Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Brave New World or 1984 More Relevant Today?

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is more relevant today than George Orwell's 1984. Although both of the two totalitarian societies are based on plausible premises, the Utopia depicted in Brave New World still has a chance of appearing today, while the Big Brother-dominated society created by Orwell, being based to some extent on the totalitarian societies that existed at the time of the book's inception, is simply obsolete.

Brave New World remains more believable in modern times because the events that led up to the creation of Huxley's Utopia have the greater chance of occurring tomorrow. In both novels, the birth of the totalitarian society is brought on by a catastrophic war that involves the entire world. However, in 1984, the war is in the process of being fought, giving the reader the impression that somewhere in the world, there is still a non-totalitarian government which could defeat Orwell's nightmarish police state. In Brave New World, the war that preceded the creation of Utopia has long since passed; it often appears as though Utopia has always existed.

This war makes ­Brave New World much more believable than Big Brother, especially since it seems more likely to occur when the world is at peace. Also, the war depicted by Brave New World contains technology that seems particularly significant in modern times. Biological weapons have become a more common part of military arsenals in recent years; readers of Brave New World have more reason to believe that its version of the war that starts the rise of totalitarianism could happen today.

Finally, 1984 contains a historical basis that detracts from its ability to remain relevant in any time period. However, it is easily inferred from both the nature of Big Brother and the era in which the novel was written that the nation or political group which started the global conflict is Communist or Communist-controlled (in at least one instance, a character refers to another as "Comrade"). The threat from totalitarian Communist governments was a major concern to Orwell. Huxley's Utopia has no historical basis to ground it in a particular era; therefore, it is more likely than Big Brother to occur in the present.

The society depicted in Brave New World is more likely to appear in modern times because it is easier for a civilization to be taken over from the inside out than by the external power suggested by Orwell. In 1984, the evil regime appeared from the outside, took over, and is now waiting to crush any opposition to its rule using weapons, mind-control instruments, and Thought Police. The government that runs the Brave New World needs none of these; it never has to suppress opposition because there can be none. The Bernard Marxes and Lenina Crownes that populate Utopia never want to resist the rules of society; thanks to the breeding and conditioning techniques of their government, they are ignorant, docile sheep.

Furthermore, unlike Big Brother, Utopia does not take the pleasures of life away from people; it lets them have so much pleasure that it becomes people's only concern, thus making existence trivial and pointless. Whatever purpose the Utopians' existence might have had is drowned in a sea of "orgy porgies", mind-calming soma tablets, and Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy games; moreover, the Utopians like life that way. Big Brother uses torture to subdue those who might oppose it, but Utopia controls people by showering them with pleasure, which is ultimately more effective because pleasure-based control makes the victim want to feel good by submitting to it.

Utopia, the future society depicted in Huxley's Brave New World, is more universal and more relevant to modern society than 1984's Big Brother. While both Utopia and Big Brother are equally plausible versions of a future society, the two were brought into existence by different preceding events. Also, Big Brother has a faint historical basis: Orwell meant for it to reflect the totalitarianism of the communist governments that existed in his era. Huxley gives no indication in Brave New World whether Utopia echoes a particular totalitarian society in real history, allowing it to remain plausible in an era when the brutal Communist regimes that existed in Orwell's time are virtually gone. Finally, Big Brother ensures its dominance by inflicting pain on dissidents while Utopia uses pleasure. Utopia, therefore, would stay in power more easily because pleasure is a more effective method of control than pain.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Classism: Inherent or Acquired Traits Define Social Status

Reading 1984, Brave New World, and The Republic of Plato, an informed reader cannot help but make comparisons between these three historically important novels. The historical discussion over these novels includes ideas such as totalitarianism, utopia, the true nature of humans, and the meaning of justice. All the ideas presented in these books have to do with one thing: the organization of humans into societies of a specific type. In George Orwell’s chilling tale of the futuristic yet drab and depressing state of the world, he shares what life would be like if society had organized itself in a particular fashion, in this case a totalitarian government. This is just one scenario that George Orwell perhaps decided he should explore and form into the novel 1984, but all three novels address the situation of humans living in a society together, and discuss different forms of society.
One common theme between these three texts that I have chosen to focus on is the existence of classist systems. In the societies portrayed in 1984, Brave New World, and The Republic, there exists to a moderate extent a system that classifies people based on either socio-economic background, pre-determined social roles, natural abilities such as intelligence and strength, or all of the above. This classist system is central to the functioning of Orwell’s Oceania, Huxley’s utopia, and Socrates’ ideal city.
In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley illustrates the lives of people living in a society obsessed with constant happiness. However, while the all-consuming goal of the general population is keeping themselves contented in the easiest way possible at all times, the goal of the limited number of so-called “controllers”, or people in positions of absolute authority who rule over every aspect of the world is to keep the population under control. The existence of a classist system in Brave New World is apparent throughout the novel, in fact the classism in this novel is an essential part of all characters’ conditioning from birth: they are taught to believe in stereotypes of differently ranked classes so that they uphold the classist system. However, it isn’t just the beliefs of all members of this society that they belong in their social level and that all people of every level conform to a certain stereotype that upholds the classism in this novel, it is a carefully administered plan by the controllers that predetermines every infant from birth as to what class they will belong to. Even when the babies are born, they have a determined class they will belong to in fact they are raised from the earliest stages of life to fit into their class, because of methodology such as polluting the bloodstream with alcohol and other modification techniques applied to the fetuses.
George Orwell writes of the life of Winston Smith, a Party member with a revolutionary streak. 1984 shows how a completely repressive government operates and controls its population through channeling all their anger at external sources. The existence of classism is very important in this novel as well, represented by the distinction between members of The Party, and the proles. Party members such as Winston Smith are afforded the comforts of life and a higher social status, as well as better paying jobs, while the proles live outside of the urban areas in poverty and without any degree of control over their own lives because of their deprived situation. At the same time, the contradiction in 1984 to this classist system is that arguably the Party members have more stifling and less rewarding lives than that of the proles, because they are constantly under the surveillance and scrutiny of the Party: because of their intelligence, ability, and access to materials having to do with the running of the government, Party members like Winston are monitored very closely. While the upper class is being watched and manipulated, the proles are living their own lifes, relatively free of the influence of the Party. This freedom however comes at the cost of their quality of living, as the proles live in abject poverty, but do in fact have a limited degree of intellectual freedom.
Socrates and his young male friends discuss the functioning and design of an ideal city in order to best represent the true nature of man. In this city, the presence of classism is fundamental to its existence. The system of gold, silver, and bronze as identifiers of social class is central to the Aristocratic city that Plato writes of in The Republic. In this city, membership to any of the three social classes is based on ability in intellectual pursuits as well as physical fitness. This classist system is different than that of the other two novels in that a single individual can join a higher or lower class based on their own actions, whereas in 1984 and Brave New World, individuals cannot decide or play any part in which social class they belong to.

