Three Forms of Government

Tyranny is a gossip whispering anxiously about his neighbors. Democracy is a crowd alternately screaming its envy and singing its lust. Freedom is a lively and unconstrained conversation among equals. The tyrant and the democrat are therefore united in their hatred of the free man — the former, because the free man appears impervious to gossip, and is therefore a threat to the tyrant’s desperate need to seem, and to feel, in control; the latter, because the free man refuses to scream and sing on cue, and is therefore a challenge to the unthinking and insecure certainties on which the mob’s way of life, and its illusions of power, depend.

Gossip belongs to the nature of tyranny, and is the behavior of tyrannical souls, because it typifies a weak person’s need to feign strength through exerting power and influence over the material lives of others, specifically by the weakling’s preferred means, scheming and backstabbing. Interestingly, however, the collective hatred of crowds for the man who refuses to join in their chants, or who quietly exempts himself from their indignant outcries, often manifests itself as public chanting against the noncompliant outlier or man of reserve — which is essentially an alternative form of gossip, though it is gossip issued through a megaphone, in newspapers, or in the monologues of demagogues.

In ultimate effect, then, democracy may be described as tyranny without whispers. Its threat to the free man seems less immediate and violent than that of the overt tyrant, but it is no less grave for being more insidious. For all whose chosen way of life depends on a firmly believed falsehood — on what Socrates called “the lie in the soul,” i.e., ignorance — have the strongest vested interest in marginalizing and ultimately eliminating the man who, they fear, might poke holes in their necessary falsehood, and above all the man whose very existence seems to take the form of a sharp object.

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