Socrates’ great student was Plato, he’s our focus in this post. Incidentally, did you ever wonder why these 4 men, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Alexander, were not spread out a bit more over time?
Is it just by chance that they happened to be alive in successive generations, geographically identical at the exact right moment in history?
2. The Selfish Generation
Plato, Socrates’ pupil was the father of the selfish generation. “He was a wise man who invented beer“, “A state arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind; no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants“.
Building right on top of the Socratic method, Plato drew a great divide between the concept of perfect or ideal and what he considered material or natural. Things of the mind he considered ideal, and things of the body material. This ideology was intended to cause men to strive for the perfect, instead they reveled in the sensual. So Plato inadvertently invented Hedonism. Funny how easy it is to achieve the opposite of one’s intentions. “If a man seeks from the good life anything beyond itself, it is not the good life that he is seeking.” said one of Plato’s followers Plotinus (±200AD).
In Plato’s mind it does not matter what happens in the material realm, what you do with your body is of no consequence at all. But we know that this is not the truth. The Gospel tells us that what do with our bodies in the physical realm has great and eternal consequence. The philosophy of the selfish generation is largely a reaction to the negativity and lack of vision of the pessimist generations before them, too much analysis and not enough party. They tend to rebel, to throw off the self-imposed harness of their fathers.
The selfish generation alive today we call the Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964. The flower children of the 70's.
They are the benefactors of the great brand machines that were formed in the 50's, from Kellogg’s and Disney through to Apple. Baby Boomers expect to be pleased and generally they are.
It’s good to remember that there are thousands of Western Baby Boomers retiring every day. Many of them, though not all of them, have substantial assets and benefits. Potentially the life expectancy and quality of Baby Boomers in retirement will continue to rise, while the Pessimist generation born 2008 are not going to be able to afford the healthcare and education that their grandparents had. So the cycle goes in the world.
Daniel’s Picture of the selfish generations (Daniel 7):
“like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’”
In this picture we see unbalanced, therefore unstable, consumptive power. The selfish generation is the great consumer generation. Critical, with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Generally they grow up over-nurtured by their parents who desperately wanted to give them what they never had themselves, and the service industry they generate looks good on the surface, but it is always in danger of becoming narcissistic.
The Gospel encourages selflessness and contentment with a greater concern for others than for self.