In The Republic, Book V, Plato writes about certain classes of people in the ideal state. He tells of guardians and rulers, and how they should be trained and treated. And he makes clear his opinion that there is a certain inequality among people. Men are better at most things than women, and some men are intrinsically better than others.
Such ideas are contrary to our current notions of equality and common life. We are advised in Scripture that no man is to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. America’s founding document declares all men to be equal. High and mighty attitudes are frowned upon in our culture.
But in ancient Greek society, it was normal and healthy to aspire to the glories of war or the honors of civic leadership. Homer wrote of battles and conquests and the inspiration of the gods. It was right to rise up.
It seems to be against our better nature to devolve, to shrink in feigned humility, to lower ourselves lest we offend. But we do it, with some relentless training and demotivation from our acquaintances. We find ourselves trafficking in the lowest common denominator of public sentiment. We give in to mediocrity.
Shall we abandon the natural ambitions of our souls for subservience to the rabid court of public opinion? Perhaps we have. Perhaps we should no more.