Friday, March 17, 2023

Plato Justifiably Distrusted Democracy In The Hands Of Ordinary Mortals


            The Framers at the Constitutional Convention - setting out a new democracy

Plato, perhaps the most famous ancient Greek philosopher,  was not moved to believe his fellow Greeks - or any humans in the then ancient world - were fit to handle democracy.  He argued that in a system in which political power (cratos) lies in the hands of the people, the masses ('demos') it cannot be guaranteed. Further, he argued it unlikely that those best equipped to rule would get the chance to do so. The citizens or people, as it turns out, were too easily swayed by emotions and appeals to their baser instincts. 

 In Book 3, for example, we behold Socrates words (in his dialogue with Guaron)  (recall The Republic was written in the form of dialogue) when articulating the consequences if a man exclusively devotes time to gymnastics and not any higher pursuits:

"And what happens? If he do nothing else and holds no converse with the Muses, does not even that intelligence which there may be in him, having no taste of any sort of learning or inquiry,0r thought or culture, grow feeble and dull and blind?  His mind never waking up or receiving nourishment and his senses not being purged of their mists?"

Here, the very essence of what the Right's fools call "wokeness" is named as a high value as well as indispensable for the Greek citizen.  This elicits the question of why GOP troglodytes like Desantis brag on having a state where "woke goes to die.  This despite Plato (speaking as Socrates) declaring the implicit value of waking up lest the mind not "receive nourishment and be purged of its mists."

It seems to me the Right's blowhards want their minions not to wake up, to go on instead gobbling the lies of FOX News, or their own spin on "woke", or critical race theory, or inflation or.....trans kids being "abused" by parents i.e. if given a book about gay penguins.  Given how incensed the voters of the Right have become over "wokeness" (used in the wrong, misinformation sense) Plato would see immediately how the seeds for our destruction have already been sown - paving the way for an autocracy.

In Book 8 of his masterwork - The Republic - Plato described in detail how a democracy is unlikely to offer a stable political solution over time. Why?  Well, because it offers freedom but neglects a concomitant responsibility of the citizen to exercise it - as well as neglecting the demands of proper statecraft.   In Book 8 ('The Republic & Other Works',  1960, Tr. B. Jowett, p. 255) we read:

"Freedom, as they tell you in a democracy, is the glory of the State, and therefore in a democracy alone will the freedom of nature deign to dwell.  But the insatiable desire of this and the neglect of other things introduces the change in democracy which occasions a demand for tyranny. How so? 

 When a democracy which is thirsting for freedom has evil cup bearers presiding over the feast, and has drunk too deeply of the strong wine of freedom, then unless her rulers are very amenable, she calls them to account and punishes them, and says they are cursed oligarchs.    

Then loyal citizens are insultingly termed by her slaves - who hug their chains and the men of naught. They would have subjects who are like rulers and rulers who are like subjects.  Now in such a state can liberty have any limits? Certainly not."

 Plato  recognized even in that ancient era how fragile a pure democracy could be, given that the weaker minds could be unleashed by false promises, as well as lies to attack their fellow (loyal) citizens. We behold this now as our so-called "first amendment rights" to free speech have run amuck and sowed all manner of consternation and distress - including bogus attacks on the "woke mob", on trans people, on progressives and Dems (deemed "Satanist child ritual killers)"

Make no mistake that the framers of the Constitution also read the Republic and gleaned from it the dangers of having a pure democracy.  Thus, they built checks and balances into our framework as well as a mediating instrument (The Electoral College) The Founders then wanted to differentiate the American version from the Greek “pure democracy,” because the latter failed so quickly. 

With the Electoral College the Founders created a “representative democracy” instead of a “pure democracy” like the failed Greek experiment.  The reason was simple: a pure democracy would echo Plato’s warning  that the masses can’t be trusted to make serious decisions about state because they'd allow their own freedoms (unchecked) to go to their heads.

That (Greek) history produced a general agreement among the Founders and the Framers of the Constitution that they didn’t want what the Greeks had. It was too unstable and, indeed, collapsed as a “pure democracy” after only 47 years (507 to 460 BCE).  Thus, the Electoral College was conceived as a “filter” to thwart the worst instincts of the masses and prevent what Founder James Madison called “mischief of faction”.

In Federalist  #10  James Madison articulated that condition whereby:

"citizens - whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole - are united and actuated by a common impulse of passion (to cast their votes) adverse to the rights of other citizens or the permanent and aggregate interests of the community".  

This is exactly what the Trump voters ('the minority")  did in 2016, motivated by passion and recklessness via Trump's often violent rallies to give a middle finger salute to the rest of the country -  embodied in this image from 2016:

Thereby militating against the majority's interests by inserting a low class grifter into highest office.  They knew just as well as anyone  the degenerate and destructive nature of this filth, but cast ballots for him anyway.  So the Electoral College – which was designed to filter out demagogues, criminals and foreign-backed traitors- failed in 2016. It let Trump through without much of a fight or barrier.

