Steve suggested that the famous Greek sophistry of Pericles was apparently intentionally created to overturn the legacy of Solon of Athens, the great humanist reformer who was probably the first pioneer in history to put the principle of the general welfare on society's table.
"Solon was an able leader," said Steve. "He fought for the General Welfare Principle, even though this principle was but vaguely defined. He made it work to some degree. His position was that we are all human beings, with human needs, human feeling, and human desires and potentials. Solon respected them universally. But after he died the rich of society wanted more. They wanted it all. They wanted everybody's share, and they invented sophistry to get it. They didn't invent it by name, but they did so in practice. They concocted convenient lies to justify slavery, followed by 'colonial' warfare to increase the slavery. Whoever stood in the way didn't last very long. Out of this background erupted the infamous Peloponnesian Wars in which Athens 'achieved' its own doom."
"As far as I recall from studying history, it is said that the glory of classical Greece had reached its height under Pericles," Ross interrupted Steve. "The historians all tell us that Pericles was the most celebrated leader and statesman of the 5th Century BC that made Athens great. They say that Pericles opened the doors of the Athenian democracy to the ordinary citizen. They say he continued what Solon began, and he did more. Wasn't it Pericles that built the magnificent temples on the Acropolis, especially the Parthenon?"
"That's where the historians are wrong," said Steve. "Sure, Pericles built extraordinary structures, but he built them with essentially stolen money, and he didn't built them for the general welfare of the people. He built them to develop a sophistry that opened the gates to empire, the direct opposite of the general welfare principle. He developed a foundation for war. The new democracy of Athens was used to authorize that war. Pericles turned Athens into an empire and 'twisted' the ordinary citizens into supporting his empire-ambition by their own 'free will.' He gave the ordinary citizen a say in political life, which he could safely do, because he owned the public's consciousness that had already been imperialized. He owned it with his sophistry just as Goebbels did in Hitler's Germany. Sophistry had been already fully established as a powerful political tool, as far back in history as Pericles. Pericles had gone to war and built an empire with it, and continued to be elected for 30 years until he himself perished as the result of the war."
"The reality was far from glorious," said Ushi. "With the sophistry of the glory of empire the doom of Athens was assured. Yes, Pericles built the Parthenon and commissioned the statue of Athena. They were all great achievements, but they were built on a lye with funds obtained by fraud. They were built to illustrate the glory of the empire, which isn't rooted in anything glorious. They were built as a part of the sophistry that powered the great scam. In a very real way the artists and builders were literally building for their doom. The Parthenon now stands as a monument to this gigantic tragedy, a monument to decades of imperial war and to the destruction of a rich culture."
"Historically, the tragedy of Athens started with the need for a defensive league against the Persian raiders," interjected Steve. "Pericles took control of what had become a necessary defensive league and used his gained power to turn Athens into an empire. He did it with the sophistry of lies of the kind that people wanted to hear, though they were far from the truth. His lies had become beautiful 'songs,' Peter, but listen how the Parthenon stands in the background. Listen to Pericles' the sophist 'singing.'
He 'sang,' "Of all cities, Athens is greater than her fame. She needs no poet sing her praise since every land and every sea can furnish proof of her great enterprises and successes. Her enemies are never defeated or disgraced. They confess that she is worthy to rule them, and to the men who have fallen to death on her behalf, death is no evil."
Steve sighed. "This is the language of a master sophist, Peter, one who can tell you that the sky is green and the grass blue, or whatever you want to hear. Pericles told the Athenians that they were gods, and the rest of humanity scum. Hitler 'sang' the same tune, and so did every king, emperor, religious zealot, and fiery nationalist in history. They all sang Pericles' tunes, and society was inspired to love those tunes."
Steve pointed out that Pericles was elected and reelected for 30 years, Peter, on the wave of his singing those tunes, until he died in the plague that erupted when Athens was held under siege during his own war. During a siege in the war the surrounding population had found refuge within the city. Many died when the super-crowded city became the caldron for diseases. Eventually, Athens managed to break out from the siege, but it did not break free from the sophistry, and so the war continued.
"Athens' Achilles Heel was without a doubt her superior maritime power," Steve continued moments later. "The history books don't mention the fact that Athens' superior power had been deployed to commit suicide. Instead, historians praise her for her great fleet. Athens' superior fleet had created her empire, they say. Still, her superior force ultimately became her doom."
"Athens' maritime 'miracle' was the equivalent of America's XB-70 Valkyrie," I said to Steve. "The Valkyrie was America's great aviation miracle built for absolute superiority, powered by six engines for intercontinental Mach-3 high altitude bombing runs. This miracle plain nearly became our doom without it ever having been put into service. Being unbeatable in speed, it forced the Soviets to respond with surface to air missile technology. The replacement took 25 years to come into service. Till then, the ICBMs ruled the nuclear sky with 40,000 atom bombs being added in a furious missile race. I don't know how we managed not to blow each other up."
Steve nodded. "For Athens," he said, "her sophistry caused a delusion that gave rise to the sense of superiority which precipitated her doom. In less than three decades of war, the state of Athens, the cultural pearl Athena of the ancient Greek civilization, was ground into dust. The celebrated 'queen of Hellas' had became the terror of the Peloponnesian world, until it was defeated and turned into a subject ruled by Sparta. The principle of truth always somehow reasserts itself, doesn't it, Peter? No one stands above the simple truth that we are all human beings. In this truth are rooted all the riches of the universe and the peace that follows war. What folly causes us to deny that."
"The Parthenon might never have been built without the sophistry of the Athenian ruler's imperial dreaming," I suggested to Steve, "nor would the great statue of Athena have been created, and other works of art."
"But at what price were they created?" said Steve. "And who needs these monuments to sophistry, that celebrate the forces that have destroyed a civilization? Sure, the monuments are great works of art, ingenuity, architecture, dedication and craftsmanship. They are all of that, but they have a terrible stench attached to them that will never go away. One day America will look upon its own monuments in the same manner, like the XB-70 Valkyrie. It was an impressive achievement, both in aviation engineering and in the sophistry of empire building on the foundation of superior force. The XB-70 was a marvel. Luckily it became obsolete before we could set the world on fire with it and light the flame for America's doom. The missile race became scary enough. The song of unchallenged superiority, which America loves, is the song of Pericles that America became subjected to and sang with total resolve."
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