I am certainly no classical scholar, I leave that to men like Victor Davis Hansen whom I greatly admire. But I have read some of the ancients. And truth be known, they were prescient in their thoughts. And eternal in their wisdom. We simply haven’t, and don’t, pay attention. So the following offers a few of their observations from thousands of years ago which are indeed relevant today.
We are hardly the first to note the morass brought about by those whose who control the Ship of State. In On The Republic (Book 5), Cicero wrote:
“Thus, before our own time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their forefathers.” He goes on in sorrow to say, “For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the form of the Commonwealth, but have long since lost its substance.” A 1928 translation by C. W. Keyes.
Now many individuals who put power, ego and money above good abound in those who govern us. I’d like to see many in both Parties give up their place for the sake of the Republic, as the “old guard and older men” have seemingly gone the way of indifference if not outright avoidance. As an example, due to Biden’s current ineptitude, we are losing allies the world over. Under his “watch” we have forsaken sovereignty. We are engaged in a protracted, strategic war with China and the Russian Federation. And I ask, has Ukraine become a Proxy for the U.S. and Western Principals? With many questions and seemingly no answers we seem to flounder. Certainly we have seen these days before and I remain optimistic that the pendulum will swing back, hopefully soon. And sharply.
But until it does, who is to maintain watch on those who guard our Ship? The Founders tried through the Separation of Powers. But as we’ve seen, these branches and their agencies often cannot govern themselves. So perhaps it falls to the Press, the Fourth Estate? The Hutchins Commission (1940) set out to answer if freedom of the press was in danger. Their answer was “Yes.” And arguably, due to misuse by those individuals who controlled the machinery. It reminds me of the RCA dog listening intently to a windup phonograph. Aptly titled, “His Master’s Voice,” it is now the partisan Press and bullhorn politicians whose voices burst forth from that metal cylinder. But unlike Nipper, they are often not the symbol of quality and excellence….and truth.
“Open your eyelids, will you all, and let your brains leave sleep behind.” Quintas Ennius (239 B.C.-139 B.C.) Considered the Father of Roman Poetry.
Who then will act as watcher, protector, defender of the Republic? The Greek philosopher Xenocrates (died 314 BCE), a student of Plato, when asked what his disciples learned, is said to have replied, “To do of their own accord what they are compelled to do by law.” But remarkable men such as these seem few and far between. And without them have we have allowed the loss of “substance” of our Republic?
Can we not agree on what is good for the nation? Can we say that America is better off through the policies of this and previous Administrations? As well as those of previous Congresses? Do we yield to those who scream loudest? Is money the great arbiter of policy? Is the world a better place since America has elected to depart the world stage at a stunning rate? Is it wise to throw our gates open to those who do not deserve our succor? The answer comes from the Ancients. No.
And paraphrasing Quintus Ennius (239 B.C – 139 B.C.), the answer will not be positive until we stop looking at the sky while disregarding what is at our feet. Listen to the 1965 warning from Paul Harvey, “If I Were the Devil.” And hope for “eminent men” to quickly return.
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