What makes a good society?
Ancient leaders and scholars have immensely contributed to the social values that form prominent foundations upon which discordant social structures operate today. Scholars and philosophers such as Socrates and Confucius handed down vital tenets that define the makings of a good society and good leaders thereof. Some of the organizational literature passed on by such individuals have been used in governance, for instance, the Hammurabi Code, and the Koran. Not to forget the accounts of prominent individuals such as Gilgamesh and Thucydides that have defined the legitimacy of power among men of valor. These valuable people, rules, and religious books may differ in their manner of representation of an ideal society, but, they depict fervent similarities in their enlightenment of facts that have and still define a good society.
Take for instance the teachings of Confucius and the Koran. Confucius, an ardent advocator of the Ren system of living, emphasized the importance of virtue as a concept of life. In his very words, many men have died from treading on fire and water, but none has succumbed to death from treading a virtuous course. Moreover, his reply to Chi K’ang’s enquiry of what causes people to remain faithful to a leader and assume a virtuous nature is that such a leader presides over his subjects with gravity and in the process earns their respect (Confucius and Lau, 1979, p 39-45). A similar message is echoed in the Kuran. The Kuran explicitly provides that a leader and the society as a whole ought to live sinless lives. The provision is stricter on leaders. The Kuran also advocates for love and unity among members of the society, with a servant-leader that encourages group work and does not accomplish anything solely (Cleary, 1993, p 14-17).
The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Melian Dialogue evince the legitimacy of power and the discordant unfolding of war. No society is devoid of disagreements or quibbles that, unfortunately, had to be settled by physical combat in the ancient times. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, two sturdy and valiant men Gilgamesh and Enkidu battle in a test of supremacy with the former emerging victorious. As history would have it, the two sealed their friendship with the defeated Enkidu acknowledging the might of Gilgamesh (Sanders, 1972, p 69). In The Melian Dialogue, the Peloponnesian war ended in the defeat of the Melians by the Athenians in a blood filled combat. As this was not a twofold battle, a friendly ending was not to become of such as war. The Pericles Funeral Oration portrays the Athenians as just, honorable and patriotic contrary to the harsh, pitiless and oppressive opinion of Athenians held in the Melian Dialogue. Thucydides was of the opinion that society’s self- perceived demeanor seldom if ever depicts the reputation given to them by the world (Wassermann, 1947, p 35).
A good society is that which runs on sound doctrine and rules and a good leader is he who provides such sound and considerate legal provisions. In ancient history, the Babylonian King promulgated the Code of Hammurabi covering both criminal and civil law. The Hammurabi Code was nothing short of remarkable in governing a great nation like Babylon making Hammurabi establish prosperity for the people while fostering a virtuous course among the people (Vincent, 1904, p 18). Such virtuous tenets are also found in the teachings of the Kuran, Analects of Confucius and the teachings of Plato.
Both Plato and Confucius confirm the essence and prominence of virtue by placing it as the core concept of their textual discussions. In the Analects of Confucius, he asserts “If you set your heart sincerely upon Ren, and you will be free of bad intentions.” (Confucius and Lau, 1979, p 39-45). According to Plato, wisdom, justice, moderation and bravery are the practical tenets of virtue (Purkis, 1999, p 23). Confucius asserts that a virtuous person should love and care for others and have filial veneration and piety for elders (Confucius and Lau, 1979, p 39-45). On the other hand, Plato emphasized self-control and justice as the qualities of virtue (Purkis, 1999, p 23). All in all, these valuable people, rules or religious book tend to emphasize the importance of virtue as the making of an ideal society.