Thursday, July 3, 2014

Response Letter to MPP Lisa MacLeod

ATTN: MPP Lisa MacLeod

In response to your question.

Dear Joseph,
I wanted to follow up with you after our last email on the PC Leadership with another opinion piece (this time in the Toronto Sun) that talks about the Ontario PC Party needing a "crusading" Opposition Leader.  I would once again be interested in your thoughts.

Lisa MacLeod, MPP (

Crusades, based on historical evidence, only leave deep wounds and further division. Political dogma has, or is, approaching a crescendo. Managing a system based on diminishing taxpayer funded programs is constantly being compromised by fraternity and an unyielding obsolescent mind-set. Technology too is impacting every facet of our social, financial and economic fabric. We are not in need of a crusade, but rather an epiphany
We must redefine the value of a human life and the expectations of society as a whole. Until we start answering some very profound questions, the politics do not matter, because at the core, political ideologies attempt to do one thing, and that is to appease a very selfish attribute in a small majority of the voting public; or should I say hidden power. That is not the essence of a democracy.
We all seek knowledge but seldom do we seek the truth. The truth of the matter is that God created a self- sustaining universe and we have compromised it through greed and hate. We continue to separate spiritual and ideological belief from our political agenda yet every conflict and war is stirred by them.
Human genius over the ages has provided remedy for war, waste and work, yet we continue to seek solutions to questions that genius and technology has already resolved.
Toronto, Ontario and Canada are not independent micro political systems of an observable whole. We, as the universe, are part of a singular hologram. Our dependency is not only the physical, but also the spiritual. I know this appears to be rhetoric, but until human beings achieve a spiritual nirvana, the politics is all spice.
The epiphany is the same as for the one soldier who survives the battlefield. Once he has killed and seen death, he no longer understands the meaning of life. He has invested all his ignorance and anger in a cause that attempts to justify why we were right and they were wrong. It is no different in politics. We leave behind those who are incapable of synergizing with the political message of the day, so the few can live a very comfortable and inclusive life-style built around obsolescence.
Hudak did not lose the election because he wanted to trim 100,000 public service jobs. He lost because he made public his desire to probe and prosecute McGuinty and Wynne. That one statement could have cracked the foundation of fraternity - the real issue and the real criminal creature in the political arena. That agenda stirred the ire of the real people in control of our political system. That statement was tantamount to treason in what some people believe to be a two party political system. Hudak may have been guided by principle, or he may have covertly and intentionally maimed the future political prospects of his own party. Do not be naive enough not to believe that political leaders commit Hari-Kari with the assistance of an invisible hand.

My question is as follows; “How did a political party achieve a majority mandate when 2/3 of voting public did not vote for them?”

In ending, I don't believe in political parties, but rather in the power of one independently elected individual (not vetted), representing the unbiased views of a select group of people. Political parties are passé and so to should our dependence be on politicians and obsolete monolithic systems. Politicians must be guided by the truth, the truth must be made available to them at all times, they should be subjected to criminal prosecution when need be, and their incumbency must be limited to one term.

Solon is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in ancient Athens. Solon’s work provides answers even for today’s complex problems. You will find the answer to your question in his successes and failures. The footsteps of the future are eerily visible in the paths of history.

Thank you,
Joseph Pede

Constitutional reform

Before Solon's reforms, the Athenian state was administered by nine archons appointed or elected annually by the Areopagus on the basis of noble birth and wealth. The Areopagus comprised former archons and it therefore had, in addition to the power of appointment, extraordinary influence as a consultative body. The nine archons took the oath of office while ceremonially standing on a stone in the agora, declaring their readiness to dedicate a golden statue if they should ever be found to have violated the laws. There was an assembly of Athenian citizens (the Ekklesia) but the lowest class (the Thetes) was not admitted and its deliberative procedures were controlled by the nobles. There therefore seemed to be no means by which an archon could be called to account for breach of oath unless the Areopagus favoured his prosecution.

According to the Athenian Constitution, Solon legislated for all citizens to be admitted into the Ekklesia and for a court (the Heliaia) to be formed from all the citizens. The Heliaia appears to have been the Ekklesia, or some representative portion of it, sitting as a jury. By giving common people the power not only to elect officials but also to call them to account, Solon appears to have established the foundations of a true republic. However some scholars have doubted whether Solon actually included the Thetes in the Ekklesia, this being considered too bold a move for any aristocrat in the archaic period. Ancient sources credit Solon with the creation of a Council of Four Hundred, drawn from the four Athenian tribes to serve as a steering committee for the enlarged Ekklesia. However, many modern scholars have doubted this also.

