Aristotle had a typology of friendship (also implicit in Plato): friendships can be for fun, for profit, or for excellence.
Within those types there are subtypes, of course. A profitable friendship can be financial or political; a virtuous friendship can promote ethical virtues, or justice, or wisdom.
Everyone has some friendships of each type, but Aristotle claimed the typology applied to the friends themselves, as well. Hedonists, for example, care more about fun than anything else. They are experts at hanging out, so they want to be friends with the funnest people, get close to them, and spend time together having fun.
Ambitious people likewise gravitate into the most profitable friendships. A virtuoso can spot other virtuosi, and they help each other excel.
The Aristotelian(-Platonic) types of friendship don’t just correspond to value-types and psychological-types, but also to types of societies. In democratic societies, people do what feels good. In oligarchies where plutocrats call the shots, people respect productivity and collect useful friends. Aristocracy? Same logic, but applied to excellence.
But Plato and Aristotle had a theory about these social types. They disagreed about the causes, but they agreed on the trend:
- Things fall apart. Good regimes get worse. Republics of virtue descend into sham virtue and oligarchy, and then finally democracy and chaos.
- The degeneration of the commonwealth is thus also the corruption of friendship. An archaic camaraderie built on mutual excellence slips away in the face of more venal passions.
- And then, when people are too corrupt even to be properly selfish, friends are just for fun.
America is not, in The Current Year, a demokratia as Aristotle and Plato pictured it. Some of the elements are there, but we don’t have city-wide votes (heck, we aren’t even a proper city).
But you can’t read their portraits of democratic societies without flinching back, as though from a mirror. Oh well.
It’s hard to consider this kind of worldview without trying to test it by applying it, not just to macro-social structures, but to people we encounter in our daily lives. We want to know where the people we care about (both friends and enemies) fit into the typology; we want to know where we fit into it ourselves. An account of human nature is always a sort of accusation against the self.
And what kind of person am I? Probably the democratic soul, eager for amusement. (Sorry if this disappoints you.)
In a technical sense Plato and Aristotle may refer to this as the “lowest” type of soul, but the fun thing about ordinality is I can call myself “most fundamental” instead. And whatever we call it, in America I’m in good company. The U.S. Mint should probably replace “E pluribus unum” with “If it feels good, do it”.
Even if I had had any higher yearnings, eh: too bad about that. This is the ‘kwa, I was growing up in The Current Year, where was I going to find anything different?
Imagine a circle of chemically sedated, slightly inebriated friends draped across couches watching a shitty comedy, forcing laughs on cue: forever.
I converted to the right for my own reasons, but a large part of the reason I’ve continued to care so much, and stay involved, is the fascists I encountered, mostly on twitter. I joined twitter just for fun. Some of you guys are really, really funny. And you have friends who are pretty funny too. And once you’re following the hilarious fascists and the funny fascists, why not the clever ones too?
I didn’t expect a year ago that I would replace all the other internet time-sinks I had been addicted to for years with twitter. I truly just thought it would be faster to make an account to follow five accounts (only five!) rather than loading each profile individually. I really had no idea what was about to happen.
But I started following all you weirdos for my personal amusement, and then… I’m not sure what happened. Within a few months I stopped thinking about any little questions I had in terms of “What should I google?” and instead started to think “Who could I dm?” And then we started making little plans and working on little projects, and then…
We’ve come a very, very long way from where we started. Where I started, anyway. I thought you were just entertaining me; by the time I suspected otherwise, it was far too late to wriggle free. Thanks, guys.
Being on the Right is tough. I don’t think we can “bid time return”. Still more likely we all end up in Room 110 than posing for that group photo on The Day Of The Picnic. Yet somewhere deep in the bowels of democracy — just for a moment — the waterfall started to flow in reverse, the shards shattered into a solid pane of glass.