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Based on feedback, I guess I have not made myself clear. So I will attempt one last time to try to define what I mean by civility in political discourse. “Nevertheless I shall persist in trying.” 

Lately I have been thinking about a phrase from way back in my mind, to freshman year college, Philosophy 101. Was I ever so completely unprepared for anything as THAT class? I barely got a D. It gives me the shivers, just thinking about. I have had a little niggling thought deep in my mind, like a very faint beacon that has been going on/off for so long that it has forgotten why it existed in the first place, just repeating itself. The phrase was: “...introduce the high classes into a purely rational, selfless political theory...”. Pretty bizarre when I thought about it, what did it even mean? And then it lit like a spark on dry pine needles. Whoosh! It has to do with current politics, I felt compelled to search it out, I dimly recalled it in reference to the 5 stages of government. If you don’t know what that is, because, really who has time to truly think, to actually have the luxury of deep thought anymore? It’s a theory of Plato’s, the Greek philosopher, who lived 2300 years ago, in Athens, Greece. He believed that there were 5 stages of government, Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny.  Commit to memory #3 and #4 in the graphic below as you read through this article.

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The chart of them in a line really struck me........ My eyes landed not Oligarchy but actually Timocracy. That, to me, is where we are. A Timocracy. (and notice what comes after timocracy)

Aristocracy degenerates into timocracy when, due to miscalculation on the part of its governing class, the next generation of guardians and auxiliaries includes persons of an inferior nature (the persons with souls made of iron or bronze, as opposed to the ideal guardians and auxiliaries, who have souls made of gold and silver). Since in the government there will be present people of an inferior nature, inclined not just to cultivating virtues but also producing wealth, a change in the constitution of the aristocratic city is eventually worked, and its educational system, which used to introduce the high classes into a purely rational, selfless political theory, is altered so that it becomes permissible for current state leaders to pursue their individual interests. The timocracy, however, does not completely break from all the characteristics of aristocracy, and for Plato this regime is a combination of good and bad features. 

Many people, “And some, I assume, are good people." have been bandying about the idea and the suggestion of Oligarchy. They are not far off when you read the description and see the pattern. It’s pretty clear that we are in transition and are in a culture that: "in choosing its leaders, is "inclining rather to the more high-spirited and simple-minded type, who are better suited for war". The governors of timocracy value power, which they seek to attain primarily by means of military conquest and the acquisition of honors, rather than intellectual means. (I mean, come on, have we ever had a less intelligent president? have we? Feel free to correct me on that.)

And then along came Benjamin Franklin “If you can keep it.” (Well, yes it was a couple thousand years later but has that much changed? Seriously? Let’s be honest- not much has changed.)

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Do we want to stay this course? Or do we want to go back to our own definition of what were the best times of our lives? The ‘best times’ are different for every person. We all have our version of ‘the good ol days’. That’s part of our dilemma right now, we all know that this isn’t the place we want to be but we disagree on how to get there. Disagreeing on how to get there is expectable and potentially easy if we really pared away what wasn’t really, super, excellent, most important we would probably all agree on what matters, no matter who you are. How about we create something memorable for all of us, yes, even you, (insert person type you don’t like here).

We used to be: 

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But we are now:

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I don’t know about you but I am ready to start talking action, no more just tossing out incendiary word bombs. Calm down, not THAT kind of action. And definitely NOT that kind of action. I’m talking about, “What do you do after you fight with your partner, loved one, child, friend?” Don’t you sometimes just get tired of trying to prove who was right and who was wrong, better/worse, smarter/dumber, right/wrong? I am. After arguing with your partner for what seems likes hours you just stop and realize that no one’s going anywhere. No one is giving up and the relationship is worth preserving. What happens in other relationships can happen in the greater community.

