The Cancer of Tyranny

Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.” – Plato

The Greco-Roman tradition provided an educational algorithm that has never really been improved upon. In fact, every major movement of educational reform in the Western world began with a reassessment of the template crafted in classical antiquity and ended with a realization of how far off of that standard they had fallen.

The liberal arts tradition, that is, the course of study which was originally designed to set the stage for the development of virtuous, truth-seeking leaders capable of preserving liberty, is an effective prophylactic against the cancer of tyranny in a well-crafted democratic Republic. I say well-crafted because even the finest constitution risks circumvention by individuals whose minds are governed by vice.

Our remarkable constitution is a yolk-sac bequeathed by our forefathers. It has proven to be an effective bulwark against the historically difficult to resist gravitational pull of tyranny, but at a certain point it will no longer counterbalance those forces if there are insufficient numbers of citizen-leaders whose central concern is the pursuit of truth and whose overriding goal is the preservation of liberty.

Tyranny is a cancer in that it is a disease which starts within and manifests outward. The threat to liberty is typically framed as being external – be it the Visigoths or the Huns during the Roman Empire or the Soviets or terrorist networks like al Qaeda in our era – but the truth of the matter is that we are more at risk from forces at work inside the body than we are from factors beyond it. When it comes to the fall of civilizations, internal corruption loads the gun and external antagonists pull the trigger.

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6 Responses to The Cancer of Tyranny

  1. Isabelle says:

    That is so well put. It’s good to examine the origin and workings of civilization in our past as well as today. As they say, knowledge is power and when used rightly, can be a powerful learning tool.

  2. lady Leo says:

    I saw a documentary about Dolley Madison, it was worth the watch. An interesting side note was about her husband President James Madison during the war of 1812. He did nothing to try to silence those that didn’t agree with his approach during that war with the British. He realized it was the real test of our republic. He was profusely scorned as weak during the war but later exonerated. Now historians say it was the consummate deed that solidified the country as America, as at the time, it was still uncertain in the minds of the American people whether we could stay an independent country.
    The pattern is well worn. In times of outside threats (and when isn’t that the case) in the name of safety our individual rights are slowly compromised as the control is invested in government “for our own good”.

  3. Colin says:

    It is good to remember where our societal threats are actually coming from, and they’re not where the usual narrative says. This is one of the reasons why a liberal arts education is important to have. As is often said, if you don’t remember the historical lessons, you are doomed to repeat them. I think this is true and is happening right now in many ways, and to have both the historical and the philosophical knowledge and education to prevent the decline into tyranny is vital.

  4. David R says:

    Liberty is universally sought, it would seem, but seldom is the experience known for more than a fleeting moment. People seek liberation from others, from government, from restrictions of all sorts, but if liberty is seen as freedom from restriction, it seems inevitable that one person’s liberation will result in the restriction of others.

    Perhaps more importnatly than anything, we need to be liberated from the conviction that self-centered and self-serving attempts to produce freedom can only tighten the bonds of slavery in the end. Free people are those who will settle for nothing less than the truth in their own lives, regardless of the levels of restriction around them. Without this one recognition, we will always be subject to the seduction of all the various notions about liberty, and the fundamentla state will remain as it is. Not an attractive choice for me!

  5. Steve Ventola says:

    Thanks for bringing to remembrance our natural high minded character. Your words really bring coherence to the pursuit of truth and the preservation of liberty. Let there be an over abundant number of people so incined!

  6. Marianne Brandon says:

    I am really enjoying this series!

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