Environmentalism 400 BC
By William Walter Kay
Decent word-pictures of environmentalism won’t be had from those embroiled in the coil over the latest eco-imbroglio. Viewed macroscopically, environmentalism is usurping state power. Entirely for self-aggrandizement, an oligarchic party is imposing a policy platform. Environmentalism isn’t about mutant tadpoles or melting icebergs. It’s about economic containment. It’s an oligarchy bringing uppity capitalists to heel. This is a repeat performance. The classic rendition was given at Athens, 400 BC.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Stage: Greece, 431 BC
The Protagonist: Athens' Democracy Movement
Climax: The Great Peloponnesian War
Exit Socrates Enter Plato
Epilogue: Fast Forward 24 Centuries to the Same Old Same Old
The Stage: Greece, 431 BC
The Peloponnese would be a 20,000 km2 island but for a narrow isthmus connecting it to mainland Greece. On the isthmus’ other side lies Attica: a triangular 2,500 km2 promontory. In 431 BC Attica and Peloponnese were home to a dozen city-states. Hundreds such micro-states were strewn across the eastern Mediteranean and Italian peninsula. Sparta controlled the largest area of any Peloponnesian state: 8,000 km2 of verdant valleys. Attica’s population of 350,000 was larger than any other city-state. Half Attica’s population was concentrated in and around Athens and half was dispersed in 140 villages and towns, the furthest, Marathon, being 40 km from Athens. With little jurisdictional distinction between town and country, inhabitants were referred to not as Attica residents but as “Athenians.”
The economy was mainly agrarian. Farming was mostly done with hand tools though larger spreads were worked with ox or ass drawn ploughs. Staple crops were wheat, barley, and vegetables. Wealthier regions transitioned to olive and grape cultivation. Athens was a food importer. Russian grain was essential to her economy.
Networks of three-metre-wide stone-paved roads were plied by pedestrians and beast-drawn carts, mostly for local trips. Lack of roads and lots of robbers confined long-distance land travel to caravans. Most trade and travel was by sea. Ships propelled by sail and oar power could cross the Mediterranean in a matter of days.
Land warfare, reflecting a strategy of capturing agricultural fields, centered on heavily-armoured infantry – hoplites. A few thousand hoplites would sweep through an enemy’s fields until countered by an opposing hoplite force. Hoplites were usually farm owners responsible for purchasing their own bronze shields, helmets, and breast-plates. Their weapons were two-metre-long iron spears used for thrusting, not throwing, and short iron swords for mosh-pit fighting. Cavalry membership carried prestige, but cavalries tended to be small and ineffectual save for harassing operations. Hoplites were often accompanied by an un-armoured auxiliary of poor citizens. Battles consisted of hoplite armies, assembled eight deep and as wide as possible, marching to collision.
Naval warfare centred on “triremes” – battleships with three banks of oars manned by 170 rowers and carrying an additional 30 specialized combatants and commanders. Combat consisted of ramming, boarding, but more often of bombardments with javelins, arrows, and incendiary devices.
Most city-states emerged from a regional Dark Age around 800 BC governed by primitive monarchies. By 600 BC many states became aristocratic as Kings deferred to councils of local land-owning clan chieftains. After 600 BC many aristocracies evolved into oligarchies as population and commercial growth spawned new wealth. Oligarchy meant government by the rich. In an aristocracy, old families were entitled to representation on governing councils as a matter of birthright independent of wealth. Oligarchic governance included the newly rich and those aristocratic families which remained rich but it excluded impoverished noble houses. Transition to oligarchy frequently entailed violent upheavals and coups by “tyrants” who attained near-monarchical authority by leading one faction of the contesting elites. Tyrants maintained power using mercenary goons and assassins. They seldom ruled for more than a few decades and rarely established lasting dynasties.
