Thursday, February 12, 2009

Parallel Lives hot 'off the press' re-print: Pericles and Obama

As I was driving to my class this morning and listening to an audiobook to kill time in traffic, Will Durant's The Story of Civilization, Book 2, The life in Greece, I couldn't hide my awe at this passage (which I transcribe here word for word for you to enjoy): "The familiar analogy between Athens and the great modern democracies is truthfully enlarged upon in the life of Greece. The astute Pericles had to face much the same sort of problems that the astute Roosevelt had to face in the 1930s. The building of the Parthenon was part of Pericles’ WPA programme. Many lived on the dole and the administration of the dole money was not without its scandals. Taxation and tax evasion were both as ingenious as they are today. The class war, family limitation, sexual freedom and the conflict between religion and science played their part in a civilization resembling our own in everything except machines..."

Does it sound familiar? Pericles built the golden epitome of the Western Civilization in 447-431 BC to both create a monument about the glory of Athens and at the same time launch his very own WPA (stimulus plan) to provide for jobs as many were on unemployment benefit.

Here's some excerpt from a short Pericles bio I found on the net:

Pericles entered political life as an adjutant to a radical reformer with a popular constituency. With his dignity and patience, a reputation for integrity, his artistic ambitions for Athens, demonstrated abilities as a peacemaker, plus the convincing force of his oratory, he won the support of the people. In 460 BCE, he was elected to the political leadership of Athens. Except for one brief interval, he was reelected every year thereafter until he died of the plague in 429 BC.

Democracy in the Greek city-state reached its zenith in Athens under Pericles, providing the building blocks of modern democratic society. Supported by the citizens of Athens, reforms inaugurated by Pericles passed the governance of Athens from a tight aristocracy to its citizens. Under Pericles, official offices were rotated. Citizens provided essential services to the state. Officials and jurors were for the first time paid by the state, thus opening up public service to the poor and minimizing improper control of the law, justice, and civic resources. All citizens were encouraged to attend the Assembly of Athens and participate directly in acting on legislation - public safety, religion, security, food supply, and public expenditures. Much of the magnificence of Athens today reflects the vision of Pericles, and his ability to gain the popular support and provide for funding the vast construction projects of the Acropolis, Parthenon, and other works that today represent the glory of Greece.

Now folks, and especially those of you GOP dickheads: Does this ring a bell? Like a modern day add-on on Plutarch's 'Parallel lives', going like, Pericles and Obama?

PS. WPA (from wikipedia): The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 to the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest New Deal agency, employing millions of people and affecting most every locality in the United States, especially rural and western mountain populations. It was created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential order, and funded by Congress with passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 on April 8, 1935.

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