But What About the Women?

Kyler Robinson

The Republic of Plato, 1984 and Brave New World are three books containing a common outlook on social systems and social organization. While all literary works have some sort of social system as a background in which they are set, the social systems and organization in these three works are more significant in that they present very radical ideas – from being born out of the womb to having a strict caste standard in which they are born. In dealing with these complex proposals however, women are used in different manners which ultimately further empower a male dominated world – even in The Republic of Plato where he states men do all things inherently better than women.

The Republic of Plato is perhaps the backbone for which the other two novels are based around. Besides the fact that this book has become the most influential work that has informed western political thought, there are direct connections such as the metal caste system, which is reflected in 1984 through the disparity of the party members and the proles while in Brave New World the reflection is even more clear to the strict gold, silver, bronze reflected through the conditioning depending on a persons Greek alphabet levels.

Although all of the social systems in each literary works allow some movement in for women, they the novels demonstrate that there still is not enough flexibility. In The Republic of Plato Socrates begins an improvement that allows women to fight along side men and have the same training and education as men and while this is an improvement it is done under pretenses separate from the feminist movement – it is for overall social convenience rather than liberation of women. 1984 and Brave New World reflect a social system that allows women the same basic rights that were proposed by The Republic of Plato – they are given the same education, have the ability to work and in 1984 are able to fight in a sense during the hate time every day.

While these are all good things for the equality of women, there remains an anti women sentiment throughout all of the books. Perhaps this is because the origin – The Republic of Plato – did not do it for the right reasons that we still see the oppression of women appearing in the later two novels. Although in 1984 we see that Julia has a job and is a very strong individual, she cannot succeed because of the male dominant society. This happens because men such as O’Brian control the world and leave no room for women. In Brave New World the characterization of women is even greater. Both of the main female characters are either old and ugly – in the case of Linda, or they are stupid and drugged up – in the case of Lenina. All three of these books make present places where women could flourish but they fail in that the steps are not full steps but are instead often inconsequential for the reality of the women who live in the societies.

The Outcast Actant

In the texts Brave New World, The Republic of Plato, and 1984, there exists a common actant, or character role, of an enlightened individual. This enlightened individual provides the means necessary to dissect the workings of their world’s government and society. It is of note as well that these characters each belong to a department close to the government, or are of an upper class, allowing them a closer and more intimate relationship with their society.
Without the presence of this character, the book would provide a glimpse at a society, but with no thoughts of resolution or manner of analysis. 1984’s Winston Smith, Plato’s Socrates, and Brave New World’s Bernard Marx fill this role, along with the support of the minor characters in each novel, most notably Lenina’s contrast in World and Goldstein’s presence in 1984.
Brave New World’s Marx provides the perfect example of this actant: his place in the department of psychology in this world and status as an Alpha caste member allows him full utilization of the benefits of the world, as well as a good place to analyze its workings from. For example, he works directly with Mustapha, one of the Commanders of the human race, and has full biological potential for development due to the cushy prenatal conditions that he was provided with.
In 1984, Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth, aptly named, for he discovers the ‘truth’ behind his society through his own discovery. It would be impossible for him as a prole to make this discover; in fact, it would dissuade his interest from these workings. His personal dissatisfaction stems from his ability to gain insight on the world around him. Because of his access to books and literature, he is able to investigate further into the motivations and past transgressions of The Party, and eventually discovers the hideous Truth behind the world.
Finally, The Republic of Plato is perhaps the best representative of this thesis. The entire text is centered around the discussions of government with Socrates, the epitome of an enlightened individual that sets himself apart and often at odds with the established society. His opinions are countered by those around him, and his series of discussions is, as he proclaims himself, validated by the fact that he is a philosopher; an enlightened individual of society. His ‘gold, silver, and bronze’ standard system is his own way of separating those capable of philosophy from those that must be led by the more capable.
Socrates sets himself against the established norm of society to create what he believes the perfect aristocracy, he considers himself a champion of justice and this even leads to the vehement disagreement of other intellectuals throughout the course of the text. However, he stays sure of his opinions, and true to the nature of this ‘outcast’ or ‘individual’ actant, refuses to concede to the opinions of others.

