Realism, Liberalism, and Idealism

Therefore, to think about the things you think about (as asked by Clarence Darrow) here: take a
moment and reflect on how government and politics affects your life. Can you identify all the
ways in which politics impacts your life?
Just as Pericles noted, politics is all around us. Whether we are aware of it or not, politics
and government structures and influences much of our lives. Some examples include:
 politics dictates what side of the road you drive on
 who and how you marry
 how much of your income is taken by local, state and federal government in the form of taxes
 how many police officers patrol your streets and thus how safe your neighborhood is
 who can go to school and the quality of the education you will receive
 how much is funded to education versus prisons (i.e. how much it cost to attend school)
 who goes to war and what type of benefits veteran’s receive
 who gets health care and what quality
 what type of language is permissible on television and the radio
 what types of substances you may put into your body
…and the list goes on and on! And these political decisions will affect you, your entire life, for
decades to come.
14 | Brem & Sweeney ~ 2018 ~ Government and Politics in the United States
NOTE! As a general principle, in a democratic society; private affairs only become
public issues (of compelling public interest for government of intervene) when private behavior
has public consequences.
Yet, we see that Americans are increasingly cynical about politics. Rather than use
politics to create their desired society, many Americans instead decide to opt out (i.e. not vote,
remain ignorant on political issues, and not be involved in politics). However, just because one
may be disillusioned with politics does not simply make politics disappear. Instead, decisions are
then being made without that individual’s input!
Here it may be interesting to note that in Athenian democracy in ancient Greece; an
“idiot” was someone concerned only with private, as opposed to public, affairs. And this is the
opposite of being a citizen exercising the civic or republican virtue of duty to the polis. The
Greeks of Athens believed idiots were born and citizens were made, through education.
However, anyone refusing to be a citizen – avoiding politics and debate – was seen as
dishonorable and selfish. They were thus: idiotes!
On Being an Idiot
In Classical Greek philosophy, an “idiotes” or ”idion” is a person who does not
participate in public life – or the political affairs – of the polis (the City-state). Pericles argues
that someone who lives life with only a focus upon an individual life – unconcerned with larger
affairs – is an idiotes. Pericles argued the ideal of participation in the body politic was
characterized in Greek thought by people involved as engaged citizens (dwellers of the city) in
the civic or civil affairs of their polis.
To the Greeks, ones development as an individual is decadent, lacking, developmentally
delayed (modern term that), if it has no civic engagement (i.e. in the public and civil sectors of
society wherein the public interest and the social good are of importance). Life solely focused
upon the private sector (i.e. the economic arena of only self-interest) then is in effect,
psychologically, well, retarded. That is to say, such a person is in fact, an idiot! This is whence
from which that term was derived!
This is also related to the Greek classical philosophical understanding that individual
development is rooted in active participation in the “story of social development” as a member of
an audience in drama via literature and theatre. With each audience, the drama, dramatic work,
and society as drama are changed; how these evolve. This is how society develops as well; in
agonistic tensions of dramatic interplay. It is the task of the arts and humanities then to move
people emotionally to see points of concern in society and evoke their passions to move them to
action. The Arts move people to revolutionary (radical – drama of agon) or evolutionary (liberal
– drama of comedy) action challenging the social order; whereas religions (as a form of drama as
well) tend to encourage people to maintain piety being in conformity with and in an equilibrium
(conservative – drama of tragedy) with the social order.