Ovi -
we cover every issue
newsletterNewsletter
subscribeSubscribe
contactContact
searchSearch
Apopseis magazine  
Ovi Bookshop - Free Ebook
Stop human trafficking
Ovi Language
George Kalatzis - A Family Story 1924-1967
Stop violence against women
Murray Hunter: Opportunity, Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Stop human trafficking
 
BBC News :   - 
iBite :   - 
GermanGreekEnglishSpanishFinnishFrenchItalianPortugueseSwedish
Ovi Symposium; fifty-second Meeting Ovi Symposium; fifty-second Meeting
by Abigail George
2015-05-27 08:11:29
Print - Comment - Send to a Friend - More from this Author
DeliciousRedditFacebookDigg! StumbleUpon

Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Ms Abigail George, Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Paolozzi, Paparella and Mr. Rywalt
Fifty-second Meeting: 21 May 2015

symposium01

*********************************************************

Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

abigailAbigail George is an African activist for human rights, a feminist, writer and poet. She has received writing grants from the National Arts Council, Centre for the Book, and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council). She is not purely devoted to poetry but to pursuing writing fulltime. She has written two volumes of poetry, and her latest book is titled Winter in Johannesburg. Storytelling for her has always been a phenomenal way of communicating and making a connection with other people. All About My Mother (a collection of short stories) was published by Ovi magazine in July 2012.

laios_01Nikos Laios is a poet, artist, lover of philosophy and student of the human condition, currently writing poetry and producing art; he is also a sculptor, a photographer, widely read in the humanities. He hails from the highlands of Epirus in Greece; greatly influenced by the poetic traditions which have been passed down from his poet ancestor on his maternal side from the island of Cephalonia. He currently resides in North Sydney Australia, is an autodidact and a passionate ‘renaissance’ man, has always been a practical philosopher, throwing himself into the hard questions that life has to offer in search of elusive gems of wisdom.

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

rywaltEdwin Rywalt is a computer specialist living in Pennsylvania with his family. He is a talented and accomplished pianist with a college education from Columbia University and a life---long scholarly interest in the nexus between science, technology, and the liberal arts. Beginning in May 2014 he will be offering pro bono services to the Ovi Symposium with typo correction editing and other useful suggestions aiming at improving the overall format of the twice a month section of Ovi magazine. Perhaps in the future, if his commitments allow it, he may decide to join the Symposium’s ongoing dialogue.

*******************************************************

Subtheme of session 52: “New Paradigms for the Idea of Europe” 

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Illich, Valery, Shuman, Husserl, Einstein, Baudelaire, Descartes, Dante, Vico, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Napoleon, Beethoven, Cavour, Monet, De Gasperi, Adenauer, De Gaulle, Churchill, Santayana, Petrarch, Held, Plato, Ellul, Derrida, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Croce, Dewey, Ortega y Gasset, Adorno, Berdjaev, Habermas, Gadamer, Havel, Levinas, Schumacher, Bacon, Kierkegaard, Obiols, Thoreau, Gandhi, King, De Maestre, Smith, Marx, Gramsci, Marcuse, Stuart Mill, Croce, Mosca, Tocqueville, Arendt, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Pascal, Huizinga, Spengler, Pareto, Toynbee, Omodeo, Sartre, Gide, Dostoevsky, John Paul II, Kohl, Mitterand, Jung, Alexander, Aristotle, Beethoven, Bach, Ravel, Ricoeur.

 *******************************************************

Table of Contents for the 52st Session of the Ovi Symposium (21 May 2015)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “New Paradigms for the Idea of Europe.” A presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 2: “Freedom after Democracy.” A presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi, as excerpted from his book La Rivoluzione Ingenerosa (The Stingy Revolution) Part II, Guida, Naples, 1996. Translated from the Italian by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 3: “Europa, Europa, my Europa.”  A presentation by Nikos Laios.

 *******************************************************

Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

sym01_400 

In this 52nd meeting of the Ovi Symposium the focus is once more placed on the current EU cultural identity crisis, a phenomenon which has been extensively presented and discussed in the Ovi pages. Superficially it may be mistaken as an economic-political crisis, but as every psychologist worth its salt well knows, crisis that may at first appear physical or material are often rooted in metaphysical or spiritual needs that are either unmet or repressed. That applies to the individual or collectively to whole cultures.

We begin with a presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella exploring the idea of Europe throughout its history and suggesting that Europe is now at the crossroad and urgently needs to imagine and implement new paradigms necessary to re-discover its lost values and its very cultural essence and identity. In other words, far from mere economic or political panaceas, a Vichian return to cultural origins and values may be necessary in order to begin anew a journey that is now headed in the wrong direction toward the wrong destination. Europe and indeed the whole of Western Civilization may well be at the crossroads at that crucial juncture where the poetical is rediscovered and appreciated or when “the barbarism of the intellect” will usher in a new Dark Age making the first, mostly physical and economic one of the Dark Ages, look like a picnic in comparison.

