You might be surprised to learn that you are Greek, in the first instance; that you are Roman, a child of Lucius Junius Brutus; that you are Catholic, even if atheist; that you ascend from victories in the Art of War; that you, fellow Americans, are Hellenocentric, even if citizens of the One imaginary World. I mean to say, Americans, you are Classive.
Should I have the opportunity of a second life, I might use time to outline a Taxonomy of Ideas, a Genealogy of Concepts, and put the whole into a brief essay, or single line of axiom. Yet, likely, I shall not be granted the gift of a methuselah, living to die that one-week before the centuries bourne culmination of the Biden Orwell Administration. So, what’s to do? Over the brief course of these next few paragraph, let us essay along some few particulars of paideia, of American, civil education, that here we might come to know the universal, in specific.
That question, always of moment, “Can virtue be taught”, was posed, in its way, in Meno by Plato’s literary invention, “Socrates” … and this, our immediate concern.
Perhaps you wonder, “can virtue be taught” for, surely, you have attempted to teach virtue, as child to another child, mother to child, father to family, spirit to life, or in whichever relation you find yourself in union to others. Then, as I have no need of telling you, “If virtue cannot be taught, no thing is worth the knowing, not even the soul.” And so, the question remains, to us as to Socrates, “Can virtue be taught”.
In answer, “Look to that brief time of Athens, look to ‘Paideia’, guidance in intellectual, ethical, physical refinement; look there and see within time’s compass a percentage of persons highest in rank of all the world, in all discipline, discipline which, you might like to know, were invented by discipline in Paideia.” Truly, you, fellow American, are inhabited by the persons made excellent in Paideia, Plato, Aeschylus, Herodotus, Pericles, Hippocrates, Alexander, et alia to the hundreds, the models of your Civilized being.
Did I say, “American”? Yes, we all are American, coterminous, even the Chinese resisting are thought-by-thought, concept-by-concept, idea-by-idea becoming American, though American of the unhealthy strain, Progressive, oppressive, rather Spartan, subjects made in “Agoge”.
“What is, ‘Agoge’.” you ask. Agoge is the training, the hardening by tolerance of pain to preparation of use by the State. Agoge is enforced conformity, the subservience of the person to the Politic. As you know, Spartans were compelled to fight among themselves to determine which the strongest. The strongest ruled. Agoge is the system of training by propaganda common in public schools; a training to corporate use, to politic employment; the brutality of Agoge is reserved to the pummeling of those in virtuous disagreement, a disagreement with the strongest.
Parenthetically: Yes, my fellow, Patriotic Americans, already you have lost, because you thought pictures, stories, statues, the architecture of your courthouse, unimportant. Goofballs: the Classive courthouse creates Classive citizens; the Progressive courthouse, Progressive citizens: McConnell, Bush, Dole, Semes, C. Franck, et alia, the knuckleheads who lost us the world.
Alright then, let us to Solon, the poet lawmaker, and statesman. How best to say: Solon, by example, more than by legislation, established the system of decorum in citizens, Piadeia, the education of youth by encouragement toward standards of virtue (should mention—mythically, perhaps actually, Lycurgus invented our Agoge). The question of this essay, “Can virtue be taught” concerns, directly, immediately, the education of citizens.
I am put in mind of the elegiac poets, Anacreon, Simonides and the rest who seeded refinement in man; of the Athenian generals discussing finer points of literary criticism at the eve of decisive battle with Spartan enemies; of Washington having Cato read to troops for instruction in stoic virtue when bootless at frigid Valley Forge. I am reminded that Republicans, those incorporated to political entity, the diminished children of Solon, Pericles, Washington, fund Progressive policy, beggar, should I say, “bugger”, Classive art. The nitwits have lost, and do not know why. Education, you ninnies; “Paideia”, Classive … not Progressive.
