Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Changing Forms of Tyranny

Tyranny, a word surrounded by fear, mistrust, and hate. The use of this word brings images of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and now the face of Saddam Hussein. The word can be used to slander an enemy or to incite hate among the masses. In a world where we can see and hear the results of the greatest despots over the radio and television, there is nothing that, as a society, we fear more than falling into the hands of a tyrant. This fear is as much part of our lives as is our love of our country and our devotion to our family.

The most famous tyrants of our time are very similar to the types that are cited by Plato. However, the tyrants of Socrates time differ from the tyrants of our recent past. The premise for which one becomes a tyrant seems to have changed since then. Plato argued that the reason a person becomes a tyrant is because the feed the non rational side of their mind. Plato talks of these “unnecessary pleasures and desires,” as being the lion that is inside every person. Plato uses the analogy of a multi-headed beast that is inside of every one of us to describe the constant conflict between the rational side of our mind that makes us humans and the unnecessary desires that make up the savages beasts inside of us. Only by feeding one side of the beast does it grow and take over. Plato uses this analogy to explain why justice will create justice and the same for injustice. That when you feed one side of the beast it will grow ever larger until it is the only thing left. At first a person will steal money from their parents however over time they will begin to break into houses and steal from more and more people.

Hitler, Pol Pot, and even Stalin however do not fit this form. They have all been dubbed tyrants by the writers of history, yet they did not rise to power in search of personal wealth and desires, instead they came to power under the premise of making a better society or utopia. They ends that they took to achieve this is the reason that they have been marked as despots. Their policies lead to the deaths of nearly 50 million respectively and were responsible for larger conflicts that killed millions more. Pol Pot was striving to create the perfect utopia in Cambodia and the peace and happiness of all those in his society. His own personal gain in such a situation was not he precedent factor for his many harsh actions.
It is apparent that the definition of a tyrant has changed dramatically between Plato’s time and our own. The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that the current definition of a tyrant is “a ruler who exercises absolute power oppressively or brutally.” This is not the same as those that “wake up in sleep when the rest of soul- all that belongs to the calculation, tame, and ruling part of it- slumbers, while the beastly and wild part, gorged with food or drink is skittish and, pushing sleep away, seeks to go and satisfy its dispositions. You know that in such a state it dared to do everything as though it were released form, and rid of, all shame and prudence.” In short Plato is referring to the release of our inner self which is normally kept locked away and is only able to show itself in our sleep and dreams. Plato is analyzing the character while we now define a tyrant by his actions.


At 6:08 PM, Blogger weblogz said...

Governance and Management in 1 Minute
Posted by Ian Welsh at November 6, 2005 04:01 PM in Political Philosophy , Primers .
Just like so many Americans my friend loves the clubs and hip hop lyrics so he went ahead and built an awesome website about hip hop lyrics. When he's in high spirit he goes to the site and start reciting all his favorite hip hop lyrics. Says it's good for the heart. Guess what? I gave it a shot and it works great!


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