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Socrates Is Still A Mystery

February 28, 1988

I remember I. F. Stone's visit to Amsterdam in 1983, where, at the Nieuwe Kerk next to the Royal Palace, he presented "his scholarship and judgment, with balance but understanding, yet with that same intense dedication to free speech and democratic government that has marked all of Stone's 10 books"--to use the words of praise by Fred S. Holley.

He stood in front of the imposing marble tomb of Holland's most glorified, 17th-Century maritime hero and warlord, Michiel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter, on which the chiseled inscription in Latin reads, "that he was the terror of the seven seas."

The final resting place, amid Royalty and the like, of an utterly ruthless, government-licensed pirate who was employed by the authorities to safeguard the uninterrupted slave trade from Africa's Gold Coast to the America's and the West Indies, and whose personal wealth was established on this shameful trade.

Unaware of his surroundings, Stone lauded the democratic principles of the 18th-Century Dutch government, which he called the blueprint for democracy of the United States of America.

The Dutch, at that time had the notorious reputation among the other colonialist and slave-trading nations, of employing the most vicious slavery system thinkable in their colony, Surinam--a historic fact which is recorded at great length by those who were eyewitnesses and in favor of slavery.

And I remember how I wondered that day in Amsterdam, why he did not tell his audience that during "this period of free thought from the Renaissance to our own day," the famous 15th-Century Dutch philosopher and humanist, Erasmus of Rotterdam, kept remarkably silent about the persecution of Jews in Europe.

Is it not regrettable that a mind of a "true, wise man" like I. F. Stone's seems to be so deeply entrenched in the glory of Western civilization, that he is oblivious to the disasters that this system of democratic government brought upon millions of his fellow men. Therefore it is well to remember that Plato did tell us, "That tyranny springs forth from democracy, the way democracy springs forth from oligarchy."



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