Posted by: religionthink | February 27, 2011

Prometheus Bound: Justice Versus Tyranny

Prometheus Bound: Justice Verses Tyranny

In the last few weeks and months the world has seen movements towards justice and liberty in the middle East. I can not say if democracy is the answer to every solution, but citizens of certain nations are making hard decisions that are causing them to be chained to the rugged mountain of injustice, due to their love for citizen and country . Those few in the ruling party who, choosing virtue over vice, justice over injustice, and choose not to obey the tyrant pay dearly as Prometheus. Some are torchered, killed, or exiled from their homes and countries for breaking ranks with the tyrant.

“Hung here in chains, nailed ‘neath the open sky. Ha! Ha!

What echo, what odour floats by with no sound?

God-wafted or mortal or mingled its strain?

Comes there one to this world’s end, this mountain-girt ground,

To have sight of my torment? Or of what is he fain?

A God ye behold in bondage and pain,

The foe of Zeus and one at feud with all

The deities that find

Submissive entry to the tyrant’s hall;

His fault, too great a love of humankind.

Ah me! Ah me! what wafture nigh at hand,

As of great birds of prey, is this I hear?

The bright air fanned

Whistles and shrills with rapid beat of wings.

There cometh nought but to my spirit brings

Horror and fear.” -Prometheus Bound By Aeschylus

Watching the speech by Libya’s Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, Qaddafi’s son, I found just how far removed the tyrant can be from his people and nation. Justice is ignored to hold the power structure. Saif al-Islam Qaddafi talked for an extend period of time shaking his finger at the camera and talking in metaphoric terminology about “rivers of blood” and “enemies of the state”. When he himself, and the ruling party was the greatest offender. At this very time I had just finished Plato’s Republic once more and realized how relevant this excellent text from the past fit into our modern culture. Below is a section on what Socrates thought the formation of a tyrant was.

“He first takes their property, and when that falls, and pleasures are beginning to swarm in the hive of his soul, then he breaks into a house, or steals the garments of some nightly wayfarer; next he proceeds to clear a temple. Meanwhile the old opinions which he had when a child, and which gave judgment about good and evil, are overthrown by those others which have just been emancipated, and are now the bodyguard of love and share his empire.

These in his democratic days, when he was still subject to the laws and to his father, were only let loose in the dreams of sleep. But now that he is under the dominion of love, he becomes always and in waking reality what he was then very rarely and in a dream only; he will commit the foulest murder, or eat forbidden food, or be guilty of any other horrid act. Love is his tyrant, and lives lordly in him and lawlessly, and being himself a king, leads him on, as a tyrant leads a State, to the performance of any reckless deed by which he can maintain himself and the rabble of his associates, whether those whom evil communications have brought in from without, or those whom he himself has allowed to break loose within him by reason of a similar evil nature in himself. Have we not here a picture of his way of life?

Yes, indeed, he said.

And if there are only a few of them in the State, the rest of the people are well disposed, they go away and become the bodyguard or mercenary soldiers of some other tyrant who may probably want them for a war; and if there is no war, they stay at home and do many little pieces of mischief in the city.

What sort of mischief?

For example, they are the thieves, burglars, cutpurses, footpads, robbers of temples, man-stealers of the community; or if they are able to speak they turn informers, and bear false witness, and take bribes.

A small catalog of evils, even if the perpetrators of them are few in number.

Yes, I said; but small and great are comparative terms, and all these things, in the misery and evil which they inflict upon a State, do not come within a thousand miles of the tyrant; when this noxious class and their followers grow numerous and become conscious of their strength, assisted by the infatuation of the people, they choose from among themselves the one who has most of the tyrant in his own soul, and him they create their tyrant.

Yes, he said, and he will be the most fit to be a tyrant.  “-The Republic by Plato Book 9.

So to those who hang in chains for the highest forms of virtue and justice, there is no higher reason to be bound. Never learn to bear tyranny but constantly play the lover of virtue, justice, and man kind. But know such pursuits are comfort-less.

“Wherefore thy long watch shall be comfort-less,

Stretched on this rock, never to close an eye

Or bend a knee; and vainly shalt thou lift,

With groanings deep and lamentable cries,

Thy voice; for Zeus is hard to be entreated,

As new-born power is ever pitiless.” -Prometheus Bound By Aeschylus

“And thus, Glaucon, the tale has been saved and has not perished, and will save us if we are obedient to the word spoken; and we shall pass safely over the river of Forgetfulness and our soul will not be defiled. Wherefore my counsel is that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil. Thus shall we live dear to one another and to the gods, both while remaining here and when, like conquerors in the games who go round to gather gifts, we receive our reward. And it shall be well with us both in this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years which we have been describing.”

-The Republic by Plato Book 10

by A. D. Wayman

Links to the texts:

Prometheus Bound By Aeschylus:

The Republic by Plato:

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