Justice for Plato in his Republic consists more or less of everyone accepting their place in society; and for the individual, each part of her soul or psyche acting in harmony with the other parts.
Platonic Justice then involves a balance of parts in action, although it is much more than just this.
The plain fact apparent to me is that were Plato’s Republic to be able to be practiced with effect it would allow many of the qualities our democracies in the West claim as virtues in their own possession.
I use the words ‘claim as’ and I do not say forthrightly ‘possess’ because in the course of this essay I will be aiming to examine some of the central qualities said to be embodied on our democracies, and to question their presences, and setting forth a dubiousness about their presences. I will also try to show how these qualities might be said to be able to thrive in a Platonic Republic.
The factor of balance within justice as Plato envisages justice in action in his Republic is central to my arguments. Balance is the factor which allows to each person in the political body adequate scope to fulfil herself, and so be contented and satisfied with life; in fact balance can be said to be the psychical manifestation of this contentment and satisfaction within each of the citizens of such a Republic.
Enough scope and no less, no more. This state of affairs can perhaps be considered to be an analogue of the Communist Manifesto’s famous statement of Marxian fairness expressed in the words:
“From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs”
Of course these qualities are concepts used to make our Grand Statements about our democracy; and as they pan out into actual practical application they in fact tend to spur personal and social disputes and disharmony almost inevitably so among us; but leave these actualities for the moment and let’s just be theoretical for the time being.
It is true however that democracy as we live it now makes no pretensions about fairness or justice in the sense of it being everyone living under such a regime in which each knows and acquiesces in keeping his or her place; neither by constraint nor even by admonition or encouragement.
In fact an impartial observer might see opposite tendencies at work in our democracies; tendencies wherein open competition and deregulation in economic life have a profound effect to spur many of us to hustle and bustle quite openly and fiercely against our neighbours and in search of higher status or earning power etc than our neighbours attain. Because economic concerns are de facto paramount in our pecking order of social needs and goods, and even values, this hustle for place and position in the world of business and wealth creation has an enormous effect on our general outlooks in all walks of life, it spills into every sphere we live and act in.
As with that balance aspired to in Plato’s Republic being inspired and encouraged by each person in it being recommended to, and educated to, accepting their place and being satisfied; so it is that contrarily in our democracy this recommendation to and education to compete and to jostle openly – it is socially acceptable, and even admired, – for position etc sets up reverberations tending towards disorder and imbalance. A powerful element of social political and economic chaos is set on fire because of this.
Thus I argue that at the core of our present democracies rests a set of powerful elements which encourage chaos and disharmony, imbalances. Chiefly these are economic forces peculiar to the means of exchange we have imbibed as children and espoused as adults. Yet we see them happening also in, say, sports of many, many kinds; most sport of any high level of skill is monetised and this situation has been a sea change seen in my lifetime, yet even the amateur sports events of today are infiltrated with mascots and merchandise as well as by the ethos and behaviours of rockstar players and clubs in the big game.
I am not only thinking of soccer here; there are also cricket, tennis, golf, athletics, motor racing, horse racing, ice hockey, snooker, boxing, and many more high money sports.
Thus there has arisen what would have been condemned by our media had say The Soviet Union of old allowed such a thing to occur similarly there, which is a cult of excellence, a cult populated by Pantheons of personalities expert and famous in their activities. Again not just sportspeople; the latest accretions to celebrity include pop-politicians, show hosts, commentators, news announcers, soap actors, even people whom one is invited to love-to-hate, Springers, Morgans, Sugars, Cowells, and many others whose claims to prominence are very slim – later day Cathy McGowans, and Simon Dees.
As I have said about jostle and completion, these press us forward everywhere in all walks, often being fed by adulation and public displays of private emotion. And this fact of ‘time and chance happening to all’ like our National Lottery is a game of high odds and enormous prizes for the winners
This kind of setup and its manifestations in our democracy we like to call the fruits of it being a Meritocracy. Along with this concept of Meritocracy come some subsidiary values such as
- Equal Opportunity
These values all rest for their effectual power, on our minds at the least, upon this centrefold value of Meritocracy. Meritocracy in simple terms says that the best people rise to take the top positions in society and lesser people take up lesser positions.