When reading George Orwell’s 1984, Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World and The Republic of Plato the reader instantly recognizes similarities between the tree texts. Primarily, all three books are based on the creation of a utopian society that functions under a set of specific guidelines that keep the people in check and, in a lot of ways, inside of the Cave that Plato describes in Book 7. The populations in each of these societies are forced to abide by certain specific rules, especially regarding “relishes.” These rules are designed to maintain the “perfect” culture that was created.
For example, in 1984 there are serious rules about “thoughts.” In fact, any kind of anti-society thinking or thinking that is out of the norm, even something as simple as an inappropriate smile is considered a thought crime and is punishable by law. Anyone can report these thought crimes and they are encouraged to in order to keep their society strong and really to keep the masses from fighting against the system. If a person’s thought crime gets bad enough they are forced to go into room 101 for reprogramming in order to bring them back to the same level of thought as the rest of the society.
Similarly, in Brave New World, the people are conditioned from the time they are infants to fill a specific role in society. They are designated into a caste system and then physically and mentally conditioned from the point on to be perfectly satisfied and happy in their position and also to be perfectly fit for their job. They rely on a drug called Soma in order to keep them in a thoughtless state. Soma is a control drug that is used to keep the populations under a “haze.” Because they are high on the drug for the majority of the time they are unable to have thoughts that might be damaging to the society, or cause them to rebel against the rules and the system that they have been put into.
In The Republic of Plato, Plato outlines specific guidelines for a utopian city, much like the cities in 1984 and Brave New World. In Plato’s Republic there is a strict caste system with guardian’s in place and also very specific rules regarding things like sex. For example, there is only one time in a year when people are permitted to take part in sexual intercourse and it is for the purpose of reproduction alone. If there are children who are born at a time that doesn’t correspond to the date that intercourse was permitted then that child is killed.
Both Orwell, and Huxley, most likely read Plato’s republic and gained some of their ideas from his book. Another similarity between all three is that there is some kind of “outcast” or “rebel” who doesn’t accept the values of the society and attempts to break out of it. In 1984 it is Winston who has thought crimes and doesn’t accept the society that he is put into and in Brave New World it is Bernard and in Plato it is Socrates who is eventually murdered for his beliefs. The novels all show the positive and negative parts of these societies, however, while Brave New World and 1984 focus on the bad parts Plato describes a lot of the benefits of such societies. All of the books demonstrate a all controlling society with very set rules and standards and the problems that could occur as a result, as well as the benefits of control a large population in this way.

Perfection is a Point of View

The Novels 1984, Brave New World, and The Republic of Plato all are considered masterpieces and/or classics in our world. These novels draw the reader in using a new and interesting plot which at the time of publishing made each novel revolutionary in terms of concepts and ideas. Socrates as a writer focuses more upon the hypothetical formation of such a society while Huxley and Orwell focus upon the individual living in such a society. Each of these novels discusses a different form of the most-perfect society.
The Republic of Plato is a philosophical argument about the perfect city, which is metaphorically the perfect and most just society. Plato focuses more on the ideals behind the city and not the people in it. He believes that if he can set up the perfect society that people will live happily in perfect bliss. Plato deals in broad generalizations that make many assumptions about the morals of the common man. Although Plato hypothetically forms the perfect city through discussion and philosophizing he never once thinks of the corrupt decisions of humans. The fact is with human nature the perfect society can never exist. Humans will always make choices in their best interest and not for the interest of the group as Plato had hoped. Humans in general wish for money, power, and stature for all humans are greedy at heart to a certain extent.
In Brave New World a perfect society has been formed to a certain point of view. This novel focuses in on the individuals living under this perfect society. The only problem with the creation of a perfect society is that it is a complete point of view. It is perfect to the people in control and the elite upper class because they are the ones benefiting from it. The fact of the matter is that a society where children are grown in jars, people are made to fit a different caste by pre-birth conditioning, and people are kept subdued and numbed by the perfect drug is not a perfect society to all. The directors and the alpha’s (bigger, stronger, intellectual caste) in the society see it mostly as a perfect society because they benefit from the lower classes suffering and inbred stupidity. Huxley makes clear that this is the best and most efficient society to live in but it is not necessarily beneficial to its people. Unlike Socrates, Huxley draws on a more personal side of this society that leads to the reader feeling sympathy for the protagonist. This sympathy allows for the reader to allow emotion to get into their judgment. Instead of an efficient society for the masses the reader now sees a society in which the rich benefit on the suffering of the poor. Huxley’s future society is a cautionary tale to the dangers of science and totalitarian rule and not a foretelling of a perfect society.
George Orwell wrote 1984 as a warning to the ultimate horrible and corrupt society that can ever exist. It is the perfect totalitarian government for it has banned emotion, love and all human thought. People convicted of “thoughtcrimes” are taken to the torture Room 101 and literally reprogrammed to love their country. The elites of this class, The Party generally see their style of living as the most perfect society in the history of the world. O’Brien himself compares The Party to past fascist regimes of Hitler, Mussolini and other famous tyrants, except that he states their failure as not doing enough. He believes that his system of government is infinitely better because it goes farther than any other before it. 1984 is not seen by any means as a perfect society instead it is seen as the ultimate warning against censorship and totalitarian rule.
All three books describe the most efficient and perfect city. This being said, it must be known that this statement is a point of view and the perfect society to one person can be different to another. The fact that Socrates used broad generalizations versus Huxley/Orwell’s use of personal stories which get sympathy from the readers, leads to Socrates’ society being just and great and the others being corrupt, horrible, and unjust.

Where Plato and Two 21st Century Authors Differ

There are some startling similarities between The Republic of Plato, 1984, and Brave New World. At the most basic level all three are describing the perfect society in which the population is collectively working towards a common goal. Unlike Socrates, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell are much more reserved when discussing the positive qualities of such societies. Their two novels create a warning against the societies featured in their novels instead of embracing them as Plato does. This difference in philosophies stems from what each one is focusing on.

Throughout the discussion of Plato’s republic, there are no specifically detailed protagonists and antagonist; rather the just and unjust are spoken of in generalities. By taking this stance Plato can turn the focus of the novel away from specific characters and towards the city as a whole. Each intrinsic character in the city is referred to as little more than, “the farmer…the shoemaker…or smiths.” Their personal happiness does not matter in the whole picture. Instead of the personal, the focus is on the justice of the entire system.

Huxley and Orwell approach the issue from the perspective of two similar protagonists, Bernard Marx and Winston Smith. By analyzing the governments based on the individual characters such as Smith or Marx, these authors come away with a very different opinion of this so-called perfect society. Both Orwell and Huxely understood what they must choose as the Controller explains in Brave New World, “’Of course it is,’ the controller agreed. ‘But that’s the price we have to pay for stability. You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We sacrificed the high art. We have feelies and the scent organ instead.’” The choice between total personal freedom and social stability is the question that Plato, and Huxley and Orwell answer so differently. It is apparent that both Huxley and Orwell sympathize with their protagonists throughout their novels and side with personal freedoms over social stability.

