The Charlotte News

Monday, February 14, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Simmorality, we take it, equates to videri quam esse. In any event, there is a lot of it going around these days, is there not?

Well, rather than wander about in the dark as a cynical Diogenes, we shall offer up the following:

And are there any other uses of well-ordered potations? There are; but in order to explain them, I must repeat what I mean by right education; which, if I am not mistaken, depends on the due regulation of convivial intercourse.

'A high assumption.'

I believe that virtue and vice are originally present to the mind of children in the form of pleasure and pain; reason and fixed principles come later, and happy is he who acquires them even in declining years; for he who possesses them is the perfect man. When pleasure and pain, and love and hate, are rightly implanted in the yet unconscious soul, and after the attainment of reason are discovered to be in harmony with her, this harmony of the soul is virtue, and the preparatory stage, anticipating reason, I call education.

But the finer sense of pleasure and pain is apt to be impaired in the course of life; and therefore the Gods, pitying the toils and sorrows of mortals, have allowed them to have holidays, and given them the Muses and Apollo and Dionysus for leaders and playfellows. All young creatures love motion and frolic, and utter sounds of delight; but man only is capable of taking pleasure in rhythmical and harmonious movements. With these education begins; and the uneducated is he who has never known the discipline of the chorus, and the educated is he who has.

The chorus is partly dance and partly song, and therefore the well-educated must sing and dance well. But when we say, 'He sings and dances well,' we mean that he sings and dances what is good. And if he thinks that to be good which is really good, he will have a much higher music and harmony in him, and be a far greater master of imitation in sound and gesture than he who is not of this opinion.


Then, if we know what is good and bad in song and dance, we shall know what education is?

'Very true.'

Let us now consider the beauty of figure, melody, song, and dance.

Will the same figures or sounds be equally well adapted to the manly and the cowardly when they are in trouble?

'How can they be, when the very colours of their faces are different?'...

...The ancient custom of Hellas, which still prevails in Italy and Sicily, left the judgment to the spectators, but this custom has been the ruin of the poets, who seek only to please their patrons, and has degraded the audience by the representation of inferior characters.

What is the inference? The same which we have often drawn, that education is the training of the young idea in what the law affirms and the elders approve. And as the soul of a child is too young to be trained in earnest, a kind of education has been invented which tempts him with plays and songs, as the sick are tempted by pleasant meats and drinks. And the wise legislator will compel the poet to express in his poems noble thoughts in fitting words and rhythms.

'But is this the practice elsewhere than in Crete and Lacedaemon? In other states, as far as I know, dances and music are constantly changed at the pleasure of the hearers.'

I am afraid that I misled you; not liking to be always finding fault with mankind as they are, I described them as they ought to be.

But let me understand: you say that such customs exist among the Cretans and Lacedaemonians, and that the rest of the world would be improved by adopting them?

'Much improved.'

And you compel your poets to declare that the righteous are happy, and that the wicked man, even if he be as rich as Midas, is unhappy? Or, in the words of Tyrtaeus, 'I sing not, I care not about him' who is a great warrior not having justice; if he be unjust, 'I would not have him look calmly upon death or be swifter than the wind'; and may he be deprived of every good--that is, of every true good. For even if he have the goods which men regard, these are not really goods: first health; beauty next; thirdly wealth; and there are others.

A man may have every sense purged and improved; he may be a tyrant, and do what he likes, and live forever: but you and I will maintain that all these things are goods to the just, but to the unjust the greatest of evils, if life be immortal; not so great if he live for a short time only.

If a man had health and wealth, and power, and was insolent and unjust, his life would still be miserable; he might be fair and rich, and do what he liked, but he would live basely, and if basely evilly, and if evilly painfully.

'There I cannot agree with you.'

Then may heaven give us the spirit of agreement, for I am as convinced of the truth of what I say as that Crete is an island; and, if I were a lawgiver, I would exercise a censorship over the poets, and I would punish them if they said that the wicked are happy, or that injustice is profitable. And these are not the only matters in which I should make my citizens talk in a different way to the world in general.

If I asked Zeus and Apollo, the divine legislators of Crete and Sparta,--'Are the just and pleasant life the same or not the same?'--and they replied,--'Not the same'; and I asked again--'Which is the happier?' And they said,--'The pleasant life,' this is an answer not fit for a God to utter, and therefore I ought rather to put the same question to some legislator. And if he replies, 'The pleasant,' then I should say to him, 'O my father, did you not tell me that I should live as justly as possible?' and if to be just is to be happy, what is that principle of happiness or good which is superior to pleasure? Is the approval of gods and men to be deemed good and honourable, but unpleasant, and their disapproval the reverse? Or is the neither doing nor suffering evil good and honourable, although not pleasant? But you cannot make men like what is not pleasant, and therefore you must make them believe that the just is pleasant.