Now it’s worth mentioning here that the scripts for the values propagated in the media in our democracies are written by those who are high up in the Meritocracy. This then is the successful patting themselves on the back and awarding themselves a status of being ‘the best people’. Just as the victors are said to write the history books; so the high risers in our society proclaim the terms for citizens to rise or not to rise in this democracy of ours. Would you engage a plumber whose only qualification he can show is a certificate signed by him as having been awarded to himself by himself?
So in the very first place the justification for naming our society a Meritocracy is suspect and somewhat flawed. In addition to this self-adulation in the heart of proclaiming Meritocracy, there are other facts and factors which need to be brought into play as arguments and borne in mind. These all also cut the legs from under any reasonable claim to Meritocracy a person might be able to make for our democracy.
The criteria which many, maybe most, people use who like to support the claim for Meritocracy generally are usually:
- Animal Drive
These are the subordinate qualities of person which together are usually said to be the components of the psyche of a member who has achieved a high level in our Meritocracy. Let’s look at each.
Intelligence – is – if it is anything at all – probably for the most part hereditary. Its measurement by assessment is too often by use of culturally bound enquiries, or else measurement tends to show and use other eccentric biases, sometimes brazenly so. But nonetheless a person must not be held accountable or made to suffer by reason that they are not ‘clever’ and cannot do easily what ‘clever’ people can do easily.
Everyone can be honest, truthful, kind, considerate, tender-hearted, if they want to be, and what we call intelligence is just not relevant to such marvellous things being present in any person. And indeed these things are the very things which make a man or a woman, and can make them great in a much more bedrock sense of the term ‘ merit’.
There still flies about in our manure rarefied social circles an insider proverbial wisdom which adulates clandestinely sayings such as: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know’ and there are items like “Divide and rule” and “Jam tomorrow” and so on. There’s an awful lot of insider cynicism about the values in the democracy which has been said to have thrown these insiders up to the top, even though upon their having risen they are glad to base brave publicly-stated values.
Education – in Britain – and this is known and accepted pretty well worldwide – education is perhaps more than in any other developed nation a culturally-bound concept. To some less fortunate people in our society a stranger merely being able ‘to speak well’, by which is meant ‘to talk with a high status accent’, is sufficient for people gladly to defer to the well-spoken accent. A person thus ‘well-spoken’ is able far more easily to avoid unemployment, casual verbal even physical abuse, arrest, being shown unsolicited disrespect; he is more able to park a vehicle in a place which inconveniences many others willy-nilly, and there are many more perquisites bordering on raw privilege which accrue to ‘speaking well’ here in our country.
Contrary to our media and successive governments and their propagandas, class indeed is still very much an issue here in this nation. It is a suppressed and slighted issue; successfully quelled by it being ignored, smoothed-over, religiously.
It’s hardly worth writing down for native readers the story of ‘jobs for the boys’ in regard to the outputs of graduates from Oxbridge; nor else in regard to the continued power in ‘the old school tie’ of Eton and Harrow and Charterhouse and Marlborough. Just to mention it here publicly it seems to show as being an aberration an anachronism, so successfully is the issue stifled in media. I only say: ask yourself how many Members of Parliament, TV, Radio presenters, you are aware of whose accent is commonplace? Nearly all the highbrow arts; music, plastic, pictorial, literary; have doyens occupying top rankings come out of ‘well-spoken’’ stables.
The old ‘grammar school’ boy or girl who made good; a Richard Hoggart or a Charles Williams; is more or less gone from the scene. Since the ‘window for education’ of the sixties and seventies opened to working class and low middle class boys and girls it has now abruptly closed– if not in numbers of graduates certainly in terms of ‘drawing out’ and ‘broadening the mind’. It is proudly admitted by themselves, as it is also in most sixth forms, and publicly, as being their Badge of Honour, that our swarm of new and lesser universities and their hopefuls are nurturing students towards “towards filling the needs of employers and employment’. Indeed employers in the more dominant firms and industries are more and more become the chief financiers of education and research in our universities, and for this philanthropy they expect practically applicable returns, and they call the tune on what areas of work are fertile and necessary.
