Monday, November 07, 2005

The Sinking Ship

The allegory in Book IX of the tyrannical man being a direct descendant of his democratic father is an example that can be seen in many present-day and historical figures of government. An important and pertinent story to fill this analogy is the current state of the United States of America in contrast with its beginnings as drawn out by the founding fathers.
It is by no mistake that these patriots have always been referred to as ‘fathers’. Their proud son is the country of the USA, but the analogy continues with the Platonic reference of the abandonment of democracy in favor of a tyrannical despotism. This transformation occurs as the son is corrupted by “desires- overflowing with incense…wines and all the pleasures with which great societies are rife (573a).”
There is no better example of a great country so ‘blessed’ with these relishes as the modern United States. Every aspect of life is abound with relishes, Socrates’ wine and incense are our cars, inexpensive gas, housing standards, and abundance of food and quality of life. However, it is by these relishes that this ‘great’ society has corrupted and distanced itself from the original wishes of the founding fathers.
When Madison, Jefferson, Washington, and the rest of their clan fathered the United States, their ideals were based on individual freedoms and the limitation of executive power that would, in their own words, foster tyranny. Many feared that even creating a federal government with the power to tax the people would lead to this tyrannical and executive-driven state of affairs. Their democratic ideals still echo and resound throughout the country’s present-day handling of internal and foreign matters. However, the echo is becoming increasingly hollow and distant as the country follows the destiny that is to be fulfilled by any democratic government: it eventual descent and conversion into tyranny.
“Recall the character we attributed to the man of the people,” commands Socrates. “He was presumably produced by being reared from youth by a stingy father who honored only the money-making desires while despising the ones that aren’t necessary but exist for the sake of play and showing off (572c)”. In protecting the individual rights of every single American to own property, vote, and generally have a say in the state of affairs, the founding fathers were essentially setting the country up to an inevitable demise. The capitalist system that rose from these individual freedoms has manifested itself in the ship’s sinking under the specter of tyranny. The signs are abound: from the shift to executive power and the consolidation of wealth to the country’s participation in a war abroad that it doesn’t want, we are sinking further every day.
The unfortunate aspect about this transition is that is, according to Socrates, absolutely necessary before we may arrive once again at a healthy restructuring of our government systems. Most importantly, one must never hold the blame of this change on a single individual. It cannot be accredited to the founding fathers, George Bush, or even the people of the US today. Instead, it is a systematic change, characteristic of all democratic governments: “Let’s not be overwhelmed at the sight of the tyrant- one man- or a certain few around him; but, as one must, let’s go in and view the city as a whole, and, creeping down into every corner and looking, only then declare our opinion (576d).” A holistic approach is the only way to interpret the progress of our country toward this end.

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