James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Ship of State, Really? Or, Everyone's #NotMyPresident

The "Ship of State" is a metaphor used since Plato to describe the necessity of wise leadership in a country.

I think it's a stupid metaphor. Here are a few reasons:

  • If you are a sailor, you understand that if you don't do your assigned job then the ship might sink in the water, or veer off-course.
  • States are legal constructs that exist on land, not physical objects that float on water.
  • Therefore, these states can't sink like ships can.
  • These states can't move in any direction, let alone wrong, dangerous directions that lead to wreckage or sinking.  
"But wait! You miss the metaphor! Countries can indeed 'sink,' financially. Countries can indeed go in the 'wrong direction,' morally, which in turn will undermine its security." 

Well, no. I totally understand those concepts. It's still a stupid metaphor. 

If you're a sailor on a ship, you do your job on the orders of more experienced superiors. If you don't do your job, the lives on all aboard might be in peril. If you believe your orders are mistaken, you can violate the orders but the consequences are your responsibility. If the captain is incompetent but it's not known he's incompetent, disaster may befall the ship.

The whole idea of life on land is entirely different. You decide to join a ship and agree to that chain of command. But being born on a particular piece of land was not your choice, and imparts no reason for you to have obligations or be subject to orders by superiors you didn't voluntarily agree to obey. The land won't move or sink. It's not a ship. 

Therefore, the people don't need to be told what to do. Everyone's survival doesn't depend on your actions. No one needs to order you around. No one has the "right" to get the "best" from you. If you score high on the medical school tests but would rather play chess for a living, and some bureaucrat for the "ship of State" orders you to become a doctor anyway for the "good" of others, are other people really better off if you do as you're ordered?

The beauty of a free society is that it relies on nobody, and that allows everyone to flourish. You are not a sailor; you're the captain of your own body and your own body only. You don't need a leader called a President. You don't need to be told what to do. You won't sink the Ship of State, because it doesn't exist.

And its leader doesn't exist. Trump isn't your leader, and Obama wasn't your leader, nor any Presidents before them.

It doesn't even matter, really, whether you believe you yourself or others "need" a "leader," 

If you really want a "leader" to tell you and others what to do, volunteer to work on a real ship. Don't pretend we all must do our "duty" for a fake one.

Nobody ever was or ever will be "your" President. 

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