The societies featured in Brave New World and 1984 have been nearly perfectly modeled after Plato’s republic. The notions of family, class structure, and material possessions that horrify so many people are nearly all directly copied from Plato’s republic. Mother and Father have become obscenities in Brave New World, stable and unquestioning ignorance is the norm in 1984, and the caste system has been perfected with rapidly developing technology. Instead of viewing the benefits oh having such institutions, Huxley and Orwell focus on every failing from the eyes of a questioning individual.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Jedi Knights of Plato's Republic

"In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, you are under arrest, Chancellor"

"Are you threatening me, Master Jedi"

"The Senate will decide your fate."

"I am the Senate!"

"Not yet."

"It's treason, then."



In the final move against democracy Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has chosen to remove the Jedi Council from power. The worst fears of the Jedi Council become real when Palpatine crowns himself emperor. Everything that the Jedi Council stands for is in jeopardy as Palpatine gains more and more power in the senate. This is a turning point for the Republic, from this point on it will be only referred to as the Empire, a tyranny born from the ashes of a democracy of corruptness and pestilence. The Republic has entered its own twilight phase of its life, where just as Socrates has predicted, the lifecycle of the government has gone from its middle age years of democracy and into the death thralls of tyranny under Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

The panning shots of the Senate and the great city around it shows a hustling a bustling city of commerce and activity. The skies are clear and sunny and the Republic is at the height of its trade and commerce. The skyline of the city could be the projected future of New York or Chicago, with the towering high rises, and crammed feeling of a city. Even the senate has become corrupted by the wealth and commerce around them. They are no longer guardians of the Republic; instead they merely use the system to their own ends. This was highlighted in the episode 2, when the Trade Federation attempts to rebel and become directly involved in politics.

In the democracy under the republic, the Jedi Council serves as the guardians. They are taken from a young age and brought up with the ideals of the Republic in mind. They serve to protect the Republic from people such as Chancellor Palpatine. They are the same guardians that are outlined and used in The Republic of Plato. The Jedi are not allowed to have any emotional contact or family ties for their entire lives, because of this Jedi are found when they are young enough to not have made any of these ties. Anakin differs because he has ties with his mother when they bring him into his training. The Jedi are also the war leaders of the Republic planning and managing the battles and wars. The gymnastics and training that the Jedi have are what brings them fame throughout the galaxy and on the movie screens, but there is also another side of the Jedi mindset. The intellectual premise of the Jedi is not often discussed yet make up a huge part of their mindset. Kenobi knows where to draw the line between good and evil because of his own philosophies. This makes him the perfect philosopher guardian that rules from behind the scenes instead of in the limelight. The same issues that Annakin is grappling with are constantly coming to light in our own time.

The United States is showing many of the same symptoms that plagued the Republic just before it fell into the tyranny of the Emperor. The emperor’s cravings for power came out of an engineered and never ending conflict that was controlled by Palpatine. This war that nobody can win, goes on and on, and strikes fear into the hearts of the populace is very similar to our own war on terrorism. Even our political leaders have told us that it is impossible to win this war in the conventional means, and that no amount of fire-power can combat the underground dealings of a terrorist group that is not affiliated with any places or governments. Even so, our leaders have asked for more power than has ever been granted a single person, in the form of the patriot act. This legislation sounds vaguely familiar the emergency powers that were granted Chancellor Palpatine by Jar-Jar Binks in Episode 2.


While it has not been proven there are some scholars and intellectuals that speculate about whether the entire conflict with Al-Qaeda has been manufactured because of the many powers that were subsequently given to our commander-in-chief. Just as Palpatine was behind the entire war with Count Dooku, there could be more sinister plotters than Osama Bin Laden behind 9/11. “You’re either with us or against,” said Anakin and Bush. Seeing as this is coming from an evil Sith-lord it does not bode well for the intentions of Bush.


The fall of the Republic is the classic story of a democracy moving to a tyranny. According to Plato’s Republic, it is a natural part of any government and it is just a matter of time until every society picks up despotic ideals. Plato’s theories about the need for power and the corruptness found in a democracy all hold true in the present in our own society, in the past in Plato’s time, and even in the future in the time of Galactic empires.

"In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, you are under arrest, Chancellor"

"Are you threatening me, Master Jedi"

"The Senate will decide your fate."

"I am the Senate!"

"Not yet."

"It's treason, then."



In the final move against democracy Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has chosen to remove the Jedi Council from power. The worst fears of the Jedi Council become real when Palpatine crowns himself emperor. Everything that the Jedi Council stands for is in jeopardy as Palpatine gains more and more power in the senate. This is a turning point for the Republic, from this point on it will be only referred to as the Empire, a tyranny born from the ashes of a democracy of corruptness and pestilence. The Republic has entered its own twilight phase of its life, where just as Socrates has predicted, the lifecycle of the government has gone from its middle age years of democracy and into the death thralls of tyranny under Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

The panning shots of the Senate and the great city around it shows a hustling a bustling city of commerce and activity. The skies are clear and sunny and the Republic is at the height of its trade and commerce. The skyline of the city could be the projected future of New York or Chicago, with the towering high rises, and crammed feeling of a city. Even the senate has become corrupted by the wealth and commerce around them. They are no longer guardians of the Republic; instead they merely use the system to their own ends. This was highlighted in the episode 2, when the Trade Federation attempts to rebel and become directly involved in politics.

In the democracy under the republic, the Jedi Council serves as the guardians. They are taken from a young age and brought up with the ideals of the Republic in mind. They serve to protect the Republic from people such as Chancellor Palpatine. They are the same guardians that are outlined and used in The Republic of Plato. The Jedi are not allowed to have any emotional contact or family ties for their entire lives, because of this Jedi are found when they are young enough to not have made any of these ties. Anakin differs because he has ties with his mother when they bring him into his training. The Jedi are also the war leaders of the Republic planning and managing the battles and wars. The gymnastics and training that the Jedi have are what brings them fame throughout the galaxy and on the movie screens, but there is also another side of the Jedi mindset. The intellectual premise of the Jedi is not often discussed yet make up a huge part of their mindset. Kenobi knows where to draw the line between good and evil because of his own philosophies. This makes him the perfect philosopher guardian that rules from behind the scenes instead of in the limelight. The same issues that Annakin is grappling with are constantly coming to light in our own time.

