Posts made in March, 2014

Plato’s Guardians

Posted by on Mar 2, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

And all this destructive repression of any activity that could be called spontaneous has been carried out by a military gang, which, though crippled by ignorance and rotted by corruption, has assumed the authority and pretended to the virtues of Plato’s Guardians.[1] The Indonesian Army was deeply involved in politics for four decades, from the beginning of the Guided Democracy period in 1958 to the end of the New Order in 1998. During that period doctrines were devised, polished and perfected to legitimate the Army’s political role. From an idealistic start, viewing the Army as an equal partner with other elements of Indonesian society, to the ruthless employment of the Army as a “tool of the government” (aparat pemerintah) to preserve the absolute hegemony of the Soeharto regime, it is very much a Greek tragedy. The Army was to be the defender, not the oppressor of the people. It was to move among the people, as Mao said, like the fish in the water. Ultimately such idealism gave way to the baser instincts of greed, arrogance and the lust for power, although the generals continued to delude themselves that they were still part of a people’s army, that they were really no different from their harshly persecuted civilian brethren. Thus, over the decades, human frailty triumphed over the bright hopes and expectations of a newly liberated nation in which the Army played the central heroic role. Brian May’s reference to the guardians of Plato’s Republic seems especially appropriate. The warriors were the “Guardians” of Plato’s ideal state. They were to live in poverty, share their limited possessions and foreswear all human desires. But Plato’s romantic conception of a class of warrior-philosophers who would act as the noble guardians for the ancient Greek Republic was fundamentally flawed. It violated the laws of human nature. In much the same way, the idealistic notion of the Indonesian Army as the savior and altruistic protector of the Indonesian Republic has proven equally defective. As is so often the case, there is a vast difference between concept and practice. The honorable goal is corroded as human nature surrenders to the attractions of gold, power and prestige. Just as Plato postulated, the guardians of the Indonesian Republic became the tormentors of their own people and hastened the decay of their beloved State. Let us note among the guardians those who in their whole life show the greatest eagerness to do what is for the good of their country, and the greatest repugnance to do what is against her interests. … And they will have to be watched at every age, in order that we may see whether they preserve their resolution, and never, under the influence either of force or enchantment, forget or cast off their sense of duty to the State. … their provisions should be only such as are required by trained warriors, who are men of temperance and courage; they should agree to receive from the citizens a fixed rate of pay, enough to meet the expenses of the year and no more; and they will go to mess and live together...

Read More