The Vichian cycles return but when they do it can be in a beneficial mode or a destructive mode, the mode of the barbarian. When the latter happens there is no progress, despite the Enlightenment’s belief in inevitable progress, there is only regress and decadence. We need to choose, and not to choose is already a choice that will also take us anew on the catastrophic road to barbarism. We have had a hint of this potential catastrophe some 80 years ago with the rise of Nazism and Fascism which preceded World War II and ushered in the Holocaust and a kind of darkness that pre-shadows utter decadence. The Holocaust represents an ideological crime that even the barbarians of old never would have dared to contemplate and rationalize, never mind carrying it out. That fact too is often misremembered, unfortunately. We will explore the issue of genocide in the upcoming symposium meeting; for the moment let us dwell on the new cultural paradigms that need to be envisioned and implemented if Western Civilization and Democracy, as we know it, not to speak of mankind as a whole, are to thrive and survive.

Here I am reminded of an article on Western Imperialism which I wrote for Ovi some eight years ago. In looking it over it seems even more relevant nowadays. I attach a link below for curious readers, those who suspect that there is another side to the coin of “inevitable progress” which has been accompanying Western Civilization since the times of Alexander the Great. http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/1944

In section three Ernesto Paolozzi takes the reader on an intellectual excursus in order to clarify the philosophically thorny nexus between liberty and democracy and offers some crucial distinctions. The two are often presented as synonymous but this is not always the case as he endeavors to explain. In doing so he offers us a fascinating exploration into the very concept of democracy beginning with the ancient Greeks all the way to the so called liberal-democratic modern States, and how it relates to the concept of liberty. He makes a very convincing case that man is born free first and then becomes democratic or Christian, or Moslem or socialist.

Moreover, what is riveting in Paolozzi’s presentation is his allusion to Alexis de Tocqueville’s poignant observations on American democracy and his prophetic warning about the tyranny of the majority which if not checked ends up destroying democracy from the inside. In reading Paolozzi’s illuminating comments on the subject I was brought back to the Federalist Papers and the amendments to the Constitution (which were actually added  by the US founding fathers to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority), a subject  already explored  at some lenght (20 April 2015) and titled “The US Constitution and the Federalist Papers as the Great Experiment.” See http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/12242

In section three Nikos Laios offers us an epic poetic rendition of what makes Europe a unique civilization, of the essence of its identity, and of its ongoing journey toward its destiny, via that evocative image, at the outset, of the goddess Europa riding a white bull, a disguised Zeus who takes her on a long and adventurous sea journey.

While Laios reminds us of the glorious contributions of European civilization throughout the ages in various fields of human endeavor, mostly rooted in Greco-Roman civilization, he does not neglect what Jung calls “the shadow” which is present in every individual and consequently every civilization, not excluding Western civilization and exhibits itself as an exploitative kind of colonization and imperialism. St. Augustine names it “original sin,” a flaw in human nature which is often corrupted by power and is mitigated only by reason and God’s grace. Nevertheless, not unlike Augustine, Laios finds such nature good, perfectible in principle, and capable of dwelling in the intelligible realm and conceiving of life’s purpose and destination. In other words, as that last quote by Ricoeur by Laios powerfully suggests, the narrative of Europe is not a diary or a story without a plot; it is an ongoing journey with a meaning and is founded on the logos. Overall, a fascinating read!

*******************************************************

1

New Paradigms for the Idea of Europe
A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

    sym02_01

Ivan Illich, a great advocate for intercultural communication, gifted us with a great insight. It is found in his book Tools for Conviviality. He wrote there that foreign languages ought to be pursued not so much to communicate with those native to them, but rather, so that we may listen to the particular silences found in the background of all languages, and thereby retrieve the original cultural humus from which they sprang. Notice the metaphor of the germinating seed in tandem with that of the historical journey, back to origins.

 sym03_01

I would suggest that without an in-depth listening on both sides of the Atlantic pond, not only will the journey not begin, but any meaningful transatlantic dialogue may forever elude us. In this global village in which we live, there is an urgent need to return to the future for a novantiqua kind of civilization. It is good to have lights on a car to see what’s ahead, but a rear-view mirror is also necessary to avoid a disaster.

A fruitful dialogue is always underpinned by an exchange of ideas, the envisioning of new imaginative paradigms, and a courageous execution of those ideas and visions. Let us however be aware of Illich’s caveat: assuming that the soil is good, little will germinate and even less will be gathered in the spring, unless the seed has undergone the rigors and silence of winter. Within that silence we can hope to find the space and the courage for a convivial dialogue. Then we may hope to repair worn-out transatlantic bridges of understanding and retrieve shared values.

 sym04_01

The poet Paul Valery

It may prove helpful to keep in mind a few memorable quotes of famous cultural guides and heroes in various fields and have them function as a leitmotif of sort. I have chosen four to begin with. The first one is by the poet Paul Valery who wrote this refrain in an essay on European identity: “As far as I am concerned, any people who have been influenced throughout history by Greece, Rome and Christianity are Europeans.” The second is from a statesman, the founder of the European Union Robert Shuman, who said: “I never feel so European as when I enter a cathedral.” The third is by the philosopher, Edmund Husserl, who in a lecture given at the University of Prague in 1935 stated this certainty of his: “I am quite sure that the European crisis has its roots in a mistaken rationalism.” Finally, the fourth one is by a scientist, Albert Einstein, who declared that “perfection of means and confusion of goals seems, in my opinion, the character of our age.”

