Common Knowledge

The undervaluation of common knowledge is something quite worrying for me. The ubiquitous overwhelming amount of information we are fed with continuously obfuscates the cruciality of having open access to educational resources that go beyond the YouTube tutorial (that is openly accessible—still, it is not common knowledge since it is hosted on a proprietary platforms which could shut down from one day to another).

I truly understood this while watching The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, where Aaron Swartz’s battles for a better world made him one of my idols.

François-Noël Babeuf, proto-socialist and one of the most fierce adversaries of the Directory during the French Revolution, advocates for the eradication of any sort of human egoistic greediness, and he wonderfully explains why knowledge is something that belongs to the whole:

The creations of the human mind become the property of society, part of the nation’s capital, from the very moment that thinkers and workers bring these creations into being. Invention is the fruit of prior investigation and effort. The most recent workers in the field reap their reward as a result of the social labors of their predecessors in a society that nurtures invention and that aids the scientific worker in his task. It is clear that if knowledge is a social product it must be shared by all alike.
It is a truth, which only ignorant or prejudiced people are likely to contest, that if knowledge were made available to all alike, it would serve to make men roughly equal in ability and even in talent. Education is a monstrosity when it is unequally shared, since then it becomes the exclusive patrimony of a section of society; it becomes, in the hands of this section, a set of tools, an ideological armory, with the help of which the privileged make war upon the defenseless masses. In this way the rich succeed, with little difficulty, in stifling and deceiving and robbing the people, thus subjecting them to a shameful servitude.

François-Noël Babeuf, The Defense of Gracchus Babeuf (Gehenna Press, 1964), p. 32

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