Ability – this is a sticky topic. Ability is so various and diverse amongst all humans it is I think more fair to claim that each sentient person has or is able to develop an penchant for this or that of some kind. I have known among working people many men and women who in their unofficial non- factory, non-washing, ironing times, have cultivated specialities of expertise in wonderful degrees. Carpentry, dressmaking, carving, mechanical repairs, lathe turning, animal care and gardening, allotments, embroidery, music, painting, drawing, – a neighbour neighbouring my wife’s and my first home made a competent oil painting of our pet cat from a photograph; the picture is in a room hanging today 30 years later. I knew a man who was so valuable to his company, a wood lathe turner who was able not only to turn specialised handrails, and wooden mouldings for building, and to order, but could also make the customised cutting tools of steel necessary for their turning. No-one really recognised him as being special; nor did he himself think so. That was nice.
In my day to day reading I come across so many people who have written books which are now obscure and whose names and their authors’ names few people – 1 in 1000 is high – will have heard of; and yet their lives were dedicated to their works now forgotten, and they shine out illustriously from the pages of their reprinted faded titles. Not just the odd John Clare or Gerrard Hopkins – hundreds of them to my scant knowledge.
Ability is various and diverse and more often than not does not follow the public highways.
Animal Drive – is a big thing with us, who admire and are fascinated by raw brute belligerence. There is a professor of Literature at Harvard well–known for his eccentric takes on this and that literary figure. His name is Harold Bloom. He has a book which is thick and heavy and which claims that Shakespeare ‘invented’ the modern man and what we call ‘personality’. He has another giving The Yahwist great honour for having drawn together The Pentateuch into a unified story – but behind Shakespeare.
Like the banks being too big to fail, his scholarly eminence is too high for him to be dismissed as a mere crank. He’s a promulgator of animism; meaning he believes in raw animal vitality as being the impetus which should be honoured in the world of metaphysical speculation upon whom we humans might be. So he’s an iconoclast also, and I think he enjoys his reputation.
Then there is the whole thrust of architecture and design since say 1980 which has diverged into a fierce channel of what might be termed an expression of raw animal vitality. Ugliness being part of a new aesthetic and deliberately so, wherein the beauty, if any, is in the sometimes intimidating raw brutality expressed in the look of a building, in a vehicle design, in a movie getup, and in many other artistic fields. I guess it’s the last turkey in the shop, this brutal animism as art. Once this is cooked and eaten we have to regenerate ourselves (be regenerated) or else destroy ourselves as a race and species.
This general downwards accelerating curve towards zero and catastrophe; this disintegration in society as manifested in the arts and in other areas of life as I’ve tried to out line it for you here, is observable especially in action movies, which are the ‘opium of the people’ or the ‘bread and circuses; of our times perhaps? Ever more so we are seeing movie makers ‘running out of runway’ as their flights in their movies try to land in the box offices as blockbusters. Shortly there will be nowhere else to go to.
Themes in cinema and TV are at a point of child abduction and molestation; graphical autopsies and dissections, mayhem social and infrastructural destructions by ever-bigger and better CGI monsters or X-Men etcetera. Soaps are not ‘everyday stories’ but rapes, assaults, murders, quarrels in public, arrests, deaths, and so on – encouraging our everyday lives to take on that hue maybe?
Raw brute aggression can only go so far before all is demolished, and like Alexander we weep because there are no more lands to conquer.
Ambition – is more respectable than is Animal Drive, even though maybe often it is Animal Drive in sheep’s clothing? The crucial point here is that expressed by Thomas Becket in T S Eliot’s play “Murder in the Cathedral” who reminds himself:
“This last temptation is the greatest treason
To do the right deed for the wrong reason”
John Milton also nails ambition (seeking the mede of fame) as being:
“The last infirmity of noble mind”
And our society being overwhelmingly a society of a lesser coterie of doers and having a remainder being a large coterie of watchers watching these doers; such a setup means that many people are among the doers in order to be seen in their doings and thereby thinking to be ‘succeeding’ in their ambitions. T S Eliot again:
“They have the look of flowers that are looked at”
And if what I say is the case then theirs is an ambition to be noted to be seen to be famous – the talk of the town – and this is their measuring rod of success; but what of actual achievement, a solid satisfaction in meeting one’s own targets; targets founded on good principles, on positive works, and on generally laudable outcomes.
