Echos From Past ” Democracy & Plato’s Republic” By Kenan Malik

In the current turmoil, chaos and rise of Donald Trump, it is fascinating to go back and read the thoughts of Plato. It seems it was all predictable. f.sheikh

“Plato described five different types of societies, and ranked them according to how rational, successful and just each was. Four were kinds of city states that already existed in Greece – timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. The fifth was his own Republic, a society ruled by philosopher kings, and which Plato called an aristocracy. This was the best of societies, one in which ‘the desires of the inferior many are controlled by the wisdom and desires of the superior few’.

Next on Plato’s scale of the good society came timocracy, or military dictatorship. Sparta was the model (as indeed it was for the Republic itself). It was a bleak, austere society built upon military conquest and mass enslavement in which slavery allowed not for a life of luxury but for one of unremitting asceticism. Sparta demanded obedience and sacrifice from its citizens to sublimate their interests to those of the community. All manual work in Sparta was the lot of slaves and of helots – Greeks captured in battle and enchained as bonded labour – because all male Spartans were trained almost from birth to become professional soldiers. To us, Sparta may seem anything but an ideal society, but the discipline, selflessness and attachment to the ideals of the polis won Spartans the admiration not just of Plato but of most Ancient Greeks.

Timocrats, Plato believed, are ruled by the desire for honour, a passion more worthy than that of bodily desire, but less so than that of reason. If neither aristocracy nor timocracy was possible, then Plato considered oligarchy as the next best. The souls of oligarchs are dominated by an ignoble passion, the desire for material goods. They nevertheless have to show a degree of self-control to accumulate wealth. Then comes democracy, a society ruled by people dominated by lowly appetites for food, drink, sex and pleasure. It is a society without order or discipline. A democrat puts all ‘his pleasures on an equal footing’, ‘always surrendering rule over himself to which ever desire comes along, as if it were chosen by lot.’ Political equality inevitably leads to a coarseness of culture and an anything-goes morality, a claim that finds an echo among modern conservatives.

The only society worse than a democracy is a tyranny. This is not the opposite of democracy but is rather democracy fully played out, a society in which every form of behaviour, including murder and disrespect for law, becomes acceptable. The moral of the story is that ‘extreme freedom can’t be expected to lead to anything but a change to extreme slavery, whether for a private individual or for a city’. Tyranny enslaves not just the population but the tyrant too. A tyrant’s soul, Plato observes, must be ‘full of slavery and unfreedom, with the most decent parts enslaved and with a small part, the maddest and the most vicious, as their master.’ He is ‘like the city he rules’, full of ‘fear, convulsions and pains throughout his life’

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Muslims Seek New Burial Ground, and a Small Town Balks– The New York Times

The age of Trump promotes ugly bias to reach such depths that towns plot to deny Muslims even the right to bury their dead.
Nasik Elahi

Muslims Seek New Burial Ground, and a Small Town Balks
The New York Times

A proposal for a Muslim cemetery in Dudley, Mass., has drawn opposition, prompting charges of bigotry. Read the full story
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Iqbal’s New Muslim Man

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Noor Salik  and Nasik Elahi shared a post from DAWN.COM

Iqbal’s new Muslim man

It is s commentary by Dawn correspondent, Nadeem Paracha.  The editors encourrage  and invite the readership for their comments.

Is Saudi Arabia Scapegoat For The Blame Of Extremism In Muslim World?

“Is the world today a more divided, dangerous and violent place because of the cumulative effect of five decades of oil-financed proselytizing from the historical heart of the Muslim world? Or is Saudi Arabia, which has often supported Western-friendly autocrats over Islamists, merely a convenient scapegoat for extremism and terrorism with many complex causes — the United States’s own actions among them?

Those questions are deeply contentious, partly because of the contradictory impulses of the Saudi state.

In the realm of extremist Islam, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters,” said William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim,” he said, providing ideological fodder for violent jihadists.”

“Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian terrorism expert who has advised the United States government, said the most important effect of Saudi proselytizing might have been to slow the evolution of Islam, blocking its natural accommodation to a diverse and globalized world. “If there was going to be an Islamic reformation in the 20th century, the Saudis probably prevented it by pumping out literalism,” he said.

“Yet some scholars on Islam and extremism, including experts on radicalization in many countries, push back against the notion that Saudi Arabia bears predominant responsibility for the current wave of extremism and jihadist violence. They point to multiple sources for the rise and spread of Islamist terrorism, including repressive secular governments in the Middle East, local injustices and divisions, the hijacking of the internet for terrorist propaganda, and American interventions in the Muslim world from the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq. The 20th-century ideologues most influential with modern jihadists, like Sayyid Qutb of Egypt and Abul Ala Maududi of Pakistan, reached their extreme, anti-Western views without much Saudi input. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State despise Saudi rulers, whom they consider the worst of hypocrites.”

“Americans like to have someone to blame — a person, a political party or country,” said Robert S. Ford, a former United States ambassador to Syria and Algeria. “But it’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d be careful about blaming the Saudis.”

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posted by f.sheikh