The Protagonist: Athens' Democracy Movement
Attica’s rich deposits of clay, marble, and silver made Athens a commercial hub. A suburb of Athens, the port town of Piraeus, housed a large shipyard with covered dry-docks and a sprawling barrio of immigrant craftsmen and merchants. The defensive Long Wall (constructed 457 BC despite oligarchic and Spartan opposition) surrounded both Athens and Piraeus. Ships built at Piraeus plied a trade from Russia to Africa to Britain. Athens imported all its timber.
Athens’ democratic constitution was the culmination of 200 years of reforms. Before Draco’s Code (621 BC) Athens was without written laws. This Code was revamped in 594 BC by Solon who, although a wealthy aristocrat, defended small-holders. He eliminated the debt servitude of the rural poor but did not redistribute land. He divided Athenians into four classes, designating rights and duties to each. Solon’s era was the rise of the oligarchy, conterminous with increases in slave ownership and mining output. Full transition to oligarchy occurred under the tyrant Peisistratus and his son who together ruled from 546 to 510 BC with the acquiescence of key noble families but primarily supported by a burgeoning middle class. This era saw advances in road construction, ship-building, mining, commerce, and colonization. After a blip of aristocrat-induced anarchy in 508 BC, Cleisthenes (of the Alchmonid dynasty) assumed leadership and continued modernizing governance. He divided Attica into ten geographical constituencies and extended representation to the poorer residents of the “demes” – villages.
Democracy’s rise was the Areopagus’ fall. Attic Kings ruled through councils of nobles who met in his castle. With the transition to aristocracy, this council morphed into a panel of high-born judge/legislators (Arkons) with their own building atop the Hill of Ares. With the emergence of oligarchy the Areopagus became 200-300 former Arkons functioning as both a court of appeal and executive think-tank. Solon created a rival and more broadly representative parallel governance entity: the “Council of 400.” Cleisthenes replaced this with a more effective “Council of 500” and broadened the definition of citizen. This Council transferred the powers of the Areopagus to a new citizen’s Assembly.
By 431 BC Athens was the most democratic polity yet seen. There were 30,000 citizens – free, Attica-born, adult males. Sovereignty was lodged in their Assembly which met in a hillside amphitheatre in central Athens. Quorum was 6,000. Decisions were made by majority vote. Any citizen could address the Assembly. An Assembly-elected Council determined the daily agenda; but if complaints were raised during an Assembly meeting that a matter was being neglected, Council placed this matter on the agenda of the next Assembly meeting. The business of government (tax collection, infrastructure spending) was carried out by dozens of ten-man boards often chosen by lot from an Assembly-vetted list. Board members served one year non-renewable terms. Laws were printed and placed on display. Any citizen could bring a lawsuit or a criminal prosecution provided they swore an oath to stick to the topic. Juries were appointed by the Assembly.
“Citizens” constituted only 10-15% of the population. Women and men under age 30 were excluded, as were immigrants and slaves. At the time other states were ruled by monarchs, tyrants, or at best oligarchic councils representing 1% of the population.
Most industry (pottery, metallurgy, carpentry, etc.) was carried on inside artisans’ homes with the help of family members and possibly a slave or a hired labourer. Athens was unique in the degree to which its production (shipbuilding, ironwork, even leatherwork and pottery) went on in designated buildings with up to 40 wage-labourers and/or slaves toiling under the supervision of foremen. These facilities were owned by master artisans who had brand-name reputations across the Mediterranean. They sold their wares in bulk to seafaring merchants.
Half Attica’s 100,000 slaves worked in mines and quarries. Silver mines in Attica’s hilly Laurium area employed 20,000. Individual tycoons leased scores of slaves to mine and quarry owners. Slaves also worked on galley ships and plantations. Slaves were convicts or more often foreign-purchased former prisoners of war.
