Timocracy and its legacy
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e Nagas live in a political entity combining outer or, alien, values, but with which we are still trying to adjust. However, to understand our very own heritage we must also try to understand that our ancestors existed in a form of entity that today has been described as Timocracy. The word derives from the Greek words time meaning “honour” or “worth”, and kratia meaning “rule” (as in government). That is as far as the etymology goes.Constitutional theory defines a timocracy as either (1) a state where only property owners may participate in government, or (2) a government in which love of honour is the ruling principle. The more extreme forms of timocracy, where power derives from wealth rather than honour, may shift in their form and become a plutocracy where the wealthy and powerful use their power to entrench their wealth.
Solon introduced the ideas of timokratia as a graded oligarchy in his Solonian Constitution for Athens in the early 6th century BCE. His was the first known deliberately implemented form of timocracy, allocating political rights and economic responsibility depending on membership of one of four tiers of the population. Solon defined these tiers by measuring how many bushels of produce each man could produce in a year, namely— (a) A Pentacosiomedimni—“Men of “Men of the 500 bushel”, those who produced 500 bushels of produce per year, could serve as Generals in the army; (b) Hippeis—Knights who could equip themselves and one cavalry horse for war, valued at 300 bushels per year; (c) Zeugitae –Tillers, owners of at least one pair of beasts of burden, valued at 200 bushels per year, could serve as Hoplites; (d) Thetes – Manual labourers.
N.G.L. Hammond supposes that Solon instituted a graduated tax upon the upper classes, levied in a ratio of 6:3:1, with the lowest class of Thetes paying nothing in taxes but remaining ineligible for elected office.
Aristotle later wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics (Book 8, Chapter 10) about three “true political forms” for a state, each of which could appear in corrupt form, becoming one of three negative forms. Aristotle describes timocracy in the sense of rule by property-owners: it comprised one of his true political forms. Aristotelian timocracy approximated to the constitution of Athens, although Athens exemplified the corrupted version of this form, described as democracy.
Plato’s theory had five regimes. He produced the earliest surviving text using the term in the “rule-by-honor” sense. In The Republic, he describes four forms of unjust state, with timocracy as the second-most preferable of the four and closest to the ideal society. The city-state of Sparta provided Plato with a real-world model for this form of government. Modern observers might describe Sparta as a totalitarian or one-party state, although the details we know of its society come almost exclusively from Sparta’s enemies. The idea of militarism-stratocracy often attaches to the honor-oriented timocracy.
This form of timocracy is very similar to meritocracy, in the sense that individuals of outstanding character or faculty are placed in the seat of power. The basic forms of government in terms of power structure are Conferedal, Federal. Hegemony, Imperial and Unitary. The power sources are (a) Democracy which is direct or representative or others’ (b) Monarchy which is Absolute or Constitutional (as in the UK); (c) Oligarchy comprising Aristocracy, military junta, Plutocracy, Stratocracy and of course, Timocracy; (d) Auhtoritarian, Autocracy, Despotism, Dictatorship and Totalitarianism; (e) Others are Anarchy, Anocracy, Kritarchy, Republic and Theocracy.
From all these it can be deduced that our present society in its present functioning is a conglomerate of almost all these political entities and in the process, forgetting that in an Nagas society of yore a rich man gave “Feasts of merit” which qualified him to wear a shawl of a especial design denoting his prestige in the society like a soldier of any army wearing his ribbons.
In a deeper sense, it was a novel way of making a rich man part with this excess wealth which in those days comprised cattle and paddy grains etc. He usually did not mind because he got the honour which in future generations they would sing about his generosity.
Are we present day Naga generation living up to the legacy of our forefathers? Questions aside, we can still try and improve.