Plato’s Republic – “Tyranny will be established out of no other regime than democracy”
The question / questions many are asking, “How did we get here?” “How is this normal?”
So, how did we get here? Why are so many normalizing the not normal? What has changed over the past 8 to 12 years, that has gotten us to this point?
- Was there truly a “white lash” as Van Jones stated? Were so many closet and not so closeted bigots frustrated for so long that we had a black president?
- Were people finally fed-up with the government and disenfranchised to the point that ANY outsider would do?
- Is our country changing so rapidly that the career politicians are so disconnected they can’t keep up with their peoples wants and needs.
- Or is it the fact that our country has become less informed with costlier and costlier education, profit driven 24 hour news cycles, unregulated social media, shorter more controversial headlines, less facts, all galvanizing and pushing positions further left and right?
Considering how extreme the shift from from our first black president, (accused socialist) Barack Obama to a self admitted misogynist, reality TV star and failed businessman 20x over, Donald Trump, its easy to say its one of, or a combination of the first three and I’m sure they contributed, but I’m going to focus on the latter for now.
To really diagnose this shift I started to look into what people were voting on and why they felt the way they did about said issues. Then I looked into that state of affairs for each, factually and unbiased, compared to how they were being portrayed by the media and candidates.
There are two very distinct ways to present the issues that concern Americans today:
- Present the current state and projected state as it truly is with facts and detailed policy ideas with projections based on both. Present how you will fix or extend the progress of said issue to people in a calm, composed professional manner. (“Yawn”)
- The other…tap into peoples natural emotions whether it be fear and the dangers of consequences or hope and the power of the possible…doing this with energy and enthusiasm. Either way (“Turn the TV up!”)
One provides details, direction and a game plan the other elicits an emotion that drives people to want more.
- Obama ran on hope and the power of the possible using charisma and a vision of change. WON
- Hillary ran on the current state, projected state and detailed policy ideas. LOST
- Trump ran on fear, hate, blame and consequences, regardless if they were based on anything remotely true. WON
Looking at the results, it seems like the informed, data, fact based campaign is under attack. So lets lets dig deeper and try to understand why…
Terrorism for example, THE single biggest issue Trump ran on and a big issue to many today. BUT… Are the reasons justified? Terrorism has been an issue since the dawn of our country. Why has it moved so far ahead of any other issues we face today? For example – between 1969 and 1989 the airline industry averaged 31 hijackings a year…That’s almost 1 a week for 20 years! Yet, now with 24 hour news, social media, smart phones and YouTube, you would think we are in the worst age of terrorism we’ve ever faced, even if boring facts show that you’re more likely to die being crushed to death by furniture. Meanwhile, in the time it has taken you to read until this point, at least one American has died from a heart attack. Within the hour, a fellow citizen will have died from skin cancer. Roughly five minutes after that, a military veteran will commit suicide. And by the time you turn the lights off to sleep this evening, somewhere around 100 Americans will have died throughout the day in vehicular accidents – A Princeton University study observed that even in countries that have been targets of intensive terror campaigns, such as Israel, the weekly number of casualties almost never close to the number of traffic deaths. So why all the fear? The answer is easy – basic human psychology. Scholars have repeatedly found that individuals have strong tendencies to miscalculate risk in very predictable ways. For instance when people lose the sense of control, it directly influences their feeling about whether they are susceptible to a given risk. How many people do you know (possibly yourself) that are petrified of flying even though they know driving is way more dangerous? This is because flying involves giving up control, resulting in a sense of vulnerability. Sorry to bore you with more facts and details, so I’ll get back to the crux of the subject… Now that we understand how peoples brains work and how easy it is to spark irrational fear, lets see what adding the 24 hour news cycle, unregulated Social Media and the rapid technological and culture shift we are facing today does.
The 24 hour news cycle NEEDS to keep your attention or they will lose ratings (Money). Social Media NEEDS to keep your attention or they will lose users (Money). Technology provides this ever lowering bar of information in real time in the palm of your hand. All of this creating shorter attention spans, with an increasing need and want for more, more violence, sex, scandal. Ever wonder why or notice after the first fully televised murder scandal (OJ), the dawn of and eventual explosion or reality TV? Now its to the point people watch other people live, just living their lives. People tune in weekly to watch, waiting and hoping for something scandalous to happen, i.e The Kardashians. Don’t even get me started on my conspiracy theory on the connection of those two…
NOW lets take all of the above and add in The Law (not theory mind you) of Diminishing Returns and you have an almost impossible battle between reality and fact going forward….