We crave, even if secretly, going back to a time when we were young and new and fresh. Our growing up trials and tribulations are in the past. We are all nostalgic now because we know how that story ended. It’s easy to be sentimental about the past because the worry of it is gone- we know we survived. We don’t know how the current story ends and we’re anxious about that. We all love to think about how exciting it must have seemed to John, Benjamin, Thomas ... Even you historians and realists! That was a time that we all want to believe in; that a group of men, on a hot day, in a cramped room, decided, “Yay! We are done with England. We are our own country (person)! Let’s write a Constitution and have a beer!” AND THEY DID! That is what they did, they became grownups with responsibilities and adventures of their own. Except we all know it wasn’t quite like that. There are books end on end across the country and back (that’s a metaphor, don’t try to calculate it) about how we became a country on our own, independent from a KING (remember, most people don’t like their kings. Look it up- most kings haven’t been that nice.) We all love that story because it’s the story we all want to believe. Why? Because it gives us hope. But there are a LOT of clues that if we don’t change some things, it’s going to get rough, as it always does for the little people and the masses and the average person.

Why do we watch superhero movies, because we sure as hell need one. (Sorry, Tina.) No matter your political persuasion most of us have invoked our dear ‘Founding Fathers’. They are so wonderful because they said it all, what more can we add? How can we improve on a document that most of us agree is impeccable?

Let’s be honest, I think we all know, if we can admit it, there are two things always “ON” in our brain. Of course we have the usual, “I worry about my family, pets, friends, and job, etc” but I am talking about the thoughts that are ceaselessly flashing on/off. Climate Change or War Prevention? Anxiety about these two things are never too far away from the mind and gut. If you think about it- if we don’t solve those two things, then nothing else matters. If we truly want to protect our loved ones then we have to protect where they live, which is OUR place.  I hope I have relayed my apprehension over the near future. I am somewhat concerned.

All of that leads me to: we have got to figure out how to stop the bickering, fighting, insulting, and disparaging conversation. You think you don’t do it? You think it’s only those others that do it? I think you may be incorrect about that (based on a lot of reading and reading). I’m pretty sure we are all a bit mean to other people. Sometimes we have very good reasons, some people can be toxic to you. And that leads me to my dilemma, "How do I reconcile my dilemma between being thoughtful with everyone versus protecting myself from someone else’s words?” I recognize that we will not always like each other, sometimes there are going to be people we just do not like. It’s going to happen. The thing is, what to do about it? I open that drawer of my interior file cabinet at least once a day. We can at least treat each other with civility.

Here’s what I have been thinking about, remember, “based on feedback, I guess I have not made myself clear....about... civility in political discourse. “

If you want candidate A then tell me all about them, sing their praises, describe their wonderful work, and talk about why they are a great candidate. Be proud, think about how you tell your co-workers about your kid last Saturday in Little League.

If you don’t want to hear about my candidate I won’t force you to, you can turn the page, click the next link, scroll past, walk past, don’t sit next to, and don’t send email to me, politely ask me to stop sharing my interest in Candidate A with you and other ways that you can simply walk away. You really don’t need to spend time trying to show me what a dumb ass I am.

Possibly share some concerns you have, “I am concerned that candidate A voted on (insert issue here), I don’t think Candidate A should have done (insert action here).

TOTALLY and COMPLETELY fine.

We can get along just fine with that kind of conversation. I am not misguided, stupid, ignorant, a corporate Dem, a sycophant Republican, an arrogant liberal, a blind conservative, an asshole, a bitch, a jerk, a dirt bag, a libtard, a repuglican, crazy, less deserving, lazy, corrupt, a sewer rat, a traitorous Dem, a treasonous Repub........ None of that needs to be included in our discussion. Also ‘pull up your big girl panties’, ‘wake up’, ‘you are being led’, ‘you are being manipulated and ‘can’t even see it’, etc. All of this will accomplish one of two things, the conversation will die or it will turn into a fight and there we’ll be trying to figure out how we are supposed to work together or share Thanksgiving dinner together or even attend a community meeting together.

Meanwhile the billionaires keep going down the road corrupting our Constitution, trampling on our Founding Fathers graves, stealing from our bank accounts and living the extravagant life while we barely feed ourselves.

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We are at a fork in the road, do we go down the democracy path or oligarchy? #3 and #4 above. It’s really up to us how we decide to participate in the next year, who we elect and how hard we work. I’m not going to like your candidate and you probably aren’t going to like mine. That’s fine, that’s what the polling booth is for but until we get to the booth we can and should have productive debates about the best way for us to proceed to that beautiful place we imagine in our minds- the perfect union that our Founding Fathers envisioned for us.

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Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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