 sym05_01

The Philosopher Edmund Husserl

The above quotes illuminate each other and shed light on some of the false assumptions that have ill served Western Civilization in our times. It is generally assumed that a culture war is presently going-on between the two sides of the North Atlantic and we need wise leaders to show us the way to the future. The confirmation for this premise is identified on this side of the North Atlantic in the perception of as a pervasive anti-Americanism currently present in Europe, while over there in Europe it is identified as anti-Euro-centrism, found especially in academic circles where one hears constant appeals to de-emphasize Eurocentric notions in the teaching of Civilizations, all in the name of political correctness, multiculturalism and relativism.

 sym06_01

The Flag of the European Union

In Europe one hears pleas for a return to a more authentic European cultural identity that distances itself from a globalizing, pervasive, technological fix-all, market oriented popular American culture contemptuous of regional cultures; it is that fear that fuels the anti-global movement. The French poet Baudelaire already in the 19th century had warned us that “technology shall Americanize us all,” but he was no anti-American. By technology he meant a rationalistic mode of thinking contemptuous of the poetic and humanistic modes of thinking.

 sym07_01

Map of the European Union

In any case, it seems to me that it is an erroneous assumption to conceive the two cultures as being on parallel universes, in different boats going their own direction toward different political destinies. To be sure there are cultural wars but they are internal more than external. They exist on both sides of the Atlantic. When in Europe I hear statements such as “you Americans…” I promptly interrupt and ask “which Americans?” If we recollect the first quote from Valery we may begin to perceive how misguided such an assumption is. It loses sight of the fact that, despite the particular cultural differences on both sides of the Atlantic, the roots and the trunk of the tree have a common origin. The mistakes are also similar, since before we were all “Americanized” by a penchant for the technological fix-all, we were all Cartesian rationalists.

We are in the same boat, and it is called Western Civilization; in it we shall float or sink together. That thought alone ought to unite, more than divide us. This is a civilization that goes back to the ancient Greeks who perceived themselves as Westerners vis à vis the Persians, the Romans, with Virgil as the grandfather of Europe and an empire that paves the way for the spread of Christianity and medieval Christendom and Scholastic philosophy, with a Dante advocating a United Europe in his political tract De Monarchia, the Judeo-Christian heritage, the Moslem influence in the Dark Ages, Germano-Saxon ideals of freedom, the synthesis of Greco-Roman civilization and Christianity that is Humanism, the new beginning that is the Renaissance, the Enlightenment (that of Vico and Montesquieu as well as that of Voltaire)—all largely positive elements of Western Civilization.

 sym08_01

The Poet Dante who envisioned a United Europe in his De Monarchia

When Valery says that anyone influenced by the universality of the idea of Europe is a European he does not mean it in a chauvinistic mode, nor as a geo-political reality, nor in Machiavellian-Nietzchean terms of “will-to-power,” or in terms of real-politik. He is simply stating a cultural reality shared by people in Australia and the Americas and even Africa and parts of Asia.

Contrast, if you will Valery’s statement with this one: “…by the favor of universal Enlightenment, it might become possible to dream, for the great European family, of going the way of the American Congress…what an outlook then of power, of glory, of well being, of prosperity! What a great and magnificent spectacle!” Notice if you will, the comparison with America; it looks as if the economic rat race has already taken off; notice also the stress on power and glory. I submit that this is the opposite of Valery’s idea of Europe. Try as you may, the word freedom is nowhere to be found in this statement proffered by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. That may explain why Beethoven withdrew his dedication from his Eroica symphony.

 sym09_01

The Music Composer Ludwig Beethoven

Indeed the cement for a genuine union of disparate people can only be found in the cultural sphere, and not in Machiavellian considerations of “real politick.” The lesson of Italian unification is instructive here: after it was achieved, Camillo Benso de Cavour, one of its architects, said: “now that we have made Italy let us make the Italians.” That was like putting the cart before the horse. Unfortunately, even nowadays cultural concerns are more often than not conspicuously absent from the pronouncements of our political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Gone are the Monets, the Shumans, the De Gasperis, the Adenauers, the De Gaulles, the Churchills of a generation ago with a vision of the spiritual boundaries of Europe and the assumption that Western Civilization is constituted by an idea.

 sym10_01

Robert Shuman widely considered the principal founding father of the EU

Nevertheless, I would suggest that any European of any nationality and faith, or no faith, aware of her/his cultural roots, can also sincerely assert the second statement by Shuman. An atheist and an American such as George Santayana who left Harvard University to go and live and die in a monastery in Italy, did in fact assert it. As someone deeply concerned with the life of reason, he was acutely aware that one cannot understand the essence of Western Civilization by ignoring the positive contributions of its Christian heritage and reducing it to a shallow, and often slanderous, caricature. Which is not to deny other interrelated influences and shared values, such as democracy, free speech, free exchange of ideas, religious freedom, the philosophical and scientific spirit which have a common source in ancient Greece.

 sym11_01

Proposal by Robert Shuman announcing the basis of the European Union

Europe in fact presents us with a Janus face: on one side Humanism which begins with Petrarch, on the other Enlightenment rationalism which begins with Descartes. This phenomenon needs to be recognized before we can even hope to recover lost humanistic modes of thinking, often misguidedly considered superseded or synthesized by the Enlightenment.

