On the Consumption of Elders
by Scott Tanner '08
I promise here to keep my discussion brief and its points clear in order to avoid the confusion that characterized all the previous speeches. Every one of those speeches tried to convince you of its wisdom by distorting your minds. The arguments were weak and the words long. Let me speak to you candidly and trust in what I am to say, for my goal here is to inform you on what I am about to say.
Now I remember many of you complained harshly that your elders have become a burden, that they do little and ask for much. You told me that they sit in your houses, eat your food, sleep in your beds, corrupt your children, and ask for more and more. Are you to live happily with this hardship? Is it your job to care for those who refuse to care for themselves, those who were once productive but now sedentary? Is this what is best for your society?
I have contemplated these questions. I given them thought and care. Yes, it is true that our Greek society values the wisdom of the elders. This is our tradition and our duty. But then I ask: why should this be? And I remember who dreamt up these propositions and whose interest it is to have them. It is none other than the elders. Failing to anything productive, to improve the society in which we live, they scheme and plot and persuade us through their lies and cunning that we should take care of them. The wisdom that they do build up throughout their lives become corrupted in old age and instead of seeking a better society, they seek their own selfish ends, those ends which harm our society and we who care for it. Therefore, I propose that we do something that is not only good for the elders, but for ourselves and our esteemed society. I propose that we eat all the old people.
Before Ares' anger builds inside of you and you shout me down and begin plotting to execute me for what I just said, I beg you to please listen, for this idea is deduced from logic and its benefits are undeniable. Listen to me, countrymen, lovers of democracy and justice, and listen to what we can become, and how we can truly honor our ancestors so that their wisdom lasts beyond the ages, wisdom that is neither corrupted nor false, but seeks the ultimate good and the ultimate glory.
But first, let me take a few moments and tell you a story. About a hundred years prior to this date, there was a baby born from the womb of a woman, wedded to the wealthiest man in Thebes. His name was Diadotus, son of Agropetes. Being born into such a wealthy family, Diadotus received the greatest education in all of Greece. His mind was brilliant, his morality impeccable, and much of his life honorable. He married a beautiful woman, gained respect in the political sphere, and lived in all blessedness. He imparted his wisdom on many and made his society a better place. But then he reached old age where he could no longer produce for himself and used his wisdom for his own selfish desires. Those who gained wisdom to understand his corruption saved the son of Agropetes from falling deeper into corruption. They decided to slay him and eat him and consume his wisdom as his flesh became theirs.
These men of Thebes, in an effort to save Diadotus from himself, saved Diadotus and his reputation. They saved him from falling into purgatory and using his reason for evil rather than good. Diadotus understood in his youth and middle-age when he was productive that the highest virtue one can attain is for one to use wisdom for good and that it last for ages. Had it been used for ill, the son of Agropetes would have wished death on himself. So these men of Thebes ensured Diadotus' wisdom, an uncorrupted and benevolent wisdom, lived on through them. That wisdom would not ever be lost and all the future ages would benefit. Now all these men are leaders and the son of Agropetes lives on through them, his wisdom theirs, his good will manifested in the glory of Thebes.
So, you Athenians, I beg of you that we follow the same course, to achieve an even higher greatness than Thebes and use the treasures of your elders' minds. Consume them before they become corrupt. Consume them and their wisdom so that their wisdom becomes yours and all the learning of the generations lives on in this one and in all future ones so that you and your society can achieve an even higher greatness.
And great will be the city without detractors, without those corrupt elders demanding our services for nothing in return. If we consume them and their wisdom, our society will be free from their tyranny. No longer will we have to cut short our learning to feed them. No longer will we have to leave our fields unplowed, our children undisciplined, ourselves uncreative in arts and war, politics and economics, love and beauty. If we consume these elders, they no longer will bear down their tyranny, trying to use years of rhetoric for their own needs instead of the needs of the state and its healthy citizens. I say eat your elders for the good of the polis. Eat them so you may be free to pursue more just goals.
There, my Athenian brothers, is my case. We not only save our elders, but ourselves and our sacred city. We will be doing justice to all three. But if we continue in our present course and listen to the lies of those corrupted elders, we will gain nothing and Athens will disappear into obscurity. We will be no greater than Lesbos and Sparta will rule the Aegean. Of course, we wish this not. So let Athens persevere and prosper. Let us start this road to Athenian greatness. Let us eat our elders.