There is consensus among scholars that Solon lowered the requirements—those that existed in terms of financial and social qualifications—which applied to election to public office. The Solonian constitution divided citizens into four political classes defined according to assessable property a classification that might previously have served the state for military or taxation purposes only. The standard unit for this assessment was one medimnos (approximately 12 gallons) of cereals and yet the kind of classification set out below might be considered too simplistic to be historically accurate.
The Areopagus, as viewed from the Acropolis, is a monolith where Athenian aristocrats decided important matters of state during Solon's time.
  • Pentacosiomedimnoi
    • valued at 500 medimnoi of cereals annually.
    • eligible to serve as Strategoi (Generals or military governors)
  • Hippeis
    • valued at 300 medimnoi production annually.
    • approximating to the medieval class of knights, they had enough wealth to equip themselves for the cavalry
  • Zeugitai
    • valued at a 200 medimnoi production annually.
    • approximating to the mediaeval class of Yeoman, they had enough wealth to equip themselves for the infantry (Hoplite)
  • Thetes
    • valued 199 medimnoi annually or less
    • manual workers or sharecroppers, they served voluntarily in the role of personal servant, or as auxiliaries armed for instance with the sling or as rowers in the Navy.
According to the Athenian Constitution, only the Pentacosiomedimnoi were eligible for election to high office as archons and therefore only they gained admission into the Areopagus. A modern view affords the same privilege to the hippeis. The top three classes were eligible for a variety of lesser posts and only the Thetes were excluded from all public office.

Depending on how we interpret the historical facts known to us, Solon's constitutional reforms were either a radical anticipation of democratic government, or they merely provided a plutocratic flavour to a stubbornly aristocratic regime, or else the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.

Economic reform

Solon's economic reforms need to be understood in the context of the primitive, subsistence economy that prevailed both before and after his time. Most Athenians were still living in rural settlements right up to the Peloponnesian War. Opportunities for trade even within the Athenian borders were limited. The typical farming family, even in classical times, barely produced enough to satisfy its own needs. Opportunities for international trade were minimal. It has been estimated that, even in Roman times, goods rose 40% in value for every 100 miles they were carried over land, but only 1.3% for the same distance were they carried by ship  and yet there is no evidence that Athens possessed any merchant ships until around 525 BC. Until then, the narrow warship doubled as a cargo vessel. Athens, like other Greek city states in the 7th Century BC, was faced with increasing population pressures and by about 525 BC it was able to feed itself only in 'good years'.

Solon's reforms can thus be seen to have taken place at a crucial period of economic transition, when a subsistence rural economy increasingly required the support of a nascent commercial sector. The specific economic reforms credited to Solon are these:
This is one of the earliest known coins. It was minted in the early 6th century BC in Lydia, one of the world's then 'superpowers'. Coins such as this might have made their way to Athens in Solon's time but it is unlikely that Athens had its own coinage at this period.
  • Fathers were encouraged to find trades for their sons; if they did not, there would be no legal requirement for sons to maintain their fathers in old age.
  • Foreign tradesmen were encouraged to settle in Athens; those who did would be granted citizenship, provided they brought their families with them.
  • Cultivation of olives was encouraged; the export of all other produce was prohibited.
  • Competitiveness of Athenian commerce was promoted through revision of weights and measures, possibly based on successful standards already in use elsewhere, such as Aegina or Euboia or, according to the ancient account but unsupported by modern scholarship, Argos
It is generally assumed, on the authority of ancient commentators that Solon also reformed the Athenian coinage. However, recent numismatic studies now lead to the conclusion that Athens probably had no coinage until around 560 BC, well after Solon's reforms.

Solon's economic reforms succeeded in stimulating foreign trade. Athenian black-figure pottery was exported in increasing quantities and good quality throughout the Aegean between 600 BC and 560 BC, a success story that coincided with a decline in trade in Corinthian pottery. The ban on the export of grain might be understood as a relief measure for the benefit of the poor. However, the encouragement of olive production for export could actually have led to increased hardship for many Athenians to the extent that it led to a reduction in the amount of land dedicated to grain. Moreover, an olive produces no fruit for the first six years (but farmers' difficulty of lasting until payback may also give rise to a mercantilist argument in favour of supporting them through that, since the British case illustrates that 'One domestic policy that had a lasting impact was the conversion of "waste lands" to agricultural use. Mercantilists felt that to maximize a nation's power all land and resources had to be used to their utmost...'). The real motives behind Solon's economic reforms are therefore as questionable as his real motives for constitutional reform. Were the poor being forced to serve the needs of a changing economy, was the economy being reformed to serve the needs of the poor, or were Solons policies the manifestation of a struggle taking place between poorer citizens and the aristocrats?