There are those well-expressed words from Gray’s Elegy:
“Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre”
Ambition then is too often its own train wreck – few stay clear-headed and sober upon its success – maybe because that is what they dreamed of and not of what they might achieve?
Competence – is I think “handsome is as handsome does” and “the proof of the puddings in the eating” and “fine words butter no parsnips” and so on. In high office in government our political representatives are:
- so far away from the practical effects of the policies which they legislate for and place in first motion, for them to be able to be held accountable for the outcomes of such policies as these pan out as applied lower down the filter and on the sharp end. It is too easy for politicians and high flying business people and top civil servants and so on to be able to walk away untarnished from a train wreck and into another plum place to make the new place another disaster area in their wakes. A politician these days will hold his hand on his heart and say: “I take full responsibility” and yet knowing very well there is no accountability proffered in this sentence neither grammatically nor de facto. See David Cameron laugh out loud when he praises in a speech on TV news West Ham United as being his favoured team; him having mixed up his clubs with West Bromwich Albion who field the same combination of colours as West Ham’s; claret and blue. Accountability is almost risible in the minds of many ‘leaders’. Competence, then cannot be a necessary qualification for rising in such a democracy
- Top people are also far away from the effects of their policies and decisions in time. They a proud to proclaim they plan for the future ten twenty years down the line. This boast has similarities with inquiries on Bloody Sunday; Hillsborough; on Jeremy Thorpe and on Cyril Smith and so on, the latest appears to be the police helicopter crash in Glasgow of 2014. These disasters all have suffered under what might be said to be the “unofficial 30 year rule” whereby they are delayed unofficially, as officially sensitive state papers are. Eventually truth might just peep out and be quickly swept into a corner quietly. These events and their inquiries it is true were not policies, yet the practice handling them shows the politicians and others in high office means which I am sure they are aware of and use for announcing and accounting for policy. Who will be around in 30 years? Perhaps 50% of the people in this country alive today? How many of these will be old enough to remember being around when the policy concerned was first issued. How many of these will remember the policy having been issued? Tony Blair and Theresa May each have appealed to the verdict of history on them as having been Prime Ministers. Are they deluded or are they just deflecting pressures away from themselves in the here and now? Or both? Capability many would say is the crucial item we are lacking in our nation today; especially amongst the Meritocracy.
The argument made by me hereabove has spoken for The Preacher in The Book of Ecclesiastes who says prophetically:
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all”
Let us look at these three subordinate ‘virtues’ of our democracy:
- Equal Opportunity
These are dependencies upon Meritocracy; when Meritocracy fails, then these fail also by necessity and its logic.
I think there need little more to be said on Equal Opportunity after having made my remarks on education and on privilege. Something on Diversity maybe
“You can have any colour you like so long as it’s black” famously said Henry Ford the ‘inventor’ of mass production and of embryonic consumerism. He too was a prophet; but maybe not a Godly one?
What about this diversity of parts for repair and replacement for goods and services which fail us? In particular among the few goods and services which are not throwaway for a brand new replacement: cars; PCs; larger technology items in general; tools; materials; household appliances and so on.
I have boxes of such parts in my shed deteriorating a little more over each winter. One accumulates them if one does one’s own repairs. Many of them you can get the same item exactly for less than half the price, if you are happy to wait three weeks for them to come direct from China. Pay more than double for the usual three days delivery. Same item
There are just so many different parts of things which are doing precisely the same jobs as one another in their various machines; every manufacturer has not just a single style or design part for a single function across its range of goods; but up to hundreds – check out Whirlpool Washers, Dryers, Fridges (Hotpoint, Indesit, brand manufacturers). At their website for spares one needs to be a practiced plumber, electrician in order to cut through the thousands of parts (honest!) and so divine the part number assigned to the part you need. Deterrence of self-help is not the word.