Law of Diminishing Returns – The core of our being is response to stimulus. You have a life experience and you are either filled or drained (positive or negative experiences). The books you are reading give you a path to a filling experience, but they do not tell you the law of diminishing returns. Ask any crack addict, alcoholic, or sex addict. They will tell you that each time they get their stimulus it is not nearly as good as the last time, and NEVER as good as the first time. The same can be said for every experience in life. Coffee, sugar, Mountain Dew, sex, drugs, and even rock and roll give you less and less of a filling experience the more you use them.
This evolution has opened the door for a master manipulator like Trump to come flying in and spew fear, hate, blame to the scandal thirsty, easily scared masses… Making it almost impossible for anyone slinging facts and detailed policy ideas to succeed. Especially against an opportunist demagogue who knows how to exploit the emotion and profit driven news media, as we saw with Hillary in the 2016 election.
Do future candidates need to rethink their approach? Are celebrities like The Rock and Oprah what the country needs next to counter the Trump phenomenon? Or does this open us up to the least qualified, most manipulative, most entertaining candidates and not truly what benefits the people the most? Are we headed towards a popularity contest, based on a technological and culture shift, resulting in increasingly distancing and galvanizing ideals?
Or has Democracy hit a ceiling and we need to start focusing our attention on the voter instead of the candidate? In reality a successful Democracy is only as effective as the education that surrounds it. Are we putting too much trust into the hands of the unqualified and the uninformed? We are a generation with the easiest access to the most information in history and yet somehow we are becoming the least informed.
This leads us back to Plato and his philosophy on intellectual democracy v. democracy by birthright. We have given the vote to all without connecting any of it to wisdom and what wisdom we do have, is fading. Therefore, kicking open the door for demagoguery and easy answers. i.e Donald Trump . Lets look at it this way: If given the opportunity would you give 1000 random people who know nothing about flying choose your pilot from 2 candidates, only one of which is truly qualified? Then why do we give so many, who know nothing about politics, other than what they read on Facebook, the power to pick the person to lead our country and world for that matter??
Democracy was originally designed to maximize two things, equality and freedom, everyone should be treated as equal and everyone should be able to do whatever he or she likes within reason. There’s a problem with that though, overtime freedoms multiply, inequalities grow and information becomes diluted. As we sit here today the glaring inequality 99% of us face is with the wealthy and elite. They have now become the prime suspects of perpetuating inequality, representing injustice and controlling our information, with their vicious cycle of money buying power, power making money and the combination controlling the masses. This is where Plato’s Republic gets scary accurate…
Plato discussed, its at this point in a Democracy that the door opens for a would be Tyrant to seize their moment. Plato also wrote that ‘the Tyrant will be of the elite, but will act like the masses — giving into random pleasures and whims, feasting on plenty of food and sex, reveling in and taking advantage of the freedoms democracy has provided. This Tyrant will make his move by taking over a particularly obedient mob and attacking his wealthy peers as corrupt. If not stopped quickly, his appetite for attacking the rich on behalf of the people swells further. He is a traitor to his class — and soon, his elite enemies, shorn of popular legitimacy, find a way to appease him or are forced to flee. Eventually, he stands alone, promising to cut through the paralysis of democratic incoherence. It’s as if he were offering the addled, distracted, and self-indulgent citizens a kind of relief from democracy’s endless choices and insecurities. He rides a backlash to excess—too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery — and offers himself as the personified answer to the internal conflicts of the democratic mess. He pledges, above all, to take on the increasingly despised elites. And as the people thrill to him as a kind of solution, democracy willingly, even impetuously, repeals itself…”
Plato’s Republic – “No one who hasn’t proven they have thought rationally and deeply should be let near a vote”
If Plato is correct, which as of right now, it’s hard to question someone who wrote exactly what is happening…right now, 1600 years ago. If he is though, are we at a tipping point? Is there even anything we can do or is this bigger than us? Do the freedoms we have now contribute to the recipe of greed, technology and human nature that ironically will lead to the eventual erosion of these freedoms? Or will there be a revolution against the profit driven news cycle, the click driven social media and most importantly those who exploit it all with demagoguery and unjustified fear driven propaganda? I still have hope for the latter…