We are used to thinking very highly of democracy – and by extension, of Ancient Athens, the civilization that gave rise to it. The Parthenon has become almost a byword for democratic values, which is why so many leaders of democracies like to be photographed among its ruins…
Thus making the very idea that one of the ancient Greece’s greatest achievement philosophy, would be highly suspicious of its other achievement, Democracy would sound a bit odd don’t you think?
Yeah, I know its sounds like petty sibling rivalry, but wait there is more to it.
Well, Socrates, the founding father of philosophy. According to Plato, the guy had super trust issues about democracy.
In his book Six of The Republic.
The book had ten parts, a fun fact, thank me later.
So in his 6th part of Republic Plato, describes Socrates falling into conversations with a character called Adeimantus while trying to show him the flaws of democracy by comparing a society to a ship.
Socrates: “if you were heading out on a journey by sea, who would you ideally decide as the man in charge, just anyone or someone with a proper education in the rules and demands of seafaring?”
Adeimantus: “The later of course”
Socrates: “well, why then do we keep thinking, that any old person should be fit to judge, who should be a ruler of a country??”
In short, What Socrates actually meant was that voting in an election is a skill, not a random intuition, and just like any other skill, it needed to be taught systematically to people.
Letting people vote about their future without proper knowledge is as irresponsible as putting them in charge of a ship sailing through a stormy sea in the bloody Bermuda triangle.
Well, you can’t blame him for his opinions, Poor Socrates was to have firsthand catastrophic experience of the foolishness of voters.
In 399BC he was put on trial on “Trumped” up charges of corrupting the youth of Athens. A jury of 500 Athenians was invited to weigh up the case and decided by a narrow margin that he was guilty and thus was put to death.
Well, it’s not, that Socrates was an elitist. In simple term, he didn’t believe that only a select few should have the right to vote, he did, however, insist that only who had thought about the issues rationally and deeply should be let near a vote.
We have forgotten this distinction, between an intellectual democracy and a democracy by birth.
We have given the power to vote to all, without connecting it to wisdom. And Socrates knew exactly where that would lead: All the way to Trump or demagoguery whatever you like better.
Demagoguery is some super smooth talker who plays on people’s emotions and prejudices rather than appeal to their intellect, just to push himself to a position of power, Just like “We will build a wall” or “how about free WIFI, everywhere in Delhi”
Socrates knew how people can easily be lead on for their desire to find easy answers by anyone who wants power.
Imagine an election between a Doctor and a Candy shop owner, who do you think will win?
The candy shop owner would appeal to the people saying the doctor is sheer evil,
“don’t you remember all the bitter medicines and the painful procedure that man has forced upon you, but worry not any time those tortures weigh you down I will be there for you, always with my sweet candies, to cheer you lot on. So, vote for me.”
Now do you think the Doctor can defend against an argument like that, do you think that his pitch, I do give u painful remedied just for your own good, would win him the election?
We have forgotten all about Socrates and his salient warnings about democracy. Well most of us don’t even know how he looked, we prefer thinking democracy as an all good system made in heaven, then think of it as a loaded gun which is ever as effective as the wielder itself, as a result we have elected may Candy shop owners and very few doctors