Plato could be a real prick sometimes, but he often knew what he was talking about, especially when it came to the social malleability of stupid people. Take the ‘Noble Lie’ for instance.
Used to rationalize and maintain a hierarchal and socially static caste system, it worked something like this: You were pretty much intended to keep the social status you were born into. The lowest, the working class were thought by the gods to be best suited for a lifetime of labor and drudgery , so they might as well give up any attempt at intellectual thought and get their ass back to the grindstone. Those with creative talents could serve as craftsmen or artisans, but the pursuit of Art itself was wasteful and self-indulgent, as even the greatest amongst them was capable of merely producing imperfect copies of a True Form. Plato had more Forms than the I.R.S. and was kinda snobby about it too.
Next up , we have the warrior class. Silver was said to flow in their veins, but I believe it’s a safe bet that when some invading Persian lopped off an Athenian limb, it was red all over, baby. This happened a lot back then, so maintaining a powerful warrior caste was very important. It was a useful lie to instill a belief in the soldiers that they possessed, through dint of virtue, a moral superiority over not only the enemy but the populace as well. This made it easier to get’em fired up to go trade sword- wounds with the Spartans.
At the top o’ the heap,we have the rulers, the ‘Philosopher Kings’. These guys were considered craftsmen of a sort , with leadership being their craft. It was assumed that the craft of leadership meant acting in the best interest of those being led.
It was a great idea on parchment, but it didn’t exactly always work out that way. Often you’d get leaders too busy smoking philosophical opium-pipes ( Is that flower really beautiful, or is it just an imperfect aspect of Beauty’s True Form? Groovy, man) to develop any real skills, leadership or otherwise. Those fuckers sure could talk ,though.
Even worse, you could live under a leader who was both unlearned and unskilled. These are the guys that went off and started wars because of insults (real or perceived) to their “honor”. They all had one thing in common:
They were smart enough to give the hoi-polloi their own soporific, which was religion. They had oodles of gods. They had more gods than Comcast has channels. This caused a lot of wars and stuff; but it also gave us some us some pretty cool stories. I’ve heard people say that classical mythology is choc-a-block with moral parables, cautionary tales and socio-political metaphors, whatever those things are.
The big joke was, even if the rulers knew all the god-stuff was a bunch of hooey, they operated under an imperative to keep that Truth under wraps. They believed that the rabble, deprived of the comfort and control offered by whatever pantheon or deity was currently in vogue, would implode mentally and civilly. The hive-mind of the Great Unwashed just can’t handle the truth, they believed. This would be really insulting if it were not true.
It's interesting to note that the Eastern philosopher/politician Confucius held a different view. He felt that art, propriety, literacy and clarity of language were the mayo that holds the club sandwich of society together:
"...if language is not correct ,than what is said is not what is meant, what ought to be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art deteriorate; if morals and art deteriorate, justice goes astray;if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion...there must be no arbitrariness in what is said . This matters above all else."
- Confucius , Anelects 13:3
(Hmmm...Confucius, were he alive, would probably hate my blog. This bums me out)
Anyway, that’s all a bunch of ancient history.
Or is it?