Presentation and description, published in ATHENIANVOICE, 21-05-2015
“We must listen to the ancient Greeks not because they will give us answers, but because they first identified the questions and problems, and they know too where the answers must come from.
The answers must come from the minds of free human beings who have control over their own lives.”
ATHENIANVOICE is one Athenian voice, which means a voice that have its cultural and traditional roots in modern Athens and its intellectual, philosophical and spiritual “footrest”, in the fundamental classic Athenian democratic values and principles. In particular those principles that are “comfortably forgotten” by everyone, ever since. Namely its:
- principle of, citizens rights to anarchic resistance, disobedience and organization of non-cooperative solidarity-actions against cruel monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship and tyranny
- principle of, immediate recall of an elected official if his actions are against the public good and against his obligations to the people
- principle of, personal accountability before the supreme court for all elected officials when suspected for illegal, negligent or endangering handling of public affairs and the finances of the republic – also retroactively, if suspected of corruption, theft or treason, or even the intent of such activities
There are a number of such basic democratic principles that are universally ignored today, by all “democratic governments”. Principles, that we know was considered so fundamental in ancient democratic Athens, that they had to be expressed as practised citizens rights before all the others. Those mentioned here and many more were meant to work as security locks of democracy itself in order to avoid corruption, infiltration and oligarchy.
Democracy is either benefiting the whole people’s basic needs and rights and its common good, or it is not a democracy at all. Today everyone mistake the “practice of voting”, just one and very limited practical democratic tool, to be the entirety of democracy itself.
I am truly sorry that I need to explain to so many self proclaimed democrats every now and then, that the citizens in ancient Greece did not fight the Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian Wars in order to achieve or defend a shitty one-time-vote every four years. And particularly not for a lame democracy which lack any adequate practical protective mechanisms so that the citizens themselves can defend and protect democracy and justice from corruption, oligarchy and tyranny.
Real democracies are based on citizens, not on governments or elections. All the republics in human history after ancient Athens might have begun on pure actual democratic fundamentals, but none of them stayed in those longer than a few years. Unnecessary compromises and illegal pressure from the European financial elite and their “leftovers” from the tyrannic periods, lead to very wide and unnecessary gaps between written constitutions and relevant practicalities and mechanisms in order to execute the content of such constitutions. And actually, that’s the only time where the title, elected official, have any real meaning. When he ensures that the voted democratic constitution is followed by practised principles and the citizen’s vote makes sense.
In a citizens voted democratic constitution (the only constitution that actually can be called democratic) the citizen is the only constituent, thus the employer of the elected official and therefore the only one that can elect or recall him. If we cant make even that work in our modern and allegedly developed societies, then we must accept that we can’t even re-achieve what the ancient Athenians had achieved. That is also why we seem to move back towards the times of self announced demigods and god-kings with serfs and slaves.
I don’t mean in any way that the ancient Athenian democracy, in its ancient form, is the answer to all our problems today. Of course not. It would need renewal and development according to modern conditions and it would also need to be restarted, but this time with all its original basic values and principles intact and practised and not crippled and ignored. In essence, none of the attempts for democracy in history so far has managed to actually further develop it from its classic Athenian fundamentals, to something better. Instead, those who should have protected it ended up limiting and crippling it to the point where it can’t really be called a democracy at all any more.
My cultural, ideological roots are moulded in my families practised values, the original class-struggles and workers solidarity movements in the west and the resistance and liberation struggles against fascism and nazism in Greece, in which several very close family members of mine actively participated in. After the obvious neo-liberalization of the European “left” in the mid-80’s and its submissive compromises and its surrender of its basic values and principles in the 90’s, I found serious reasons to support the pure laocratic form of democracy [Gr. laos, λαός = the people]. The direct form, through self-governance and the satisfaction of the common and real needs.
This is how a people who wants to be free either establishes or re-establishes real democracy.
Laocracy, is thus the “midwife” of the classic democratic principles:
- that the Greek people has claimed since The Battle of Salamis,and always practised in its own communities, all over the world
- that the freedom fighters and the Greek people in the Greek Liberation War against the Ottoman Empire strived for and had practiced in secrecy within their own communities during 400 years of Ottoman rule
- that the Greek resistance fighters in EAM/ELAS and the vast majority of the people reached for (and practiced in the EAM-controlled city parts, islands and mountain regions during 1940 – 1944)
The bitter truth is that the most poisonous WWII-remnant, the left – right dogma, has divided us as fellow citizens and made us competitors and antagonists in a social-economic game that never benefit the citizen, as an entity.
Such division-doctrines should be long gone in a developed, modern, critical mind. It is a divide & conquer pill that works extremely good as the main filter against rational observations and it makes us very, very vulnerable to manipulation and aggression. The dogmatic theologies of the religions are other extremely effective main filters against reason. We have all been deeply manipulated in our minds to raise intellectual walls and in particular emotional walls between the so called left and the so called right. This way, a people becomes practically defenseless against further division, provocations, civil wars and invasion wars.
