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Philosophy, Democracy and Tyranny: Constitution Guard Against Tyranny

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Tyranny comes in many shapes and forms. Because it has been studied throughout history, its methods can now be used as a wake-up call to citizens that are uneducated on the topic. By bringing awareness to the dangers of tyranny, as a nation we can choose more wisely and thoroughly on what type of government we want for ourselves. Lately, though it looks as though we might be on the brink of undemocratic government with the rise of Trump. By looking into the past, we might be able to guide ourselves into the type of future that we want. Plato and the Athenian government are great examples of how fast an empire can fall. By acknowledging Plato’s ideas on different governments including tyranny, we can use that knowledge to surmise how best to avoid the collapse of our current democracy or to construct a democracy that everyone can believe in.

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Plato during the fifth century BCE was a philosopher and an educator. His most renowned work was The Republic, a dialogue where he lays the foundation for his ideal state of society and his views on all systems of government. The Republic represents a disparaging view of its current democracy in the fifth century. Through the recounting of Socrates, Plato explains that ‘Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike.’ (Plato, The Republic) Throughout his endeavor, Plato catalogs five distinctive forms of government, with Tyranny as the worst.

Plato renounced Athenian democracy because he believed that such democracies were demagogic societies. He believed that the Athenian democracy pursued all citizen’s impulses instead of the common good for all and that democracies are unwilling to let an acceptable number of citizens, especially those who weren’t men, let their voices be heard. Because he was an educator who believed that men and women could learn together, he believed that such democracies were naturally run by arrogant fools. Plato bombarded the Athenian democracy for misinterpreting anarchy for freedom. The lack of systematic uniformity to Plato in Athenian democracy led him to believe that their democracy was just an amassment of citizens maintaining a familiar capacity instead of a configuration of political grouping.

Tyranny, according to Plato, forms as the sovereigns flaunt their power and financial resources that monopolizes every citizen into choosing a leader that ultimately uses their desires as his election stage and acquires power over them. By the government granting supreme freedom, the state disintegrates into Plato’s fourth form of government, tyranny. From the emergence of Democracy, the people are given a champion. In the article, “The people’s tyrant: what Plato can teach us about Donald Trump” we are shown an example of how these champions emerge. The author Sean Illing states the following: “But the tyrant is not quite a tyrant at first. On the contrary, in a democracy, the would-be tyrant offers himself as the people’s champion. He’s the ultimate simplifier, the one man who can make everything whole again.” (Illing, Trump)

Plato’s main belief was that to be or become a just ruler you ultimately would have to be a philosopher. He placed confidence in that if you ruled through philosophy, then you would seek to give only goodness and fairness to all of your citizens. Unfortunately, the tyrannical man is considered to be, by Plato, the worst form of man. He is known as the worst form of a man because he strives to be the most unjust and joyless leader and leads his people by example. He leads with fear instilled in his citizens by coveting a lawless state of government. This state of government causes this leader to perpetuate terrible circumstances such as condoning murders and devastating raids. Through his acts of anti-democracy, he encounters a state of complete lawlessness.

In our current democracy, we can see Plato’s beliefs start to shine through with our current leader and our two-party system. Currently, concerning our president, author Sean Illing believes “With Trump, we have a glimpse of what this sort of evolution looks like: A vulgar right-wing populism emerges out of a whirlwind of anti-establishment hysteria; a strongman fascist promises to stick it to the elites and says only he can make the country great again; he gives the people a familiar boogeyman, some alien other, on whom they can dump their resentment.” (Illing, Trump) When examining the quoted text, we can see that the methodology of tyranny checklist is being met by Trump’s creating a militarization of law enforcement against the people that he considers to be illegal aliens and the usurpation of undelegated powers by depriving these same minorities of their human rights.

Recently I read an article titled “Trump Is Reducing Poverty and Promoting Opportunity” by the secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue. I noticed that another methodology of tyranny was being used but in an abstract way of positive thinking. Secretary Perdue explained in the simplest terms how Trump was restoring dignity into the American lifestyle, essentially leading us back to self-sufficiency. He stated that “President Trump has issued an executive order aimed at reducing reliance on government programs and restoring the dignity of independence to millions of Americans.” He went on to explain the importance of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to our citizens and how they benefited from it during the great recession. He went on to praise the president’s leadership that should propel everyone into action. To me, this was a great example of the increasing dependency of the people on government. By taking people’s food away, the leader can now replace it with an oath of compliance.

When we start to see a divide on these issues within our country we can be on the precipice of a tyrannical government. Or as some news reporters are concerned is just the beginning of how we can easily slide out of a democratic society. Plato understood that the fundamental and primal component of democracy is the yearning for freedom and because of this very virtue citizens are led to a republic of tyranny. A democratic administration incorporates such a multiplicity of concerns that the only practice of anything being accomplished is by having substantial superiority that can incorporate everyone’s ideals. In the article “To defeat tyranny today, look to the past” author Waller R. Newell believes that “Trump will not be able to exert his personal will over all branches of government — court challenges are clipping his wings. The U.S. political system is working as the Founding Fathers intended, forestalling the tyranny of one branch of government over the others through checks and balances.” (Newell, Past) Because of the past Athenian democracy, we can see that as a nation we have forestalled any tyrannical leader from defeating our democratic government.

Plato’s most resounding quote from the text The Republic to me was that “The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become rulers in this world, or till those, we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.” (Plato, The Republic) We as a nation have a reason for hope, author Waller R. Newell believes that all of the examples of tyranny shouldn’t give a “cause for despair… As I make clear in my book, the history of tyranny is, after all, also the history of its eventual defeat.” (Newell, Past) He goes on to state that all great tyrants from the past have always been overcome and he goes on to give examples “The Great King of Persia was checked at Marathon and Salamis. Napoleon was checked at Waterloo. Hitler was checked on D-Day. The Soviet Empire collapsed inwardly through the combination of tardy and half-hearted attempts at reform and steady pressure from the United States, NATO, and Pope John Paul II. Tyrants and tyrannies can be frightening from the outside but are often brittle within. They feature presumed followers who are themselves living in fear of the monsters ruling them, eager to escape. With perseverance and realism, aided and inspired by the history of free government besting its tyrannical foes for thousands of years, democracy can meet the challenge once again.” I too believe that democracy can always be saved and if not then resurrected if it meets a demise during our current political climate. 

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