The United States is showing many of the same symptoms that plagued the Republic just before it fell into the tyranny of the Emperor. The emperor’s cravings for power came out of an engineered and never ending conflict that was controlled by Palpatine. This war that nobody can win, goes on and on, and strikes fear into the hearts of the populace is very similar to our own war on terrorism. Even our political leaders have told us that it is impossible to win this war in the conventional means, and that no amount of fire-power can combat the underground dealings of a terrorist group that is not affiliated with any places or governments. Even so, our leaders have asked for more power than has ever been granted a single person, in the form of the patriot act. This legislation sounds vaguely familiar the emergency powers that were granted Chancellor Palpatine by Jar-Jar Binks in Episode 2.


While it has not been proven there are some scholars and intellectuals that speculate about whether the entire conflict with Al-Qaeda has been manufactured because of the many powers that were subsequently given to our commander-in-chief. Just as Palpatine was behind the entire war with Count Dooku, there could be more sinister plotters than Osama Bin Laden behind 9/11. “You’re either with us or against,” said Anakin and Bush. Seeing as this is coming from an evil Sith-lord it does not bode well for the intentions of Bush.


The fall of the Republic is the classic story of a democracy moving to a tyranny. According to Plato’s Republic, it is a natural part of any government and it is just a matter of time until every society picks up despotic ideals. Plato’s theories about the need for power and the corruptness found in a democracy all hold true in the present in our own society, in the past in Plato’s time, and even in the future in the time of Galactic empires.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Politics in Pop Culture


Kyler Robinson

Politics in Pop Culture

The first time I saw Star Wars Episode III I was immediately impressed by the opening scene and incredible cinematography throughout the movie. Underneath those special effects and sub par acting, there is great political commentary that has been one of the incredible parts of the entire Star Wars series. In each of the installments, the seriousness of political debate has been great. Whether Episode I where we saw the issues of slavery and poverty in a desert climate to the original trilogy that explored the concept of a small rebel group in a struggle and ultimately defeating a great superpower. While this latest installment may seem quite appropriate with a plot that appears lifted from the news, it seems that it is unfair to say that it is contemporary politics. Instead it seems reasonable to realize that the political debate – which has concerned the same ideas even in Episode I and II – is merely the final installments of a series that was started long, long ago in a galaxy far away.

While Episode III is clearly the plot that was to bring the original series in camaraderie with the recent Episode I and II, it is important to note the similarities – and differences – as to better understand where our current politics are and possible grave conclusions and consequences that come out of misguided decisions. While some would say that the Chancellor Palpatine is in fact an allegory of President Bush because of increased authority through emergency powers, relating it to the controversial Patriot Act that has increased Executive powers, the very events that lead up to these powers can be traced back to Episode I where Padme – representing democracy – discusses the ideas of governments with Anikan and indeed even when it was released in 2000, which you may recall as pre 9/11 and pre war in Iraq and terrorism, there were indeed wars in Star Wars. And the reason for this fictional war? It allowed a dialogue about democracy and the abilities and competency of the senate who did little to stop the invasion by the droids and Trade Federation. Even the emergency powers in Star Wars Episode II that came out in 2002 given by the otherwise useless Jar Jar Binks would have been well scripted and even acted before the Patriot Act was even conceived at the end of 2001.

While discounting the fact that these ideas are not scripted entirely out of contemporary politics never mind being an attack on President Bush, the very fact that they are in pop culture demonstrates its usefulness at reflecting potential issues that can occur in society. Perhaps it is a demonstration instead of the far-reaching arms of the concepts in The Republic of Plato, the natural progression between the various forms of governments and oscillation and struggle in between. From the corrupt nature of the senate in the movies which leads – perhaps reforms for the worst (does this sound like any third world revolutions) – into a tyrannical empire. The emergency powers too show the dangers and perhaps brilliance that occurs when a government can turn support of ones country into the unwavering allegiance to its every decision without question. The very nature of all of the political dialogue in the entire Star Wars series is a great at showing and sometimes reflecting social and political issues, but just because it appears similar, doesn’t mean that its an attack on Bush. I bet Lucas is laughing while running to the bank with his $3.5 billion - mean he already said it wasn't an attack.

A fictional tale? Or something more?

Nick LaClair
Comparative Philosophy
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith clearly illustrates the scenario of the transformation of a democratic man to a tyrannical man. Even tough hard to believe to many hardcore fans, as many Star Wars fans view the film as an attraction of the imagination, it symbolizes much more of what could happen throughout our political system of the United States. From the first reactions of Anakin Skywalker that seemed tyrannical, which stemmed from his desire for revenge in Episode two when he slaughtered the village which kidnapped his mother, the democracy and aristocracy in him seemed to slowly disintegrate. His emotions seemed to escalate to the point where they were used as power, when his emotions ran out of control making it impossible for him to make the logical decision. His emotions and mind was then molded to become tyrannical by the very man he has always admired.

As we see in Episode III the senate and the Republic falls. All democracy known to the universe has disappeared when the corruption of one individual rises to control the chosen one, Anakin Skywalker. This action represents the corruption mentioned in Plato, which will eventually push the political system into the series of cycles. The actions of the tyrannical men of Episode III pushes the Republic into a tyrannical state, named “The Empire”. The executive branch of the republic eventually causes this action, where a member of the executive branch (Emperor Palpetine) gets even more power by a means of national security. The situation against the evil of the universe and their creation of the deathstar must be acted upon, as immediate emergency powers are given to one corrupted individual Emperor Palpetine. These powers are than given from somewhat an uneducated and clumsy individual named Jarjar Binks in Episode II when the Emperor claims he is to use this power to create a grand army of the Republic. This is exactly what the corrupted emperor wanted. By being given this authority, he had control over the army, and over the senate. He used the army to turn against the Jedi slaying virtually all of them making it easier to begin the transition into an empire, or a government of tyranny.

