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  • That Was Genius Team

Episode 95 - A Risky Night at the Zoo Brothel (Tyrants Week)

Tom's Notes:

Failed despots/tyrants week

I’ve been preparing some mock adverts because nobody seems to want to advertise with us, so, I’m going to see if we can do some advertising agency type stuff on the side. First of all we need to show people what we can do.

When you're alone, and life is making you lonely

You can always go

To Barry’s biscuit emporium

When you've got worries, hobnobs and Garibaldis

Seems to help, I know

Barry’s biscuit emporium

Just scoff down some digestives or maybe a gooey cookie

Dip a chocolate finger in warm mug of coffee

How can you lose?

The shortbreads are butterier there

You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go to Barry’s Biscuit Emporium, things'll be great when you're

At Barry’s Biscuit Emporium, no finer place for sure

Barry’s Biscuit Emporium, biscuits are waiting for you

Last week I talked about a Frenchman who farted for a living. I went away from that recording feeling like I’d hit an all-time low in terms of historical content. Yes it was historical, but it was completely unrelated to anything of any historical significance, so there weren’t even brief digressions into areas of history that might make you sound intelligent in a pub.

I’m going to correct that this week. I’ve gone for something exceptionally historically significant and very well-known, but also something that I doubt many of our listeners will really know too much about.

I certainly didn’t, but when I read it, oh fuck me is it relevant to what is currently going on in the USA at the moment. Sam and I prefer not to be topical, largely for practical reasons, topical content doesn’t age too well does it? So if someone is listening to this on Mars in the year 2237 in their cyber-audio giggleplex colonic fusion booth, we are recording a few weeks after President Donald Trump encouraged his most extreme supporters to storm the Capitol building because he is an unscrupulous, egocentric, morally bankrupt wannabe despot who looks like Babe the pig after her career went down-hill, she had a mental breakdown and ended up selling her arsehole to Eton-educated British MPs in Soho back alleys.

I’m talking Plato’s Republic, and more specifically, Book 8, entitled ‘Imperfect Societies,’ and chapter 8, regarding Tyranny. Here Plato comments on the Tyrant. But before I begin referring directly to the source, let’s do some background work.

Interestingly, both the words ‘tyrant’ and ‘despot’ have ancient Greek origins, a very simple fact that says a lot about the remarkable influence of Ancient Greek political on modern politics.

It’s worth pointing out that the title ‘Republic’ given to Plato’s famous work is actually a rather unhelpful translation because the word has strong connotations to modern political entities. It’s more helpful to think of the Republic as being called ‘The State’, or ‘The Society’.

We can’t really talk about Plato and The Republic without talking about the Peloponnesian War first. Oddly, I don’t think we’ve ever talked about the Peloponnesian War in any of our almost 100 episodes. So, here goes. After the Persian invasions of the Greek mainland, so think the Battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans famously defended a narrow pass (with Thespians, Helots and Thebans it’s worth pointing out) and think Battle of Marathon and poor old Pheidippides and his horrendous jogger’s nipples. After the two failed invasions by the Persians, the Greeks decided that they were stronger together. In the next 40-50 years the Athenians became the dominant power in what was called the Delian League, named after their favourite celebrity chef.

The Ramsay Ring and the Band of Blumenthal were also considered. I would like to point out that this juncture that I think Gordon Ramsay is a moral mercenary willing to do anything to anyone to make money. He’s a twat. More on his type to follow.

So Athens led the Delian League and had the other member states pay them for their protection. This money went towards the Athenian navy. Those smelly old Spartans, you know, the boring, thick Spartans who enslaved the Helots, didn’t like the Athenians being so high and mighty, so they decided that war was the answer, a decision Edwin Starr would have objected to strongly, huh. So between 431BC and 404BC the Spartans and the Athenians were at war. It was a war that the Spartans eventually won.

So, let’s talk Plato, a chat up line I don’t recommend. Plato was born in 427BC, so very close to the start of the Peloponnesian War. Pericles, the famous Athenian statesmen, died a few years before. So we have the recent loss of a very successful leader in Pericles who had been at the forefront of Athenian politics for, I think about 30 years. We also have the war and all the stresses on society that come with it. This leads to political tension. Initially Democrats are dominant, then in 411BC, Athens becomes an Oligarchy ruled by the Council of 400. A year later this became the Government of the 5000. These revolutions came from the fact that many people resented the fact that so many people were allowed a say in how Athens was governed. Particularly people who were deemed to not really know much about politics. For example, Athens relied heavily on its navy so the oarsmen of the boats became citizens who were allowed to vote, this upset career politicians who thought that their opinions were weightier. Anyway, after a couple of years of trying to work out an Oligarchic system, Athens returned to democracy but with a horrible period of 6 years where the democrats took their revenge on the Oligarchs. The after defeat by the Spartans, a commission of 30 men was set up supposedly to create a new constitution, but these tyrants kept hold of power. Within a year, they were booted out violently and there was yet more witch hunting. Poor old Socrates, the first of the great Athenian philosophers was killed during this time. Plato was the second and Aristotle was the third (he became the personal tutor to Alexander the Great).