Athens’ commercial, industrial, colonial, and democratic revolutions were mutually reinforcing. Athens could afford imported food. This stimulated shipbuilding and the founding of fort-colonies along the Dardanelles and Black Sea to protect access to Russian grain. Fort-colonies were also built to protect distant mines and lumber-camps. Access to cheap imported grain freed Athenian agriculturists to cultivate olives and grapes, which were processed into exportable oils and wines in turn requiring more ships and pottery. Athens’ chief export, pottery products, were sold in large volumes at low prices. Commercial development made Athens home to a plethora of immigrant merchants and wage-labourers. Athens had a booming hotel industry. Industrial-artisans, shipping magnates, mining moguls, and slave nabobs led the several thousand artisans, merchants, and farmers who formed the rank and file of the democracy movement. The new rich were a vanguard challenging the old aristocratic-oligarchy. The more democratic Athens became, the more its productive citizens steered infrastructure and foreign policy toward growth.
Economic growth increased cosmopolitanism and literacy. Medicine freed itself from the shackles of superstitious charlatanry to become more rational and empirical. The mid-400s also heralded the emergence of itinerant professors: Sophists. They were not organized nor did they share a doctrine. Their most common refrain was a pitch to make customers “successful.” Skills they imparted were mostly in the fields of oratory and logic. Sophists put on advertizing demos where they could amazingly present both sides of a single argument! Customers were young men of wealth, often scions of aristocratic families, seeking careers in politics or in the courts.
During the 400s the Greek world was threatened by an expanding Persian Empire. The most vulnerable Greek city-states, those along the eastern Mediteranean, were being extorted by the Persian King. They looked to Athens for protection because Athens was the richest Greek state, had the largest fleet, and was mother city for many of these colonies. These cities revolted against Persia in the 490s. Athens was supportive, albeit unsuccessfully. After crushing the revolt, Persia sent a punitive expedition to Attica.
Success in war required a large hoplite force. The industrial boom and the broadening of the political franchise in Athens expanded and empowered the middle social ranks. This was the “hoplite class.” Public funds became available for training and equipment. The result was a superior army. When the Persians entered Attica in 490 they were welcomed at Marathon by a massive, well-equipped, and spirited hoplite force attacking them “at a run.” The body count: Persians 6,400, Athenians 192.
Victory at Marathon engendered a push for: more democracy, an adventurist foreign policy, and an increase in silver mining. The hoplite-dominated Assembly spent the silver windfall on the navy. Two-hundred triremes were built by 480 BC, just in time to evacuate Athens in the face of an enormous Persian army. Later that year these triremes formed the bulk of the 350-ship armada that annihilated the Persian fleet after luring them into a narrow straight off the Isle of Samos. Naval expansion proved more democratizing than the hoplite revolution. Operating 200 triremes required 40,000 able-bodied men. This required participation from all citizens including the poor, who won greater representation, and many immigrants, who won citizenship. The navy became a bastion of democracy feared and loathed by the oligarchy.
In 478 BC, on Athens’ initiative, Greek states entered into an anti-Persian league. They agreed to pay annual dues in silver or triremes. The sacred island of Delos housed the treasury. Over the next generation as Athens boomed it led a democracy movement among league members, winning enthusiastic support from their middle classes and the enmity of their ruling cliques. In 454 BC the league’s treasury was moved from Delos to Athens and funds were increasingly used for Athenian aggrandizement. A 449 BC Athenian-Persian peace treaty ended the league’s raison d’être, causing many members to want out. In 440 BC, after Samos refused to pay its dues, it was subdued by an Athenian-led expedition.
Climax: The Great Peloponnesian War
Sparta remained a self-contained agrarian monarchy (actually a diarchy) with a stark divide separating its citizens, descendants of Dorian invaders, from natives who were subjugated into a primitive form of servitude: “helotage.” Helots outnumbered Spartans seven to one and were constantly rebelling. Facing a permanent crisis, Spartans organized their polity into a military formation. They ate in mess halls. While Sparta was unique, many states in the region remained agrarian and aristocratic, notably those on the northern plains of Thessaly.
The Archidamian War (431-421 BC), the Sicilian Disaster (415-413 BC), and the Decelean War (413-404 BC) were not merely wars between city-state alliances; they were political/ideological wars involving forty civil wars. The main contest was tribalist totalitarian Sparta versus the maritime trading empire of democratic Athens. Sparta championed oligarchy. Athens championed democracy.
