Greek Ethos as Tragic Heroes

An ethos is the tragic hero of government.  The Homeric ethos focuses on the individual and their role that individual plays in their family; stressing the importance each person has in other’s lives.  With everything, there is a healthy level to which something can be stretched to, but as soon as that threshold is crossed corruption and abuse of power becomes eminent.  It happened with the public mournings that were held purely as displays of wealth during Homeric Athens.  These elaborate displays ultimately created a division between the wealthy and poor as that threshold gradually stretched and broke.  This idea of the individual was not only the Homeric ethos’ greatest strength but also its greatest weakness just as Oedipus’ steadfastness/stubbornness destroyed him.

Likewise, the same could be said for a Democratic ethos.  It stresses equality amongst citizens, but being a “tragic hero” it must have its extreme, its tragic flaw.  The Greeks stretched Democracy beyond its appropriate threshold and developed this idea of replaceability.  If all people are equal under Democracy doesn’t that mean everybody is the same?  Why can’t one person just step in and take another’s place, they’re equal.  While the idea of equality is a great idea there are just too many issues with its extreme.  People are not the same just because they’re citizens under the same state.  This form of Democracy shares the same principle with Communism in Russia (I believe it was Russia) where they just handed people any random job.  Doctors became Chicken Farmers and Journalists became Physicists virtually over night.  Well everybody is equal, so anybody can do any job, right?

Both the Homeric ethos and the Democratic ethos are initially practical solutions to social and political issues; however, they are corrupted from generation to generation.  What I’m getting at is that as these things continue the original ideals are continuously taken one step further leading to extremes.  And why are these things expanded upon?  Do the future generations actually believe in these different ideals or are they just supporting them and trying to improve them because that’s what their forefathers would want?  This reminds me of a science experiment that I read about that goes something similar to this:

Scientists placed four monkeys in a cage with a staircase leading up to a pile of bananas, when one monkey tried to get a banana the other three monkeys were punished.  After a while, the monkeys start to catch on and from that point on whenever one of the monkeys attempts to grab a banana the other two monkeys beat the monkey going for the banana to try and stop it.

Soon one of the monkeys is switched out with another monkey and when it tries to eat a banana the other monkeys attack it.  One of the other original monkeys is switched out and replaced with another.  When that one tries to eat a banana it is nearly beaten more brutally.  This happens until there are no longer any of the original monkeys that knows what happens when one of them tries to eat a banana, and yet the monkeys still beat one another with increasing ferocity when anyone of them tries to eat a banana.  Although none of the monkeys knows what happens, they know that this is the way its always been done, and that’s the way they’ll keep doing it.

Now, about ethos being tragic heroes, if that is the case, then that must mean that their strengths are in turn their weaknesses and they are fated to crumble by forces outside of their control.  It is the very things that created them, what makes them great, that destroys them.  If you accept this idea of ethos being tragic heroes then you will accept that there is no perfect system, they all have their flaws and all ethos are fated to be defeated.


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