Friday, November 22, 2013

Past lessons

Past lessons

Here is Plato’s take on the 4th century BC world. A plutocracy came to power when Athens was the richest city of the ancient world.  It exercised corruption. The new men of business keep up the pretense of never noticing those whom they have already ruined and they contrived to insert their sting - which is their money - into anybody who is not constantly on guard against them.  By this method they succeeded  in recovering their original investment every time while they make drones and paupers of everybody outside their own class.  They continued to do this until the people saw the danger that threatened them. Then the people’s despair gave them courage and they arose against their oppressors declaring Democracy over tyranny.

BUT in the first flush of victory these democrats killed many of their opponents and settled down to show the world how things really should be governed.  Soon they turned out to be like the plutocrats and the tyrants before them.  They used the power of their numbers to get a majority of every election and then do as they pleased because they had the ‘legal majority.’

Of course, to retain the good will of the masses these democrats were  obliged to flatter the mob and as a result all standards were debased by an increasing amount of vulgarity.  So another period of decline ensued for in such a state anarchy gained hold  until it found its  way in to all private houses.  The excessive liberty caused a reaction because an excess of liberty duly passes into slavery and the most aggravated form of  tyranny arises invariably out of the most extreme form of liberty. So the  moment liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near.  And some enterprising leader seizes power.

Are we noticing a cyclical pattern here?  Are we thinking Obama’s goal to totally transform America?  Are we noting behavior patterns and tactics from Plato’s analysis of events in history?   Now this enterprising  leader establishes himself as tyrant and there is no longer any room for the philosopher who preaches moderation and mutual understanding.

Plato studies this problem around 300 B.C.  He concentrated his thoughts and writings on trying to discover how the human race could be made to behave according to the laws of reason, by what methods the tyrannical elements could be eradicated and the perfect state established.

Here is his 4 point program for the perfect state: every citizen must be imbued with 1. A sense of justice, 2. A sense of piety, 3. A sense of reasonableness, and 4. A feeling of courage that when the occasion arises he will fight bravely to maintain the safety of the common country.

2013 where do we stand?  We recognize the tyranny and loss of freedoms which animate our government today.  Early in America’s history, it was possible for 13 small colonies with a  small group of leaders animated by the four Platonic virtues to run our Republic. But from the 4th century B.C,  until about 100 years ago. conditions have changed so completely there is no longer a basis for comparison and hope.  Will Plato’s hour come again?  

Will justice, piety, reasonableness and courage ( truly understood) find their way back into our society again?



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