The funeral speech of Pericles: memo to Gough’s grandchildren

Gough’s grandchildren are the third generation welfare dependents who are becoming a new underclass, like their colleagues in the welfare states around the world.

Pericles was an Athenian soldier and statesman.

Extracts from the Funeral Oration of Pericles circa 430 BC.

We do not copy our neighbours but try to be an example. Our administration favours the many instead of the few: this is why it is called a democracy. The law affords equal justice to all alike in their private disputes, but we do not ignore the claims of excellence.
The freedom we enjoy extends also to ordinary life; we are not suspicious of one another, and do not nag our neighbour if he chooses to go his own way. But this freedom does not make us lawless. We are taught to respect the magistrates and the laws, and never to forget that we must protect the injured. And we are also taught to observe those unwritten laws whose sanction lies only in the universal feeling of what is right.
Our city is thrown open to the world; we never expel a foreigner. We are free to live exactly as we please, and yet we are always ready to face any danger.
We love beauty without indulging in fancies, and although we try to improve our intellect, this does not weaken our will.
To admit one’s poverty is no disgrace with us; but we consider it disgraceful not to make an effort to avoid it.
We consider a man who takes no interest in the state not as harmless, but as useless; and although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.
We believe that happiness is the fruit of freedom and freedom that of valour, and we do not shrink from the dangers of war.
To sum up, I think that Athens is the School of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian grows up to develop a happy versatility, a readiness for emergencies, and self-reliance.

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43 Responses to The funeral speech of Pericles: memo to Gough’s grandchildren

  1. Nuke Gray

    In the context of the times, HE was right, but women and slaves could not vote. Still, societies advance one ponderous step at a time.

  2. John Mc

    Imagine what the Athenians of 430BC might think of the Athenians of 2013!!

  3. Sirocco

    This would be incomprehensible to 44% of the voters.

  4. Poor Old Rafe

    Thanks John Mc. Imagine that, I was thinking about Gough’s grandchildren and completely forgot about modern Greece.

  5. Paul

    Gough’s grandchildren? whats the reference?

  6. there was an underclass in Pericles time just as there has been in any society.

    Introducing welfare measures merely reduces it somewhat.

    What Gough has to do with this we stil do not know

    Poor old Rafe is an entirely correct epithet

  7. John Mc

    There’s a whole new standard of underclass appearing in Athens right now, nottrampis!

  8. tbh

    Great oration and still relevant now. You would hope that some of the message would resonate with most of the electorate these days but sadly I think it won’t.

  9. pete m

    Interesting references to foreigners and the injured – both classes of which usually receive little sympathy in these here parts.

  10. Tom

    there was an underclass in Pericles time just as there has been in any society.

    Introducing welfare measures merely reduces it somewhat.

    At the Australian level of benefits, it is possible to live comfortably on welfare, especially with all the add-ons that are now available above the basic benefit. That does the opposite of “reducing it somewhat”. It encourages idleness and dependency and validates the main criticism of people concerned with the wider issues: it encourages welfare recipients to see big government as a sugar daddy and it requires the confiscation of an inordinately large percentage of private income. David Murray made the point on Sunday that Australian government’s 36% share of GDP is suffocating and unsustainable.

  11. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    That worked out fabulously well for the Athenians, eh?

  12. Rabz

    It encourages idleness and dependency and validates the main criticism of people concerned with the wider issues: it encourages welfare recipients to see big government as a sugar daddy and it requires the confiscation of an inordinately large percentage of private income.

    And most importantly for our beloved politicians, it locks in a captive constituency.

  13. John Mc

    Yeah, Pete, Catallaxians are devoid of all civilised compassion. Especially Sinclair, who is a One Nation type closed-borders protectionist, and Judith who actively opposes the NDIS in interviews.

  14. The new posters (trolls?) need to pay attention…

    Gough Whitlam kicked off the modern Trade Union Party policies to replace responsibilities with entitlements, funded by theft from the productive.

    This was thought to increase the vote for the Trade Union Party.

    That 40% of polled voters say they will still vote for the current goat rodeo shows it has worked.

    It will be interesting to see if they will get out of bed when the LDP introduces voluntary voting.

    ———————-

    BTW Nottrampis…

    your blog is spelt http://nottrampis.blogspot.com.au/

    You’re welcome.

  15. We consider a man who takes no interest in the state not as harmless, but as useless; and although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.

    Sound argument for retention of compulsory voting.
    Good old Pericles…

  16. Alfonso

    Indeed, the only thing that might save Aust. is voluntary voting, a referendum on the matter is urgent. Imagine if the entire underclass voted in the US….a quick way to a grisly end.

