If only philosophers could become presidents and kings

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Given the mediocre quality of candidates for national leadership today, we are led to review the pages of history and hoped that, somehow, we could learn some nuggets of wisdom from the greatest social thinkers and political philosophers of all times, from Confucius to Cicero, Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, from Pope Leo XIII to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. And we came across with The Republic, written by the greatest student of Socrates, Plato, who later became the mentor of Aristotle. According to the philosophy of Plato, the role of all rulers, be they presidents, emperors, or kings, is to make sure that the people enjoy the ''good life," a life of rectitude, honor, justice, and peace.

Plato postulated that nobody could be and should be recognized a leader if he does not know the meaning of ''good life." He declared that knowing such a ''good life'' requires intellectual ability and knowledge of ethics and morality. He claimed that only philosophers have that kind of ability and knowledge. He, thus, proposed that political power should only be vested on philosophers. And Plato boldly predicted that until philosophers are made kings or elected presidents, nations and states can never rest from the evils that non-philosophers would expectedly concoct to assure their perpetuity in power.

Democracy in the hands of leaders who do not know the good life would degenerate into despotism. And kings and presidents would turn into despots and demagogues. The problem with our country today is that philosophers have no chance to win our brand of elections. And, to quote Shakespeare, in his masterpiece, Mark Anthony, men have lost their reason, and judgments are in the hands of brutish beasts. These beasts and despots are today's non-philosophers who are supposedly leading us, without knowing the meaning of the good life. Therefore, Plato's The Republic has no place in today's times and temperament.

The irony of our times is that the people reject those who have some knowledge of philosophy and must have some inkling into the good life. Thus, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. Even Jesus Christ was crucified and Dr. Jose Rizal was executed. Our own Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino was also killed. These philosophers were eliminated because only they really knew the true and unadulterated meaning of the good life. And only these few good men deserved to be called philosophers and worthy to become presidents, emperors, and kings.

The glaring irony of our milieu here in the Philippines today is that the electorate seems to ignore the only real philosopher among the candidates for president, the dragon butterfly lady Miriam Defensor-Santiago. The Filipinos are not prepared for the caliber of the lady philosopher from Iloilo. Or, better still, the Filipinos perhaps do not deserve Lady Miriam, and are not worthy to partake of the good life. Without the lady Miriam, we are left with a foundling whose qualifications are being questioned using the most intricate arguments of law. We are left with a Rambotito whose character has not only been shattered but pulverized. We are left with a ''teka teka'' indecisive, too cerebral but could not be a philosopher. And we are left with Digong whose tongue is as sharp as a scorpion's sting.

And so, like Crisostomo Ibarra who does not believe that Elias could be a leader because he was merely a filibuster, the people are turned into a flock without a shepherd. Ibarra had created the character of Pilosopo Tasyo, because in his own simple ways, that guy was a little philosopher. Only this village thinker could elevate the mantle of leadership into the realm of a good life. But the likes of capitan Tiago represented by the oligarchs today, and Padre Damaso exemplified by the reactionary institutions like the Church, have all conspired to slay the philosophers. The ruling class and their minions do not want the philosophers to become kings. Just like the scribes, Pharisees, and today's elite are afraid that the people can taste the really good life. Power to them is what matters most. But it really is not.

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