 sym12_01

Francesco Petrarca: Father of Humanism

A common bank and a common army may be useful and even necessary, but they alone do not constitute the cement needed to hold together disparate people with different languages. Ideas and ideals are a sine qua non for a genuine union. Moreover, we ought to take heed of what Klaus Held warned us of a few years ago. At the end of a brilliant essay on the essence of European culture titled The Origins of Europe and the Greek Discovery of the World he writes that: “A European community grounded only in political and economic cooperation of the member states, would lack an intrinsic common bond and would be built upon sand.” And if indeed we are in the same boat running full speed ahead in the middle of the Atlantic, we need to ask: where are we coming from, where are we heading for, do we have a map and a compass, what are our shared values, what is our common identity as Westerners, what is our Leitkultur, what are our common dangers? Are there icebergs ahead? For indeed even luxury liners declared unsinkable even by God, have been known to sink, and as the Einstein quote powerfully suggests, it does no good to rearrange the furniture on the deck of the Titanic. Great civilizations have been known to vanish, Plato called one such “Atlantis.”

 sym13_01

Presumed location of the lost city of Atlantis described by Plato

A bit closer to our times, Jacques Ellul also sounds the alarm in his The Betrayal of the West. Moreover, Jacques Derrida, in a lecture given at the University of Turin on the 20th of May 1990 asked this crucial question: “To what concept, to what real individual can we today ascribe the name of Europe?” He answers his own question in an essay he wrote later titled “L’autre cap suivi de la démocracie ajournée” where he envisions a future Europe (more of a promise than a reality) that conceives of itself as an idea around the guiding principle of “a mature sense of democracy” placed within the context of Western Civilization. He even suggests that this mature Europe ought to get rid of a geographical capital and opt for a polycentric network similar to medieval universities. As he puts it: “Europeans need to re-discover their spiritual frontiers beyond petty nationalities around the idea of philosophy, reason, monotheism, of the Jewish, the Greek, the Christian, Islamic memory, around Jerusalem, around Athens, Rome, Moscow, Paris.”

 sym14_01

Jacques Ellul who wrote The Betrayal of the West

If nothing else, Derrida has revived the notion that more than a geo-political reality Europe is a still largely unexplored and unrealized idea. Several philosophers have in fact explored this idea that is Europe and have attempted to answer the question of its essence and identity. Unfortunately, not many on both sides of the Atlantic bother to read what they have to say on the subject.

 sym15_01

The Philosopher Jacques Derrida

I have already mentioned Dante, but within modern times, besides Derrida, we could include at a minimum the following contributors to this idea: Leibniz in the 17th century, who first identifies the proto-language (Germanic-Celtic) as the fountainhead for the union of the people of Europe, and then Kant who promotes universal values with an ethical component, followed by Hegel, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Croce, Ortega y Gasset. With the arrival of the new polity called the European Union in mid 20th century we have Adorno, Berdjaev, Habermas, Gadamer, Havel, Levinas.

 sym16_01

The Philosopher Emanuel Levinas

Finally, let us analyze the above mentioned quote from Edmund Husserl. What is he alluding to by that “mistaken rationalism”? As a philosopher, he cannot possibly be talking about the life of the mind or the life of reason. Rather, he is talking about a calculating kind of rationalism devoid of imagination that ends up making trains run on time but never asks where those trains may be headed for. A rationalism that rationalizes what ought never to be rationalized, that begins with the ego but, as Lévinas teaches us, fails to realize that there is kernel inside the ego with an ethical component called the self, thus ending up with the logos without the mythos. It is the kind of reason which has produced political ideologies that substitute religious dogma (the mythos without the logos), identified by Vico as a cancerous growth of Western Civilization and dubbed by him “the barbarism of the intellect.” More particularly, Husserl is referring to the major shift which occurs in the 17th century with the advent of Cartesian rationalism, followed in the 18th century by the age of Enlightenment.

The problematic of the Enlightenment seems to be this: When Descartes in his Discourse on Method does away with humanistic modes of thought, he ushers in an extreme form of rationalism which eventually becomes modern relativism and nihilism. When truth is instrumentalized it undermines the very truths that rationality espouses. So, it appears that we Westerners were all “Cartesian rationalists” in the 18th century before we are “technocratic Americans” in the 19th with a fascination, on both sides of the Atlantic, with technological wonders, and an obsession with rational computerized fix-alls.

The currents of civilizations’ influences on one another are indeed mysterious. Perhaps E.F. Schumacher explains the matter best when he writes in his A Guide to the Perplexed that: “The change of Western man’s interest from ‘the slenderest knowledge that man may obtain of the highest things’ (Aquinas) to mathematically precise knowledge of lesser things marks a shift from what we might call ‘science for understanding’ to ‘science for manipulation.’ The purpose of the former was enlightenment of the person and his liberation; the purpose of the latter is power. ‘Knowledge itself is power,” said Francis Bacon, and Descartes promised men they would become ‘masters and possessors of nature.’ In its more sophisticated development, ‘science for manipulation’ tends almost inevitably to advance from the manipulation of nature to that of people.”(pp. 53-54).