  17. Token

    It encourages idleness and dependency and validates the main criticism of people concerned with the wider issues: it encourages welfare recipients to see big government as a sugar daddy and it requires the confiscation of an inordinately large percentage of private income.

    To the vapid lefties that is a feature not a bug.

  18. John Mc

    Numbers demonstrates some further moronic left-wing thinking: you can legislate anything into existence, you just need to believe hard enough.

    Force people to go to a polling booth and voilà, politically aware population and superior democracy to match!

    Works just as well as all the other leftwing policies like legislating away poverty, offence and discrimination, and legislating in jobs and equality. Remember, Utopia is (always) just one more piece of legislation away!

  19. duncanm

    pete m

    To admit one’s poverty is no disgrace with us; but we consider it disgraceful not to make an effort to avoid it.

    numbers… able does not imply forced

  20. Bruce

    I have to stand with Numbers on this one, ‘compulsory’ voting (sorry compulsory getting-your-name-ticked-off) is essential with preference voting so that as many Aussies as possible are engaged.

    If you have idiots like Gillard and co spending our taxes for no benefit then the more people attuned to this the better, or we end up like the US where they vote when they can be bothered and end up in debt to their eyeballs.

    Unfortunately Pericles’ Athens had a bit of a hubris problem. His voters were happy but the ‘allies’ he extorted money from were fed up. Which is why Athens lost the Peloponnesian War. One should always be on good terms with ones neighbours, if you can. Screwing them blind is not recommended.

  21. Uber

    We should add a new acronym to our lexicon: IGOM’s. We already have NIMBY’s as a staple, so IGOM is the next obvious addition, short for “I got mine’s”.
    This refers to the selfish stupidity of some wealthy people to bankroll a ‘moral posturing’ of their choosing, which ultimately restricts economic prosperity for the wider population.
    Think Hollywood, Wotif, and the current nonsense regarding QLD export development.
    Also compare with the likes of other uber-wealthies such as Carnegie, who used his money to build libraries and stuff for the benefit of all.

  22. Kaboom

    Bruce, all the more reason we have to outlaw preferential voting. First past the post is democracy in action.

    Don’t even get me started on proportional representation, that arcane system foisted upon us by Mad Doc Evatt…

  23. John Mc

    I have to stand with Numbers on this one, ‘compulsory’ voting (sorry compulsory getting-your-name-ticked-off) is essential with preference voting so that as many Aussies as possible are engaged.

    1.5 million Australians are not even registered to vote.

    Our electoral turnout is lower than some nations with voluntary voting such as Sweden. Ditto, I suspect, our level of electoral engagement.

    Show me one example of how our democracy is superior to any other First World country because we have compulsory voting?

  24. Leo G

    “Imagine what the Athenians of 430BC might think of the Athenians of 2013!!” – John Mc (2 Apr at 10:42 am)

    Considering that Pericles was history’s most successful embezzler of state funds, I believe the former, resurrected, might have considerable sympathy for the economic plight of the latter.

  25. Can Someone please just nominate one thing Whitlam did that increased the welfare state?

    It was Calwell that gave us proportional voting not Doc Evatt. Does Judy tutor you in research at all?

  26. Gab

    Only one, Homer? Why just one?

  27. Aristophanes had the right idea in the Clouds:

    ‘It is a very simple thing to do; condemn this rapacious gull named Cleon for bribery and extortion, fit a wooden collar tight round his neck, and your error will be rectified and the commonweal will at once regain its old prosperity.’

  28. Bruce

    Compulsory voting means people have to stir themselves Saturday morning to go down to the local school and stand in line. Or get fined a huge $50, which is just enough to be annoying. This helps them to think “why am I doing this strange thing?” They then have some vague thought about the political process. This filters into the few braincells assigned to thinking “tax is shit” and as a result they are attuned to the concept that pollies are spending their money (I’m avoiding the welfare types with this analysis, how can responsibility ever compete with surfing?).

    Preferential voting is important since most people will vote for someone who they can live with as second preference, either the ALP or the LNP. This means when that party does something they don’t like they cannot say well I didn’t vote for them! Because they did. So they think about it some more and decide with a few more neurons that they might otherwise have used.

    Unrest, a la Greece, tends to happen when people feel disenfranchised or unrepresented. If they have actually voted for the people in power, even as 2nd or 3rd preference, then they have no excuse to feel this way, since they can always vote for the other side next time.

