01.04.2003 || 00h35

circles

In Picture This, Joseph Heller recounts the goings-on at Socrates's trial. Some of what he says is very telling of the generally deficient Athenian style of democracy.

'Under the new constitution of the free city of democratic Athens, the rights to freedom of speech and thought were sacred, unlimited, and irrevocable; and people could be ruined or put to death for exercising them.

"Shall no one in our democratic free society ever be allowed to hold an unorthodox view?" Socrates inquired of Anytus during the pretrial inquisition.
"Of course, " the answer came back. "There is full freedom of expression. An unorthodox view can be expressed, provided it is an orthodox unorthodoxy. One can be pro-democrat or pro-oligarchy or pro-tyranny, but nothing else, and nothing in between. One has to be pro-something. One can be pro-war or pro-peace, but nothing else, and there must never be any discussion to confuse these simple issues."
He spoke to soft applause and murmurs of approval from colleagues on the panel. "You yourself have said, Socrates, or at least it is so reported, that you would eject or censor Homer, Hesiod, and other poets, and musicians and other artists in your ideal republic because of the harmful effects such people can produce on the emotions, thoughts, and resolution of the people."
"Until we have my ideal republic," said Socrates, "I would keep them."
"What we will not allow," said Anytus frankly, "is cynicism, skepticism, secrecy, atheism, conspiracy, abortion, opposition, subterfuge, deceit, and false pleading."'

The path of history seems ever more cyclical. Every day, every day.





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