In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Polonius says to Laertes “To thine Own Self Be True”. John Adams argued that this was bad advice. “Thine Own Self” is likely to be not good enough.
Following Aristotelian philosophy, John Adams and George Washington before him, believed that ‘virtue’ was a goal that all citizens should aim to achieve. They argued that the way to improve personal virtue was to “strive to be a better version of oneself”. The discipline of contemplating what, “a better version of oneself” would mean, is a circuit breaker, and enables a correction of intemperate conduct and language. In any scenario, the discipline of self-reflection, is useful to achieve “a better version of oneself”. And, indeed, the penny drops.
The early American founding fathers followed the Aristotelion philosophy, that gave special place to the concept of ‘Happiness’. They called it ’the pursuit of Happiness’. The Greeks defined it as “The activity of the soul that is in perfect harmony with virtue”. The founding fathers absorbed the Greek concept of ‘happiness’ and included the John Locke prescriptions, to became something uniquely American. The pursuit of happiness was manifested in public virtue and was an aspirational goal. Being the “best version of oneself” is un-natural, but practice makes perfect. The United States of America (“USA”) thrived on such a prescription, until it stopped. What happened? Socialism found its way into the fabric of USA society. Once again, I will not insult the intelligence of this readership, suffice to say, we all know what happened. Recent years in the USA has been a catastrophe. Those of us who love the USA, are hopeful that it will recover.
Modern capitalism, ameliorated by a sophisticated constitution, with a strong Bill of Rights, is perfect for a first world country like the USA. An undereducated electorate, that cannot intellectually understand why the USA is a Republic with a Representative Government Constitution, are also not capable of understanding their own brilliant Constitution. An undereducated electorate will inevitably decline towards Socialism and Marxist-Socialism. It is vital that the James Madison prescription for Representative Government be taught and explained in primary schools. The principle of ‘the tyranny of the majority‘, as ameliorated for in Representative Government, is crucial to understand and appreciate. If Democracy is to be saved, the electorate must understand, appreciate and support the principles governing a Republic with a Representative Government.
Democracy and Representative Government is impractical and unsuitable for many countries around the world. USA Neocon philosophy, may be well-intentioned, but the insistence of implementation of democracy, in regions around the world where populations will not accept it, is harmful.
The USA must give itself a huge educational purgative. Socialism as a philosophy, must be cleansed from all USA educational curricula. The teaching of Socialism in preference to modern Capitalism, in a Republic with aRepresentative Government, is dangerous. Naturally a fair and balanced education system will include the concept of Socialism. But Socialism will be properly identified, and taught for what it is, a dangerous and failed ideology.
The advice “strive to be a better version of yourself” is desperately needed throughout the world.
By Will Keys