From the Spartan perspective, Athens’ pushing of democracy and its bullying of weak states over dues and natural resources were a declaration of war. On the ground, war began when Spartan King Archidamus II led an invasion of Attica in 431 BC. The fleet of Sparta’s ally, Corinth, attacked the Athenian navy at this time.
The Athenians abandoned Attica, withdrawing behind the Long Wall and relying on their superior navy for provisions and counterattacks. While Athenians suffered two plagues and considerable loss of treasure, the peace treaty of 421 BC re-established the pre-war status quo. Spartan-led efforts to destroy the Athenian Empire were a resounding failure.
Much of the Athenian oligarchy, being bitterly anti-democratic, were sympathetic to Sparta. Their social clubs, “hetarai,” often had political functions. At the war’s outset many hetarai members took an oath: “We promise to be enemies of the common people and to mislead them.” (Another version of this oath, also from Aristotle’s Politics, reads: “I promise to be an enemy of the people, and to try my best to give them bad advice.”) They had ample opportunity to undermine the war effort as aristocrats traditionally held leadership positions in the military. A climate of suspicion enveloped war strategizing. When the cosmopolitan aristocrat Thucydides failed to prevent Sparta’s capture of a strategic mining colony in 424 BC, he was denounced by the Assembly and exiled. (Thucydides is our main information source on these wars, and their surrounding politics, much of which he witnessed first-hand as a guest of Spartan and Syracusan elites.)
Not long into the peace, a party led by Alcibiades agitated Athenians for a renewal of hostilities. The first fruit of this lobbying was a minor land battle on Peloponnese in 418 BC, which, like most of Alcibiades’ recommendations, went badly for Athens. Alcibiades was of the venerable, ultra-rich Alchmonid dynasty – long-time diplomatic proxies for Spartan royalty. Alcibiades financed his own trireme and entered seven chariots in the 416 BC Olympic Games. Exploiting a gush of celebrity following his winning Olympic gold, he immediately campaigned for a war against Syracuse – a democratic city-state on Sicily. Taking advantage of the limited intelligence Athenians had on foreign lands, Alcibiades convinced the Assembly that Syracuse was a weak state yet situated in a prime spot for policing central Mediterranean sea-routes. Syracuse was in fact a large, rich, well-fortified 300-year-old Corinthian colony with a minor empire of its own. Had the Athenians conquered Syracuse, it is unlikely they could have held out against Syracusan allies or the ever-restless native Sicilians. The invasion was a trap.
In 415 BC an armada of 135 mostly Athenian ships set out from Piraeus. Three-thousand silver talents were set aside for the expedition and three commanders appointed, Alcibiades in the lead. Days prior to the fleet’s departure, aristocratic gangs rampaged through Athens smashing statues of Hermes (the merchant god) and spreading fear of civil war. The fleet sailed before authorities determined who the culprits were. After Alcibiades was accused of orchestrating this and other outrages, a ship was dispatched to bring him back for trial. Rather than return to defend himself, he used his personal trireme to flee to Sparta where he was welcomed into their high command. He grew his hair long in the Spartan style and treated his hosts to diatribes against the “recognized foolishness of democracy.”
On Alcibiades’ recommendation, Sparta sent a force to defend Syracuse. With Syracuse bolstered by Corinthian triremes and Spartan hoplites, the Athenian-led siege foundered. Repeated reinforcements were required. The 1,200-horse Syracusan cavalry executed lethal harassing operations. Athenian efforts to build a wall around Syracuse were blocked by a rival wall. An exhausting “battle of the walls” lasted months. In 413 BC the Corinthian navy scored decisive victories over the Athenian navy in Syracuse Harbour, deploying a new tactic of head-on collisions using triremes with reinforced bows. The subsequently blockaded Athenian-led army foraged for food in the face of increasing harassment. Finally they attempted an orderly retreat but, after relentless javelin and arrow barrages, they surrendered. They were worked to death in quarries. The Sicilian Disaster cost the Athenian Empire 40,000 men and was a profound blow to Athens’ treasury, fleet, and reputation.
