Finding more instance similar to the fate of Socrates

After talking and discussing Socrates’ apology, I started wondering if there were any parallels of the state’s accusation of “corrupting the youth” to today’s world and society and if Socrates would have the same gripes with our society today than he did when he was criticizing Athens’ values and reasoning for his actions.

When thinking about similar circumstances to that of Socrates, The first things that came to mind were the Salem Witch trials and McCarthyism. Although they’re not quite the same circumstance, all three of the situations featured accused and punished people for crimes that were not necessarily crimes. Both McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials were issues because the perceived safety and matters of the state were valued higher than the matters of the family and the values of the state emphasized and were set firmly on the importance of conformity, consensus, and compliance. And all share and ideal figure or thought that must be upheld. For Athens, it was Achilles and his sacrifice, for McCarthyism, it was capitalism and the abolishment of all its enemies, and for the Witch trials, it was the notion of purity and godliness or piety. Dissent or wavering thought, in McCarthyism was treated with immediate accusations of un-patriotism and the intense suspicion of being a communist, which was on par with being an outright traitor and corruptor of the youth. The Salem trials treated different thought or behavior as a sign of witchcraft and a sign of anything ungodly.

In the McCarthy era, those who were accused of being a communist were most often accused because, like Socrates, they were criticizing society’s current values and could gain an audience to their concerns. Similar to Socrates’ situation where, instead of admitting that he corrupted the youth or committed a crime, he debated why what he did was considered illegal and how instead, he was improving society, those accused in both the McCarthy era and the Salem trials were required to admit their guilt and their wrong doing to be freed from persecution and those who did not and maintained that they were innocent were left punished for the suspicion of a crime.

I thought this was interesting to tie into our discussion about the apology because sometimes I feel as though the struggles and philosophies that we talk about are outdated and unproblematic for our world today, which is the same thing I first thought about the apology. The fact that someone could be killed because they challenged the vales of society seemed unrealistic for today because we seem more reasonable than that but I was able to find similar situations that are much more recent that show the relevance of these topics to modern times.

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4 Responses to Finding more instance similar to the fate of Socrates

  1. Sung Min Lee says:

    This is an interesting topic that you bring up because there are cases like that that I have seen from my home country, South Korea. Since there is a war between South and North Korea, there is a requirement in South Korea that when a man reaches a certain age, he is required to join the army so that he can train for around two years. The reason for this training is so that every man in Korea will be prepared to fight against the North in case of an attack. There are many people who have somehow escaped this situation. News of some people not attending spread, and they are extremely disliked. I’m not quite sure this happens, but I heard from some people that they get exiled? Again, I’m not sure, but the outcomes are pretty harsh. This definitely shows that people have to be extremely dedicated to their country. Two years of these men are being wasted because of this draft. These are years that they can be spending with their families, and there own lives. However, it seems that the country has more power and importance than those aspects.

  2. sarahbrgr says:

    I really like the topic for this post -I’d never thought about comparing Socrates’ persecution to the Salem Witch Trials or the Red Scare. I especially liked your point of saying that history has shown that confronting society and trying to change societal norms doesn’t go unpunished. It’s a little absurd to think that here were are, more than two millennia later, and people are still being punished by the government for disagreeing with certain politics, or speaking out in response to the government. As of late, people who have been filming and uploading videos of police brutality are being prosecuted or fined. These individuals are trying to capture evidence that the justice system is flawed, and they are being punished for it, just as Socrates stated that Athens was flawed and was condemned for it. It seems like all societies preach patriotism and when these individuals point out issues with the societies, they are deemed unpatriotic and therefore punished.

  3. Emma Kato says:

    I also thought about what socrates would think about our society and if it was corrupting the youth. I think the idea of our corrupted society is a common discussion starter because it is so easily unnoticed and ignored. By that I mean that we do not even realize at times (even though we are living in this society) that is it corrupted. I feel that this idea of our “corrupted society” is parallel to the idea of what Socrates mentioned in Apology that he may be the wisest man because he knows he is not. Similarly, we may have some clues that our society is corrupted because we do not (in the sense that we don’t even realize it.) I strongly feel that some of Socrates ideas about a corrupted youth is still true today unfortunately, but on the brighter side the fact that we know that it is corrupted is gaining wisdom by baby steps.

  4. This is an unexpected yet accurate connection which I like. The connection is fairly pointed toward Socrates’ clear abandonment of his defense for life, as he stood for what he believed, in the clear face of persecution and execution. The differences between the three situations are apparent, and ultimately take the form of two different causes of those being persecuted. Where we see Socrates fighting Philosophically against those persecuting him (we can actually consider the prosecutors at the mercy to his deep thoughts!), those who were targeted in the Witch Hunts and McCarthyism both were unassuming victims.
    I like Sarah’s closing comment towards the unpatriotic perception of those innovative thinkers. Where do we find others to be unpatriotic when its clear at times that our sense of patriotism stems from the melting pot of societal norms? Is it human nature to persecute those outside thinkers? And to later follow, adopt ideas, like Socrates’ points, when it is more convenient and ready? It would be a better idea to listen to what outsiders have to say before persecuting out of irrational paranoia.

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