High office focuses attention on the defects of bad men


This afternoon I was reading Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy and gained wisdom that illuminates our present moment, in which the American mob supports a bad man (Donald Trump) and a bad woman (Hillary Clinton) who aspire to hold the highest office in our land. Here, Lady Philosophy reasons with Boethius:

“Now,” she said, “about high office, and the idea that it can bring honor and respect. Do you think for a minute that high offices fill the minds of those who hold them with virtue and drive away wickedness and venality? Isn’t it the case that instead of reducing wickedness, high office makes it more notorious? It drives men into a frenzy to see this happen and they become indignant. Remember how Catullus called Nonius a “hairy wart” although he was sitting in the curule chair. High office focuses attention on the defects of bad men that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Could anyone have induced you to accept office with Decoratus, whom you know to be a villain and a clown as well as an informer? We cannot give respect to those in office if we know that the people are themselves unworthy. On the other hand, if you judged someone to be wise, you would respect him for his wisdom, wouldn’t you? What we admire is virtue, and those in whom we find that virtue. The honors that the mob may give someone are no guarantee of that virtue. What do they know of virtue or beauty or the real worth of anything? Or look at it the other way around and figure that high office is less likely to occasion respect than hatred, because there are more people who look at them, know of their actions, and have reason to despise them. And the offices themselves come to be despised because the bad men who hold them defile them with their own taint.



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