Then Sparta, with Persian support, went on the offensive. On Alcibiades’ advice, Sparta seized and fortified the hilltop Attic village Decelea in 413 BC. This village, 20 km from Athens, had a commanding view of the plain all the way to Piraeus. The Decelean fort was a key strategic asset enabling crippling raids throughout Attica for the next nine years.
When news of the Sicilian Disaster reached Athens, the oligarchy began coup plotting. They struck in 411 BC, but their “Regime of The Four Hundred” lasted only a year. Democracy was restored. Alcibiades gave impetus to the coup; but after clashing with The Four Hundred’s leaders, who smelled a tyrant, he bided time at his castle in Thessaly. The lead advocate of allowing Alcibiades back into Athens, Critias, later joined Alcibiades in Thessaly for further scheming. Critias was from one of Attica’s wealthiest aristocratic families. He authored a famous poem praising Sparta and he was implicated in both the smashing of the Hermes statues and The Four Hundred’s coup.
Alcibiades briefly repackaged himself as a democrat; and by appealing to Athenian sailors stationed at Samos, he won re-admission to Athens. He was again entrusted with a military command and participated in an Athenian naval victory; but after yet another suspicious debacle in 407 BC, he was roundly denounced and relieved of command. He fled to Persian territory.
Amazingly, Athens again rebuilt its fleet but the Persian-backed Spartan-led alliance proved implacable. The coup de gras was a naval calamity at Aegospotami in 405 BC. Spartans seized the port of Aegospotami to intercept Athenian grain imports. After failing to entice the Spartans into a sea battle, the Athenian fleet anchored too close to the enemy who then dashed across the harbour capturing 160 of 180 triremes. Athens was then starved into submission.
In 404 Spartans dropped anchor in Piraeus harbour. They ordered the destruction of the Long Wall and capped the Athenian fleet at 12 ships. A Spartan regiment took up residence in the Acropolis. As they had done to every conquered state, the Spartans imposed oligarchic governance on Athens. They demanded a return to the “ancestral constitution.” After some jockeying, Athenian state authority concentrated around “The Thirty” – members of aristocratic families led by Critias and Charmides.
The Thirty unleashed a terror. A militia of “whip-bearers” dragged democrats before them. Public executions became a daily routine. Many more were relieved of their assets and sent packing, wealthy immigrants being the favoured target. When The Thirty took their tribunal to Eleusis (just north of Athens), they executed 300 men in a day. Thousands fled Attica. Estimates of the terror’s fatalities range from 1,500 to Karl Popper’s: “almost a greater number of Athenians than the Spartan armies killed in the last ten years of the war,” i.e. several thousand.
Among those fleeing Attica were two wealthy pro-democracy hoplite generals. In 403 they returned with 70 commandos to seize a Spartan fort in north Attica for use as a rallying point. Months later, with a force of 1,000, they burst into Piraeus and began marshalling immigrants and labourers around the shipyard. The Thirty scrambled all hands and tore into Piraeus. After a day of furious street-fighting, the oligarchy were repulsed. Critias and Charmides were killed in action. The oligarchs resumed their terror in Athens but were soon engulfed in dissolution. By the time Spartan King Pausanias took personal command of the situation, democratic forces were in control. He made a treaty with them.
Exit Socrates Enter Plato
When normal legal conditions were restored in Athens, proceedings were brought against those who supported the enemy, had otherwise caused Athens’ defeat, or had participated in The Thirty’s crimes. The worst villains either fled or had been killed in combat. (Alcibiades was taken out by an unknown team of archers in front of his Persian mansion.) Among those brought to trial was the Sophist Socrates. He was guru for a party of oligarchic extremists including Critias, Charmides, and Alcibiades. Socrates was abnormally close to Alcibiades, was leading advisor to Charmides, and numbered Critias among his first disciples. After a public trial Socrates was given a choice of exile or death. The disgraced, impoverished, 70-something outcast chose the latter.