The business of the legislator is to clear up this confusion. He will show that the just and the unjust are identical with the pleasurable and the painful, from the point of view of the just man, of the unjust the reverse.

And which is the truer judgment? Surely that of the better soul. For if not the truth, it is the best and most moral of fictions; and the legislator who desires to propagate this useful lie, may be encouraged by remarking that mankind have believed the story of Cadmus and the dragon's teeth, and therefore he may be assured that he can make them believe anything, and need only consider what fiction will do the greatest good.

That the happiest is also the holiest, this shall be our strain, which shall be sung by all three choruses alike. First will enter the choir of children, who will lift up their voices on high; and after them the young men, who will pray the God Paean to be gracious to the youth, and to testify to the truth of their words; then will come the chorus of elder men, between thirty and sixty; and, lastly, there will be the old men, and they will tell stories enforcing the same virtues, as with the voice of an oracle.

'Whom do you mean by the third chorus?'

You remember how I spoke at first of the restless nature of young creatures, who jumped about and called out in a disorderly manner, and I said that no other animal attained any perception of rhythm; but that to us the Gods gave Apollo and the Muses and Dionysus to be our playfellows. Of the two first choruses I have already spoken, and I have now to speak of the third, or Dionysian chorus, which is composed of those who are between thirty and sixty years old.

'Let us hear.'

We are agreed (are we not?) that men, women, and children should be always charming themselves with strains of virtue, and that there should be a variety in the strains, that they may not weary of them? Now the fairest and most useful of strains will be uttered by the elder men, and therefore we cannot let them off. But how can we make them sing? For a discreet elderly man is ashamed to hear the sound of his own voice in private, and still more in public. The only way is to give them drink; this will mellow the sourness of age.

No one should be allowed to taste wine until they are eighteen; from eighteen to thirty they may take a little; but when they have reached forty years, they may be initiated into the mystery of drinking. Thus they will become softer and more impressible; and when a man's heart is warm within him, he will be more ready to charm himself and others with song. And what songs shall he sing?

'At Crete and Lacedaemon we only know choral songs.'

Yes; that is because your way of life is military. Your young men are like wild colts feeding in a herd together; no one takes the individual colt and trains him apart, and tries to give him the qualities of a statesman as well as of a soldier. He who was thus trained would be a greater warrior than those of whom Tyrtaeus speaks, for he would be courageous, and yet he would know that courage was only fourth in the scale of virtue.

'Once more, I must say, Stranger, that you run down our lawgivers.'

Not intentionally, my good friend, but whither the argument leads I follow; and I am trying to find some style of poetry suitable for those who dislike the common sort.

'Very good.'

In all things which have a charm, either this charm is their good, or they have some accompanying truth or advantage.

For example, in eating and drinking there is pleasure and also profit, that is to say, health; and in learning there is a pleasure and also truth. There is a pleasure or charm, too, in the imitative arts, as well as a law of proportion or equality; but the pleasure which they afford, however innocent, is not the criterion of their truth.

The test of pleasure cannot be applied except to that which has no other good or evil, no truth or falsehood.

But that which has truth must be judged of by the standard of truth, and therefore imitation and proportion are to be judged of by their truth alone.


And as music is imitative, it is not to be judged by the criterion of pleasure, and the Muse whom we seek is the muse not of pleasure but of truth, for imitation has a truth.


And if so, the judge must know what is being imitated before he decides on the quality of the imitation, and he who does not know what is true will not know what is good.

'He will not.'

Will any one be able to imitate the human body, if he does not know the number, proportion, colour, or figure of the limbs?

'How can he?'

But suppose we know some picture or figure to be an exact resemblance of a man, should we not also require to know whether the picture is beautiful or not?

'Quite right.'

The judge of the imitation is required to know, therefore, first the original, secondly the truth, and thirdly the merit of the execution?


Then let us not weary in the attempt to bring music to the standard of the Muses and of truth. The Muses are not like human poets; they never spoil or mix rhythms or scales, or mingle instruments and human voices, or confuse the manners and strains of men and women, or of freemen and slaves, or of rational beings and brute animals. They do not practise the baser sorts of musical arts, such as the 'matured judgments,' of whom Orpheus speaks, would ridicule. But modern poets separate metre from music, and melody and rhythm from words, and use the instrument alone without the voice. The consequence is, that the meaning of the rhythm and of the time are not understood.

I am endeavouring to show how our fifty-year-old choristers are to be trained, and what they are to avoid. The opinion of the multitude about these matters is worthless; they who are only made to step in time by sheer force cannot be critics of music.


