[Essay Written For Political Theory]
By Kabeia Rineaki Brock Sutton Allen
Socrates’ Noble Lie seems to be willfully misunderstood by skeptics who would take the concept merely at its face (or named) value. In reality it is the packaging of what would later become known as Plato’s Theory of Forms but applied to mankind. This is a simple concept, positing that everything has a perfect, ideal form but it is instantly polarizing and stratifying. While it offends the modern sensibilities of fairness and equality, the gravity of the Ideal demands not only observation but obedience in its obtainal. To consider the possibility of better invites jealousy but to comprehend the sureness of perfection invokes obsession. And it is that obsession for the ideal that has driven every civilization to either great achievement or destruction, it always will and always has, far before Socrates even gave it a name. The Noble Lie is as much a deception as the Sun above us is and we will continue to pursue it, despite its danger, with varying degrees of success; some falling as Icarus and others soaring as Elon Musk will with his rocket-strapped Tesla.
While detractors may take issue with the stratification of society, their concerns can be approached with the seriousness of one dealing with a child unwilling to do something good yet uncomfortable. If the pursuit of the ideal did not drive societies, would not this world run rampant with anarchic utopias? Or is their extinction not testament enough to the necessity of the ideal? While social order may merely be unpleasant symptom the aforementioned child (read: closet anarchist) might prefer to ignore, the underlying process at work remains a inescapable truth- it is a result of the collective will toward a better life. All participants in a community benefit from mutual efforts of everyone striving for the ideal lives. Everyone sticks around with the crowd either because it makes them happy, they hope it might make them happy later, or the prospects outside of the community seem less happy. Even now “woke” would-be-individuals rally enmasse at the prospect of raining on the parade of this rat race. They thrill at the thought of universal dissatisfaction leading to the severing of social bonds. Fortunately while there will always be those may who rail at the civilization they are privileged to belong to, brief punctuations of unrest remain minor in comparison to the long sentences and paragraphs of order and civilization. And so it can be observed that the evidence against the Noble Lie and the raw truth of Plato’s Theory of Form (applied to society), remains in short supply.
Instead what remains is thousands of years of mankind refining itself in the kiln of civilization. While the proposal that the inhabitants of the Socrates’ Just City in Speech be indoctrinated with a rudimentary caste system based on their mettle (pun intended) has not necessarily panned out, the idea has had its residual effects. So though the naive might reassure themselves that they are not sorted by the metallic properties of their souls, we still tend to organize ourselves to some degree. For better or for worse, individuals in societies are subject throughout their life to a battery of tests that filter according to a hybrid of equally vague concepts of meritocracy and virtue. In more totalitarian structures utility and conformity is emphasized, in liberalized environments individuality and creativity is sought. What remains constant in every society is the shifting nature of these ideals. A totalitarian empire might overcome an individualist commune only to be overrun with wild barbarians. With each overlapping, conquering culture comes the rule of the new gods and new gods require new heroes.
So from the zeitgeist emerge great men to champion the gods, each the embodiment of the ideals required by the culture. These heroes are specialists capable of fulfilling the needs leading up to their respective ideal lives full of happiness. Sometimes a happy life merely required the ability to survive to the next day. This is the realm of the farmers and warriors. Later it might require the subtle navigation of the whims of your fellow man or the angry gods. Such was the market for the merchant or priestess. But eventually it would be left to those capable of planning for and raising up the next generation of citizens. And happiest to seize these responsibilities were the statesmen and intellectuals. The trichotomy of these needs and those who fulfilled them was recognized instinctually by Socrates, Plato, then later Maslow and Toffler. Socrates and Plato constantly clashed with their peers for teaching new gods, but in reality they were pursuing the distillation of their flawed deities into refined, perfected forms.
What was sought and continues to be sought in art and religion, as with everything produced by triarchic civilizations is the purest embodiment of these ideals. At its core is what Hegel described as the Thesis- the statements of the way things are, then the natural, opposite reaction to way things are (the Antithesis) and their combination producing the Synthesis, greater than both. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when simplified (as all unnecessarily complex things can and should be) reveals the triarchic natural needs of man as first physical survival, emotional desires, and then the intangible fulfillment of self-actualization. We might recognize the way we used to be in the Past and when comparing it to our Present hope to find direction when headed into the Future. So if current intelligentsia and political activists are to be believed the (near) future is female, that is to say the present is increasingly matrifocal. This is underscored by the current gearing of marketing to the higher spending demographic of women. When viewed through lens of the reactionary nature of mankind and Hegel’s proposal, the logic then follows that the past was male or patriarchal and the far (actual) future will be a synthesis of Man’s past, Woman’s present. Maybe a Future of Families or one just for Children. Either way, while it might be tempting to chalk all of this merely to duality of man, the trichotomy extends outside of the individual, it is inherently beyond.
And so we will continue to plunge headfirst toward our true destination, the ideal. Alvin Toffler found these ideals informed our major revolutions and subsequently the forms of power and political structures built to contain them. First physical needs are fulfilled by the Agricultural Revolution that gave birth to civilization with farming and warfare. Then emotional needs are tended to by the Industrial Revolution which brought about mercantilism, capitalism, and fiat currency. And finally we are starting to see the beginnings of the fruits of Internet Revolution fulfilling our true intangible potential, Maslow’s final rung in his Hierarchy of Needs. Internationally, the nationstates of the world struggle to keep up. While 3rd World Kingdoms and Empires with their conscripted armies still offensively expanded their power to in order to enforce their Rule of Sword, we’ve already seen the worst of them topple. And still 2nd World Unions and Democracies compel mercenaries to their defense with the Rule of Gold. But in the end, all of that will only continue to give birth to 1st World Adhocracies and Republics maintained by the Rule of Law, occasionally protected by the militias and special forces.
These are the true forces at work, veiled by the Noble Lie. They are not simple to comprehend at first but their pervasive nature has become the governing protocol since the first village was settled. The moment a unit of three or more people, maybe a family, formed- our fates were sealed. The Noble Lie was always nothing more than the polishing of the Savage Truth. The truth that as triarchic beings we will progress, that we might actually eventually become the gods, the ideals, that we have constantly refined. The truth that nostalgia and regret for the past are useless in the face of the terrifying prospect of our impending ascendance. If we wanted simple we should have stayed in the caves but it is too late for that now.We needed the Savage Truth of our nature to function but always sought the Noble Lie in order to forgive ourselves.