Plato was in the Socratic circle. Charmides was his mother’s brother and Critias was her first cousin. It was an abnormally close family. Plato’s father was a direct descendant of Attica’s last King. His family had a tradition of political activism. Plato was 13 when rioting young aristocrats smashed Athens’ Hermes statues. He was 17 during the first oligarchic coup and 24 during The Thirty’s terror. When democrats re-captured power, Plato, claiming Athens was no longer a place for virtuous men, fled with other Socratic disciples to Megara – a stalwart Spartan ally. He returned in 387 BC (age 41) to establish his own school at his estate just outside Athens’ re-built walls, near a grove called Academus.
Plato’s early writings are an effort to appease Athens’ democratic government. He opposes neither democracy nor individualism. He casts Socrates as a humble martyr to the free speech cause. Socrates makes for a rare free speech martyr given that neither Plato nor any other pupil of Socrates believed in free speech.
Socrates left no written record! There are three direct sources of information about him: Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Plato. In his comedy, The Clouds, playwright Aristophanes depicts Socrates as a typical Sophist: a corrupt crackpot pandering in paradoxes. Xenophon was an aristocratic cavalry officer and pupil of Socrates. Xenophon red-handedly participated in the massacre at Eleusis, fled justice, and was condemned in abstentia to permanent exile. He became a confidant of Spartan royalty and an active military campaigner against Athens. Many view Xenophon’s account of Socrates as a regurgitation of Plato’s writings. Xenophon’s Socrates is a mundane moralizing know-it-all wrapped in deifying accolades like “the very impersonation of human perfection.” Xenophon concedes Socrates’ crimes included anti-democratic agitation; something Plato glosses over. (Polycrates, in his The Prosecution of Socrates,written in 393 BC, describes Socrates as an anti-democratic zealot and treasonous villain.)
Nearly all the words attributed to Socrates are those of Plato. Most of Plato’s writing takes the format of a theatrical play – a prose style pioneered by Critias’ Conversations. Socrates is simply the lead character in Plato’s “plays.” By all accounts these are fictitious dialogues. Even his famous death of Socrates scene is not an eyewitness account. Plato was not present and wrote about it long after the fact. Every historian of Socratic philosophy speculates it is really Plato’s philosophy.
Plato’s Academy became involved in Syracusan politics. Plato understudy, Dion, supported by wealthy Academy pupils, seized power in Syracuse in 357 BC. Dion’s murderous pro-oligarchic tyranny ended when he was murdered by a fellow pupil. Nine of Plato’s pupils were tyrants of one city or another.
Plato’s later writings are explicitly anti-democratic. “The wise shall lead and rule, and the ignorant shall follow.” Individualism is castigated as contemptible selfishness. He blames democracy itself, mob rule, for murdering Socrates. For a virtuous man being forced to live in a democracy was like “fall(ing) among wild beasts, unwilling to share their misdeeds and unable to hold out singly against the savagery of all.” Critias and Charmides are glamorized and defended.
Plato subscribed to the organic theory of society. The social “body” was a conflicted organism seeking equilibrium between its rulers (and their loyal auxiliaries) and its ruled: money-grubbers and their slaves. The body was sick. Democracy was but a symptom. The root of the sickness was the dissolution of the ancient monarchical system wherein everyone knew their place. Greek history was an epic of degeneration beginning in a golden age of heredity kingship – the rule of the one, the best. The wise ruled, the courageous helped, and the masses toiled contentedly. This state degenerated into aristocracy – the rule of the best few. Internal divisions inherent in aristocracy led to democracy, then to the final state of decay – rule by demagogues pandering to the mob. His cosmology buttressed his sociology. He perceived a universal tendency of everything to drift away from its divine original form. Only trained philosophers could glimpse the original, ideal nature of things.
