Sunday, September 6, 2015


I’m reading Edward Abbey’s A Voice Crying In The Wilderness.

He said few men are wise enough to govern themselves, therefore even fewer are wise enough to govern others. Abbey was a man some call wise, so how could he have thought this an argument for self-government? No Greek would have made such an egregious mistake.

Whitehead said all Western philosophy consists of footnotes to Plato. Not only have we learned nothing new since his day, we’ve forgotten much of what Plato and his contemporaries knew.

The Greeks knew as well as we do that slavery is immoral, but considered it a necessary evil. We no longer consider it necessary because we think technology can solve any problem. The persistence of slavery therefore troubled us until we decided to pretend we’d abolished it; but the difference between chattel and wage slavery is one of degree, not kind. The Potemkin village we used to call Western civilization consists of such self-deceptions.

Technology hasn’t freed wage slaves because the machines don’t belong to them. Even if they did, technology alone can’t make self-government practical as long as the majority cannot or will not govern themselves. 

The ignorant know, if they're honest, that they are not wise enough to govern themselves. They hope to be governed by those who are wiser than they, as children are governed by their parents. But they know that few parents are wise. 

Ignorant parents are better than none, if they mean well. The ignorant know their choice is not between slavery and freedom, but between benevolent and malevolent masters.  

All masters claim to govern their slaves as parents govern their children. Slaves obey their masters not because they believe them, but because they know they're not wise enough to govern themselves. But they can’t be forced to obey malevolent masters, and must be persuaded to do so by guile. Every republic is founded on some version of Plato’s myth of metals that every sensible person knows is a myth but pretends to believe.  

Now that even the most ignorant cannot help but see their masters are malevolent, and apparently more ignorant than they are (and may even be mad), they're no longer willing to obey them or pretend to believe their myths. But they’re still not wise enough to govern themselves. 

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