The Enlightenment refuses to enlighten itself since it considers itself the culmination of full-fledged reason doing light unto itself; everything can be doubted except one’s own method. The concept, abstract reason, logical thinking is privileged at the expense of the poetical. It is reason eating its own tail with no outside point of reference and no reference to “common sense,” a sort of grammar of lunacy which begins innocuously enough with Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.” The ability to hear the gods is lost. A sad condition indeed which Kierkegaard, in identifying the Hegelian totalizing tendency, calls “the sickness unto death.”

 sym17_01

The 18th century Philosopher Giambattista Vico

Vico who is the 18th century culmination of Italian Humanism, offers a corrective to Descartes with his “poetic philosophy.” He interprets wisdom and knowledge in a fresh new imaginative mode as “sapienza poetica,” (poetic wisdom) and alerts us that when reason detaches itself from “poetic wisdom” and refuses to retrace its steps back to the wonder of the child, it becomes pure rationalism or the “barbarism of the intellect,” perhaps best exemplified by Dante’s image of Bertrand del Born in a cave in hell, holding his own decapitated head as light unto himself. Vico on the other hand, keeps reason and imagination together, he blends the rational and the poetical to arrive at a new understanding of both image and idea, a synthesis that is novantiqua, in between Geist and Leiben which he calls “poetic wisdom.”

 sym18_01

Dante meeting Bertrand del Born in Canto 28 of the Inferno

Closer to our times, Emmanuel Lévinas offers a corrective to the whole European philosophical tradition for what he considers its indifference to the ethical and its “totalizing of the other.” He indicts Western philosophers for an uncritical reliance on vast concepts such as Hegel’s “Spirit” or Heidegger’s “Being,” assimilating countless individuals to rational processes and negating their individuality. He argues that this taken-for-granted totalizing mode of doing philosophy in the West denies the face-to-face reality in which we—philosophers not excluded—interact with persons different from ourselves.

Vico, Havel and Levinas are modern examples of cultural guides for the construction of new paradigms, the new wineskins for the new Europe. The rest depends on our courage to take responsibility for our existential condition and do something about it.

Let me end with a thought from a Spanish Euro-parliamentarian, Raimond Obiols, who on March 4, 2002 wrote the following in the Debate on the Future of Europe: “We Europeans should not ourselves be overwhelmed by the pessimism caused by an inappropriate comparison with the role of the US as a political military superpower. We should set ourselves the target of building up civilian power, with a growing capacity for political, diplomatic, cultural and economic influence capable of exporting stability and equilibrium, encouraging and creating positive international consensus by intelligently employing Europe’s enormous potential for “soft power.” And this is how Mr. Obiols defines soft power: “hegemony by means of asserting values, cultural influence, leadership in knowledge and communications. Getting what one wants through attraction rather than coercion.”

Obviously, Mr. Obiols is proposing the substitution of a Humanistic imaginative paradigm to a tired old Machiavellian one, a peace oriented one to a power-oriented one. In the old days, the days of Thoreau, Gandhi and King it used to be called “soul power.” Havel has a similar insight when he declared in his Politics and Conscience way back in 1984 that “impersonal manipulative forces can be resisted only by one true power we all possess, our own humanity.” He also said there that “I favor politics as practical morality, as service to the truth, as essentially human and humanly measured care for our fellow humans.” See http://www.univforum.org/sites/default/files/HAVEL_Politics%20Conscience_ENG.pdf In effect, Havel is calling Europe back home to its true identity, to the recovery of its soul rooted in Christian Humanism. He is asking her an urgent question: Quo vadis Europa?

 sym19

Europa: an Idea and a Journey by Emanuel L. Paparella

*******************************************************

2

Liberty after Democracy
A Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi
Excerpted from his book La Rivoluzione Ingenerosa (1996)
(translated from the Italian by Emanuel L. Paparella)

 sym20_01

The Goddess Democracy

Traditional Critique of Democracy

We know that we cannot comprehend and perceive the infinite; we can grasp with our mind only what has a limit or boundaries. Therefore if we are interested in understanding our democracy we must explore its limitations, that is to say, we need to trace its boundaries as per the Latin etymology. We know the traps that hide behind the concept of popular sovereignty or majority-rule on which democracy is based. Democracy is not a true concept; it is not an idea or a category in the real sense of those words. Logic, beauty, utility, morality, can all be conceived and deduces from inside their dialectical nexus which is the same foundation as that of life itself. In other words, life itself cannot be conceived without the concepts of truth, morality, utility. But we cannot define outside of contingency the concept of democracy, unless we have recourse to the banality of etymology or the dictionary definition of “people’s government” which says it all and says nothing. But even if we wish to abandon the summits of pure philosophy and descend to the plains of empiricism we would make little progress in this regard. It is hard to find a democratic system that is non plus ultra in its excellence. Instead we discover many different models of democracy; as many as the concrete political societies. As we analyze the historical record we’ll detect questions and problems which appear irresolvable at first sight. For example, democracy requires a formidable culture from the sovereign people, so called, on a daily basis, as well as choices of great technical complexity and ethical responsibility. It is difficult, if not impossible, that such a great variety of individuals could constantly meet the challenges that are assigned to them. In fact, democracy cannot long survive without a culture understood as education in the best sense of that word.

 sym21_01

Allegory of Good Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti

From its beginning in modern times, that is to say, from the slow disappearance of the medieval world till the first half of the 20th century, democracy’s development has always been accompanied by the growth and spread of education, education, science, knowledge. In some parts of this development one notices a diminishing of quality, the lack of great personalities; however, the growth of culture has been constant in tandem with the spread of public education. For example, this happened in both Italy and the US once the great personalities of Dewey and Croce disappeared from center stage in both countries. There may have been a lack of imagination and creativity but the average level of education and the interest in culture did increase in both countries. The news lately is that even this quantitative growth has stopped and we are now witnessing a rapid decline, to a narration of returning barbarism as witnessed by the decline of language, a sure sign of decadence and the trivialization of thought which usually go together with a vulgarization of tastes and behavior.

