It seems that Boris Johnson has firmly embedded himself on the side of the oligarchs over the Occupy London affair. With breathtaking lack of courtesy he has described the protesters as "hippies" and "crusties" and boasted at a bankers' lunch that the only way to deal with them was to cycle past them quickly. Yes, I'm aware that there is a bit of ribbing going on, and he is not entirely lacking in good humour. But his refusal even to think about this very intelligent protest is distressing and, in fact, simply stupid.
Mr Johnson's myopia is, though, perhaps natural, and if Boris knew his Plato, which he ought to, having been to Eton and everything, then he would recognise in the protests, riots and strikes that have marked this year a sign that the people ain't happy with the situation. He would also recognise himself as being a member of the short-sighted oligarchy – oligarchy meaning "control by a wealthy minority". Reading Plato's Republic, I was struck by the parallels with a typical cycle that he describes. In Platonic terms, it would seem that an oligarchy has taken over UK plc, and that this oligarchy has made too many loans, thereby pauperising the people, and now fails to see what is happening right beneath their noses: that the people are talking about revolution. The good news, though, is that a real democracy may be in store:
Plato writes that when the pursuit of riches remains unchecked, resentment breeds: "Doesn't oligarchy change into democracy in the following way, as a result of lack of restraint in the pursuit of its objective of getting as rich as possible?"
"Tell me how."
"Because the rulers, owing their power to wealth as they do, are unwilling to curtail by law the extravagance of the young, and prevent them squandering their money and ruining themselves; for it is by loans to such spendthrifts or by buying up their property that they hope to increase their own wealth and influence."
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This is what the people want: a real democracy, government by the people, and not by a clique comprising top politicians and CEOs. In Ancient Athens, something close to this was achieved.