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Ancient Greece, Plato and Us

May 26, 2024 | Conscious Leadership, Daily Trek

Ancient Greece, Plato and Us - Radical Trekking - Ayelet Baron

Ancient Greece, Plato and Us

Ancient Greece shines as a beacon of democracy and philosophy. Yet, Plato, a seminal philosopher, took issue with his city’s democratic leanings.

‘The Republic,’ written around 375 BCE, continues to be a key text for exploring ethics and governance. It also reveals lasting insights, like how democracy can breed ignorance and lead to tyranny.

Meanwhile, in ancient Greece, democracy operated directly. Citizens took an active role in decision-making. They managed trials themselves, without the need for professional judges or prosecutors.

Plato witnessed this firsthand and recoiled at its shortcomings. His mentor Socrates’ execution (for corrupting youth to think critically) by democratic process cemented his disdain. He believed that true leaders are philosophers—those in love with wisdom and truth, not swayed by popularity or superficial traits.

His allegory highlights that true navigators understand the stars and seas, not merely look the part. This, Plato argues, is how governance functions—led by the most knowledgeable, not the most popular.

Ancient Greece and Now

His insights resonate today as debates over immigration, citizenship, and leadership styles continue to stir political discourse. His predictions of democracy’s downfalls—hysteria and the eventual rise of tyranny—are echoed in historical shifts from democratic states to autocratic rule.

Aristotle, his student, recognized these flaws, advocating for a more practical and inclusive approach. He believed that a fair state benefits all its citizens, not just the intellectually elite. He supported a “mixed government” or “polity” that blends democracy and oligarchy. This government type would curb the extremes of each system and maintain stability and justice better than Plato’s strict hierarchical state.

And while today, most of us strive for simple lives, extremism pulls us in all directions. Until we address the root causes, the same unfortunate (his)stories will continue to repeat.

Despite the work we still need to do when it comes to governance, Plato’s work urges us to think and act. His caution against the dangers of ignorance and mass appeal remain.

As democracies worldwide face increasing challenges, Plato’s teachings introduce Socrates’ wisdom about the importance of young people mastering critical thinking—a vital skill for questioning everything. Maybe this fosters experimentation, helping us create what we truly need on a fresh canvas of opportunities.

“I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”—Socrates

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