A democracy without civilization is a mere juridical fiction, a tragic hypocrisy. This is the major eternal lesson of the Enlightenment, since without culture there is no judgment, there is no choice and therefore there is no responsibility.

But let us return to the classical problems of democracy which returns, one way or the other, within the concrete existence of our States, of our political communities. We refer particularly to the connection between majority and minority. It’s no mystery that in a society as complex as that of the so called Western world, there is an increasing difficulty in guaranteeing the rights of minorities. Think of the United States of America where ethnic, linguistic, religious minorities coexist and where, not by chance, literature on the nexus between democracy and pluralism multiplies beyond measure. Although less apparent, the discriminations carried on against those indefinable minorities which are the cultural elites of a society (take this term with a grain of salt) who rarely are able to insert themselves in the mainstream of the dominant culture, are decisive and in the long run have an impact on political choices.

 sym22_400

Is the journey of Europa the journey of Democracy?

All of this is well known, and yet, it seems that the political discussion misses the solution of the problem not unlike the proverbial ostrich which hides its head in the sand thinking that it will not be seen because he doesn’t see. It is in fact the very principle of majority which contains within itself the danger of totalitarianism. In effects, even if we ignore the many minorities, whether organized or not, it has to be admitted that even political minorities, those represented by parties and association that is not able to conquer government, is often enough discriminated against. To have recourse to the principle of numerical quantity appears quite often as a profound hypocrisy. Why pretend to be ignorant of the fact that a country is almost always governed by a minority which becomes a majority only in the electoral fiction?

For example, what does the concept of relative majority really mean? And what happens to those minorities which do not wish to express themselves through elections or the usual political struggle? As it happens, some forty per cent of citizens with the right to vote do not show up at the polls, and that ten per cent votes for groups and parties which fail to obtain parliamentary representation. So we are left with fifty per cent. If winning elections means to amass five points above the adversaries’ results, the outcome is quite clear: the so called majority which will govern a country is in reality a minority of only thirty per cent of those who have a right to vote. Can this minority claim the right of choosing for everybody? What guarantees must it concede to the minority, which when all is said and done is really the majority of the country?

 sym23_02

The Tyranny of the Majority 

So much for the border-line of the fundamental principle of democracy. Shall we also remember the traditional critique of democracy concerning its inefficiency and corruption which seem to characterize democratic regimes? It seems obvious to everybody that in a complex system such as the democratic one the swiftness of choices is sacrificed to the search for consensus and compromise, that corruption seems to be endemic to the very system. Probably, what makes democracy suspect to a certain intellectual world is the psychological connotation of the idea of democracy, the mediocrity and conformism which seem to be endemic to a system which proclaims as its directional principle that of the public opinion. We shall return to this thematic, which seems decisive in many respects. It is a fact, in any case, that one way or the other the same democratic governments, within a sort of gigantic representation, all tend to limit themselves. They loudly proclaim the sanctity of majority rule, the inviolability of popular sovereignty, they bow to the will of public opinion, follow the tastes and even the whims of people, but then they get busy in creating so many mechanisms that obviate this general principle to which they adhere so solemnly, beginning with the respect due to Constitutions which are retained, quite fittingly, untouchable and which trace the limits beyond which even citizens’ choices cannot go. Electoral systems are invented for that purpose; lobbies and special interest groups are born and are fortified which will address the choices of the majority; economic elites are developed constituting veritable centers of power. Quite often, to say it in a few words, democratic hypocrisy hides a sort of democratic oligarchy; what is solemnly called representative democracy, to distinguish it from direct democracy. As we shall see, given that, as Shakespeare has taught us, hypocrisy can prove useful in some sense, it can even be an angel, democratic hypocrisy hides the liberal exigency.

In order for democracy not to decay and die it is necessary that liberalism reappear in a strong and vital mode. In any case, there remains, and it can be proven, a nexus between the crisis of democratic representation (the many compromises of politics) and the affirmation of a democratic oligarchy which paradoxically produces a confused question of new representation which risks populism or even totalitarianism. The challenge of liberalism is the ability to mediate between the exigencies of representation and the limits of the same which is, after all, the great question of the very identity and quality of democracy.

Not for nothing this political system, so lauded and so condemned, decadent and despised, has had in its turbulent history, critics and enemies of every stripe and origin. If we furnish ourselves with a manual of political doctrines we could easily categorize movements and schools of thought that apparently, and substantially in many aspects, are different from each other but nevertheless are united by their criticism of democracy understood as a general concept, as a totality of doctrines and juridical systems, as a product and regulator of the economy and of society, as regimes that have determined themselves in their historical concreteness.

