Nostradamus is often credited for his power to foresee future events, notably ones which damage our world. Well I propose that Socrates himself sits among these ranks. Through his multiple conversations recorded in Plato’s Republic, Socrates describes the evolution of political systems, timocracy to oligarchy then onto democracy and the most notable change of all, Socrates says ‘tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy’.
Plato begins by describing the democratic city, vibrant, free and full of equality. The city enjoys freedom of speech, the license to do whatever you want and the power to arrange your life however you’d like. Surely, Socrates says, ‘this is the finest or most beautiful of the constitutions’. He compares a democracy to a ‘coat embroidered with every kind of ornament’ just as the city itself is embroidered with every kind of character, personality, gender and race. There is no requirement to rule in a democracy, even if you are not capable of it because this is what the ultimate freedom of democracy allows you to do.
It is the most pleasant and splendid of all political structures, the public will not judge you for who you were before you entered public life as long as you honour the public and wish the masses well. In other words become a populist, appeal to the citizens, slobber at their feet and appease them with elevations of their superior moral character.
Just as an oligarchy falls when men become too drunk on wealth, democracy’s insatiable desire for freedom becomes its own fatal poison. Suddenly the democratic system begins to fall, this destructive craving for excessive freedom destroys the quality of rulers, unless they promise unrestrained freedom and are pliable to the people’s will, they will be accused of being an oligarch and an evil oppressor of rights. Where else is this better seen than in the Leader of the Free World, the United States of America. Drunk on freedom, any suggestion of centralisation of government, of surveillance, of relaxing gun rights, of limiting hate speech is instantly declared as a deplorable act of a tyrannical oppressor. Their life revolves around the 1st and 2nd amendment, any mention of limiting the effect of either of two is suddenly met with petulant children screaming with ignorance as though they were being tortured. Obama was one of those victims, any attempt to curb gun laws resulted in the people calling for their rights to be defended, and this is in no way different from the democratic state Socrates describes.
As the freedoms mount, Socrates describes the teacher living in fear of his students and so resorts to flattery for any attempt at authority resorts in the teacher being decried as an oppressor. The young imitate the old and the old stoop down to the level of the young for fear of appearing disagreeable and authoritarian. Similarly the parent becomes fearful of the child for any suggestion of respect or any order given is met with a disobedient response, ‘it’s a free world.’ And so animals also gain equality to that of men for surely, Socrates argues, a nation with such behaviour, when anyone who obeys the ruler is regarded as a willing slave and when rulers must behave like subjects and subjects like rulers, then is it not inevitable that freedom should go to all lengths in a city? Animals must be treated as humans are, just as every other person, no matter the creed or race, is equally full of freedom.
Now let’s make it clear that there is nothing wrong with these freedoms but surely this mimics the U.S once again? A country were veganism, the equal treatment of animals to humans, is on the rise, where their rulers must be relatable and submissive to the people. One of the essential qualities of George W. Bush that got him elected was the fact that the citizens saw him as someone you could have a beer with. And so the quality of leaders diminishes in such a country as the wise, those who recognise the necessity of some sort of authority are pushed aside and condemned.
Notice, Socrates declares, that all these freedoms lead back to one point, sensitivity. The citizen’s soul is so sensitive that if anyone asserts any type of authority they will instantly become enraged and cannot endure the perceived injustice. Therefore all laws are eventually ignored as the citizen perceives them as oppressive, leading to an anarchical state.
Socrates argues extreme freedom can only lead to one other inevitability, extreme slavery.
First the class divides become apparent. The class of idlers (the leaders who must resort to populism to appease the people), the class of the wealthy (distinguished from the majority and driven by the voracious desire for money) and finally the class of the workers, those who work with their own hands and have few possessions. This final class, when assembled effectively, can become the most powerful class in a democracy, in other words the working class of America who so obediently subscribed to the future President.
When the wealthy class feel threatened by the idlers and their policies of taxation, naturally their unquenchable thirst for money will drive them to become defensive and resort to the buying of politicians and corruption within the leadership. The crowds then decry the wealthy and then they truly become the oligarchs and embrace the evils of the oligarchic system. That is, only the wealthy can rule and the wealth must be concentrated in the hands of the oligarchs. Is this not what is happening in the United States? The growing resentment of Wall Street due to its corruption and involvement in politics as the wealthy elite defend their own wealth through the use of lobbying politicians whilst the idlers, Obama and his ilk, are powerless and achieve nothing. The parallels are extraordinary and they only continue.
As separation continues, the common man versus the wealthy, what follows are what Socrates calls impeachments, judgments and trials on both sides. It almost seems unsurprising as the chants of ‘lock her up’ echo at the rallies of the President and the mighty idlers fall from power. Inevitably the people will set up their special champion, the people’s champion, a man who has perceived greatness and promises to make them great again. Socrates describes this champion as a leader who when he tastes the ‘docile mob’ is unable to restrain himself from dominating the system and asserting his authority. He brings people to trial on false charges and removes those who oppose him. He is often from the wealthy class, a traitor to his own, decries his own and accuses his own of corruption and oppression. Thus his enemies must appease him or flee for his army is that of the immovable mob, the ultimate weapon. He vows to appease the public, he promises the citizens to free them from debt, bring back prosperity and to reduce taxation whilst pretending to be gracious. He instils fear into the heart of the submissive mob; he tells them there is a threat to their lives, that their situation is near unsustainable, that the foreigners are here to destroy them and that he is their only salvation. Thus the people will feel as though they will continue to need such a ruler, a strong man, a powerful man, an unapologetic man.
The tyrant is often unpredictable, he is given over by his random impulses and urges, unable to control them he is weak yet strong, sensitive and his sanity is overwhelmed by his erotic desires. Who else is there in the modern day that we can relate Socrates’ tyrannical man to but the so-called Leader of the Free World?
Donald J. Trump is this tyrannical man Socrates describes. He declares himself the champion ‘of you, the people’, his empty promises of fantastical ideas of affluence for all and self-indulgent greatness through his simple slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ are true representations of such a tyrant. He imbues the ideas of fear in Americans, that the illegal ‘aliens’ will enter and ‘steal’ their jobs, livelihoods, and that they will murder their families. He claims that the country is in disarray, tearing itself apart and he exemplifies the terror imposed on Americans by the foreigners and the corrupt officials of the ‘establishment’. All of this, ‘I alone can fix’, he says, never has there been a more tyrannical, dictatorial phrase. He claims to be from the outside, disassociated from the establishment and a man of the people yet he is clearly the embodiment of such an elite class just as the tyrannical man was in Socrates’ city.
What about his followers, are they the docile mob in Socrates’ vision? Without a doubt the followers of Trump are an obedient following. After every policy he promises is backtracked on, they fly to his defence almost as if the obedient mob becomes the bodyguard of the tyrant himself. Is it not the behaviour of a tyrant to threaten, bully and impose his will upon firms, to force them to serve him and stay in the U.S.? The business tycoons, good and bad, from philanthropist Bill Gates to corrupt opportunist Steve Mnuchin, flourish their services to King Trump exactly as Socrates’ tyrant sees his enemies appease him or flee him. Is Trump not also a man who despises the media and the freedom of press to report at will, is this not exactly how the tyrannical man acts in Plato’s Republic, he is sensitive and wishes death upon those who criticise him. Donald Trump is insecure and lonely, just like the tyrannical man, he lacks friends, is hateful and his sole motivation is revenge, power and money.
Democracy through extreme freedom and resentment evolves into the regime it sought to destroy, slavery. A slavery of the most cruel and destructive kind, where there is only one master in the nation, a tyrant named King Donald Trump.