Clinton & Plato & Comic Books

By Jeremy Baillie

I know what you are thinking, "Not yet another article about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski." Well, not quite, but sort of. Geez, with an answer like that I kind of sound like Bill Clinton during his TV address to the United States people or perhaps I should say to the world. I am living in a small community in British Columbia, Canada. We get seven television stations and on the night Bill Clinton made his address he was on four of the stations. However, I digress.

What does Bill Clinton have to do with Plato? Well, some background first. When the entire Clinton-Lewinski scandal broke, I was of the opinion, "Its his life and I really couldn't care less about his sex life." There was, however, something nagging me from all those political science classes I have taken over the years. As I listened to the endless commentary on the whole affair, I began to remember what Plato had said in his book the Republic.

His perfect society would be split into three components. One component would be the ordinary folk. The second grouping in society would be the Guardians whose job it was to protect the society. Finally, at the top would be the Philosopher Kings. No, not the band. Plato's Philosopher Kings would be the wise, moral rulers of the society. Hmmm, MORAL, leaders.

if you have a political leader who in one area of his life is not moral then who is to say he is being moral in other areas of his life

You see Plato (who in fact was expounding and expanding upon Socrates) believed that a society's leader must be moral. Of course, the question who is to judge what is moral and what is not. Putting that question aside, the implication is that if you have a political leader who in one area of his life is not moral then who is to say he is being moral in other areas of his life. Few of us can live a life so compartmentalized that we could act with malice or immorality in one area but in another area be absolutely just and moral.

So basically, I'm still waffling between the two opinions. One part of me says, its Bill's life. However, another part of me agrees with Plato. If Bill is not being truthful in one area of his life who is to say he's being absolutely truthful elsewhere?

This got me thinking even more. I really hate that when that happens. I began to wonder what it is about today's society that allows Bill Clinton to cheat on his wife and still be so popular. Sorry, for all of you hoping for an answer, I don't have one. What I do have are some observations.

In Plato's time people loved the virtuous hero. That's how Achilles got the good name he has today. People in Plato's time loved their heroes to be the kind of guys that would help the old woman across the street to avoid the runaway chariots.

There are no more clear-cut heroes or bad guys. It's one big shade of gray.

Society today is much more complicated. Now where haven't we all heard that before? However, its true. We want our heroes to be a little more complicated. The best evidence for this is popular culture. One of the things I grew up doing was watching TV wrestling. Back then, the heroes were exceptionally good, and bad guys exceptionally bad. Now take a look at wrestling today. There are no more clear-cut heroes or bad guys. It's one big shade of gray.

Need an another example? Look at Superman. What is not popular culture if not Superman. Sales of the Superman comic were going down. The complaints were that he's too good, too boring, too strong. So what did DC comics do? They made Superman a little weaker, changed his costume and gave him a bit more of an edge. This explains why Batman has always been so popular. Batman has always walked through that world of gray where good guys need to get a little dirty to get the job done.

This is the key. We do not want our heroes to be Captain Whitebread anymore. We want our heroes, the people we look up to be complicated, flawed human beings like ourselves. The question is: where will this type of hero worship lead us?

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