Plato’s program involved strengthening aristocrats’ solidarity and will to rule. Ruling class degeneration was reversible through eugenics and education. Their agenda should be: arrestallsocialchangeandreturn as far as possible to the monarchical state. Change came through two events: defeat by a foreign power or “Change in the constitution originates, without exception, in the ruling class itself, and only when this class itself becomes the seat of dissension.” This dissension was caused by the growth of industry, inter-state commerce, and colonization. Population growth also caused instability.
Plato’s ideal city-state was self-reliant and agrarian. It needed no harbour or merchant fleet. Entrepreneurialism would be suppressed. Common citizens would have no means for travel. Currency would consist of tokens having no intrinsic value. Only the state elite would possess precious metal. An astrology-based system of religious dogmas and rituals would be crafted to prevent social change. No variation in scripture or ritual would be tolerated. Atheists and doubters would be eliminated. The ideal government was an entirely unaccountable philosopher-king, but at minimum governance should be the preserve of entrenched experts drawn from the elders of the aristocracy.
Most Plato contemporaries considered monarchism barbaric. A century later the entire Greek world was governed by monarchs. This world descended into obscurity. Sparta became a tourist trap where wealthy Romans attended faux ancient rituals. Worse, Athens became a university town.
Plato’s Academy lasted 800 years, until Emperor Justinian wearied of its obstinate paganism. Plato’s obsession with divine triads is an antecedent of the Christian Holy Trinity. His preaching about “souls” and afterlife retribution lives on in Christianity. His semi-fictitious Socrates legend shares too many traits with the entirely fictitious Jesus of Nazareth myth. On the other hand, Plato’s ideas were not original but trendy, and many documents that for centuries formed Plato’s cherished canon are now considered forgeries. Plato offers the modern thinker nothing. He believed stars were gods and souls lived 10,000 years through multiple incarnations. His Timeaus with its phenom-who-created-the-god-who-created-the-gods reads like something written by L. Ron Hubbard on a bad acid trip.
Epilogue: Fast Forward 24 Centuries to the Same Old Same Old
While America has no aristocracy, it does have oligarchic dynasties whose wealth and political success give them star-power and entitlement to office: witness the recent wrenching of mass attention onto the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy. Ted’s nephew Robert Kennedy Jr. has been an environmental activist his entire life. He is senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defence Council and founder/president of the Waterkeeper Alliance – a litigious enviro-conglomerate that has spawned an additional 189 subordinate, site-specific enviro-NGOs. A new arrival to the eco-oligarchy is Henry Paulson II. It took 36 years at Goldman Sachs (the last ten as CEO) to thrust “Hank” into the plutosphere. In 2006 Hank became US Treasury Secretary, and in 2008 he was given wide discretion and immunity from conflict-of-interest inquiry to manage the $700 billion bailout-the-bankers Emergency Economic Stabilization Fund. His nickname is “King Henry.” His pass into the Star Chamber was his “passion for the environment.” While Goldman Sachs CEO, he brushed aside shareholder opposition to make a corporate donation of 2,800 km2 of land in Chile for use as a nature park. He gave $100 million of his own money to environmental activists and signed papers allocating his entire estate ($700 million) upon his death to an environmental fund. He was a board member of the Peregrine Fund and board chairman of the Nature Conservancy. While on the Peregrine Fund board he rubbed shoulders with media big-shots Lee M. Bass III and Roy E. Disney and with R. Beauregard Turner – son of media mogul-cum-land-magnate Ted Turner who in the 1990s donated $1 billion to the environmentalist/population control movement. Such largesse is dwarfed by the Rockefeller, Ford, and Pew dynasties, each of whom have, over the last 50 years,channelledbillionsofdollars into the Movement.
