to gather a few definitions of “informed citizen/citizenry” from around the web:

Now that we have that, let us define the individual words of that ever important phrase, just for comprehensiveness:

Merriam-Webster defines ‘informed’ as having information; educated, knowledgable.  Having accurate information is critical and necessary to being informed and one can only be educated and knowledgable if they are informed.   

It defines ‘citizen’ as an inhabitant of a city, town or state; especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman; a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it.  So as a citizen of the United States you are entitled to full civil and political rights, and protection by your government.  

So, using various similar definitions we can use critical thinking and common sense to reach the conclusion of what an informed citizen actually means.  An informed citizen is someone who uses reliable information from multiple sources to understand subjects and situations, thus used to create appropriate judgements to understand their government and more importantly what is happening in the world around them.  Simply put, someone who thinks for themselves and strives to fully understand their society and governance on all levels.  That doesn’t mean you have to be a lawyer, or a scholar, but it does mean you have to fully understand your rights and the role your government plays in your life, and use that knowledge to draw informed conclusions.

What is the importance of being an informed citizen, and cultivating a society comprised of informed citizenry?

A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

–James Madison (American statesman, political theorist, and fourth President of the United States, hailed as the father of the U.S. constitution)

That elegant quote from one of our founding fathers sums it up in a concise manner.  Now, of course, it would be unfair of me not to point out that James Madison did do some flip-flopping on this subject, but I think for the purposes of this article the preceding quote accurately describes the criticalness of acquiring information and applying it to one’s world view.  As a human being it is your solemn duty to stay current with your rights and laws that effect those rights.  If we do not, the government will not fear its people, because knowledge is power.

Should a people work for government or should a government work for its people?  If you are a purveyor of liberty you already know the answer.  A government that fears its people, works for its people.  A well-informed society does not allow its government to take advantage of them; rather, it creates a dynamic government that fits society’s values.  Hence, the founding father’s embrace of an ever-churning sea of rebellion.

We should have no attachment to any one nation or government; rather, an attachment to liberty and all that it bestows upon us.  Informed citizenry is essential to the preservation of liberty.  Without it, the tree of liberty will wither and die.  It is up to the people to tend to the tree, to fertilize it with the blood of the patriots and tyrants, and to use the power of knowledge to grow it to otherwise unattainable heights.

When a government’s ideals are not identical to the people’s ideals that is the time to mold a new government to take place of the obsolete one.  Think about it, what if we kept using Window’s 95 instead of innovating, and tweaking the design?  It would be horrible, we’d never be able to get anything done, because as time evolves, so too does our ideals, and thoughts on how the operating system should function.  You may think it’s comparing apples to oranges, but it is not.  It’s simply detaching yourself and realizing that governments can’t stay intuitive to the people’s needs forever.  They need to be updated, innovated, and replaced as society’s ideals evolve.

The main difference between operating systems and governments is that an OS is easy to update and replace, while a government isn’t.  Or is it?  If the people stay informed, and make sure they are heard, the government has no choice to follow the ideals of its people.  It only becomes hard when a people become distracted, and ignore their government’s actions.

If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because that is the current state of American society.  The American People follow celebrities with fervency,  ignore politicians who rape our constitution on a daily basis, eat up the mindless garbage that is reality tv.  I talk about this in detail in my other article, The Decline and Fall of American Culture.

You may think it is too late to become informed, or that you have no idea where to start.  It is never too late to become informed, because even in an oppressive, tyrannical government, information finds a way eventually.  We are lucky to live in the age of information, where the entire breadth of human knowledge can be accessed as fast as your fingers can type.  How does one become an informed citizen, though??  That is the question, and I have devised the answer.  The following are the necessities to becoming an informed citizen, and anyone who follows these necessities will therefore, themselves, be an informed citizen.

The Laws of Informed Citizenry

1.  An informed citizen gathers information through a multitude of credible sources, and only deems such sources credible through fact checking, logic, and common sense.

