Dear Reader (especially any of you who’ve figured out what Ozy Media is, or rather, was.)
We have Karl Marx to thank for the modern term “proletariat.” He used it to describe the class of wage earners with little or no property who achieved class consciousness and would be the shock troops of revolutionary action. Marx, who had studied Roman law, derived the term from the proletarii—the class of free citizens who worked for wages but didn’t have the property or status to be involved in politics.
It’s a shame Marx didn’t study the Greeks instead. The Greeks had a word for a class of free people who were disengaged from politics and civic life and had no desire to be part of it: idiots.
Now, they didn’t mean morons. They meant people just a notch above barbarians who didn’t care about civility. The idiot, explained John Courtney Murray, “does not possess the public philosophy, the man who is not master of the knowledge and the skills that underlie the life of the civilized city. The idiot, to the Greek, was just one stage removed from the barbarian. He is the man who is ignorant of the meaning of the word ‘civility.’”