With the sting of Trump’s election still fresh, I can’t help but ponder Plato’s description of tyranny in the Republic. More importantly, I can’t help but wonder how West Virginian high school dropouts living in abject poverty after the coal mine that employed their entire city closed—how these people could forget Plato’s immortal words.
Plato perfectly described tyranny over 2,000 years ago, so why didn’t the ignorati heed his warning? How did we end up with Trump as our president-elect?
I recognize that not everyone gains acceptance into Columbia or one of the two other universities of similar renown. Some people have to attend state schools, while others never even graduate from their local elementary school—whose water supply runs out of the local nuclear power plant. Still, is it so absurd to assume that they should be acquainted with the masterpieces of western philosophy?
Surely every American has critically examined Aristotle’s concept of natural slavery or Plato’s form of the good at some point in his life. So why did these words not stick? Is it because these rural whites only read the Sparknotes and thus never truly gleaned Plato’s message? Or did they make the classic mistake of not reading Metaphysics in the original Greek? Everyone knows nothing obfuscates antiquated political theory like sloppy translation. Whatever the cause, a dangerous trend is clear: The portion of Americans who lack a strong grounding in the Platonist kallipolis is growing.
And how can we expect people to distinguish right from wrong if they don’t base their entire moral system on ancient texts? How can Appalachians understand that oppressing people based on religion or violating their sisters is unjust if they have not studied the classics? These moral principles are not so obvious that man can come to them by his own reason; they must be spoon-fed to him, and he must commit them to memory at a young age using mnemonic devices and 3-by-5 notecards. It is only after such careful study that man shall be able to pick the tyrant out of a lineup. Or the Donald in a field of qualified candidates.