Saturday, February 10, 2024

This, That, and the Other


This, That, and the Other

Peter Schultz


            Hobbes said: Life is the pursuit of power after power that ends only in death. Plato said: Only the dead have seen the end of war.


            Those are the same thought, only expressed differently. William Appleton Williams wrote a very good book, Empire as a Way of Life. But it could be retitled Politics as a Way of Life. Empire and politics both rest on expansion, on acquisition. All regimes want to expand their power. Monarchies, tyrants, aristocrats, oligarchs, democrats, even those favoring polity.


            Acquisition requires taking, i.e., taking from, that is from foreigners or from domestic rivals. The results are war and injustice, necessarily.


            What human activities or phenomena aren’t acquisitive? Or need not be acquisitive? Friendship, caring, love. The conventional British view of marriage, for example, was/is acquisitive, a way of maintaining or acquiring social status or economic status. What did Elizabeth learn about Darcy? That he wasn’t acquisitive, that he was caring, loving.  He didn’t merely want “a wife;” he wanted “a love.”


            “Romantic” movies: many are critiques of acquisitiveness. Labeling Austen “a romantic” downgrades her and obscures her work. Often said or thought about Austen: “Aren’t her novels ‘sweet?’ They’re certainly not ‘deep,’ right?”


            Aren’t the best novels often critiques of acquisitiveness?


            Socratic politics: a double turn inward, that is, away from empire and toward making your soul the best possible. That is, double turns away from acquisitiveness.


            Aristotle’s politics: his best, most wished for regime was small and located on a peninsula that could be defended by the building of beautiful walls. This means that defensiveness, not aggressiveness, is beautiful.

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