At this point, Plato was old enough to start getting involved in politics, but he was totally put off by what he’d seen. So, he began to form the view that he was better off becoming a philosopher and teacher, in the hope that he could create the leaders of tomorrow, men who were educated and enlightened. In fact, the Philosopher King is Plato’s ideal form of government. He tried to educate Dionysius II in Syracuse but this failed, Dionysius was probably too old. Another chap Dion ended up over throwing Dionysius and Plato witnessed this (he had been invited by Dion to educate Dionysius).

So to summarise, Plato had witnessed a lot of political upheaval, he was student of the great Socrates, he was smart and he became a philosopher (what philosophised about politics).

Right, I think I’ve talked enough around the topic, let’s see what Plato has to say about the Tyrant/Despot (and it fits in with the topic of failed despots because Plato doesn’t think a despot can succeed). The Republic is present as a dialogue by the way, so it’s a number of characters, including Socrates, chatting about stuff like who’s going to do the washing up, and who’s turn it is to empty the bins, and who’s head is the heaviest, and subsequently the most filled with knowledge.

Quote, “an excessive desire for liberty at the expense of everything else is what undermines democracy and leads to demand for tyranny.”

“A democratic society in its thirst for liberty may fall under the influence of bad leaders, who intoxicate it with excessive quantities of the neat spirit, and then, unless the authorities are very mild and give it a lot of liberty, it will curse them for oligarchs and punish them.”

It’s a free country, I should be allowed to shit in your biscuit tin. It’s a free country, I should be allowed to play football for Manchester United even though I’m shit at football. It’s a free country, I’m allowed to identify as a hedgehog and insist that you use a set of personal pronouns that I’ve made up. I becomes ‘poo’, my becomes ‘arse’, he/she becomes ‘Ming the merciless’, him/her becomes ‘’tortuously titillating tarantula testicles’.

“The teacher fears and panders to his pupils, who in turn despise their teachers and attendants, and the young as a whole imitate their elders, argue with them and set themselves up against them, while their elders try to avoid the reputation of being disagreeable or strict by aping the young and mixing with them on terms of easy good fellowship.”

I agree Plato, hierarchy! Respect for elders! In truth, I think blind obedience to anyone is terrible, but I do find it annoying when people with very little experience in an area talk like gobshites and try to dismiss the opinions of people who have decades of experience and lots of qualifications

Ooo, your leaders

In a democracy

Guess what?

They want popularity.

They give away too much liberty

They give it to you for you vote

(respect, just a little bit)

(just a little bit)


Keeps alive democracy


Don’t kill Socrates

(sock it to me, sock it to me

Sock it to me, sock it to me)

“The extreme popular liberty is reached in this kind of society when slaves – male and female – have the same liberty as their owners – not to mention the complete equality and liberty in the relations between the sexes.”

Fucking outrageous!

The next bit is Trump through and through. What follows in a democracy is populism, where certain leaders appeal to the masses, stirring up antipathy towards other leaders, telling the masses that these other leaders are trying to create an Oligarchy, or more specifically, take power away from the masses, the mob then revolts. Who does the mob turn to when the revolution has taken place? The man who stirred it all up in the first place.

Despot, despot, despot don't leave us

Ooh, please don't leave us all by ourselves

We've got this burning, burning, yearning feelin' for tyranny

Ooh, deep inside we think that you’ll save us

“The mob will do anything he tells them, and the temptation to shed a brother’s blood is too strong. He brings the usual unjust charges against him, takes him to court and murders him, thus destroying a human life, and getting an unholy taste of the blood of his fellows. Exiles, executions, hints of cancellations of debts and redistribution of land follows, till their instigator is inevitably and fatally bound either to be destroyed by his enemies, or to change from man to wolf and make himself tyrant.”

What is happening here

Something's going on that's not quite clear

Somebody turn on the lights, yeah

We're gonna have a purge

It's starting tonight

Oh, what a feeling

When there’s blood on the ceiling

The tyrant then becomes a target. So what does he do?

“Then follows is the notorious gambit which all tyrants produce at this stage in their career, the demand for a personal bodyguard to preserve their champion for the people.”

“he will in the first place continue to stir up war in order that people may continue to need a leader.”

War also allows the tyrant to run down the economy and make people so poor that they cannot be bothered with political action.

What comes next is the purge of internal enemies, “the reverse of a purge in the medical sense. For the doctor removes the poison and leaves the healthy elements in the body, while the tyrant does the opposite.”

Eventually, the masses who put the Tyrant in power become restless and see the Tyrant for who he is, this is when the Tyrant turns on them, persecuting them.

I’m currently eating a bourbon, drinking lemon and ginger tea reading Plato. Life is good.

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