As a little kid, I was always watching the news. Granted, I didn’t know half of what the people on the screen were saying. The reason I watched it was to share what I learned with my parents or grandparents and hear what they had to say about what was going on. In the case of my grandparents, they would always respond the same whether it was about the middle east or the middle class. They would look at each other and say, “The more thinks change, the more they stay the same.” I never knew if there was truth in that statement.
Now, I am a freshman at the wonderful and intellectual Hillsdale College. One of the perks of this university is the types of documents we study. For example, in our Western Heritage class, we only study copies of original documents from authors such as Aristotle, Plutarch, and Augustine. They are great works of the past. One day I was reading a quote attributed to Socrates in Plato’s Republic, and I was shocked. The passage was about governments, more specifically democracy and the souls and characters of the men who support it:
So they take possession of the soul which they have which they have swept clean, as if purified for initiation into higher mysteries; and nothing remains but to marshal the great procession bringing home Insolence, Anarchy, Waste, and Imprudence, those resplendent divinities crowned with garlands,whose praises they sing under flattering names: Insolence they call good breading, Anarchy Freedom, Waste, magnificence, and imprudence a manly spirit.
As I was reading, I saw the truth in this. So many liberals that I have encountered are like this. My friends who seem to be charmed by the democratic way of life all wear the garlands that Plato so eloquently describes. I kept on reading.
Then perhaps he may recall some of the banished virtues and cease to give himself up entirely to the passions which ousted them; and now he will set all his pleasures on a footing of equality, denying to none its equal rights and maintenance, and allowing each in turn, as it presents itself, to succeed, as if by chance of the lot, to the government of his soul until it is satisfied. When he is told some pleasures should be sought and valued as arising from desires of higher order, others chastised and enslaved because the desires are base, he will shut the gates of the citadel (his soul) against the messengers of truth, shaking his head and declaring that one appetite is as good as another and all must have their equal rights.
At this point my jaw almost hit the ground. How could Plato have known so much about modern democracy and the people that run it? As I picked my jaw up, I continued to read, and was almost knocked out of my chair by what Plato wrapped up with.
Every now and then he takes a part in politics, leaping to his feet to say or do whatever come into his head. Or he will set out to rival someone he admires, a soldier it may be, or if fancy takes him a man of business. His life is subject to no order or restraint, and he has no wish to change an existence which he calls pleasant, free, and happy.
I was blown away. How did Plato just explain the attitudes that run modern liberal political leaders, and the youthful constituents that support them despite being all the way in Greece in 300 BC? It is remarkable. I guess what my grandparents said is true: the more things change, the more they stay the same. The times may change, the names on the ballot may change, but the ideals, characters, and morals that are a product of democracy will, sadly, become forever concrete. These politicians are run by passions, appetites, and are never satisfied with the current issue. Their constituents are the same. The youthful liberal voter and supporter wants to jump from issue to issue, believe in equality in all forms, and most of all will try to massacred wasteful and imprudent causes and candidates off as magnificent and prudent.
As progressive and modern as today’s liberals claim to be, they are still quite simply just playing the imprudent role of a democratic man that Plato has been able to identify since Grecian times.
Thomas Novelly | Hillsdale College | @TomNovelly