Saturday, September 19, 2015

There are No Philosopher Kings in the GOP: The Republican Primary Debates are an Aimless Ship on a Sea of Lies

America's "elite" media commentariat are disgusted by Wednesday night's Republican Primary debate. They are shocked by the brazen lies, deranged relationship to the truth, gross dishonesty, and what this says about the further retreat of the GOP from "normal politics". I too have chimed in with an analysis--and some ghetto nerd storytelling--of what I term the "childish authoritarianism" on display by the Republican Party in the Age of Obama.

It would seem that the election of Obama has pushed American conservatives full on into a state of madness and dementia. Once and again, white racism damages the minds of white people. 

[And a random intervention and wish for future Republican--and Democrat--debates. There should be "a truth panel" with 3 members sitting on the side of the stage. They would listen to the claims made by the candidates, hit a buzzer, and then throw a card, red for "outright lie", and yellow for a "problematic falsehood". The candidates and moderators (limit them each to 2 challenges?) would also be able to ask the truth panel to makes decisions about things said in the debate.] 

All of the hand-wringing by the supposedly "smart people" in the elite media about the willful lying and Goebbels-like propaganda operation of today's Republican party, and the Right-wing echo chamber in which it is cocooned, is all fury, bluster, and lacking in substance. The American commentariat enables the Republican Party's raping of the truth. For decades, the mainstream media watched the Republican Party set fires in their neighborhood, clapped at the childish exuberance for arson, and now some are aghast at the conflagration. 

These are the moments when I am happy that I was forced to read all of those "dead white men" that were so out of fashion among some on the "liberal" Left while I was in college. As I shared on this week's podcast, I was made physically ill and psychologically disoriented from watching Wednesday's Republican marathon political feces regurgitation-eating competition. While transfixed by the spectacle, I asked are these crazy people akin to Don Quixote in Cervantes' The Man of La Mancha? 

That comparison did not seem accurate. 

Then I realized that maybe the Republican candidates are the troglodytes in Plato's Analogy of the Cave. This seemed closer. It too is less than a perfect fit: movement conservatives, Fox News Right-wing media viewers, and the Republican base are the troglodytes. The 2016 GOP candidates are more than likely part of the leadership cadre who imprisoned the troglodtyes in the cave. 

Yes, Plato and Socrates have the answer. But it is not the Cave, but rather the Philosopher King and the stupid, reckless people on a wayward ship that is the best analogy for the Republican Party and its lie machine media in the Age of Obama. 

In Book VII of The Republic, Socrates has the following exchange about the relationship of the philosopher to society.
I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having plunged me into such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and then you will be still more amused at the meagreness of my imagination: for the manner in which the best men are treated in their own States is sogrievous that no single thing on earth is comparable to it; and therefore, if I am to plead their cause, I must have recourse to fiction, and put together a figure made up of many things, like the fabulous unions of goats and stags which are found in pictures. Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better. The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the steering --every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary.

They throng about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them; and if at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard, and having first chained up the noble captain's senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such a manner as might be expected of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their own whether by force or persuasion, they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other people like or not-the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?

Of course, said Adeimantus. 
Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation of the figure, which describes the true philosopher in his relation to the State; for you understand already.

Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who is surprised at finding that philosophers have no honour in their cities; explain it to him and try to convince him that their having honour would be far more extraordinary.

I will.

Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to be useless to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him to attribute their uselessness to the fault of those who will not use them, and not to themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the sailors to be commanded by him --that is not the order of nature; neither are 'the wise to go to the doors of the rich' --the ingenious author of this saying told a lie --but the truth is, that, when a man is ill, whether he be rich or poor, to the physician he must go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is able to govern. The ruler who is good for anything ought not to beg his subjects to be ruled by him; although the present governors of mankind are of a different stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors, and the true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-for-nothings and star-gazers.
How do you make sense of the lies as truth that constitute the reality in which today's Republicans live? Are there any literary analogies or examples that you find a good match for the GOP's madness?

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