Five Surprisingly Hip Politicial Ideas From Plato

by : Maya Talisman Frost

Don't you love politics?

Me, neither. But I do like thinking about politics. And wouldn't you know it? Just when you think you've come up with a dazzling opinion, you find out someone else had that same idea hundreds of years ago. So much for being original.

Still, it's delightful to discover that you share opinions with great thinkers.

Political pundits have a fabulous time skewering politicians and demanding accountability. Talking heads analyze failing policies and discuss alternatives in every form of the media.

Me? I take it all in, and then I go back to my man, Plato. It's surprising how little has changed in politics. You'd think there would be a little more enlightenment in our leadership after more than 2000 years.

Plato made some observations regarding politics that are amazingly relevant today. Political columnists are simply rehashing the same ideas Plato discussed with his cronies in Athens.

Don't believe me? Take a look at what Plato had to say back in the second century B.C.

#1 "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

The smartest people take one look at political office and run the other way. Well, that may be smart, but it doesn't do much good when it comes to changing the world. We end up with leaders who have the power and money and ego required to win an election. That's way too much like running for student body president in high school, if you ask me. The really smart kids laughed at the whole process, rolling their eyes and shaking their heads in disgust. Okay, that's fun, but it doesn't help. We need to figure out how to get our best thinkers in leadership positions, and we need to develop a system that rewards integrity.

#2 "The curse of me and my nation is that we always think things can be bettered by immediate action of some sort, any sort rather than no sort." This is standard fare. In virtually every paper in the world, you'll find an editorial bashing the "Act now, think later" approach.

I love to see truly thoughtful leaders. You know--those who refrain from knee-jerk reactions. Those who take the time to think. It is thinking--not planetary alignment--that will change the course of mankind and launch us into an era of consciousness.

Oh, wait. Plato thought of that, too. He said:

#3 "There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, until philosophers become kings in this world, or until those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands."

Philosophy needs to become an integral part of our culture--in politics, law, business, art and entertainment. What will it take for us to value thinking? More of it.

#4 "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws."

Ah, yes. This one is hauled out every time a new measure is proposed. So much time is spent on legislation aimed at a tiny percentage of people who are bound and determined to get around the system. What if we spent our time and money on building better people? This is a perennial theme, and one worth pondering.

#5 "When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing more to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other in order that the people may require a leader."

Sound familiar? If not, you haven't seen the movie, "Wag The Dog". Real, choreographed or simply imagined, conflicts tend to stir up a hornet's nest of controversy. This idea is the foundation for all conspiracy theorists.

Plato isn't my only political guru. There are plenty of great thinkers whose opinions are shared by newsmakers and newswatchers today.

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind."

Albert Einstein said that, but you don't have to be a genius to see that rabid patriotism leads to conflict.

Socrates agreed. He said:

"I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world."

We need more of that Big Picture thinking. It's critical that we develop the ability to think beyond ourselves, our backyards, and our nation's political borders.

But most of all, we simply need to think. Of all the quotes about politics, here's the one that really stops me in my tracks:

"What luck for rulers that men do not think."

Who said it? Adolf Hitler.

Enough said.