Continuing from post 132, since a discussion in another topic about teachers and politicians made me remember of this text, I thought it would be nice to make another translation from one of those amazing, imho, essays.
- I will be putting some extra/helpful words in italics and parenthesis, as well a small note afterwards.
- Words in parenthesis and not italics are actually in the original text, as such and in parenthesis
- Some quotes from ancient texts will be translated and the original text will be added after the text.
- Nothing is in bold in the original text. I am adding some to make it easier to read/focus.
Teachers of virtue
___This deep turmoil that our country is going through at the time and is, if analysed at depth, an ethical crisis of our total social organism/structure, brings to the mind of every stochastic person the meaning of the words Politics (art) and the Politician (the person) and urges them to investigate them. What is the purpose ( the “telos (end)” as the ancients would have called it), which the “reason of existence” of Politics, its actual meaning? And what program of life is being reflected by the intentions and actions of a Politician, an authentic, worthy of the word Politician?
___It is futile and worthless for someone to repeat the same things over and over again, by changing the words, please allow me to answer to these questions by inserting here two passages from my earlier studies:
___“Politics, since it is a mental calling, is a form of Pedagogy(education/morphosis). It belongs, therefore, in the sphere of Ethics. The “mask”(visage) of the Politician is the image of a power hungry individual or someone that fights (with weapons and cunning) for monetary(economic) gains. On its actual face however the Politician as a meaning coincides with the meaning of Pedagogy, of law creator, of leader of the masses. Power is the means and not the ends of the Politician. And a Politician’s work is it save the collective human efforts from damage(erosion) and expand the margins within which humans can actualise their ethical(moral) parsonality, free of inane or ill-conceived limitations.” (Excerpt from “The Ethical consciousness and its issues”)
___In times like ours, where the internal and external politics of the countries, both small and large, is being conducted in a way that makes it very hard (even in the eyes of the naive or the people who are not in the know) to hide under the mask of some pale ideas the orgy of greed that guides them, it is maybe scandalous for someone to support that Politics is a mental calling and, as such, it should have had educational character and ethical qualities. It would take a long historical recounting to explain how this calling/vocation which, in other countries and civilisations had a sacred aspect, (“divine” where once considered in the eyes of the people the “leaders” and “lawmakers”) has reached in this neo-european civilization to its current decripit state. If, however, Politics today usurps the ideas and represents personal interests, that does not mean that this has always been its function or that necessarily that is its intended meaning and purpose.
___The meaning of the usefulness of politics will become known to us not if we study those that are in politics by sense of self-promotion or profession, but by those who are in politics with full realisation of the responsibility and see this calling as an important charge left in their care and as a destiny that needs to be fulfilled. Fortunately examples like that are not scant … Let’s take, for example a person on the precipice between myth and history, Lycurgos; A person that is totally historical like Solon; A politician recorded in history by Thucidedis, Pericles of Athens or even the philosopher-politician of the Platonian Republic and the Platonic Laws. The politician as a lawmaker and governor/leader is there to educate the public and is, in its most integral sense, a teacher of ethics. This deeper meaning is the purpose of the political leadership. The power with which it is surrounded is the means, and not the end/purpose, as it happens in the politically immature or degenerate government system of cruel despotism. And if one of the uses of politics is to be there to balance, in some way, the conflicting interests and feelings that bring in contest the various members of society, that is being done in order to free the individual and collective will from the pressures and problems of their common needs and turn them upwards towards the actualisation of a higher, more humane, way of living. To save the human powers from the fricture that is brought about by the arrhythmias (difference in rhythm) of the various social relations; To prevent the erosion that is caused by arbitrariness or greed or immorality and to instead promote the institutions that will promote and enhance the indicidual consciousness; To enlarge the margins within which the public, free of prohibitions, will be able to express their personality, without inhibiting the expression of the personalities of others or putting barriers to the progress of society as a whole - that is its program. A program that is mainly educational, with a long-term planing that begins now, but its real goal is a better future. Education for the young, convincing for the mature or even pressure towards those that oppose progress, is its program. A program that requires great toil, sacrifice and danger. Always alert, steady and decisive, the politician will make this his life’s goal. It will not be a matter of getting drunk on power or greed or the fever of being the best that might help in such a super-human task. It is an overflow of the soul that is in this case the first cause and the final justification. A deep fiery passion to offer yourself to help, to enlighten, to save. Who will deny the ethical quality of those intentions and those actions?" (Excerpt from the book: “Ethics”)
___In essence this meaning of Politics and the Politician is hellenic. It is designed by the hellenic thinkers of Ionia and Megalis Elladas, it is conceived purely by Socrates and it is expressed in an inimmitable way by Plato and Aristotelis: "the rhetoric of trying to make the souls of the citizens asgood as possible and of striving to say what is best, whether the audience will ﬁnd it more pleasant or more unpleasant." is according to Plato the work of a politician/orator. This exactly is the goal, says Aristotelis, of the actual politician “αυτό που θέλει ο πολιτικός είναι να κάνει τους πολίτες αγαθούς και υπάκουους στους νόμους. Παράδειγμα έχουμε τους νομοθέτες των Κρητών και των Λακεδαιμονίων — και όσους άλλους υπήρξαν σαν κι αυτούς.” On Plato’s Gorgias we have a marvelous exchange (full of vigor and humor) of Socrates against Callicles who has recently entered politics with grand ambitions, but equally grand levity.
