Krunchie with Yachts

Krunchie with Yachts

Proinnsias - Krunchie As

"Proinnsias" sounds the same as "Krunchie as," except with a P instead of a K. I was christened "Francis Killeen," but adopted the Irish form of this name "Proinnsias Ó Cillín." ("Cillín," which means "treasure," sounds exactly the same as "Killeen"). Some people have difficulty pronouncing "Proinnsias," and some children in my neighbourhood called me "Krunchie," a nickname that stuck.

Monkeys and Pigs

They said that, if you paid peanuts, you would get monkeys.

So, they gave large increases and bonuses to those at the top.

As a result, they got greedy pigs, who lined their own pockets and messed up the economy.

Thus, they repeated an age-old lesson: Monkeys are always better governors than Greedy Pigs. Monkeys tend to serve the public good, whereas Greedy Pigs tend to serve themselves.

In fact, democracy began when the Monkeys of Athens took over the government of their city from the Greedy Pigs, in the words of Aristotle:

“The democracy has made itself master of everything and administers everything by its votes in the Assembly and by the law-courts, in which it holds the supreme power. Even the jurisdiction of the Council has passed into the hands of the people at large; and this appears to be a prudent change, since small bodies are more open to corruption, whether by actual money or influence, than large ones.” (The Constitution of Athens, Ch 41)
Aristotle: The Politics and the Constitution of Athens (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)

“Monkey” is a metaphor for ordinary citizen, (i.e., person of average wealth), and “Greedy Pig” is a metaphor for member of the Oligarchy or Golden Circle, (i.e., persons of wealth significantly above average).

The revolution in Athens was not a communist one, nor even a violent one. The property of the Oligarchs was not confiscated, but power was taken from them and their capacity to abuse their position was curtailed.

The change was initiated by Solon, a poet and politician. This was 600 years BC, and paper and even parchment had still to be invented. Poetry was the most powerful means of communication then. In pre-literate times, people were much better at memorising verse than they are nowadays, so, a message embodied in verse could be dispersed far and wide. Solon first articulated his vision in poetry, winning popular support, and then partipated in politics and had important pieces of legislation passed, which shifted power from the Oligarchs to the Masses. Here is a sample of his poetry, translated by Frederic G Kenyon:

But ye who have store of good, who are sated and overflow,
Restrain your swelling soul, and still it and keep it low:
Let the heart that is great within you be trained a lowlier way;
Ye shall not have all at your will, and we will not for ever obey.

According to Aristotle, there were two important strings to his bow: abolition of personal security for loans, and vesting supreme political power in the Assembly of the people.

Personal security for loans worked thus: you borrowed money on the security of your person. If you failed to pay back the loan and interest by the due date, you became your lender’s slave. Any children born to you while a slave were born into slavery and automatically slaves of your master.

You can imagine how it would be between Sean Quinn and Anglo Irish Bank. Quinn would now be the slave of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited, but not his children, who were born before the debt was called in. But, hold on a minute! If that law were in place when he went in to Anglo to borrow his two billion, Sean Fitzpatrick would, surely, have said to him:

“Well, Sean, this is purely a formality, but I will require the signature of your wife and children on the loan contract.”

Abolition of personal security meant that borrowers were no longer enslaved to their lenders. However, in effect, it amounted to the writing off of debts. As a result, many Oligarchs lost a fortune.

Some cute hoors foresaw that, when personal security was abolished, land would become the prime security for loans, and these guys amassed fortunes by buying up land while it was still cheap.

You can guess, of course, what happened next. Solon did not get his democratic legislation passed without befriending many people in all walks of life, including land speculators. The bankrupt Oligarchs now put out the word that Solon was in league with the chaps who made a fortune on land.

To avoid seeing his democratising legislation reversed, there was only one thing Solon could do in face of the false accusations. He resigned from leadership of the Government and political party, and went into voluntary exile.

Solon was a Monkey. He entered politics, not for his personal agrandisement, but for the advancement of democracy and justice. He was vulnerable to charges of self-agrandisement. The Oligarchs, on the other hand, were, for the most part, Greedy Pigs. They entered politics for their own self-agrandisement, for which they did not have to apologise. Their power base was their wealth, and the support of lackeys who gave loyalty to leader, not cause. They wrested power from the institutions of the state and exercised it for their own benefit, rather than the public good.

In the years that followed Solon’s exile, there were several regressions to tyranny, because

§  the law was not sufficiently harsh on people who sought to use their wealth to amass power, and

§  the fact that ordinary citizens were lazy about personally participating in affairs.

These defects were eventually removed by

§  introducing the punishment of Ostracisation for those who abused their wealth, which effectively removed such blagards from any exercise of influence before they became too powerful, and

§  by paying citizens a stipend for each day’s attendance at the Assembly.

The city was divided into Tribes (i.e., districts or arrondissements) as well as lesser divisions comparible to constituencies and electoral areas. Each tribe appointed a specific number of delegates to the Council (or governing body), the Army and the Judiciary. All proposed laws had to be passed by an Assembly of the people, which also could over-rule decisions of the judiciary and Army appointments. A young man of 18 acquired citizenship and voting rights by giving 2 years of his life to military service.

Democracy was not without its faults, because ordinary folk could easily be swayed by demagogues. However, Aristotle concluded from his studies that it was the best, because “He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches.”

The Constitution of Athens was one of hundreds of studies by Aristotle and his students before he wrote his book: Politics, where he described various types of constitution and came out in favour of the democratic model. However, democracy did not last long after that, since another of his students, Alexander the Great, set out to conquer the known world and established one of the largest military dictatorships ever. Aristotle, incongruously with his ideas on democracy, taught that Barbarians should be ruled by Hellenists. His was the Golden Age of Greece, when it did appear that Greeks were intellectually superior to other races.

My solution: keep the salaries of Chief Executives, Top Bankers and Top Civil Servants at reasonable levels, i.e., only moderately above the average wage within the organisation. Abolish those excessive bonuses and rewards that cause people to behave as Greedy Pigs rather than diligent servants of the Common Good.

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