This situation can also be considered possible for the U.S., as corruption could exist in the most unexpected places similar to in Episode III when the true identity of the Sith is revealed to the Jedi. Today we see multiple members of the executive branch, instead of just Palpetine, that are very able to perform a similar action of tyranny. The scenario of a ruler requesting emergency powers as a means of national security seems as more of a hint shown by George Lucas of what could be possible of our political system in the future instead of just a fictional battle of good vs. evil.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Tyranny of the Empire

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith raises numerous questions about the state and future of our country today, as well as invoking themes from Plato’s Republic in its critical analysis of our government and domestic policies. The symbolism and imagery employed spoke to the destruction of a just democracy and its degradation into a tyranny under Emperor Palpatine’s rule. Even more importantly, it carried a strong warning for America’s future, especially in a world of fear and uncertainty potentially leading to a tyrannical executive-driven government.
The first aspect that Star Wars touched on was the evil of granting executive power to an individual. Palpatine’s ascension to ultimate power was obtained by creating a war to engineer the Republic’s vote to his continued time in power, and to grant him further ‘emergency’ powers that gave rise to his reign over the Empire. The emperor created the war that inspired such fear in the people that they submitted to his authority, no matter what the costs were, in exchange for protection. This could be likened to the current-day situation in our country as many see it; the never-ending specter of a global ‘war on terrorism’ may be a way to divert attention and resources elsewhere while holding a fearful country back home hostage with programs that increase executive power such as the Patriot Act.
The climactic battle between Yoda and Palpatine metaphorically takes place in the vacant senate chambers. In his power-thirsty rage, the Emperor smashes the empty seats and strews them across the room in an attempt to crush Yoda. This struggle is symbolic of the decisions that are made with the power granted to an executive, such as the President. The abuses that may be committed in the absence of a proper delegation are not to be underestimated; this could be representative of prisoner treatment outside the United States and of foreign combatants, such as the disputes arising from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The most chillingly symbolic image of the movie was perhaps Padmé’s speech to Anakin. “You have become exactly the thing you vowed to fight,” she tells him. Indeed, Anakin has epitomized the tyrannical man: his lust for greed has corrupted his entire view of the world and destroyed his sense of truth and justice. This is exactly the eventual plight of the United States as it degrades toward a tyranny if its path is not diverted; the very founding ideals upon which the country was based are being overridden and overlapped even as this paper is written. The individual freedoms and rights that the Constitution has guaranteed for centuries are now being rolled back over the process of a few years; Americans being held as enemy combatants are now no longer granted the rights guaranteed to them by their Constitution. Nearly every amendment and clause can be broken in the name of national security, and this trump card is being applied more than ever as individual freedoms shift toward a greater executive power.

Desire is a Man's Best Friend?

Socrates delves deeper in his search for justice by expressing his views on the idea of the three different parts of the soul, rational, spirited, and desire. In the previous book, book VIII, Socrates looked at the evolution of government in a society; moving from the aristocracy, to the timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and ending in the tyrannical government. There he argued that each these governments are parts of a system that stems form the ideal government, aristocracy. From aristocracy the governments begin to alter becoming more and more corrupted and further from the ideal, where truth is the guiding force for rule. Instead however ones personal desires become the guiding force, which eventually consumes the ruler, and devastate the government. When desire becomes the pilot of the government the ruler themselves becomes a tyrant. The tyrant is a person who is ruled by his or her own personal desires and means in mind.

A tyrant “is transformed out of a democratic man (571a)” and is a man who lets his appetite, or desires take over the other two parts of his soul. A person who begins to dream about desires and before they know what is happening their desires become a reality because their dreams have evolved in to a concrete idea. To begin with there is “some terrible, savage, and lawlessness form of desire in every man, even in some of us who seem to be ever so measured (572b).” Therefore in every one of us there is a part, a part of the three, which can be allowed to escape and run rampant.

In a recent Hollywood film called the Hulk this very concept is explored. The protagonists desire is genetically manipulated so that as he feels anger he becomes something un-human, a monster with un-human strength. As his desires, or his emotions are triggered he becomes a monster that is ruled by “rage” and “power” and the “freedom”, which both allow. He becomes a slave to his anger and is able to break free of societal restraints that have always agitated him. Upon reflecting on his action he discusses how he likes what happens to him. “What scares me is that when it comes over me I totally loose control, I like it.” He becomes a tyrant, a slave to his desire, his anger, unable to control what he does, but also unable to deny his desire to continue with his tyrannical behavior.

The question one must ask is once there is a tyrannical man is it possible to change that man back to a partially just man. Or is it then possible for the heir the tyrannical man to be just. It is then left to the two parts inside of that man to overcome the tyrannical state. This will happen when his tyrannical part has overexploited his desire and is left to rely on his calculating (rational) and honorable (spirited) to be stronger and resurrect the tyrannical state creating a system that is just and good.

