Who needs freedom when we have law and order? This seems to be Plato’s argument throughout Republic. For proposing such an argument, Plato’s been bashed and trashed and smashed many times by modern day philosophers. Some people say he’s a coward who hides behind idealism; while other say he is responsible for creating totalitarianism. So why do we still read his works? Well, in my opinion, Plato’s got a pretty good grasp of humanity, and this is why we still read him.
Plato spends most of the book explaining the kallipolis, and ideal city where there is an almost absolute control over its citizen’s lives. They are to be given to the state as children, be educated according to the state and placed into their “roles” in society. There will be three classes, soldiers, workers, and the elite rulers. The first thing I thought when I saw his class system is that “wow, this is totally the system of our society in a nutshell.” Why? Well, can’t our society be divided by the same way? We have workers/merchants, soldiers, and an elite ruling class, don’t we? I know this is democracy but let’s be honest, we don’t rule, the prime minister and his cabinet and advisors do all the ruling. They are the “philosopher kings” in Plato’s republic, who decides what to do with the economy, pass laws, and declare war on other nations. I personally can never recall when was the last time the government came to me for advice, even if they did, it clearly didn’t matter to them. (Referendum fails? No problem, pass law anyways.). Well, to be honest, my advice will probably screw up the country really bad. But isn’t this what Plato says about the average individual (working class), they don’t have what it takes to rule, so it’s better to leave it with the elite class (politicians). So let’s admit it, our society totally resembles Plato’s kallipolis.
We are all used to freedom. This is one of the things Canada pride itself upon. But, if we think about it, who the heck needs it? We all need food right? And clothing, and shelter, other than that, nothing is necessary. So sorry freedom, but we really don’t absolutely need you… it would be nice to have you though, but without you, life goes on just fine. Does China have as much freedom as Canada? Obviously not. But does that mean in China, people are not as happy as they are in Canada? Well they are, but not because of the lack of freedom, it’s mainly because of poverty (in the countryside and among low skill workers), and pollution, as well as just having too many people. Rarely do Chinese people say that China is not as good as Canada because it doesn’t have as much freedom (except for the rich maybe), as an immigrant from China, I understand the reason why people want to leave China for Canada. Canada has better education system, better environment, less people, more civilized people, and on the bottom of the list, IT HAS FREEDOM! Yeah! But we would have come here without you buddy…
Since freedom isn’t a necessity, people will only want it when they have all the necessities, and more importantly the idea for freedom (how can people want something they don’t even know about?). This means that the people living in Plato’s Kallipolis will live happily since they have the necessities but no idea of what freedom is. Again, I just want to say that many of the things in life are not necessities, but due to our ever-growing greed, (or can we call it greed? Isn’t it just nature?) every time we get something, we will want something else immediately, and the thing we want will seem to be a necessity to us. Freedom is one of those things, if we don’t have all the necessities, if we can’t guarantee all of our meals, if we have to work hard all day just to make ends meet, we won’t give a shit whether we have freedom or not.
The following is not directly about Republic.
One of the problems I have with the way people use democracy, communism, totalitarianism is that these words are given different connotations. In my opinion, words like these should not have pre-determined connotations. Communism as well as totalitarianism or even dictatorship, has the potential to create great society as well as great countries. It is not idealistic at all to think so, for example China can be seen as a totalitarian country that is doing quite well, while Iraq is struggling with its newly acquired system of democracy, had it remained under Saddam’s dictatorship. We probably won’t be getting this ISIS crap right now… communism, dictatorship, and totalitarianism all have their unique perks, but I’m not saying that Canada should turn to dictatorship right now, NO! Countries such as Canada is probably the happiest under democracy, but we should never assume, just as the US has assumed that “democracy > everything”. Some countries works under dictatorship, or communism, or totalitarianism, messing up other people’s countries just because they have a different political system is simple idiotic.
Alright, sorry for bashing you, USA, I still love you because of MacDonald’s…