I and a growing number of Greeks, prefer to see the citizens, the party-members and the elected officials in the alleged democracies, as either “real democrats” or “oligarchy-servants”. Which oligarchy they serve is not always determined by the color of a pin on the lapel or a political party’s flag. Their very own ways, motives, aims and personal desires, determine that, and of course who or what really benefits from their words, signatures and actions. In our days both these types exists in all political parties and the “oligarchy-servants” are the ones dominating the scene the higher up you go in the political party hierarchies, at least from WWI and on.
I am not saying that we should abandon our different values, beliefs, ideologies and life philosophies or not hold them dear. I am just saying that we must first save the actual place, about which we then could agree or disagree on how to handle and govern. That is the right order of priorities to any real democrat, because he understands what a free human is and that there is no such thing as a free human without a free, democratic nation-state from which you can defend or claim freedom. Athenians in ancient times understood that. The French just before and during the first few years of the revolution understood that and so did the Americans just a few years around their revolution. The Republicans in The Spanish Civil War understood that. EAM the massive Greek resistance during WWII understood that and so did those who opposed and resisted the cruel dictatorships in Greece, Spain, Latin-America and Southeast Asia in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The Vietnamese FNL understood that and any people who have felt and seen the ultimate weakness and vulnerability of the oppressor when he is confronted by a united, determined people, understands that.
I felt obliged to clarify this here, given the big span of mental abilities and ‘moods’, this site is confronting in social medias and forums. I therefore clarify its name, views, values and ‘look’ here, hoping it will serve as a good introduction for this site in general.
Critical Consciousness and Freedom
the essential fundamentals of a true democracy
In these days with the “debt crisis”, the austerity policies and the demolition of the Greek nation-state and the democracy in Europe, progressive people are trying to look for sensible answers.
Therefore it’s extremely important to look more consciously on what invaluable gifts, the west, the world and Man really received from ancient Athens and the ancient Greeks, and how we can use these gifts to free ourselves, as they were meant.
Hellenic Thinking, highlights the importance of human freedom, it develops free thinking and offer the spiritual and intellectual tools for this freedom
What defines the originality in Hellenic thinking, is that ancient Greece was the only culture in the history of mankind that was anthropocentric. They placed the human being in the center of their concerns and their view on man and mankind came from an investigative approach to life. They based that approach on critical observations, science and knowledge of the human role in nature and in universe. Where most other cultures saw more or less similar patterns the Greeks, through their perspective, distinguished details, differences and exceptions.
“The results from a natural philosophy based on observation and reason gave the sole most important component for the liberation of the human being from enslavement, any kind of enslavement. The essence of what scholar’s call “the Greek achievement” is Critical Thinking. This is the impulse and willingness to stand back from humanity and nature and even ‘the gods’ (ancient as modern), to make them objects of thought and criticism, and to search for their meaning and significance. The Greeks had by the way the most arrogant view of their relationship to the divinity, in comparison with the entirety of the ancient world.
“The Greeks had the ability to see life steadily, and see it whole, instead if remaining enslaved to custom, tradition, superstition, nature or the brute force of political or priestly elites”
“The Greeks seem original, spontaneous and conscious, in circumstances in which all others were ruled by a more or less mindless necessity.”
What distinguished the Greeks from their neighbors then, was not so much how they lived, but how they thought about how they lived and how they gave formal expression to this thinking.
For example, the Greeks were the first, openly criticizing their own wartime behaviour when at war (in Aeschylos literary work “Persians” – 472 BC).” During the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta, Euripides produced plays that sympathetically portrayed the disastrous effects of Athenian policies, and laid bare the suffering, moral corruption and dehumanizing passions unleashed by war. They had the ability to step back from the passions and prejudices of the moment and look at events from a larger perspective that illuminates the common human condition, the way even an enemy suffers and grieves just as we do.
Alcidamas in the 4th century BC, stated that “the human being was born free and nature created no one a slave, so Man have birth rights and can therefore not belong to anyone”.
The Greek examination of war and slavery shows, critical consciousness can lead to the improvement and reform of human institutions and behaviour, for once the mind is liberated from the authority of tradition or the supernatural, it can criticize the ways things are done and consider alternatives. Their invention philosophy, formalized the Greek habit of critical consciousness. It can be defined as critical consciousness systematized.
Of all the Greek philosophers, the spirit of critical consciousness is best embodied in the late 5th century BC philosopher Socrates, Plato’s mentor, who was executed by Athens in 399 BC. Socrates famous method was “dialectic” from the Greek word that suggests both “discussion” and “analytic sorting”. The purpose of dialectic was to strip away the false knowledge and incoherent opinion that most people inherit from their societies and unthinkingly depend on, to manage their lives.
Most important, Socrates saw this activity of rational examination and pursuit of truth and virtue as the essence of what a human being is and the highest expression of human nature.
This is why he chose to die rather than to give it up: “The unexamined life, is no life worth living for a human being”, he said in his apology.
We must listen to the Greeks not because they will give us answers, but because they first identified the questions and problems, and they know too where the answers must come from. They must come from the minds of free human beings who have control over their own lives.
And this finally is the greatest good we have received from the Greeks. The gift of Freedom.