The First Galactic Empire of America

In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, we see the story of how the Republic is transformed into the Galactic Empire. Setting the tone for the next three movies of the original Star Wars series, this epic movie contains the story that answers all the questions about how the galaxy came to be ruled by a tyrannical empire. The claim that any moviemaker produces his work with the sole intention of entertaining audiences, especially in the case of the Star Wars series, shows an ignorance of history and of modern times. However, to understand how Star Wars, specifically Revenge of the Sith, is relevant to our current political situation as well as past political models, we need other tools.
The tools we can use to analyze this episode of Star Wars are the cycle of societies and leaders that Socrates describes in The Republic and a working knowledge of current events. In episode three, the story is told of how a government and a society move from the democratic stage of existence into the tyrannical stage. The leader that causes this change is Emperor Palpatine, who engineers a conflict so that he can gain more personal power. Although this was an engineered conflict authored by Palpatine, it shows the justification for the existence of a tyrannical leader and a more heavy-handed government. In a move to expand executive power, Palpatine continually requests more emergency powers from the senate, a move that, viewed through a Socratic lens, would show the tyrannical man gaining more power for himself and to satisfy his evil desires as the society moves away from democracy.
In order to make Star Wars relevant to our current state as a nation, we need to focus on a few critical events and trends. The events would include anything relevant to The War on Terrorism or lawsuits involving executive power. The War on Terrorism is simply a crusade by the Bush administration to eliminate terrorism worldwide. Arguably, this is an engineered conflict because terrorism has always been a part of the working of our globalized world, and it cannot be eradicated completely. U.S. Presidents have had to deal with terrorism in the past, and have done so on an individual basis, by responding to threats as they are received, not creating a world-spanning campaign to completely eradicate any form of dissent to U.S. foreign policy. In this sense, the Bush Administration has created a conflict in order to expand their influence over the country, similar to the manner in which Palpatine drains the power of the democratically elected senate in order to gain more personal power through the use of an engineered war.
The role of the executive is a consistent theme among The Republic, Star Wars, and the situation of the United States today. We see that in both Star Wars and in the United States, there is a push on the part of the executive branch to gain more power for themselves and take away the influence that democratic elements of the society have in ruling, and this trend is described accurately by Socrates. In the description of the tyrannical man and how he comes to be the leader of a democratic society, Socrates claims that a tyrannical government arises out of the need for security. So, both Emperor Palpatine and Emperor Bush… or, President Bush create situations where the public sees a need for security, and will accept power being placed in the hands of one man so that they can be safe from perceived threats. However, a tyranny takes place when these are engineered or over exaggerated threats. Add into the mix an ignorant public, and a society focused on greed, flash, and material possessions, a tyrannical government will thrive in exercising its right to rule. Scenes of life on Coruscant where people are attending night clubs, and the general tone is of flashiness are representations of the shallowness of American culture today, which promotes ideals of instant gratification and blissful ignorance. In conclusion, when we examine the similarities between the story told in Star Wars and the United States of America today, many connections become clear. Whether or not George Lucas intended to paint a subtle portrait of the dark path that the United States is walking down today is not clear, however as individuals in a democratic society we can draw our own conclusions and write about them so that the public can hear our opinions. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Letter to George Lucas

Dear George Lucas,
While watching your film Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith in my comparative philosophy and religion class I came to many new and different conclusions. I watched this film with a new perspective on it. When I had first watched Episode Three the first day it was out in the theatres I picked up on some of the obvious social and political parallels with our modern world, but I was really more excited by the fact that another Star Wars film was coming out and I was watching it. Watching it a second time around after reading The Republic of Plato and really paying attention to the subtleties of the film I picked up on many things. I wanted to know how you personally feel the political situation of the United States of America and The Republic of Plato influenced the film.
If you do not know it well, The Republic of Plato is basically the story of a singular argument of what is justice, the perfect city, and the ultimate destruction of the Republic/perfect city. In this Republic the guardians are men who are selected at a very young age and taken from their parents. They are trained in music, gymnastics, and geometry and are the protectors of the republic. In your story line the Jedi are selected at a very young age, taken from their parents and well educated, and they are the guardians of the Republic. It’s interesting to find such clear connections with such an ancient text.
Also, Chancellor Palpatine is the perfect example of the tyrannical man from The Republic of Plato. The tyrannical man is a man ruled by his lawless desires. These lawless desires draw men toward all sorts of ghastly, shameless, criminal things. Palpatine desires power no matter the consequences. He cares not for who must suffer and almost destroys a whole way of life when he removes the Jedi from the Republic. He uses corruption and lies to change the Republic into an empire and sees no wrong in his actions because “good is a point of view” after all.
Modern political tones definitely rang true to me at least in this film. I was amazed how this film could be seen as anything but a political commentary on current U.S policy. The entire take over by the empire is due to more executive powers granted in a time of war by an unknowing senate. Looking to the situation that we are faced with in our country I see the U.S. congress granting the administration more powers in a time of war through the patriot act. I see Vice President Dick Cheney asking for the CIA to be exempt from anti-torture legislation because we are at war. Lastly I see a harsh future, which revolves around the quote “as long as there is an enemy the fighting will continue.” Our country has been moving from country to country lately or evil doer to evil doer always fighting someone because weneed it in order for the administration to stay in power. Before the war President Bush’s approval rationg was falling and he was expected to be a one-term president. When at war his approving skyrocketed and led to his reelection and ret. General Grievous could be Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or whoever is next on the list. As Anakin said, “your ether with me or you’re my enemy” just as President Bush stated in a recent State of the union, “your either with us or against us” and as we know only evil men or Sith deal in absolutes. I think Padme’s line “Maybe we have become what we most fear” is strangely prophetic of the future of our country. How can we fight around the globe for democracy while we limit and restrict it at home?
I would love to hear your views on my opinions and how you felt Episode Three: The Revenge of the Sith was influenced by this text and our modern world. Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Travis Sky Larkin

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Why Perfection?

November 8, 2005
Book IX-X

Throughout The Republic of Plato, we are taught a methodology that will help us develop a system of thinking to better our soul and bring us closer and closer to the truth. Thus, when the individual becomes a more just person because of this “enlightenment,” it will further the society, as a whole, to reach perfection. In other terms, as the individual becomes a more just person he/she will become less imperfect, making the social order become less faulty. However, this impulse that society creates to reach perfection will never reach its endpoint. We as individuals and as a whole cannot have perfection, but that does not mean we should impede our search to better our selves and discontinue our goal, which is to find the ultimate truth. On the other hand, is the truth, true? By chance, what if there is no ultimate, one truth? The theory of this truth could just be a fabrication that is created in our minds in order for us to better ourselves. For instance the ultimate truth could be a noble lie designed to make our society and the individual have justice instead of injustice; to better and improve the individual and the society.

The ultimate truth is a goal that is set down for us to achieve, but what if there is no ending point, no pot of gold at the end of the line? A circle for instance is a geometrical shape that is 360 degrees around and has a radius of x that is equal from the center point to each point around the circle. This is a description of a perfect circle, but in reality, a place where we deal with “the muck of the world,” we do not have this perfect circle. Instead, we must strive to achieve it, and each time we do so, we reach a more and more ideal shape. This would be the more sufficient alternative than not trying to make something “advanced.” In terms of “is there one truth,” an individual has a different understanding, even more complex at times, than another individual would have. Each truth is significantly different, and might never be sought out for. Everyone has his/her own methods of reaching and acquiring that truth, but can it be possible that these, or more correctly saying the truth, we search for is just a concept we learn through out the courses of our lives to improve our existence and purposes in life? It is a set goal that is established for the individual and the society to become nearer to being complete.