In a 1777 letter to the man who would become one of the Constitution’s principal authors,  New York’s Gouverneur Morris, Alexander Hamilton wrote:

“[A] representative democracy, where the right of election is well secured and regulated & the exercise of the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, is vested in select persons, chosen really and not nominally by the people, will in my opinion be most likely to be happy, regular and durable.” (Emphasis Hamilton’s)

Adding in Issue #58 of The Federalist:

"The process of election (by state electors) affords a moral certainty that the office of President shall never fall to the lot of any man who is not to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications...It will not be too strong to say that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue."

Semi-educated Republicans who believe that a democracy and a republic are incompatible with each other completely miss the fact that our 1789 American republic was the first serious, large-scale nation-state experiment with democracy within a western-world republic since the Greeks tried it almost 3000 years earlier.  But is it viable? Not the way we see current events unfolding. Geneva philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau may well have been correct when he wrote; 

"Were there a people of gods their government would be democratic. So perfect a government is not for men."

If we fast forward to today, we see that Rousseau's insights and instincts weren’t far off.  The “People”  - too many – actually elected a criminal, Russian-backed degenerate orange buffoon in 2016. This maggot almost upended our democratic republic with his inciting of an insurrection in 2020 – and now wants to complete his program for destruction in 2024 and is leading in many polls.  So-called "freedom lovers" haven't learned a damned thing since January 6, 2021.

John McWhorter, NY Times columnist and language expert, opined last Friday night on Real Time that he simply can’t believe so many Americans exist who'd put Trump back into office. But it is very possible, say if the slimeball isn’t either: a) eliminated from the GOP primaries, or b) indicted (and imprisoned!) in one of the three major investigations, or – if something were to fell Joe Biden – the only human with the potential to beat the maggot in 2 years. (Given he’s done it before).  We still need citizens - enough - not to fall for Reepo buzzwords like "woke" - to back Trump, Desantis or any other GOP zealot. Especially given these simpletons can only fumble for words trying to define it, for example as exposed in this recent viral clip.

Such word 'salads' occur because the Right's babbling twits despise the values inherent in the actual meaning of 'woke'.  That is, values which represent a worldview committed to human thriving, individuality and equality. And which also embraces empathy, justice and critical thinking.  The anti-Woke brigades of the Right can countenance none of these.

Ryan Newman, Ron DeSantis’ general counsel, was asked by a judge recently to define ‘woke,’ in a court of law, where there would be penalties for lying. THIS is the definition he gave:

The belief there are systemic injustices in American society, and the need to address them.’

In other words, refuse to buy into the facts of  historical "redlining" for home sales to blacks, the Jim Crow laws of the 50s, 60s, and selective segregation in our electoral and educational systems as part of systemic racism. Worse, exhibit no empathy that such monstrous inequities have existed, well because to do so means action would have to be taken to rectify them. The Right's losers want no part of that just like they want no part of any assault weapons ban.

Such is one mode ("anti-Woke") among many, for the way a democracy dies, even one with supposed 'filters' to protect it.  But if those filters are ignored or dismissed as they were with the state electors in the election of 2016, then they are useless. We could as well have no mediation of voting, no Electoral College, at all.

See Also:

by Amanda Marcotte | March 17, 2023 - 7:47am | permalink

— from Salon


"Woke" is currently the favorite word of the right. Republican politicians can't go more that 5 or 6 words without peppering "woke" into their sentences. Turning on Fox News, you'll hear the word "woke" repeated ad nauseam, like a record skipping, but for hours at a time: "woke woke woke woke woke." Everything is "woke": BanksChildren's booksThe militaryDisneyM&MsSuper Bowl performances. To be a Republican in the year 2023 is to spend every waking moment outraged and terrified by "woke," certain its wokey tendrils will snake their wokeness into your brain and woke-ify you into wokeitude.

But the funny thing about "woke" is that, while all Republicans hate it, they don't seem to have any idea how to define it. 


by Amanda Marcotte | March 18, 2023 - 7:32am | permalink

— from Salon


When Republicans use the word "woke," it's a deliberate bit of obfuscation, a way to signal bigotry to their fellow travelers while pretending it's something else to those who call them out for it. But it's also pretty hard to ignore the bullhorn levels of racism that are often embedded in complaints about "woke" culture. When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., complains that it's "woke" to let Black women sing at the Super Bowl, for example, the only rational conclusion is that it's their skin color that offends her.


by Thom Hartmann | March 16, 2023 - 6:26am | permalink


by Thom Hartmann | March 10, 2023 - 7:29am | permalink

— from The Hartmann Report


What country in its right mind would allow a foreign entity to come into their country, set up a major propaganda operation, and then use it to so polarize that nation that its very government suffers a violent assault and its democracy finds itself at a crossroads?

Apparently, the United States. And we’re not the first, according to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald (the Australian equivalent of The New York Times) Rudd called Rupert Murdoch and his rightwing news operations “the greatest cancer on the Australian democracy.”

“The uncomfortable truth is,” Rudd wrote, “since the coup of June 2010, Australian politics has become vicious, toxic and unstable. The core question is why?”

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