Scource: Photo by Posted on Flickr.–
While listening to the lofty speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the floor of the United Nations discussing inequality , liberty, and justice I wondered if he knew what those terms were or like many a rhetorician was just reading the words off the page. While many of those to whom his speech was directed at quickly applauded the condemnation of the west and conspiracy theories; some of the hostility can be understood. For a country feeling boxed in feels it has no other choice but to resort to such tactics in order to survive. Painting his country as the victim almost drew sympathy and tugged at the emotions until I remembered the past elections that installed Ahmadinejad president once more and the deaths of the many protesters by the hands of the government. Like any tyrant, he will be allowed to remain as president until he has served his purpose for the clerics and army who installed him .
Upon hearing such a lofty speech I happen to think of the Dialogue of Plato, Menexenus, translated by Benjamin Jowett. “And if, as often happens, there are any foreigners who accompany me to the speech, I become suddenly conscious of having a sort of triumph over them, and they seem to experience a corresponding feeling of admiration at me, and at the greatness of the city, which appears to them, when they are under the influence of the speaker, more wonderful than ever. This consciousness of dignity lasts me more than three days, and not until the fourth or fifth day do I come to my senses and know where I am; in the meantime I have been living in the Islands of the Blest. Such is the art of our rhetoricians, and in such manner does the sound of their words keep ringing in my ears.”
So when I came back from the Islands of the Blest I also recalled Socrates long discourse in Plato’s Republic concerning the tyrant and this led me to think about the topic of justice. One may not completely know what justice is but we know what it is not. Nurturing her is a daily task and if one were to have the least amount of apathy or complacency she will leave promptly and become but a phantom. One will believe she is there, hold her hand and court her, but in the hours of need she will be as mist. One should protect lady Justice at all cost . When she is down one should fight fiercely for her, like the Greeks fought for the body of the beloved Patroclus. For if she is left on the field she will be stripped of her armor, be lost to the enemy, and be defiled. “The Arab Spring” is mounting in Ahmadinejad’s house. But the ransom for the body of Justice from the tyrant state will be costly.
Tyrants like Ahmadinejad will try to court Justice and make her promises to win her over. But this is only false promises and false hopes. The reply from Justice should be as the reply Gilgamesh gave to Ishtar in the Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet 6 “ See here now I will recite the list of your lovers.” Quite naturally the tyrant will be angered when rebuffed by Justice and will let his fury rage. And like the suffering servant that she is, Justice will stand and receive the blows. So each individual should cling to the robe of justice and court her for themselves before presenting her to the world. For if she is unknown to the individual how can the individual present her to the state?
“Follow me then, and I will lead you where you will be happy in life and after death, as the argument shows. And never mind if some one despises you as a fool, and insults you, if he has a mind; let him strike you, by Zeus, and do you be of good cheer, and do not mind the insulting blow, for you will never come to any harm in the practice of virtue, if you are a really good and true man. When we have practiced virtue together, we will apply ourselves to politics, if that seems desirable, or we will advise about whatever else may seem good to us, for we shall be better able to judge then. In our present condition we ought not to give ourselves airs, for even on the most important subjects we are always changing our minds; so utterly stupid are we! Let us, then, take the argument as our guide, which has revealed to us that the best way of life is to practice justice and every virtue in life and death. This way let us go; and in this exhort all men to follow, not in the way to which you trust and in which you exhort me to follow you; for that way, Callicles, is nothing worth.” -Gorgias, by Plato translated by Benjamin Jowett