Moral reform

In his poems, Solon portrays Athens as being under threat from the unrestrained greed and arrogance of its citizens. Even the earth (Gaia), the mighty mother of the gods, had been enslaved. The visible symbol of this perversion of the natural and social order was a boundary marker called a horos, a wooden or stone pillar indicating that a farmer was in debt or under contractual obligation to someone else, either a noble patron or a creditor. Up until Solon's time, land was the inalienable property of a family or clan and it could not be sold or mortgaged. This was no disadvantage to a clan with large landholdings since it could always rent out farms in a sharecropping system. A family struggling on a small farm however could not use the farm as security for a loan even if it owned the farm. Instead the farmer would have to offer himself and his family as security, providing some form of slave labour in lieu of repayment. Equally, a family might voluntarily pledge part of its farm income or labour to a powerful clan in return for its protection. Farmers subject to these sorts of arrangements were loosely known as hektemoroi indicating that they either paid or kept a sixth of a farm's annual yield. In the event of 'bankruptcy', or failure to honour the contract stipulated by the horoi, farmers and their families could in fact be sold into slavery.

This 6th Century Athenian black-figure urn, in the British Museum, depicts the olive harvest. Many farmers, enslaved for debt, would have worked on large estates for their creditors.
Solon's reform of these injustices was later known and celebrated among Athenians as the Seisachtheia (shaking off of burdens). As with all his reforms, there is considerable scholarly debate about its real significance. Many scholars are content to accept the account given by the ancient sources, interpreting it as a cancellation of debts, while others interpret it as the abolition of a type of feudal relationship, and some prefer to explore new possibilities for interpretation. The reforms included:
  • annulment of all contracts symbolised by the horoi.
  • prohibition on a debtor's person being used as security for a loan.
  • release of all Athenians who had been enslaved.
The removal of the horoi clearly provided immediate economic relief for the most oppressed group in Attica, and it also brought an immediate end to the enslavement of Athenians by their countrymen. Some Athenians had already been sold into slavery abroad and some had fled abroad to escape enslavement – Solon proudly records in verse the return of this diaspora. It has been cynically observed, however, that few of these unfortunates were likely to have been recovered. It has been observed also that the seisachtheia not only removed slavery and accumulated debt, it also removed the ordinary farmer's only means of obtaining further credit.

The seisachtheia however was merely one set of reforms within a broader agenda of moral reformation. Other reforms included:
  • the abolition of extravagant dowries.
  • legislation against abuses within the system of inheritance, specifically with relation to the epikleros (i.e. a female who had no brothers to inherit her father's property and who was traditionally required to marry her nearest paternal relative in order to produce an heir to her father's estate).
  • entitlement of any citizen to take legal action on behalf of another.
  • the disenfranchisement of any citizen who might refuse to take up arms in times of civil strife, a measure that was intended to counteract dangerous levels of political apathy.
Demosthenes claimed that the city's subsequent golden age included "personal modesty and frugality" among the Athenian aristocracy. Perhaps Solon, by both personal example and legislated reform, established a precedent for this decorum. A heroic sense of civic duty later united Athenians against the might of the Persians. Perhaps this public spirit was instilled in them by Solon and his reforms. Also see Solon and Athenian sexuality

Aftermath of Solon's reforms

After completing his work of reform, Solon surrendered his extraordinary authority and left the country. According to Herodotus the country was bound by Solon to maintain his reforms for 10 years, whereas according to Plutarch and the author of Athenaion Politeia (reputedly Aristotle) the contracted period was instead 100 years. A modern scholar considers the time-span given by Herodotus to be historically accurate because it fits the 10 years that Solon was said to have been absent from the country. Within 4 years of Solon's departure, the old social rifts re-appeared, but with some new complications. There were irregularities in the new governmental procedures, elected officials sometimes refused to stand down from their posts and occasionally important posts were left vacant. It has even been said that some people blamed Solon for their troubles. Eventually one of Solon's relatives, Pisistratus, ended the factionalism by force, thus instituting an unconstitutionally gained tyranny. In Plutarch's account, Solon accused Athenians of stupidity and cowardice for allowing this to happen.

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