Beginning with the nostalgic return to the ancient regime De Maistre style, up to the decisionism of Carl Smith, right-wing culture has always attacked democracy with verbal violence, having recourse to various arguments that even today are still heard in second rate films and comedies, at the corner bar, in parties’ and unions’ meetings to the effect that it is democracy which rewards the mediocre, that vulgarizes customs, that ruins tradition, country and family’s values, and so on. This is a right-wing which then finds it appropriate to gather the people against democracy, to erect monuments to the sovereign people which allegedly freely decides to abdicate its power, to give up its sovereignty in favor of a dictator, of a tyrant, of the ethical State which always incarnates itself, one wonders why, in a group of men more or less uneducated, more or less violent, more or less mad, always clever, at least until their arrogance destroys them and defeats them.

But the critique of democracy by the left is no less obstinate and severe, from Marx to Lenin, from Gramsci to the Frankfurt school, from Mao to Marcuse. Democratic ideas were thought of as an ideological and abstractly juridical cover for capitalism; a false hypocritical instrument of a class, the middle class, to hold on to power and dominate the entire people, formally, but only formally, called to govern and serve the public res, while socialism and communism are the only genuine inheritors of the French revolution. So we detect a communist criticism which is less vulgar but not less rude and corrosive than that of the right-wingers. All one has to think of is about the moral strength released from rigorous analysis, sometimes scientific, sometimes rhetorical and moralistic, whose purpose is to demonstrate how genuine equality and justice is not realized with a democratic revolution, but with a social revolution, by aiming at the concrete economic equality of individuals.

The liberal critique and attitude is quite different, beginning with Tocqueville up to Stuart Mill and Croce, Gaetano Mosca and Ortega y Gasset. While it is true that Mosca and Ortega engage in a vigorous anti-democratic debate in the name of aristocracies and government elites (which ought not be confused, as it is done today, with a decline in social distinctions in which all cows become black, with a nostalgia for aristocracy), Croce on the other hand, just to give an example, overcomes the limits of political empiricism by claiming for judgment the very idea of democracy, that is to say the concept of equality. Man is born free, not democratic, not socialist, not Moslem or Taoist. Freedom is a category which serves as foundation for reality, democracy is a political regime, one among the others that are possible.

However, while Croce’s critique goes beyond contingency, Tocqueville’s position is no less severe. We owe to him the most astute and brilliant intuitions regarding the unstoppable democratic process taking place in America and its probable global extension, the risk it carries to degenerate into mere conformism thus generating from the inside the tyranny of the majority, the rise and the growth of a vilifying mediocrity constitutive of mass society.

The democratic system is not only a political system founded on certain types of juridical institutions, but rather it is a mind-set, as Tocqueville sees it, which risks the production of an impoverishment of moral values, favoring corruption and the race toward mere material goods. All this supported by the new economic asset, industrialization, which Tocqueville understands clearly, tracing the same analysis of Marx. So, in the long run, democracy may produce a sort of social anarchism or the return of despotism, of the leader to whom the weakened consciences can be tied to.

In the above mentioned position one can identify the common point, implicit or explicit, of all the antidemocratic philosophical currents. Conformism, for example, which is born spontaneously, and which seems to be tied to democratic regimes, is an irritation to the right-wingers, makes the left-wingers suspicious, and worries the liberal. Mass man seems to hide a terrible monster: from Ortega to Marcuse, from Heidegger to Adorno. On the left, perhaps the liberal critique to democracy has been grossly undervalued: the critique to mass society, to cultural industry, to that class that in 1968 rebelling students disparaged as bourgeoisie society, alienated and conformist, mediocre and proud of its mediocrity.

 sym24

Student Rebellion of 1968 at Columbia University

This is the problem of confronting the mass and, paradoxically, govern it for its own good against its instincts: the in depth problem of the communist tactic of Lenin and Stalin and Gramsci, who called the communist party the modern princely party, the Marxist answer to the advancing of the masses, the entrance of the masses in history, to say it with Ortega. So we see the myths of democracy opposed this time around from Marxist culture in the name of a more authentic democracy. One could hear Rousseau’s prophecy: “The day will come when men will have to be compelled to be free.” This is a strange liberty, a strange democracy, a strange socialism, indeed, that must be imposed, even with violence if necessary as in the times of Robespierre, Lenin and Stalin.

Even the liberal Croce, at the turn of the 20th century, recognizes Marx his master on the issue of anti-democratization and in the preface to the volume on historical materialism and Marxist economy writes those famous words in 1917: “And besides the admiration due to Marx, we who when we were young were taught by him, we owe him gratitude for having rendered us insensible to the seductions of Alcina (the decrepit old woman which appeared as a florid young woman), of the goddess Justice and of the goddess Humanity.”

 sym25_01

On the other hand, mass-man, son of the inhuman vulgar industrialism reappears dangerously on the stage once the curtain of egalitarian myths has been lifted. Ortega writes with an irritating realism in his The Rebellion of the Masses of 1930: “On the day when a genuine philosophy should return to Europe—the only thing that could save her—we shall once more understand that man, whether he likes it or not, is so constituted that he is obliged to find a superior perch. If he can obtain it on his own, it means that he is an excellent man; if not, it means that he is a mass-man and needs to receive it from the former man.”