    FPP systems disenfranchise the UKIP types whose vote never counts. In the Oz system those voters could give their prefs to the Conservatives, LDP or Labour and therefore feel that their position is communicated (ie the UKIP) but the mob they can reluctantly accept gets the win.

    The worst thing can happen is when the electorate decide they are not represented by anyone, whereupon they riot. Which is not conducive to prosperity. Democracy works best by keeping as many of the people sweet as possible and to stop the minority from spitting the dummy and deciding they have noting to lose, Egypt-style.

  29. Denise

    the Athenians found Pericles too provincial; he used to kiss his wife goodbye before going off to work.

    Things might have turned out differently if he hadn’t died of the plague. He fronted up to the people and the pollies.

    Certainly the Danegeld the Athenian League was extorting caused lots of animosity later. Hopefully same will happen with the EU eventually.

  30. sfw

    “Our city is thrown open to the world; we never expel a foreigner.”

    Great idea however I’m certain that they didn’t supply the foreigner with welfare and free legal aid as well as a host of other goodies. Australia should have essentially open borders but no welfare at all of any sort for at least 10 years after arrival.

  31. Bruce…

    “tax is shit”

    “Unrest, a la Greece, tends to happen when people feel disenfranchised or unrepresented.”

    “The worst thing can happen is when the electorate decide they are not represented by anyone, whereupon they riot.”

    They’re rioting because their ‘free stuff’ is being cut.

  32. drynow

    The 40% will get out of bed in the NT, enticed by prizes of free food, grog and gunja. As far as democracy goes it goes right over the head of chok and choker who are now running the show up here – who got there by stand over gutless back stabbing thuggery in the party room, while the boss was away. At least Julia has the face to front her adversary and we see that the ALP play by some rules.Their losers, Crean and Co stand proud, our winners Chock and choker are viewed as low life.

  33. Bruce

    Forester I concede you might just have a point. But Greeks have been disconnected from idea of tax for a while now. And are being reeducated about it. Poor sods, my heart bleeds for them.

  34. drynow

    f’n spell check, ‘chock’ is supposed to be spelt ‘choc.’

  35. John Mc

    Democracy works best by keeping as many of the people sweet as possible and to stop the minority from spitting the dummy and deciding they have noting to lose, Egypt-style.

    That’s a dangerous misinterpretation that still lends itself to a majority of people trying to force their will on to a minority through government.

    Democracy works best when the only things that are mandated by force of government are universal requirements that all individuals would consider non-negotiable e.g. property rights.

  36. stackja

    In my case as the law was then, I turned 21 and registered to vote. I have voted in all elections since. I do not expect others to do things for me I am capable of doing. My parents were of another generation of workers and taxpayers who did not expect government to do everything.

  37. “I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

    Milton Friedman

    What incentives do we impose on the “wrong people to do the right thing”?

    How did Pericles do it?

    Did he failed too?

  38. Jessie

    Drynow @2.06

    But when Abbott gets in he is creating a direct Federal oversight. PM will dictate what happens in the northern Territories and northern regions of the States.
    Newman is an example already, pork-barrelled recently over the north alcohol management plans.

    What regard does Abbott have for The Constitution when he takes such a portfolio?

  39. duncanm

    nottrampis

    Can Someone please just nominate one thing Whitlam did that increased the welfare state?

    Kate Green, University of Sydney

    Undoubtedly, the greatest expansion of the Australian welfare state was that enjoyed under the government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam from 1972 to 1975 (Beilharz 1992, p. 90, McMahon 2000, p. 12). Although criticised for his extensive social spending during a time of decreased economic production, the Whitlam years provided considerable gains for the welfare of Australian citizens — including the abolition of means-testing for old-age pensions and university fees, the creation of Medibank, the supporting mother’s benefit, and increased funding for child care
    services (Fenna 1998, p. 290).

  40. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Same sorts of arguments, from so long ago. The founding wisdoms of America come from Greece and Rome. I am always amazed at the ‘modernity’ of much Greek and Roman thought. How much was lost in the interim, and had to be re-found. And we are still debating how best to do it (I don’t like first past the post; it seems too combative and likely to lead to pouting or rioting by loser groups – the outcome depending on how badly and how much they feel they have lost).

    And the other lessons of history: the Athenian League, Danegeld, Imperialism, the EU. Plus ca change when it comes to power and tribute.

  41. Eyrie

    Uber, hit youtube for Glen Frey “I got mine”. Sums it up nicely just like “Smuggler’s Blues” does it in a few minutes for the illegal drug industry.

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