When you expect need one of those parts in the garden shed, which ones of them you’ll need, you just cannot predict. So much goes wrong, fails, dies, breaks, expires, upgrades, changes configuration, is no longer supported ah, it’s Bedlam!! So you keep the lot, and most likely most of them will rust away to rubbish out back.
Here’s your true diversity in our society; a diversity done deliberately so as to maximise tied-in profits to the supply chains and makers.
Our kids might get to hear at school of long-gone abuses of the old Industrial Age, the wickedness of rich mine owners setting up Tommy Shops and disbursing tokens as wages to their workers, tokens only redeemable by workers in these mine owner Tommy Shops for the goods and foods of life. The Tommy Shops in addition charged monopoly prices to the workers – because they were able to.
But our kids are told this is all history now and we today are enlightened and benevolent. What does this say about our profusion of diversity of spares and repairs parts? Are these made by enlightened benevolent folk for our benefits? Is Microsoft or Whirlpool running Tommy Shops?
Thus to mimic Henry Ford: “You can have any part you wish so long as it’s ours”.
Every one of us suffers data theft daily. Every one of us gets a stream of ads and scams in our inboxes regularly; and targeted mechanically to our supposed situations and needs, desires, whims, hopes, dreams, whatever data can be assumed about us by way of mechanical rifling of our privacies. It is this deadened sameness for each of us which is our diversity in this democracy. It has superseded “Did you see XXX on Telly last night” as our leading psychopathological repetition experience.
I have no doubt we are treated in branding and advertising psychology books and seminars as an en mass collective monolithic entity: the average consumer; the man in the street; the working woman; and suchlike frame-ups.
“The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin”
As pieces in a Game of Gains we are moved like armies on general’s map tables and like these are moved regardless of the loss of life, so long as the victory is clinched, so we too are disposable, expendable, products and services, so as that gain is the economic outcome, and competitors recede well chastened.
I believe I can say that my life – and many other lives – in days before Thatcher and her Americanisation of us, was more various, more diverse, in root terms, than life in general as we live it today performs. In that time when you wanted something or something done, you walked and got it, did it, physically with hands and legs, whatever was required. No gyms to keep fit – not needed. No food deliveries, no supermarket! Each shop for each set of types of item. A morning shopping food – a morning of variety and not someone else’s chore.
Toleration – I have to put a hand up here and say I would not be able to post this article publicly in many countries of the world. I would be detained or beaten or both. We do have a cherished amount of freedom. And so we tolerate one another pretty well. Maybe our toleration is a little too blasé, in that we allow the crazy Britishness of these things I have written about to just carry-on?
When does toleration lead into complacency? Nevertheless we err on the correct side of liberty.
Inclusiveness – yes it goes with toleration. But it does not apply always to social classes, to certain social groups. Any class above lower middle in our country is excluded almost wholly from working class life just as much as the case applies vice versa. It’s mainly a matter of manners; manners as class etiquettes and class expectations, what is available to be shared in conversation and in activities. The bar is still very high here; set this high by both sides and all parties.
Our neighbours are Muslim and they are good neighbours; I am able to feel relaxed about living next door to them. They are family people and always pleasant and sometimes offer help to me or offer tools etc and we our side try to reciprocate. Knowing they are family people assures me – there’s just something about this fact that tells me they have the basics right.
Searching to get a job offers many general cases of exclusion in action today. Online where most seems to happen in vacancies, a person’s data is mechanically filtered through an algorithm or passes through a permutation of set filters which eliminate her usually quite early on unless remarkably she is somehow able to land A Golden Ticket. A job hunter online never sees a person; may never have means to contact the @noreply.com emails sent to her about jobs.
My son has been actually working for a company (as a self-employed contractor) since January now four months and he has yet to meet in the flesh anyone from his contracted company. He has met only by accident other similar self-employed people working to the company. The company transacts wholly via technology – no photo of their staff members or of their managers and owners, no postal address where they can be located; no phone number, only in-house apps and a contact email address. That’s exclusion.
