Monday, April 2, 2012

Review: Politics by Aristotle

First off, I’m not racist, why I start with that statement I will explain soon-I promise you that. Secondly, I am also not a sexist…why I had to state that is because of the book I read and in which you are reading my review of now: Politics, by Aristotle.
            Aristotle, at times, comes across as a bit of a bigot but an even greater sexist and isn’t anymore racist as my Greek uncle who worked and lived on the South Side of Chicago (a bit racist). Aristotle’s racism I would say it stems more from a feeling of nationalism in the Hellenic state (Greece). Aristotle even claimed at one point that the Hellenic people are the best governed and if they could form one state they would be able to rule the world (Aristotle was Alexander the Great’s tutor, so this statement could have been set in his mind as he tried to conquer the known world). Aristotle thought slavery as a possible and normal institution or trade for any state to have. Of course slavery now is thought more of a single race issue, when that is far from true (African Americans may have gained freedom but they are still mistreated and our cultures were segregated {still are a bit}, with one causing great degradation toward another) there is slavery even today in China, Africa, and Indonesia; and then there is the thin line between that and wage slavery. But I’m digressing, Aristotle thought any race could become a slave; which to me was a terrible way to argue that something like freedom and equality in a state is possible when a man can rule despotically over another, or over a woman.
            However, Aristotle makes many compelling observations and logical reasoning in how to govern a state and the many forms of governing. The editor of this edition of Aristotle’s Politics makes a statement I wholeheartedly agree on after reading this philosophical analysis of man being a political animal in it’s attempts to make “a community of free men”, Cora Newald states: “If everyone who votes or holds public office would read this book-what a better and saner world we would have! And what greater understanding of the society in which we live!”
            Aristotle isn’t that difficult to read-although I have been reading this edition for a year periodically-what I lost myself in, and what bored me somewhat, were his examples of tyrants, statesmen, and city states that have been nearly forgotten. But any reader can still draw similar conclusions to his theories and reasoning by taking examples from history and of their world today.
            Aristotle makes compelling deductive reasoning when discussing the ruling by one, a few, or all and which is best. Rule by one is great when that leader is a statesman and is virtuous striving for peace and equality for all in the state, an oligarchy is also great when furthest from an aristocracy (rule by a rich few) and possess a strong constitution, and democracy is the greatest though the worst when a constitution is good-which is something I would argue, especially in our world today where advancement in social media and technology allows people access to events, networks, organizations, url’s where one can vote on something one sees, and an access to another individual half way around the world. Of course people value private lives and private time, which I enjoy myself, the ones that would want everything public are the one’s looking to gain-to continue gaining wealth, property, etc. Freedom doesn’t mean doing whatever a person likes, but requires responsibility to live happily while living for a purpose that would benefit society. The one that finds the cure for all cancers, wouldn’t sell it, but provide it for society. A cure is not a BigMac, just like the vaccine for polio: share something with the “inter-connected whole that is in endless motion”. Something Aristotle viewed society as that modern sciences recently claimed as true.
            Also reader, if you are afraid of tyrants or unjust ruling, here is what Aristotle saw as the ways tyrannies can be preserved: “…for the preservation of a tyranny, in so far as this is possible; viz. that the tyrant should lop off those who are too high; he must put to death men of spirit; he must not allow common meals, clubs, education and the like; he must be upon his guard against anything which is likely to inspire either courage or confidence among his subjects; he must prohibit literary assemblies or other meetings for discussion, and he must take every means to prevent people from knowing one another (for acquaintance begets mutual confidence). Further, he must compel all persons staying in the city to appear in public and live at his gates; then he will know what they are doing: if they are always kept under, they will learn to be humble.”
Should any of these happen, feel free to say you are losing your freedom and right for freedom by a tyrant. Or better yet, read other books like Plato’s Republic or others to think and try to find an understanding of what it is to you to be a good and just citizen. Aristotle’s book Politics is something I would like to see in more ‘to read’ lists or even on more bedside tables than say…the Bible. For rather you believe or not, you cannot deny the book has brought controversy while Aristotle’s Politics is meant to be discussed if there is disagreement and understood that logical and virtuous people want to lead happy, virtuous and free lives. One can still read the Bible, just know one can find a way to be a good person through more ways than reading any book, and one of them is being with people; love or hate them, be with them so as to try-at least try!-to be virtuous and happy, to yourself and to others!
Next review: Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima.
Justin Vaisnor
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