Wednesday, 25 July 2018

ship of dreams? ship of fools? Plato said it first.



I've mused on the ship of fools previously, but this time I'm right back to 380 BC with Plato and the conversation between Socrates and Adeimantus.

"Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better.

The sailors quarrel with one another about the steering. Every one believes they have a right to steer, though each has never learned the art of navigation. Furthermore they assert that steering cannot be taught, and are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary.

These crew throng about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them. If at any time they do not prevail, with others preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard.

Then, having chained the captain's senses with drink or drug, they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores.

Those who aid them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their own, they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman.

They abuse the rest, who they call good-for-nothings.

A true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, if he intends to be qualified for the command of a ship.

The true pilot must and will be the steerer, whether other people like it or not - However, the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling.

Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?


Hmm. It may have been written around 2,400 years ago, but it's still a surprisingly accurate representation of current UK events. A pseudo captain. A quarrelsome crew. Some already thrown overboard. A few ready to lead a mutiny. Now even the new negotiation leader has been relegated to role of assistant.

I'm also reminded of last week's sunny adventure on the St Lawrence River when our whale-spotting boat played Dido as it re-docked. What's the line? "I will go down with this ship."

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