Are truth and democracy under siege?
The leader of Australia’s national university and Nobel Laureate, Professor Brian Schmidt, says democracy and truth are under siege and universities have a vital role in meeting the challenge.
Delivering his annual State of the University address at ANU, Professor Schmidt will issue a rallying call, telling staff and students that universities have never been more vital to democracy.
“Extreme forms of populism, at times and in places approaching fascism, have gained a dangerous foothold in our world,” the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University explains.
“They are leading to violence and autocracy, besieged parliaments and mass arrests, trade wars and fears for future peace. Perhaps most seriously, populism is stopping us from addressing the most existential problem of all – climate change.
“We are entering an era when populism will have severe consequences for the entire planet. It has to be combatted. To think it will just go away is to wilfully ignore the lessons of history.
“We have to ask: who is currently looking after the health of our democracy?”
Like much of the world, the US-Australian citizen has been watching recent events in the United States closely, including the storming of the Capitol – something Professor Schmidt says he could not believe happening five years ago.
“Of the great institutions that have traditionally comprised the ramparts of Australian democracy, only the universities have retained the public’s trust," Professor Schmidt says.
“This gives us a special responsibility to show leadership.
“The biggest problem in the world today is the undermining of the Enlightenment belief in the primacy of the truth.
“Because they exist to establish what is true, universities are needed like never before.”
Do you think truth and democracy is under siege in Australia and around the world?