This internet, through which we share thoughts, is born of Paideia, of liberties that virtues allow, never mind that those who control this internet, this bookish essay, brutally practice Agoge, pummeling to death those with whom they disagree, just now by erasing words, just soon, by erasing persons not in conformity. Do not be surprised, the process has been accumulating for some time, progressively, and you dunderheads have not noticed, have ignored we who gave warning. For illustration of the point, in a moment, search “playwright competitions”, “screenplay competitions”, “public art competitions”, competitions in any arts and you shall find all to be Progressive. You will not find any competition open to the Classive; you will not find the first conservative penny invested in the Battle of Ideas. Dimwit Republicans, you do not know where the battle was, why you lost the war, why the Progressive owns the ground.
As we were discussing “Virtue being taught” – just now by spanking – we were discussing “Merit”, the achievement of Virtue. Lately, you will have noticed that the Meritocracy is descending, that Superficiality is ascending in all which is public life. We shall not say “Civil” life, there is little civility in the ascending, superficial Progressive. Why the diminishment of civility: civility is formed by rewarding meritorious character in citizens, in each citizen; civility is destroyed in the favoring of superficial characteristics of peopled groups.
There is no intrinsic merit of group in shade or sex or creed (well, the Christian inculcates good in Republics more than does Islam, Buddhism, Communism, Shintoism and the rest); superficial characteristics are insignificant, unworthy of consideration in reward of virtue. Consider: during that artificial construction of time we label XVIII Century, the hunchback dwarf, the poet Pope became great in his art, was elevated to the Pantheon of Literature by accomplishment: in this moment, these days, the hunchback dwarf nobodaddy is by disaccomplishment elevated to fellowship in the Academy because she is the first dwarfing hunchback with a literature degree from Wellesley … the more mediocre, the less excellent the poetry, the better; the less meritocracy, the better for the Progressive.
You will notice in any, in every Progressive group portrait (academic, political, and corporate), each shade, all three sexes, diversity in hairdo, facedo, clothesdo (though not diversity of opinion); you will notice a crayon-box conformity in each snuggling picture, in each stacked row of rectangled snapshots. Why? Because the Progressive Agoge, Spartan-like, commands superficial subservience, punishes individual merit. Tell me, friend, is that, “American”?
We, American Hellens, have ascended in beauty, in goodness, in truth by the concept of personality in soul. We Classives know the soul is improved by the achievement of excellence, by the practice of virtue, by reverent acts. The Progressive denies the existence of soul. We Classives have a dual concept of Human Nature, “Flesh & Spirit”. The Progressives hold a singular concept, “Body”. The Classive is ascendant, divine; the Progressive (as in Darwin and Spencer) is descendant, material. As you will see, as you will recognize, the material is not improved by Beauty or Goodness, or Truth. The material is a thing of use to be formed for a purpose, as by a State, as by a corporation, as by a machine, for a political, corporate, or utilitarian purpose.
Friend, you know … deep in your soul, yes, you know you have a soul, it speaks with you now, weighs the truth of words … know that you are unique, not utilitarian material of use to the corporate, politic machine. You know that your soul yearns for divinity, you feel the warmth, the desire for acquaintance with the best that has been thought, done, said: id est, for Paideia, the encouragement by example to virtue. The Classive purpose is to teach virtue, by “teaching”, “the encouragement to virtue”, each unique, everlasting soul is improved, brought closer to union with the Divine. For what other purpose teach, if not to help the personed soul achieve virtue, arete. Arete is the Classive, the “achieved virtue”. And that is it. The other purpose of classrooms, the Progressive purpose, is to train, to pawn, to serve, to subserviate the person to the power of the powerful.
Well now. Now you know. Little good it will do you. Already you have lost. The Biden Orwell Administration will progress to that perfect state, functional, material, powerful, destructive of individual merit, and, well, et cetera.
Here, as best able, as best in essay, we have perused the personal, the objective, the abstract of education, of Paideia. Little more need be considered. Good God, I am put in mind of National Public Radio’s smarmy voices, sly tunes. Quick! Too the showers. Caldarium first, rapidly on to the frigidarium. Right. Where were we … yes, the penultimate consideration. The Optimates and the Populares (and to the essential error of Gibbon, if only we had space, and time).