Then our newly-appointed minstrels must be trained in music sufficiently to understand the nature of rhythms and systems; and they should select such as are suitable to men of their age, and will enable them to give and receive innocent pleasure. This is a knowledge which goes beyond that either of the poets or of their auditors in general. For although the poet must understand rhythm and music, he need not necessarily know whether the imitation is good or not, which was the third point required in a judge; but our chorus of elders must know all three, if they are to be the instructors of youth.

--from Laws, Book II, Plato, ca. 350 B.C.

Well, it all brings to mind that just eight days ago, we were traversing the old campus at Pulpit Hill. Thereon, or a short pace off it, we came upon a being, surely an alien, for he looked not of this race of men by the colour of his skin, anyway--that being all light blue. And, what is more, no one much looked askance at him, curled away in fright, suggested that the Deil had indeed arrived from Georgia after all these 70 years of inveigling elusiveness. This bit of experiential data to our senses, save for the loss of the game, that is, may or may not have been part of the colour and rhythm and music of which Plato spoke here in Laws--but since three and more decades ago, we did much such contemplation there in regard to such matters monstrous, momentous, and mundane, we thought we would at least consider it some in that light again.

Next day, we hopped a plane and read a pretty good book about the 1957 national championship season.

We posit though that morality, in its most commonly used modern vernacular sense, is hardly anything recognizable as such to the ancients who lived in the very times the Bible, for instance, was written up. Simply put, in the classic sense, the moral person is the person who thinks and acts honorably and congruously within a system of principles which honor truth and integrity above all else.

By intuited contrast, we would assume that the Simmoral person is one who promotes him or herself as intensely "moral", yet can neither explain to anyone's satisfaction, except other like-minded "moral" people and, doubtless, themselves, just how, nor by what societally beneficial modality, they have come to the conclusion that they are "moral". To the Simmoral person, then, they are "moral" simply because they say they are and others of their like value group agree with them. But this limited interpretation of "morality" affords the semblance of morality, you see, to the Terrorist, also; not just the regular Sunday-going churchman.

So where does that leave you on a frosty Valentine's Day?

Incidentally--and we by no means say this lightly--it is better, we have found, to look to the symbols surrounding premeditated crimes, not the individual's "profile", to find more readily some level of predictive precautionary measure to insure against the next episode, not as against selected individuals but as insurance to all. Example: Mr. Cho, for whatever reason, chose the figure "8" as an object of admiration within his strange world last spring. Today's sad repetition at Northern Illinois University, for reasons yet unknown individually, but ultimately enabled immediately, yet again, by the absurd ease with which guns are available in our society, occurred on a campus next to Interstate 88.

Public profiling only encourages tension and dissociation and alienation in an already overly tense, dissociated and alienated society, and thus likely produces as much or more crime than it alleviates, as it tends toward the creation of extraordinary suspicion of others in the already severely paranoid, thus further dissociating and alienating each from the other, systemically. Too many of our citizens are far too mesmerized by individual "profiles" provided by tv commentary, and quite uselessly, and thus go about amateurishly extrapolating, consciously or subconsciously, from the most normal conduct, to find in their neighbor or friend or what have you the seeds of some terrible mental defect on the verge of becoming, when the only defect present is in the perception within the interrelationship of the parties brought on in most cases in modern society by this very magnified suspicion developed from the too easy availability of simple-minded explanations for aberrant conduct, things once reserved for B-movie buffs and detective magazine fanatics, now extended to the everyday tv viewing audience of much of the country overly pre-occupied with the latest 24-hour cable news titillator, magnifying every heretofore purely local story into some international crime scene out of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Keep on the way we are headed and the society will be run by the inmates in the asylum, sure enough.

The rest of the page is here.

Jewel for Lexicographers

Some genius over on the Western Carolina Tribune of Hendersonville has invented a first-rate new word--Simmorality. (We recorded it in our Visiting Around column Friday.) To be sure, he may not have intended it. The thing may have been a misprint on the typewriter, or he may have had the collaboration of the compositor in bringing it forth. No matter. That is precisely the way genius works. In any case whatever, it is a beaut.

For look you, similis equals like, simulare equals to be like, to imitate, whence our English words similar and--simulate. Take the root sim-, and morality, and, ho! how perfectly is something we know set down. Let the Messrs. G. & C. Merriam, the Messrs. Funk and Wagnalls, and the Oxford University Press haul into their dictionaries forthwith Simmorality, a brand-new word.

The Commodore Turns Over

It is all for the best, we haven't a doubt, that nothing will come of the case of the captain of the American tanker illegally seized at sea, robbed of his cargo, and beaten daily for sixteen days by the piratical Italians, Germans, and Moors masquerading under a Spanish Insurgent flag at Palma.

