Thursday, March 24, 2011

Education and Exclusion

While reading Prof. James Scott's Seeing Like a State, an interesting question came to mind. Does the State deliberately use education and literacy against the people and excludes them from power, freedom and basic rights?

The thesis in Prof. Scott's book regards tax laws and the modern State's monopoly on their administration, codification and extraction. He plays with the idea that the illegible legalese serves as a boundary for poor farmers and villagers devoid of even basic reading skills, let alone the fancy talk used by tax administrators. People who have delved into these codes and tried to decipher them have reaped great fortunes at the expense of the illiterate populace, by claiming ownership of previously common land, which the modern State has cut up into parcels for the purposes of taxation. Prof. Scott points out as examples the colonized states of India and South East Asia.

Is this same legal mumbo jumbo being used to this day to steal peoples' rights in Pakistan, India and the third world at large? It is a fact that uneducated farmers in Pakistan are kept in miserable conditions, paid slave wages and generally left to rot. Perhaps this is the reason why schooling in rural Pakistan is virtually non-existent. The people in power don't want their slaves to wake up.

The question however, is not whether this is deliberate or not. The question is, if this is a violation of human rights, what should be done to stop it?

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