THE QUOTE—By Plato
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” Plato
Plato was a Greek Philosopher, innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms philosophy—reputed as the founder of Western political philosophy. His philosophy centred on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politic, art and poetry, unwritten doctrines. Though his exact place of birth remains disputable, most scholars, based on ancient sources, put his birth sometime in 428/427 BC, in Athens or Aegina, and died 328/321 BC.
Due to insufficient accounts little is known about Plato’s early life and education. However he belonged to aristocratic and influential family. Plato’s father Ariston was reported to have traced his descent from the king of Athens, Codrus, and the king of Messenia, Melanthus. His mother was Perictione, whose family boasted of a relationship with the famous Athenian lawmaker and lyric poet Solon, one of the seven sages, who repealed most of the laws of Draco. Perictione, the mother of Plato was sister of Charmides and niece of Critias, both prominent figures of the Thirty Tyrants, known as the Thirty, the brief oligarchic regime (404–403BC), which followed on the collapse of Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War (431–404BC).
Plato was reported by ancient sources as “a bright though modest boy who excelled in his studies. Apuleius informs us that Speusippus praised Plato’s quickness of mind and modesty as a boy, and the “first fruits of his youth infused with hard work and love of study”. It is recorded that he was educated in music, grammar and gymnastics by most distinguished teachers. He was also a wrestler, and attended courses in philosophy before meeting Socrates.
Later Life and Death
Plato was reputed to have travelled far and wide (even met prophet Jeremiah of the Jews in Egypt). He was said to have returned to Athens at the age of forty and founded one of the earliest known organized schools in Western Civilization on a plot of land in the Grove of Hecademus or Academus. The Academy was said to have been a large enclosure of ground about six stadia outside of Athens proper. It operated until it was destroyed by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 84 BC. Many intellectuals were schooled in the Academy, including the like of Aristotle.
Later in his life, Plato became deeply involved in the politics of the city of Syracuse. He first visited the city during the reign of Dionysius. Dionysius’ brother-in-law Dion of Syracuse became one of Plato’s disciples, but the tyrant later turned against the former. In the intrigues that followed, Plato almost faced death, and was sold into slavery. Then Anniceris bought Plato’s freedom for twenty minas, and sent him home. According to Seneca, Plato died at the age of 81 on the same day he was born. However, there are various sources that give different accounts of his death.
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
This political quote, voiced almost three thousand years ago has a profound truth still relevant even as at now. Humans are rationale beings; in politics mankind is termed ‘political animal’, perhaps because of natural quest for power, authority, symmetry and dominance. However, not everyone dabs into politics, the outcome could be political empathy.
However profound Plato’s political assertion is, it is not altogether without deficiency—logical reasoning might terms this saying as fallacy. Nevertheless, its weakness is not the reason for this article but its strength. What I think this ancient sage was emphasising broads on political consciousness as a prerequisite for good governance.
Now this brings me to the reason of voicing my thoughts. All over the world politics is widely seen as a ‘dirty business’, politicians famed for being double-faced, double-minded, bickering liars ready to stab one another’s back—true to some extent; and the ‘righteous’ must steer away from. Politics have messed up the world, yet have organised the world to make governing more efficient. Without politics I bet the world would have been in chaos, dominance over scarce resources left in the hands of the fittest. So, how does this fit my country, Nigeria?
Nigeria is either ‘blessed or cursed’ with pools of leaders inferior in mentality, civility, morality, ethical conduct, quality education and so on that one has to wonder where are the intellectuals? Why are the likes of Wole Soyinka, Femi Fani, Achebe, Rev. Adeboyega, Bishop Oyedipo just to mention few are not in position of political powers to better the lives of the masses? The answer centred on the perception of politics in the country. Politics, if the rest part of the world sees it as a ‘dirty business’, in Nigeria is unanimously seen as the ‘dirtiest business’. So dirty that anyone into it (regardless of the riches involved) most be corrupt enough to thrive in the business. Though, I don’t share this perception, I don’t rule it out also.
At this point the voice of Plato rings out loud and clear, warning of the dire consequences of the intellectuals, the ‘righteous’ and the most beautiful in mind and brain of the country abstaining from the political affairs of the nation. This is glaring today. We have a president that is semi-literate (I give no offence), pools of political gladiators that hold the life of Nigeria in their hands with low I. Q. poor visions, insatiable quest for absolute political dominance, burdened Nigerians with policies that would not work, policies that lack human sympathy, and have made themselves into demi-gods far above the masses. Worst of all are driving the country into bloodshed and into the bottomless pit where the ‘devil’ awaits to gobble up all of us.
Humph, I sighed in sadness. In Nigeria a tort could suddenly become Mr. President overnight—if he plays is part well and pays homage to the political godfathers. Now, where are the superior in mind, in intelligent, in morality, in ethics, in respect for human rights, in clear strategic visions, in education, in human sympathy, in love for the poor masses and in economy management? I have no answers to these questions. One thing is certain; politics in Nigeria is a business that belongs to everybody. Anything that is dirty also means it could be cleaned. It’s time the ‘superior’ stands up, fight bravely with our present core of ‘political monsters’ and liberate the Nigeria nation—the helpless masses count on you!