Aristocrates

When I created my first ever email address, I wasn’t going to be one of those boring people who used their name plus a number.  Given the rarity of my name, I possibly could have even got an email address with my name without a number. But instead, I decided to be slightly more creative, and choose a name that had some meaning, but that had enough scope to make it my own.

And what I chose was “Aristocrates”.

It’s the online handle that I generally favour for any social media or sites where you have to register a username. I use it on Twitter, Facebook and various other sites.

The reason I was attracted to it in the first place was a basic interest in philosophy, so I liked the philosophical sounding name when I read it in Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods.

I think the reason I haven’t abandoned it is  testament to the fact that it actually means more to me now than it did then, not only because I have lived with it for all that time, and therefore it has “grown on me”, but also because I’ve learnt that the references behind it are closer to my heart than I once thought.

Lots of people when they first read it, misread it as “aristocrats” or “Aristocats”, but really it is derived from the combination of the two Greek philosophers names, Aristotle and Socrates. Given my obsession with our feline friends, I can very much understand why people would think the latter misinterpretation though and that I might have been making a reference to the 1970 Disney film. But this is not the case.

I also didn’t intentionally make reference to aristocracy; in fact I actively corrected people who misread it, slightly discombobulated with the association, given its connotations in modern society is largely negative (at least amongst left-leaning crowds). However, the word aristocrat is now, I feel, interpreted to mean something quite different from what it meant to Plato.  It is more widely used now to refer to an oligarch or plutocrat. But aristo- as a prefix means “the best”, so the aristocracy defined by Plato defines a society led by those who are able to work in the best interests of society as a whole, not just their own interests; the “philosopher-kings” concept.

I have always quite liked Plato’s Republic.  Sure, there are concepts in there which are unworkable, unfair, or downright immoral through the eyes of any modern citizen of the world.  (In fact, my copy of the Republic, which I have highlighted and noted as I read through it, has the note “Plato, you’re sick!” in the margin for a page in the section “Women, Children and Warfare” in which Socrates (the main character within the book) is outlining tactics for selective breeding.)  However, when it comes to what is good for society, what characteristics a good leader should have, and what happens when our leaders abandon moral principles and seek financial or hedonistic rewards, I think he’s pretty much spot on.

So I welcome this association between my online alter ego and Plato’s definition of aristocratic leaders.  However, I’m also glad that my alter ego does have that extra ‘e’ in it.  It gives the word more life, because it turns it from a concept—a collective—into an individual.

There was actually an individual called Aristocrates of Athens, but it seems as though very little is known about him, and therefore I think I can confidently assume the identity without too much fear of discrediting myself by association.

As yet, my online persona doesn’t really have a character independently of myself.  Indeed, for the most part, whilst the username continues to be Aristocrates, my Twitter and Facebook accounts list my name as the identity with which it is associated.  Perhaps one could argue that this is a similar relationship to the one between Plato and Socrates.  Aristocrates reports my views and conjectures to the internet in much of the same was as Plato reports Socrates’ within the Republic.

So perhaps that is the way Aristocrates should continue – as the character through which Simeon is given a voice online.

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2 Comments

  1. Adam Jackson
    Posted 18 November, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I read this

  2. Gus
    Posted 30 November, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I just tried ‘Simeon Jackson’ on a couple of email sites to test your theory. Alas, you would require a number as it’s already taken (that pesky footballer no doubt) and, of course, you’re already happy with Aristocrates anyway. With that in mind, it would be pointless to suggest using Humesky or Nietgenstein. I’m going to do the dishes now.

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