Leviathan: Well we’re in one… kind of

In Leviathan Hobbes puts forward a number of views and arguments that do make logical sense and some that appeal to us, but also seem repulsive.  One might think the type of government he supports is almost like a Nazi or Communist (Stalin type communist not the true form) state.  Yet his ideas are actually in existence around us and if we look around, we’d feel rather scared.

For the state to have total control  over the people… is scary, and at the same time it is comforting.  In Hitler’s Nazi state, which had consolidated all the power in Hitler and his cronies, everything was in control, predictable, the fact there was no opposition meant that the entire production capabilities of Germany were pooled into the Nazi War Machine.  This goes the same for Napoleon’s Empire, in which he and his family held all the reigns of power, no opposition allowed.  These types of states were in a sense, successful when they continued to protect the natural rights of their subjects.  Did Hitler not bring Germany out of an economic crisis and allow the people to live their natural rights?  Didn’t Napoleon initially protect the French people from the opposing monarchial European states?   Only when those states began to endanger the citizens natural rights as opposed to protecting them, did they fall.  Hitler, it was Russia, and although he attempted to justify it, he undertook an action that brought more danger to his citizens than protecting them.  Same with Napoleon.  So in a sense, Hobbes ideas of consolidating state power are in a sense justified.

The problem with these states are that nobody, at least from our ethnocentric view would want to live in them.  We’d hate living in a state where our rights were hindered, where women’s rights are non-existent.  But if we were born and raised in those states, would we care?  I mean, we’re safe, from sudden violent death as Hobbes points out so everything SEEMS fine and dandy.  Even in our modern states we have very limited powers.  The citizen can vote, but the power is always in the state, it dictates us, prevents us from fighting each other, forces us along certain paths and stops us from drinking underage.  Whether we’d like it or not, our states are actually quite Hobbesian for the power basically rests in those in the government.  The average citizen… the great majority, is at the mercy of the government!  So don’t think Hitler’s Germany is distant, we’re actually in not such a great situation ourselves.

So we’re in a Hobbesian kind of state where we’d like it or not!  Not one where power is completley utterly restricted to the government, but where much of the power is in the government.  Aside from the fact a measly 1% of us can possibly get into the government, the other 99% is pretty much at their whim.  So looking at Hobbes as a mosnter and saying that our own governments are angels can be rather silly, for really, we are living in states that fulfil very Hobbesian ideals.

Oedipus the King – Julian Figueroa’s first impressions

Medea was a thrill and Oedipus has a lot in store for us as well.  This is a great play, also akin to Medea in its dialogue and its conflicts in the monarchy.

A terrible curse/plague has befallen Thebes, and great King Oedipus sends Creon (his brother in law) to seek the advice of Apollo. He alerts Oedipus that the curse will be forsaken if the murderer of Laius, the former king, is found and prosecuted. So, Oedipus then sets off to find and prosecute of Laius’s murderer. Oedipus interrogates a bunch of uncooperative citizens, including a blind prophet, Teiresias. Teiresias informs Oedipus that Oedipus himself killed Laius.  His wife Jocasta tells him not to believe in the prophets since they’ve been wrong before. As an example, she tells Oedipus about how she and King Laius had a son who was prophesied to kill Laius and sleep with her. Well, she and Laius had the child killed, so that prophecy clearly didn’t work out so well…

This doesn’t really pacify Oedipus in any way… As a child, an old man told Oedipus that he was adopted, and that he would eventually kill his biological father and sleep with his biological mother.  Jocasta presures him not to look into the past any further, but he  ignores her. Oedipus goes on to question a messenger and a shepherd, both of whom have information about how Oedipus was abandoned as an infant and adopted by a new family. In a moment of insight, Jocasta realizes that she is Oedipus’s mother and that Laius was his father. Horrified at what has happened, she kills herself. Shortly thereafter, Oedipus also realizes that he was Laius’s murderer and that he’s been married to his mother. In horror and shock (not to mention despair…), he gouges his eyes out and is exiled from Thebes.

My first impression of Oedipus was that he was a powerful man that would get everything that he wanted. I thought that he would prove as a strong leader and be able to overcome any conflict. He actually seemed like a friend in the sense that he would protect every body. Apparently not the case.

I really enjoyed how the whole idea of sight/blindness played into the story. The prophet, Teiresias, is blind… yet can still see (the future). And Oedipus, frightened by the reality, the predicted future, blinds himself so that he does not have to witness it. Some very cool imagery indeed.

I’d definitely read this again.

Julian Figueroa’s Impressions on The Prince!

The Prince is an interesting treatise, and I was really glad to have read it. So far, it is quite independent from all the other pieces of literature we have read, as it is non-fiction in the form of a didactic. In this text, the author, Niccolo Machiavelli, outlines methods that a prince should take in governing his populace. He describes the consequences of failing to do so, raises some great examples (Hannibal, etc.) to support his notions, and begins the piece with an introduction (essentially chapters 1 and 2), explaining the scope of the book, and concluding it. Essentially an essay.

His ideas that one must strike fear to the people below him is one that has been employed by many rulers, before and after him. Although I do find it quite unfair that  people credit any “Prince-esque” ruler post-Machiavelli to derive inspiration from him, as he did not invent the concepts of things such as love versus fear, strength in unity, faithful representation, etc. He simply outlines them in his book, which at the time would have sounded much more like political commentary rather than a creation of something brand new, akin to the works of Marx… or something like that.

Nonetheless, it is a great piece of literature, and it will continue to be timeless as the points brought up are not really refutable. What I mean by that, is that they are passable ways to control a populace, and this has been proven by centuries of rule before and after the release of The Prince.  We have modern day Machiavellis everywhere, Kissinger, Obama, Kennedy, you name it. And their legacies alone will live to inspire future politicians until the end of time.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Prince. It really tied into our reading of The Republic and Machiavelli raises some great, interesting points about dictatorships throughout.