The big exclusion is perhaps the clear atomisation of society going-on; in which fractures into disputing, opposed, insulae of grouped individuals are occurring. You might praise this as being a plurality of views, were it not that so many views aired are deliberately provocative and laced with sour green animosity, negativity. It’s part of a collapse back upon oneself as being the only entity available worth basing a life on; this resort becoming more commonplace as a solution to the collapse of general faith in higher selfless ideals, and into a nihilism underlying intellectual life.
Protagonists like Lionel Shriver, a confessed post-modern author, have publically made announcements on national media which may have their shock value but also have their ill effects.
Post moderns as intellectuals are prone to suggesting that we are utterly free beings, free of God’s law for there is no God, free from the old dying Patriarchy; free to be ‘whatever we want to be’. And since there is no purpose to life other than these we choose for ourselves, by using our unfettered freedoms liberated from the past and its history and culture, there follows by reasoning that it doesn’t matter for the planet to die and resources deplete and pollution kill, and so forth, that we should merely milk dry the earth and have fun while we continue alive. The next generations are not a concern; under this formulation they will just have to ‘deal with it’.
I have heard these views proclaimed on widely broadcast platforms. We are approaching that point where, to repeat myself, it is either reformation or devastation for us.
“Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all””
Now a few final words on which to close on the Platonic vision of a body politic which satisfies everyone within it; and sufficiently so as to be able to name such a body politic a just society in which everyone has a place (inclusiveness absolutely, diversity absolutely, toleration absolutely) and one which displays an inner harmony and unity.
Equal Opportunity does go to the wall in such a society, since the range of activity allowed to any particular sector of its citizenry, is based on the needs and abilities of each of them, and so scope is delimited by those needs and abilities. However and nonetheless this delimitation is not a cause for discontent or any unfairness or any sense of unfairness rankling in its citizens, who are contented and satisfied with their places, and with where they fit into the body of the state.
Plato’s state is a more proper Meritocracy than any democracy we have established probably is possible to be. Plato’s rulers being Philosopher Kings are to agree to rule against their own most desired inclinations, which are towards a life of contemplation, the highest kind of life in Plato’s world, and they are to accept their role as rulers simply because they recognise themselves to be duty bound to rule and to keep the state and people in good shape. Thus like Harry Potter’s Philosopher’s Stone, which can only be held in the possession of persons who do not want to use it for their own ends, in the same way justice is dispensed in a society only by persons qualified to rule who are disinclined, selfishly speaking, to taking on the task but yet are most excellently equipped and properly encouraged to the work by a sense of social obligation and by no other motive.
Thus here you have a state in which those who rule might more properly be considered to be the best people for the work; a Meritocracy indeed in which everyone recognises, even the classes below them, that the Philosopher Kings are the correct people of merit to be ruling the state.
Ambition is not a factor; nor is competition; whereas capability (competence and ability) and education are all appropriately situated to their respective areas of rank, class, and activity. A worker citizen is rewarded, and she feels appropriately so, at her level of contribution and need; she is educated to the same level, so as to be able to perform well in her place and to desire no higher or more ambitious status or place.
Intelligence is not a factor when looking at things in a certain way because each person specialises in her own field of expertise and capability; one can excel as a shoemaker as well as another is able to excel in ruling as a Philosopher King.
Animal Drive is important for that military class which subsists in society between the classes of Kingship and Artisanship; this is the Hoplite class which bears arms in order to act as a standing army to defend and assist in perpetuating the state against aggressions of external enemies. Plato expects Animal Drive to be channelled into the Hoplite class’s roles of defence; and perhaps, I ‘m not certain, Animal Drive in the other classes, Kings and Artisans, to be subsumed into their respective areas of work?
I do perceive Animal Drive to be problematic for Plato’s Republic and its citizens; as a force which our democracies give freer rein to than any Platonic body politic might allow scope to; and there is some logic in this allowance our societies offer. It does not seem to be in the nature of probably for the vast majority of people that they might live without having some outlets, blowholes, for the expression and relief of their Animal Drives.