Baron Melchett’s (Peter Monds) inheritance of a chunk of Imperial Chemical Industries stock did not prevent his being executive director of Greenpeace UK for years; however, his dealings with public relations behemoth Burson Martseller was sufficiently embarrassing to compel the Baron to leave Greenpeace for greener pastures atop the Soil Association and Rambler’s Association. Former New Zealand Governor Lord Porritt’s son Jonathan was Green Party (UK) chairman in the 1970s and Friends of Earth (UK) director in the 1980s. While penning six best-selling enviro-books, Jonathan found time to chair Tony Blair’s omnibus Sustainable Development Commission and co-direct Prince Charles’ Business and Environment Programme. Porritt believes Britain’s population should be cut by half, and his patronage of the Optimum Population Trust advances this goal. Thirty-four-year-old Zachariah Goldsmith’s father was billionaire Sir James Goldsmith. His mother was the 8th Marquess of Londonderry’s daughter. Although he inherited his father’s affinity for financial secrecy and off-shore holdings, Zac’s asset portfolio, which includes land in Devon, has been valued at $500 million. Zac was publisher of Ecology magazine from the 1990s to 2007 when he stepped aside to become a Conservative Party environment critic. (He still chairs the magazine’s board.) Zac is a director of the JMG Foundation (endowed by his father) and a foundation of his own. Both funds bankroll enviro groups. Zac campaigns for, and invests in, the organic foods industry and is involved in the: Soil Association, National Garden Society, and Royal Parks Foundation. He led specific campaigns against shopping mall construction. His uncle, Sir Edward Goldsmith, founded both Ecology magazine and the Green Party UK (formerly the Ecology Party) and wrote, or co-wrote, several enviro-classics such as Blueprint for Survival and The Stable Society. The Goldsmiths are the Goldschmidts – a banking dynasty from Frankfurt prominent since the 1500s and long-time partners with, and relatives of, the Rothschilds. Thirty-one-year-old David Rothschild is the son of Sir Evelyn Rothschild – one of the wealthiest, best connected men on earth. David founded Adventure Ecology primarily to raise awareness about climate change. While resting at their palatial 16 km2 estate amidst the Rothschilds’ vast landholdings in Buckinghamshire, David authored The Living Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook to teach consumers how to reduce their ecological footprints. The book was the official companion piece to the Live Earth! pop music concert series. David helped edit Earth Matters: Encyclopedia of Ecology and wrote the forward for True Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do To Save the Planet. Sir Crispin Tickell, Sir John Haughton, Lord May, George Monbiot, Sir David Attenborough, and the recently de-incarnated multi-millionaire Lord Beaumont of Whitley (Green Party UK’s only parliamentarian, albeit unelected) all hail from the aristocratic oligarchy and/or their loyal auxiliary. None are richer nor greener than the Royal House of Windsor. Prince Charles has been an outspoken environmentalist for 40 years. In 1960 his father Philip co-founded the world’s largest conservation organization – World Wide Fund for Nature – and that is but a fraction of Philip’s contribution to the Cause.
Such people incontrovertibly form the nucleus of environmental movement. However, oligarchic leadership of environmentalism is a taboo topic. Cultural taboos, like out-houses, don’t just happen – people build them. Modern culture is a 1,000-storey construction project whose work crews are the governing boards of media conglomerates and major universities. A main arena of Movement struggle is the eco-oligarchy’s effort to populate these boards with their proxies.
Plato’s oligarchic authoritarianism has been reincarnated many times. Once called “fascism” it is now “environmentalism.” Despite enormous sums spent repackaging this endeavour as something new, it remains the same old ensemble of socioeconomic actors reading the same old script. Plato’s ideas can be seen in environmentalism’s utopian longing for a “steady-state” land-based and self-reliant economy and in its promotion of the “hundred-mile diet” where politically correct food consumers shop locally and organically. The anti-globalization pan-flash was an oligarchic sponsored anti-trade blitz. Plato’s theory of divine forms lives on in the Naturalist axiom that wilderness degenerates upon human contact. Restoring land to its original divine form is now a widely held, and utterly loony, political objective. Environmentalists’ affinity with paganism and spiritualism would have pleased Plato, as would their willingness to treasonously sacrifice their homelands in order to marginalize their domestic adversaries. Plato’s nostalgic dream appeals to denizens of the charmed circle yearning for a low-maintenance social order where one can enjoy the life of banquets above the turbulence always threatening to tip over the ambrosia buffet.
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