But, for all that, we could not in the heat of reading the story for the first time resist a momentary nostalgia for Commodore Stephen Decatur as commander of the American Mediterranean squadron. Let Buccaneer Franco and his crew give thanks that a lusty and sudden sea-dog passed, with his era, a hundred and eighteen years ago. For it is not of record that he bothered himself very much with what the State Department might be thinking, in these dealings with those other pirates at Tripoli and Algiers. Rather, he simply went storming into their harbors, confident that the matchless gunnery of his sailors was equal to any odds, and, having battered them to pieces, came out to report that American ships were once more safe on the Great Blue Sea.

Better our way, we genuinely believe. But how unquiet it must be in the Decatur family burial plot these days!

Mr. John Rescued

Mr. John Carson, it appears now, is going to get a chance to do his stuff after all. Mr. John bears the portentous title of Consumers Counsel for the Bituminous Coal Commission. And it is his job to make a noise like the Federal Government busily opposing the Federal Government--that is, like one who is determined that coal shall not cost the consumer more when Congress has already ordained that the commission shall fix coal prices, which, of course, means that coal is bound to cost the consumer more.

But the commission did not deal fairly by Mr. John. It went right ahead last November and proceeded to fix coal prices without bothering to consult Mr. John at all. Then, when he took to writing letters to the newspapers in complaint, it fixed a time for Mr. John and his consumers to be heard. But, somehow, that engagement kept getting moved up and never really came off. But now 200 railroads have gone into Federal Court in the District of Columbia and got an injunction, and the prospects are that the coal commission is going to have to start all over and hear Mr. John before it fixes prices.

What the railroads may hope to get out of it, we don't know. But it's a break for Mr. John. It must be tough to have a job where they won't let you do anything but sit in your office and bite your nails all day.

Straws in the Wind

How the city would vote, whether for or against an open Sunday, if it had a chance to vote, which it probably won't have, is anybody's guess. The best guessers are convinced that the majority would rally to the Blue Laws. They say that those who strive to keep the community in the straight and narrow just naturally organize better than the others and that it is organization which wins elections and referendums. They cite the prohibition election...

And maybe they're right. Then again, we aren't so sure. In that poll of the Johnston Building taken by News reporters and written up in yesterday's paper, proponents of an open Sunday outnumbered opponents by 250 to 98, which is as 21/2 to 1. It is entirely possible, of course, that the denizens of the Johnston Building are not representative of the city as a whole. Yet more than two-thirds of them were registered voters.

A wider cross-section was covered four years ago in a comprehensive poll taken by The News of the daring proposition of Sunday movies. Now, Sunday movies, for some reason, are considered to be a little more sinful than Sunday baseball and Sunday golf, but even so the vote, while close, was in favor. The count, which we have carefully preserved for whatever it signified, was 5,879 to 4,567.


The British, as all good little readers of the news columns know, are formally opening their mighty naval base at Singapore today, with no other company than three cruisers from these States. But we have no time to speculate on military matters now.

What fetches us is that name--Singapore. More even than Port Said or Bombay or Callao, it stirs up in our blood a feeling we used to have in our boyhood--the feeling we still sometimes have--when the trains began to pound out of the station, gathered head, and went sweeping on toward what for us in those days were very far places indeed. The feeling we had when we listened to the river rolling on its way. The feeling we have had since we watched rusty freight ships swinging down to the Atlantic--and the Pacific--past Staten Island. We should not, we think, very much like really to go to Singapore. For there, we hear, they have the greatest tin smelting plant in the world and a very British "biscuit factory." We have it on the evidence of the movies, indeed, that there are astonishing sailors' dives along the waterfront, but the movies, alas, are not, we fear, the best of evidence. And, anyhow, if we went there, where else would there be to want to go? Better, perhaps, to be content with the high brave sound of that name, the stirring in our blood, the mood of,

Across the sea of Wonderland
To Mogadore we plodded,
Forty singing seamen
In an old black barque.

Victory for Something

Tennessee's Supreme Court ripped out the stitches of that trim little scheme by which Governor Browning had thought to sew up the state for his faction of the Democratic Party and keep down the Boss Crump faction. Last October the Legislature was called into special session to make necessary alteration to the primary laws. This was, in effect, to limit the number of unit votes which a populous county like Boss Crump's Shelby (Memphis) could cast in a primary to one-eighth of one per cent of its population. Each county was allowed one unit vote for each 100 votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

Thus, no matter how Shelby County might troop to the ballot boxes to Boss Crump's bidding, after the number voting had passed 38,400 the rest would be wasting their time. And Memphis rolled up more than 60,000 votes in the 1936 Democratic primary. The practical effect of the legislation, then, was to disfranchise some 2,000 voters who were likely to vote against Governor Browning and his picked candidates.

As between Boss Crump and would-be Boss Browning there probably is very little to choose. But at least Boss Crump eschews legislatorial conspiracies to prevent the will of the people from being done. He sticks instead to the time honored Democratic method of getting the larger count by hook or by crook.

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