There is a cost to this freedom to blow off steam however. The danger is, and I do see this happening very much so around us today; that these places and acts we allow ourselves so as to dissipate and so quell our frustrations and our high spirits; they set us on a cyclical course wherein we escalate ever moreso the ‘fix’ or the ‘thrill’ we need so as to exhaust our aggressions and libidos and such. The very things put in place to release our pent up feelings and desires, come very quickly to possess a life of their own and so put rings through our noses dragging us further and further into a vortex of accelerating force of hectic mayhem. I have commented above on this effect already.
In effect Plato is too rational for the likes of the ordinary person; who is often willing to forego rationality altogether in order to experience or to achieve or to find something desired by them, or set up for them as a goal or a lure. This and other such things quickly become part of our ‘culture’; and then they become for the most part socially-accepted and acceptable; being bad habits impossible to be rid of unless in the course of several generations or else by cataclysmic change.
Plato’s mentor Socrates held a maxim that ‘no-one does wrong knowingly’ and by this tenet he believed that a person having had expounded to her all the facts about the full circumstances and consequences of an adverse act she was contemplating perpetrating, then that the person, she would decide every time not to do the ill deed.
Be this as it may the idea does reveal certain odd things about our psyches. It does show that many of us are not rational in any sense which aims to, or equips us to, think through carefully what we intend to do beforehand; and it also reveals the precariousness of that central tenet of many Christians which celebrates the fact that God made us rational beings, with, as John Milton puts it, “reason enough to stand, yet free to fall”.
Are we to conclude that we being all fallen beings, some of us, who choose again and again irrational, or in Socratic terms, wrong things to do, are more fallen than others? Is one’s level of use of reason then an expression of one’s proximity to godliness? Plato and Socrates would have said so I am sure, and many of we Christians too; I myself for one, I believe. It seems to me that the teaching and life of Our Lord was and remains the proper and only basis on which a human rationality may be centred and founded upon.
Our society likes to claim that reason and rationality in men and women can take many forms; this is part of our sense of allowing for plurality and diversity and so on. Yet it does seem to me that it remains precisely a truth upon every occasion in our history, that wherever and whenever Christ’s will has been able to be done, and this means it has had to be done for a right reason – cf “Murder in The Cathedral” above here – that the result has always, every time, been of lasting benefit and goodness to all of us as a human race; to the planet also; and I would be so bold as to claim further – to the complete cosmos of things in existence.
Of course this last is a claim impossible for a man or woman to substantiate. I would say however that many of the claims we base our sciences upon, at their bedrock, are equally impossible to substantiate. The Law of The Conservation of Energy is one such item. The constants of The Speed of Light and of The Gravitational Force are two others. Like my proposition these items are just too large as statements for them to be adequately verifiable by empirical or other means.
And this fact brings me to my final and major point. So much of our foundations on which we base our understandings and knowledge of the world, are in actuality acts of belief and so ultimately of faith. Not just in our social behaviours with us say using promissory notes or us making bookings for items to be delivered or executed in our behalves in the future etc, sometimes years in the future.
But in addition we trust and have faith and belive wholeheartedly in many, many natural phenomena and ‘laws of nature’ and such; and our stability of mind, intellect and psyche is upheld in good order and health by such beliefs we espouse.
And so, why do we, so many of us, baulk at confessing The Lord Jesus and His Father as being the founders and foundations of everything whom we are, and of everything of which the world and existence altogether consists? Why do so many of us feel almost ashamed to confess so, as if to do so was a signal of folly, of weakness, and the cue for social ostracism? Something is going on here in us when we with such contrariety feel and do deny Christ, even sometimes it is bravado, to convince ourselves as much as our social circle that we are able as it were to ‘stand alone’.
Responses by us of this kind to Lord Jesus clearly reveal that the Person of Jesus hits us when we are confronted by Him, both Christian and non-Christian alike, somewhere inside our heads, hearts, psyches, souls, very penetratingly and to the deepest depths we have.
This is a phenomenon of wonder; a miracle, a sign, a consideration for thought like as is no other.