Monday, March 16, 2009

Welcome Back, Socrates: Part 1

I have invited the famous Greek philosopher Socrates to speak to the issues of our day. Of course, Socrates will not make too many direct assertions, but his questions always create quite a stir. The transcript that followers was obtained from an anonymous source in the Administration. Remember, all Socrates does is ask questions. He was originally summoned to a conference with other great thinkers of the past to advise the Administration. After two days of listening to Epicureans and Stoics, Cynics and Peripatetics, Socrates asks for and receives the opportunity for a personal encounter with key leaders. To protect the guilty, the people speaking with Socrates will be called Sophist, in honor of the Socrates' politically-charged, unprincipled opponents fro the fifth century B.C.

SOPHIST: Well, Mr. Socrates, you have your private audience. We hope you appreciate the special accommodations we made for this moment. Do you have an opening statement or first question for the panel?

SOCRATES: Thank you, Chairman Sophist for your time. I do have a question. Why did you ask me to travel all this way through space and time only to listen to two days of debate?

SOPHIST: We do not appreciate your tone. It is an honor to be asked to the White House. We are in perilous times and we need sound advice. We are open to all ideas that will help the American people.

SOCRATES: I noticed that you recently won an election against very passionate opponents, yet none of them were invited to our meeting. Why not?

SOPHIST: Our opponents ideas represent the failed policies of the past. We are the vanguard of the future...

SOCRATES (interrupting): Excuse me, Chairman Sophist, but aren't you leaving their ideas out of the debate? If you are open to anything that is beneficial for all people, why are they absent?

SOPHIST: The philosophers gathered here now have presented a range of solutions. Some of them are your opponents. We do have diversity!

SOCRATES: Please help me understand this concept of diversity. In my day differences made a difference. What is diversity?

SOPHIST: We celebrate diversity. We honor different viewpoints, except for the failed ideas of the right-wing. Please, Mr. Socrates, let's get to some solutions to our current crises!

SOCRATES: Why are you in the current crises?

SOPHIST: That is self-evident, sir. Greedy, rapacious business leaders and the militaristic policies of the previous Administration created this current moment. Strong action is needed now or our future is in peril.

SOCRATES: So are all the problems of the present the result of the past eight years?

SOPHIST: Well, they really started with the Reagan Administration in the 1980s with trickle-down economics.

SOCRATES: So we need to look at history to find hope?

SOPHIST: Yes! In fact the 1930s teach us that only massive government action can keep people from starving.

SOCRATES: Are millions starving today?

SOPHIST: They will be if we do not do something. Socrates, we are asking you for answers. Your questions are not helping solve our problems.

SOCRATES: On the contrary, the unexamined life is not worth living. If you do not know when and why the problems started, how will your solutions prove any better that before?

SOPHIST: We are for hope and change! Our opponents have no compassion, no concern for the average American who is struggling.

SOCRATES: What or who is an "Average American"?

SOPHIST: We have been through this before! Average means a family of four making less than $75,000 a year.

SOCRATES: For two days I heard so many numbers. Forgive me if I need clarification. Do you want everyone to be average, regardless of abilities?

SOPHIST: We want everyone to share in America's prosperity.

SOCRATES: Please enlighten me. What does that prosperity look like?

SOPHIST: It is time for a break. we will resume shortly.

(Note to reader: I will serialize this exchange in three parts. As the meeting adjourned for coffee, my source overheard the Chair muttering, "Who does this guy think he is, dressed in a robe and sandals, lecturing us? Let's wrap this up, we have work to do. I have to get my amendments to the Stimulus IV Bill in before tomorrow. The Center for the Study of Progressive Thought has to be built in my district.")

Part II: Socrates asks, "What is freedom?"