2.  An informed citizen always strives to understand and, if needed, compensate for the bias of any source.

3.  The informed citizen fully understands all of their rights, and defends said rights by any means deemed appropriate.

4.  The informed citizen never stays silent on matters of principle, liberty, or plain common sense.

5.  The informed citizen does not appeal nor ascribe to mob rule or thinking; they do not hastily draw conclusions and, instead, use critical thinking and common sense to arrive at intelligent, logical conclusions.

6.  The informed citizen spreads accurate knowledge to others, so that they might too become informed citizens themselves.

That’s it.  If you follow those six simple laws, you will be an informed citizen.  You could add to that list, but these are the bare essentials.  Without these necessities, there can be no informed citizenry.  There would be tyranny and rampant ignorance.  To fully understand each of these laws, I will be breaking each one down bit by bit in the following paragraphs.

Detailed Explanations of The 6 Laws of Informed Citizenry 

1.  An informed citizen gathers information through a multitude of credible sources, and only deems such sources credible through fact checking and common sense. 

All this rule means is you must gather information from as many sources as possible to come to any conclusion.  Distrust any news source before checking their credibility by comparing it against a plethora of other sources.  After the comparison you are left with a sort of credibility rating for that source.  How does one go about creating a credibility rating?  Well, turn your television to a news station, anyone will do (yes, even Fox News), and break out your computer/phone/tablet.  Every story you see, google it.  Read multiple sources, try to gauge the credibility of each site.  The more sources an article links to helps, but if all the sources are from one narrow bias, or one untrustworthy source, then that piece of information is therefore unaccredited and should be discarded from your mind.  SOURCES THAT DO NOT LINK TO OTHER SOURCES ARE IMMEDIATELY DEEMED UNACCREDITED.  How do you know if an article is credible?  Compare it to other articles to build a case for any piece of information.

 An important thing to keep in mind is just because one story from said news source is accurate, does not mean that all of their other pieces of information are correct.  You must build up a credibility rating for each piece of information, even if it is your most trusted news source.  The credibility rating only allows you to become more trustful of any source that has a high rating.  You should, under no circumstances, never take any source as truth without first checking the facts.

That’s it.  If you have no access to a television, use newspapers, news websites, any piece of information you can get your hands on, and compare it against other sources.  With practice, this will be second nature, and you will be smarter for it.  On to the next one…

2.  An informed citizen always strives to understand and, if needed, compensate for the bias of any source.

The second rule comes from the fact that humans are beings of bias.  If you hate Macaroni and Cheese and someone who’s never tried it mentions it to you, what do you say?  That you hate it, it tastes gross, it’s a cheesy-pasta piece of crap, etc.  That’s your bias.  Everyone has a bias and it is always prevalent in their attempts at spreading information.  This is something reporters/journalists strive to abolish by reporting all of the known facts.  It is a nigh-impossible task, but that’s okay.  All that is needed is to understand the bias.  If you understand the bias, you can compensate for it.  If you know that someone hates Mac and Cheese, you can omit opinion and get to the heart of the facts, namely in this case, that Mac and Cheese is a cheese pasta of sorts.

Be wary of biases that are extremely narrow, in that meaning the person who created the source has a very particular (often bigoted) opinion about a subject, because the few drops of accurate information may not be worth drudging through piles of misinformation and opinion.  The more particular a person’s bias, the less likely their news will be accurate information.  These sources should receive a low credibility score, and automatically distrusted.  Even if their bias coincides with yours, the path to facts doesn’t follow a biased system.  It’s facts, simple as that.

