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.”
The name – origins and views
Critical Consciousness and Freedom – the essential fundamentals of a true democracy
The new ‘face’ – new symbolism of this site
The old ‘face’ – what inspired the existence of the site
Yale’s course in Classic Greek History – Professor Donald Kagan explains why people should study the ancient Greeks
About the humans – Maximus of Tyre’s reflection on the human being
The character of a free human – the nobility of the human character
If you want to call yourself human? – Poem from the Greek resistance in WWII, by Tassos Livaditis
The name – origins and views
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 practiced 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.
Without disgracing my ancestors’, my people’s and my family’s struggles and sacrifices and my own dignity and self-respect, I can’t accept any of the plutocratic, oligarchic republics as actual democracies. Simply because they aren’t and have never been.
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 practiced 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 practiced 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 anymore.
My cultural, ideological roots are molded in my families practiced 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 reestablishes 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 practiced in its own communities, allover 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 for a real 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.
The new ‘face’ – the “look” and the symbolism of this site
The new face of this site is the Boxer at Rest, a Hellenic masterpiece excavated in Rome in the late 19th century.
The face of the boxer very accurately expresses and catches the current concentrated sentiment of the entire Hellenic world, domestic and the diaspora. And therefore this ancient statue becomes the new “face of ATHENIANVOICE“, from 20-05-2015.
It is the face of the Greek spirit that throughout the 20th century have been repeatedly abused and tormented by the European colonial powers’ geopolitical games. Games and power struggles that several times pushed Greece into catastrophes and unthinkable suffering. This caused massive migrations four times since the 1890’s, until the current one that began in 2010 and marks one of the most massive “brain drains” in Greece’s modern history.
As if this little country’s massive sacrifices and brave and valiant fighting throughout history didn’t benefit, and actually even saved, Europe a few times since Τhe Βattle of Salamis in 480 BC. Or Alexander’s military campaign to Babylon and Persia to strangle the threatening Persian empire after 100 years of invasion attempts on Europe. Or the liberation war against the intimidating Ottoman Empire, in 1821. Or the strong defense and resistance against Nazi-Germany, which subsequently led to the Nazi’s losing the entire WWII.
The Boxer at Rest embodies the Greek soul at this time in history after almost 200 years of struggles for a freedom and a democracy, that never really was granted us by the western superpowers, despite our massive sacrifices. This fighters look gives expression to the immortal soul and character of our people. It radiates strength, excellence, humanity, diligence, valor, bravery, humility, dignity, decency, exhaustion, pain, grief, disappointment and astonishment.
We are looking at western civilization and we really wonder, what on earth went so fatally wrong with it, and with us, so that we are on the verge to be thrown into the fire again, and WE have now become its lords’ sacrificial lamb and our submissive governments/rule, have for very long been their agents?
Pancration was the unarmed martial arts in ancient Greece and Panmachion, was the armed martial art, with sword, spear, knife, shield and light armor – Pygmachia/boxing, an offspring to Pancration, formed the basics of what was developed in the 19th century England to western boxing.
It poses great dignity on the fighter and separates him from the dozen, if he fights in defense of those who cannot fight or defend themselves. This unselfishness and the profound understanding of the real needs of the people, was a implemented part of the agogi/fostering of any citizen, hoplite or fighter in the democratic Hellenic city-states.
The old ‘face’ – what inspired the existence of this site
From May 2010, I began to report about the massive protests from Syntagma square. I was on most of the massive protest meetings and rallies, the first three years of the crisis (2010 – 2013). Later, I wrote more about Greece’s political and socio-economic situation historically and I also published relevant articles by very important scholar’s and intellectuals on these matters from allover the world. People like Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Erich Fromm, John Pilger, Naomi Klein, James Petras, Arundhati Roy, Robert Fisk, Dimitris Kazakis, Mikis Theodorakis and many more.
According to not only me, a manufactured crisis in order to save European banks and the interests of the neo-colonial nations has been launched upon the Greek people and the European peoples. I wrote about the true reasons behind the attack on the Greek nation and its people and I have continuously presented facts about the big picture affecting, not only Greece, but the entire world. Ukraine, Syria and Yemen being the latest epicenters of the global financial elites crusades.
Since 2010, an ancient Greek hoplite’s helmet in cast iron and in a blue shade, have been the face,”the badge”, of this site and it was then symbolizing my, and my friends and many fellow Greeks, spontaneous emotional reaction to the constructed “Greek crisis”. We were very indignant and enraged for being the object of the despicable, general, slandering of Greeks. It was about swallowed rage due to the undeserved general vilification of all of us.
The hoplite’s helmet was the “face” of ATHENIANVOICE until May 2015 until the Boxer at Rest replaced it.
It has always been in the interest of the ruling class to cultivate illusions which obscure the true nature of the game, so out of highest importance is to have critical consciousness and a global perspective, even when looking at local economic, political, social and strategic phenomenons. To look behind the “veil” and see the “big picture”, in other words.
We know that man was not created to be a passive obedient economic commodity to a tiny parasitical elite nor a mindless slave!
And the Hellenic literature during its pre-democratic and democratic period and ever since have expressed exactly WHY we know this.
This is not just me saying this,.. Yale’s course in Classic Greek History does.
Yale’s course in Classic Greek History
Professor Donald Kagan explains why people should study the ancient Greeks. He argues that the Greeks are worthy of our study not only because of their vast achievements and contributions to Western civilization (such as in the fields of science, law, and politics) but also because they offer a unique perspective on humanity. To the Greeks, man was both simultaneously capable of the greatest achievements and the worst crimes; he was both great and important, but also mortal and fallible. He was a tragic figure, powerful but limited. Therefore, by studying the Greeks, one gains insight into a tension that has gripped and shaped the West and the rest of the world through its influence. In short, to study the Greeks is to study the nature of human experience.
About the humans
This is how the Greek rhetorician and Neoplatonic philosopher from the 200 century, Maximus of Tyre, Μάξιμος ο εκ Τύρου (called Maximus Tyrius by the Romans) described the humans, when he would pass through the gate of death, and was asked if he had anything to say, about human character…
“By constantly seeking pleasure they were struck by misery. When they chased riches, they always thought they were poor compared to what they were missing, and whatever they acquired it was always less than what they wanted.
They feared poverty so much that they could never be content with what was enough. They feared death but they never nursed life. They tried to escape disease, but never refrained from such things that cause it.
When they had good fortune they became bold, but when it turned against them they despaired. They claimed that the dead are lucky, but clung on to life. And they hated life but was still afraid to die.
They condemned the war, but was unable to live in peace. As slaves, they were crawling, but free, they were presumptuous. When they lived under democracy they were rebellious, but under the spire of tyranny they became timid.
They wanted children, but neglected them once they got them. They prayed to the gods as if they would receive help from them at the same time they ridiculed them as if they did not have the power to punish… or they feared them as avenging forces while they committed perjury as if the gods didn’t exist.”
The character of a free human
see with clarity
think with clarity
speak with clarity
act with clarity
develop and know his/her true abilities
know his/her real limitations
see “behind the veil”
understand “the big picture”
resist and fight injustice & oppression
help and defend first those in need
do none of the above for selfish reasons
If you want to call yourself human?
“When the public responsibilities falls in the hands of people unable to hold them, where the power is controlled by the immoral and the unethical, then the excellent have a moral obligation to revolt and raise a dynamic struggle in order to overthrow the rule of the bad in power” – Aristotle
“If you want to call yourself human” – Poem by Tassos Livaditis, read by the Greek actor Kostas Kazakos