The fact that we have this concept, or belief, that there is one truth gives the individual something to attempt to find. Each chapter of our lives, and each time we gain more knowledge and experiences, we enlighten ourselves by simply understanding a new level of what is good and what is bad. Each step of the way, we believe that we are coming closer to the light, not always realizing though, the more this happens the more we improve our continuation of life. All we have in life is this “goal” that we base our path on. Furthermore this goal, which is finding and searching for what the ultimate truth is, will only help us to become more just. This ultimate truth resembles a noble lie in that it is created for every individual in order for them to find their own way of making themselves be of justice rather than injustice.

Plato speaks of the perfect society and the perfect individual and what must be done in order to achieve such a thing, but then he admits that it is impossible to achieve perfection such as this. “What is most surprising of all to hear is that each one of the elements we praised in that nature has a part in destroying the soul that has them and tearing it away from philosophy. I mean courage, moderation, and everything we went through.” (491 b). What Plato is referring to here is that in every individual there is something that will corrupt the soul, making it impossible to reach perfection. Besides, if we think reasonably, once we reach this so-called “perfection,” won’t we believe that there will be no need to even contemplate on bettering, and making the society and the individual even more just? If this happens to be so, then the needs for improvement won’t be looked upon as “incomplete.”

There are two extremes in life. However, one cannot have or be either. They cannot be perfect for it is impossible. In every individual there are many things, like desires, that can ruin excellence. “Now consider how many great sources of ruin there are for these few.” (491 b). Yet an individual cannot do the other extreme, which is doing nothing to become better, and instead only focusing on self needs and wants. He/she will never make any difference if they choose not to do anything or only try to make perfection. If one suddenly realizes that they will never be able to create the perfect system of society, or they can never be perfect themselves, then they might come to the conclusion of “what is the point of life if there is no way of being perfect?” This will ultimately lead one to believe that they shouldn’t do anything anymore if they are never going to reach their goal. However, this does not solve problems, and moreover it does not generate an even more just person. One cannot just focus on their wants and needs because then nothing will get improved or “revised.” That is why if we have something that compels us to try and acquire a better existence, these two extremes will be eliminated and moderation will be discovered.

It is always better to do something rather than nothing. When looking at it in terms of improving oneself, to make them more just, it is better to strive to enrich the soul than not to. Why though, and what would be the point? These are questions that are frequently asked and are legitimate when an individual realizes they can never reach the perfection of their goal. However, one should not just give up all hope and only decided to live for them because then nothing gets accomplished. Plato explains that if one turns to self-needs, and chooses not to better them selves, only bad will result from this situation. “Being a monarch, will lead the man whom it controls, as though he were a city, to every kind of daring that will produce wherewithal for it and the noisy crowd around it—one part of which bad company cause to come in from outside; the other part was from within and was set loose and freed by his own bad character.” (575 a). What Plato is stating here is simply that being in a state of only focusing on what the desires of one are can only result in evils.

Looking at the situation from a personal standpoint, I have always been able to do pretty well in school, but I know that at times I will fail. However, this does not stop me from trying to achieve that “perfect grade/ultimate truth.” When I receive a mark that is below my “goal,” I learn that I can always improve myself and better myself with this situation. Moreover, I have also come to a truer understanding of what my goal actually is, and have discovered that it is not about receiving the grade, but it’s about understanding the information, and appreciating it. This does not mean that I won’t work as hard though. It means I will look at the situation differently, and come to a conclusion that perfection is not the answer, but neither is doing nothing. Rather, working to better oneself for the sole reason of getting that much closer to perfection. But the point is to learn from the process, not to get caught up with idealistic goals for the future.

Democracy, (Oligarchy), Tyranny and the Economy

Kyler M. Robinson


The tyrannical man in the United States can be found everywhere. It lives in all of us, our desires that drive us past reason and logic, relying on the craving and eros. The desires of the tyrannical man seemingly mix with the oligarchic one, desires for money. While it seems perfectly clear that a man in Socrates’ tyrannical mold is unfit to be an all-powerful leader; the unification of each tyrannical person comes under the umbrella of the democratic state where everything can be formed.

This does not mean that democracy is a bad form of government as Socrates’ pupils are cultivated from the democratic state. “This is why Socrates is attracted to those dangerous men, the potential tyrants, who are products of democracy”[1] This kind of government seems the most practical in practice as an aristocratic one in the nature of Socrates is not realistic. The idea of Socrates the pilot is fostered by the democratic nature of his society much as today’s thinkers, regardless of their philosophy, can pursue their ideas in the democratic United States.

The democratic nature of the US is perhaps a product of the economic markets that drive the country. And as we have seen, it is perhaps the best way for the country to be directed. Perhaps it is in these modern times it should be the economy who drives the trends because ultimately it comes back to money or economic benefit for a system to work.

There is of course one problematic point where capitalism and democracy may end up clashing. That is when a majority of the citizens, with their inward thinking ideology, try to resist capitalistic values through democracy, instead going towards more social goals. Provided that the governments can resist moving towards one extreme or another, it seems that capitalism and democracy (and oligarchic people within the democratic state) will continue to be an effective couple. However if the government leans too much to the people with their socialist tendencies “The emerging polity might still be “democratic”—but that would make it no less dysfunctional and, at the extreme, hardly any less tyrannical.”[2]

We have seen this point in American history already during the early 20th century. As big business in America produced monopolies and huge concentrations of wealth, a large percentage of the population threatened to overthrow the capitalistic system and the government adopted the Sherman Anti-Trust laws. This is a case where a compromise between social and business values managed to save the capitalistic system within a democratic state. In a way we can look at the oligarchic people and see how it can be balanced with social issues within a smart democratic state that is able to look towards preservation and overall growth.


[1] Allen Bloom “Interpretive Essay” pg. 425

[2] “The Future of the State” http://www.economist.com/surveys/displayStory.cfm?story_id=850929