“Tell me now , my bright man” says Socrates at some point of the dialogue “since now you have begun dabbling in politics and you are inviting me and criticising me for not being involved in it, will you sit here with me and process this issue? And see: Has Callicles, so far, made any citizen better? Is there anyone, foreigner or citizen Athenean or slave or free who was once wicked, unjust, unethical and thoughtless, but has now become, due to Callicles, good and moral? Tell me, Callicles, if someone ever asks you this question, what will you answer? Which man, will you say, has become a better person by your ministrations? Do you hesitate to answer if there is such a result of yours from the time before you were a simple citizen, before you attempted to get into politics?”
-“You brag about your victory, Socrates” replied Callicles
-“No (continues Socrates), I am not asking the question to show you that I won, but because I trully want to know this: In which way do you think that politics should be conducted in our town. Now that you are into politics will your first and primary goal be for us the citizens to become better or will you be striving for some other goals?” (Gorgias 515 a-c)
___This retrospection to those thoughts and texts that I am presenting, I think you will agree that is far more than a simple philosophical venture. In this ridicule and shamelessness of these dire days for our country I think everyone feels the need to pose this question to our politicians: In the way that you are into politics, are you trully educators of the people, teachers of morals? With your example, what are you expecting to happen? Will the citizens of this country become better or worse? What have you taught them, not with your words, but with your actions? The pride of the free democratic citizen? The reverence for the moral values and the laws of the land? The consistency towards all you declare? The selflessness and wisdom?
___During the night-time, where you will be alone with yourself and you will be doing the review of the “work of the day”, what if inside you those questions arise with the voice of the timeless and eternally “annoying” Socrates: “Which citizen of this country or foreigner, became a better person that they were before, by following your lead and example?” What will you reply? Maybe that Politics has nothing to do with Ethics?
23 of September 1965,
E. P. Papanoutsos
Written for the newspaper “Ta nea” (The news). Published later in his book “Practical Philosophy”
Isn’t it amazing that it was writen back in 1965, eh? It seems that our countries and lives are always in a perpetual ethical and political crisis, which gives texts like that a timeless quality. I hope that you found it interesting.
The original Ancient Greek passages for those interested in linguistics:
“τὸ παρασκευάζειν ὅπως ὡς βέλτισται ἔσονται τῶν πολιτῶν αἱ ψυχαί, καὶ διαμάχεσθαι λέγοντα τὰ βέλτιστα, εἴτε ἡδίω εἴτε ἀηδέστερα ἔσται τοῖς ἀκούουσιν.” (Γοργίας 503Α)
“βούλεται γὰρ τοὺς πολίτας ἀγαθοὺς ποιεῖν καὶ τῶν νόμων ὑπηκόους. παράδειγμα δὲ τούτων ἔχομεν τοὺς Κρητῶν καὶ Λακεδαιμονίων νομοθέτας, καὶ εἴ τινες ἕτεροι τοιοῦτοι γεγένηνται” (Ηθικά Νικομάχεια Α13 )