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Electing the Tyrannical Man

These thoughts were inspired by a selection of quotes from Plato's Republic, in particular, his description of how democratic men become tyrannical men.
"Last of all comes the tyrannical man; about whom we have once more to ask, how is he formed out of the democratical? and how does he live, in happiness or in misery?"

Our founding fathers and the history of our country has shown that we can apply Reason for the sake of Liberty. We have been flawed the entire time, but we were the first modern people to rid ourselves of the injustice of monarchy. In our Revolution, we rejected the idea of divine-right, of titles and nobility, and replaced them with the authority of property-right. Though the extent of some of those property-rights have been oppressive in their own right, the fact that we rejected the institution of slavery indicates to me that we can correct our property system's flaws. We're still capitalists, but at least our political process has evolved our leaders from aristocratic land and slave holding oligarchs into (an albeit still elitist) representative democrats. The freedom protected by this choice of political economy has provided us with an amazingly improved quality of life as well as an unprecedented amount of freedom of thought.

I think Plato describes the history of Americans well with his description of the path of the of the democratic man: "At last, being a better man than his corruptors, he was drawn in both directions until he halted midway and led a life, not of vulgar and slavish passion, but of what he deemed moderate indulgence in various pleasures. After this manner the democrat was generated out of the oligarch[.]" I would apply this in a way that recognizes that we still indulge in the exploitation of others, but at least not as openly as we did with the institution of slavery. Unfortunately, we still tolerate economic and social injustice, we've just managed to put a bit more distance between it and ourselves.

Acknowledging this, we can also recognize how modern marketing works in such a manner as to "contrive to implant in [us] a master passion, to be lord over [our] idle and spendthrift lusts[.]" In doing so, they have lured us into becoming a passive, consuming culture which looks to enjoy all of the pleasures of the world without having to be directly responsible for the exploitation utilized in attaining them. As political animals, particularly in the past century, we have likewise become consumers. We have fallen prey to our own wishful thinking, ever more willing to elect those politicians who are willing to tell us whatever we want to hear in order to win our votes, impracticality and the distaste of our opponents be damned.

We no longer seem to care about dialogue, but perhaps for good reason. Hillary supporters believe Trump is the devil incarnate, and the same is true of the reverse - personally, I think they both might be right. Both blatantly exploit and ignore the rules enforced upon the rest of us. Hillary's career as a speaker and politician has revealed her fondness of money, ruthless pragmatism, and willingness to lie. Donald Trump has shown his taste for "making good deals" as he'd call it, by creating a brand that gaudily projects wealth while leaving contracts unfulfilled and exploiting tax and bankruptcy laws. Both care only for their own ends and have shown a willingness to get there by any means necessary: "[if] there is in him any sense of shame remaining, to these better principles he puts an end, and casts them forth until he has purged away temperance and brought in madness to the full." The saddest part of all of this is that acting in this manner is the reason for their popularity. We admire that they achieve their ends, we don't mind glossing over their means. We just want our team to be the winning team.

Many Hillary supporters acted as if Bernie was simply a distraction from the heir apparent to the presidential throne. They wrote off many of Bernie's supporters and their causes as unrealistic and focused on what they would called electability - but their slogan "I'm with Her" certainly reflects a cult of personality. Donald has resorted to a unprecedented degree of base political language and those who have long been thirsty for such rhetoric have flocked to him in droves.  It seems both Hillary and Donald have chosen to "associate entirely with their own flatterers or ready tools[.]" My plea to their supporters who are hearing what they've always wanted to hear has been consider how they will act once they are president: "if they want anything from anybody, they in their turn are equally ready to bow down before them: they profess every sort of affection for them; but when they have gained their point they know them no more." Actions do not have to reflect words. Deep down, we all know that and I'm deeply concerned that we simply enjoy the surreal nature of it all. Each day, coverage of the race more closely resembles the reality TV that we can't seem to stop watching, and we participate in it, ranting and raving over each titillating controversy. 

In this election process, our lust for entertainment and instant gratification is coming to a head: "when this noxious class and their followers grow numerous and become conscious of their strength, assisted by the infatuation of the people, they choose from among themselves the one who has most of the tyrant in his own soul, and him they create their tyrant." This year, it appears we will see this process come to fruition. The closed mindedness and political inertia behind the opinions of the majority likely will not allow for the election of anyone else - it seems we are destined to be the subjects of one form of tyranny or another. As Plato describes it, "They are always either the masters or servants and never the friends of anybody; the tyrant never tastes of true freedom or friendship." As a lover of liberty, both of these candidates smell awfully authoritarian. I understand each sides' fear of their respective devils, but when they hold their nose and vote for the one they find most palatable, either way it will yield tyrannical results.


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