3.  The informed citizen fully understands all of their rights, and defends said rights by any means deemed appropriate.

Fully understanding your rights as a citizen of any country is necessary to create any sort of informed opinion on your government.  Your rights are there to help you and if you don’t know them, they are going to waste.  Every single American citizen over the age of five knows the First Amendment to the Constitution in the document known as the Bill of Rights.  It allows you the freedom of speech, everyone knows that.  You can say whatever you want and the government cannot do anything about it.  What most people don’t know, unfortunately, is that it allows for so much more.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

-First Amendment, Bill of Rights

Freedom of speech is just the tip of the iceberg.  Freedom of religion, freedom of press, right to protest, and right to petition your government.  It is a wonderful thing to have these rights, when for most of human history those rights have been denied by despots of all kinds.  The preservation of those rights is essential to uphold American ideals.  Defending your rights is apart of participating in the government to ensure your rights and ideals are upheld.  If you fully understand your rights, you can fully defend them in any way that is necessary.

4.  The informed citizen never stays silent on matters of principle, liberty, or plain common sense.

This is similar to rule number 3, but there are some major differences between the two that merited its own law.  Principle, liberty, and plain common sense need voices to defend them, and if you don’t lend yours to them, who will?  You cannot trust others to take up the call if you do not yourself.  This law’s purpose is so that you aren’t pushed around not only by the government, but law enforcement, and other citizens as well.  Your principles are yours, and you should keep them nestled tightly to your bosom as if they were your own children.  Liberty is ours, and you should defend it like a lover, with passion and aggressiveness.  Common sense is weak, and it can’t hold itself up without a well-informed voice to give it strength.  In a time when so little people have common sense, it is those who do that must champion the merits of logical thinking.

5.  The informed citizen does not appeal nor ascribe to mob rule or thinking; they do not hastily draw conclusions and, instead, use critical thinking and common sense to arrive at intelligent, logical conclusions.

“The mob is man voluntarily descending to the nature of the beast. Its fit hour of activity is night. Its actions are insane like its whole constitution. It persecutes a principle; it would whip a right; it would tar and feather justice, by inflicting fire and outrage upon the houses and persons of those who have these. It resembles the prank of boys, who run with fire-engines to put out the ruddy aurora streaming to the stars.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

This one is simple, but you’d be surprised how a mob can put a halt to critical thinking, and give rise to barbarism.  It even happened to our forefathers in colonial days, when they would tar and feather tax collectors and others to get a point across.  It does not matter how intelligent, logical, or gental you are, because in a mob you are not you.  The mob is a collective hive mind of anger and pseudo-justice.  Mobs do not ascribe to logic, critical thinking, or common sense, which are all trademarks of the informed citizen.

Do not participate in mob rule/mob thinking, instead, condemn those who do.  Hold them accountable for their actions, make them understand the importance of applying logic and critical thinking to all situations.  That directly leads into the 6th and final law, which may be the most important.

6.  The informed citizen spreads accurate knowledge to others, so that they might too become informed citizens themselves.

The last law of informed citizenry is the spread of accurate information to friends, family, and anyone that will listen.  Long gone are the days of the ivory tower and the hoarding of information, now we live in the wonderful age of readily available information.  Every piece of knowledge can be accessed through the internet and the internet can be accessed from more and more mediums.  The only serious problem to this outflow of information is many of these so called pieces of information are actually misinformation.

The informed citizen combats misinformation by gathering sources and using critical thinking, and passing said information on.  If you don’t know enough on a subject, do not open your mouth, lest you perpetuate the vicious cycle of misinformation.  Instead, admit your ignorance, then commit to hastily rectifying said ignorance.  Only once you have gathered enough credible information can you begin to form an opinion on the subject.  It is better to not know, then to pretend to know, thereby spreading fallacies.

Now that you know the laws, apply them.  Because it is arguably the most essential component of liberty.  Being an informed citizen allows you to help spread knowledge, which thereby creates a society of informed citizens, who can then mold the government to their standards.  The ignorant fear the government, the informed fear the ignorant.  Only through the spreading of these laws can we, the people, end ignorance and disinterest, thereby allowing us to take control of our government and make it uphold our ideals.  I end once again, with a quote.

A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved.
It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.

-Benjamin Franklin

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