You might remember the Gracchi, Marius, Sulla, Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus and their century long family disagreement that murdered the Republic, forever altered our shape. If you do not remember, this quick scan shall serve:
The Gracchi, Tribunes of the Plebs (ordinary people, middle classes, you-and-me) were murdered by the Optimates (the “best ones”, the aristocrats, you know, those selected by shade of flesh, or by family attachment, to a Harvard, Yale, et alibi; the patricians) for proposal of social reform, limiting the power of moneyed interests, et cetera; the Social War, the civil wars, those bloody feast of Marius’ Populares and Sulla’s Optimates; the calculated knife to Julius’ groin, “Et tu Brute” who blade slashed the source of his begetting; the exile of the grasping Optimate faction; the triumph of Augustus, the Empire, the death of free speech, then of literature, then of excellence in arts, then of all we might name, “Civil” … then, as now, the strongest-man of the strongest Empire is model for the Optimates, for the grasping Progressives who lust for power (never-mind that the strongest-man is likely a black female hunchback transsexual … not opposed to black female hunchback transsexuals, have rather liked the black female hunchback transsexuals whom I have met, et cetera).
Our model, the “kalos kagathos”, “the gentleman, the lady”, the Jesus (though Son-of-God, truly, a gentleman, likely, more Athenian than Judean in education), Socrates, even Siddhartha, the Buddha, the Prince of Kapilavastu (a gentleman, of sorts), not the mad, bloody, violent Mouhamed (he, no gentleman, a child rapist), Pericles, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lorenzo, you know the type:
The Kalokagathia: those guided into virtue by Paideia … into arete, “excellence” by example of the best that has been Thought, Done, Said … into eudaimonia, a humane flourishing, a happiness allowed by the achievement of virtue. Kalokagathia: those who exercise Beauty, Goodness, Truth, who improve their souls, who reach in this life toward the Divine, who — I like to think — are, in this life, or some other life, or the next, rewarded by nearness to God, eternal.
You, friend, might achieve this reward … if you want it … hope you do. As for me, well, I too much love the pleasures of God-given flesh. Expect I shall, until life of me grows weary. I am lusty, as the girls will admit: The Greek in me lusts for Excellence, the Roman in me lusts for Civic Virtue, the Christian in me lusts for the Divine, the American in me lusts for Liberty. All the Classive parts of me are lusty for battle with the enemy, the Progressive, that greedy, crude, brutal, soul-sucking leech of excellence, of civility, of divinity, of liberty and all other virtues that come to mind.
Am I harsh. No. Look about you. See, recognize the Progressive by its acts, not so much by its surface. I was advised by Grace Boggs to fit-in, be clean-cut, when studying with she and others the practice of Communism. See beyond superficies, see into the superficial communistic Progressive, into the 92.5% white-man of creased slacks who causes paroxysms of subservience in his worshipers. How very absurd, these classifications by shade and sex, a doughnut machine stamping out-by color, sweets, and toppings, boxed in rows for consumption, sold for profit, though not for your profit.
Right … in rambling digression, nearly forgot the question this essay posed: “Can virtue be taught?” In answer: “Yes”, classively.
Next time, despite the lateness of the hour, an outline of arts education, a prescription for individuality by rule and invention … a system different, better than diversity. After that, a brief consideration of Western Civilization. Then, a retirement into the pleasures of Love, Amorem, its History in III Canto; this, among my current works in verse, a species of retirement, alike that indulged by Athenians, by Romans, by those of our type when all else of measure in excellence grows dim.
* * *
From “Colloquies: A Review of Civilization in Little Songs”
PAIDEIA to be published February 1, 2021
Typical of Paideia, “Storm Front”
Sturdy and strong, straight as the gut strung bow;
Taut, ready to draw the arrow;
Sprung, eager to release the throw
And send the ball through air to strike the blow.
Wrath, a lightning strike that cracks the tower;
A storm, anger of the heavens.
Swelling heat, thrusting javelin,
Swift wind over the waves gathering power.
Young man, true soldier, valiant son: Ageless
Memory bred into the bones,
Scars and strength of ancient heroes,
May their fury prove your future greatness.
Mighty Achilles, Alexander, O
Ancestors: Bestow your strength, destroy his foes.
“Colloquies: A Review of Civilization in Little Songs” in seven pithy volumes delightfully tells by portrait, anecdote and vignette the history of Western Civilization, Greece, Rome, Europe, America, et alibi.