It was the same Ortega, and even more than him Tocqueville, explained the mass, the majority, when it tends to humiliate individuality, it also tends to promote within itself individuals that constitute in themselves all the limits of the masses. Under this point of view the two most devastating  massified “democracies” of the 20th century, as proposed by Hanne Arendt, have been Nazism and Stalinism. It is a mistake to label those regimes exclusively with the term totalitarianism. They fit, probably even more so than Bonapartism, in that wide phenomenology which we could define as democratic dictatorships, or as it has been aptly said, of the democracies without freedom. It cannot be denied, as an example, that Hitler like Stalin, Mussolini, Fidel Castro, Gheddafi and Franco enjoyed a vast popular consensus: they still have fans today more than any other liberal or sincerely democratic man, with the possible exception of Roosevelt and Kennedy.

The Crisis of Democracy and its successes

Anarchic atomism, totalitarianism, despotism of the majority: these are all results of a degenerate democracy. We of course ought not take as absolute truth, the rigid abstract formulas as those just enunciated: the atomistic social degeneration of a civilization is determined through infinite modalities, and totalitarianisms are always different from each other; the tyranny of the majority is exercised in thousands of ways and thousands of details. In the times we live in, the three forms of degeneration of democratic life as we have outlined seem to be co-existing: a clear winner cannot be detected. Frantic egoism, stinginess as a value, the emptying of values as an ideal, all tend toward break up and atomism.

Recently in Italy, but also in all European and north-American countries, it has reappeared under different names the specter of class warfare: there are new rich and new poor which confront each other in small social battles. Behind this class of social status and economic liberalism hides a class between opposite egoisms. There is no ideal of social State in the psyche of the many who lazily benefit from social assistance, just as the ideal of freedom in entrepreneurship and private enterprise does not move in any way the souls of those who defend privileges often conquered with violence and dishonesty. There is no exigency of solidarity in the former, there is no exaltation of creativity in the latter. One feels even from afar that within both groups there is the anxiety to defend acquired privileges. In other times, we believed that one or the other recipe would lead to a better society, to the common good. Few today believe in such a society which many consider a stupid myth, the ethical society. Where are the socialists which consider the social State a guarantee for the less privileged and the weak and the very motor of economic development, and where are the liberals who remain confident in the ability of the free market to create wealth and welfare for all?

The clash happens only between opposite egoisms. Class warfare breaks up in thousands of small rivers which flow into a lake of confusion. The community breaks up in classes and under-classes, divided by economic, social, religious, geographical, ethnic and psychological motivations. Totalitarianism, to which many now aspire even if unconsciously, is born as a reaction to this social break-up, to an egoistic atomism, but it also represents for many a guarantee that the clash between opposite shabbiness, is guaranteed by a referee that does not see and does not judge. And so, the iron-clad  all-powerful totalitarianism, the one experienced during Nazism and Stalinism, give in to a paternalistic Caesarianism, or to a smooth hypocrisy, that is to say, to authoritarianism.

A society that is weakened will not have the strength to claim a strong dictatorship, in its own way endowed with values, but it will desire a weak dictatorship that resembles its own identity. This tyranny of the majority, of which one risks becoming a victim, is not the mere imposition of the greatest number; it is not the stable supremacy of a majority that oppresses a minority, as is the case of ethnic and racial conflicts. It is an attitude, a collective way of being. Masses of men and women judge in the same way and change their mind together, every time, because of a mysterious movement of the social body, there is a new order or a new slogan is launched. What has facilitated this attitude is the sophistication of the means of communication: often enough we witness the clash of two tyrannies; a sort of contraposition between two different majorities, between two opposite egoisms which fight each other blindly like two angered rhinoceros; a sort of class warfare which goes beyond the boundaries of classes and invades the deep psychology of man.

Conformism is not a banal daily occurrence, it is not only the spirit of a flock which motivates the undefended isolated individual to aggregate himself to the majority; it is something more; it is an emotion rooted in the soul; it is something which determines a spontaneous renunciation of the critical spirit, a conscious renunciation to intelligence and reflection. A conformist is not only he who gives in the power of the majority, It is also the weak man who does not believe in his resources, who is unable to resist the majority or the attraction of the group in which he lives.

Democracy and Liberty

We ought not be surprised therefore if even today, perhaps even more so than before, we continue to ask questions on the future of democracy in the West, taking it for granted that it never took a hold in the rest of the world: it seems to me that if we reflect seriously on this issue, it does not so much concern the destiny of democracy as much as that of freedom within a democratic system. What is certain is that lately the two have become almost synonymous and are commonly used in expressions such as “liberal-democratic societies,” or “liberal-democratic institutions,” and so on.

However, in the binomial “liberal democracy” it is the adjective which suffers most. And we must try to understand why. Democracy, despite the thousand ways by which we could define it, is always in its substance and its common sense understanding, as we have seen, the government of the people, as its Greek etymology hints at. Given that the people is not a single individual, as is a king or an emperor, but a collective of individuals, in order for them to express its will, it must be able to question all its component. The simplest method is common enough, it is voting and therefore the acceptance of the criterion of majority. The majority of French and of English, after having long debated and reflected on an issue decides to do battle.

A point of view is that the history of democracy, from ancient Greece to today, can be joined to the turbulent history of the enlargement of the majority, of the constant conquest of the right to vote by always more numerous quantities of citizens. That is to say, the right to participate and be represented. The slaves of ancient Greece did not vote; the poor and women did not vote either till a few decades ago. Today, however, in most democracies, the vote is denied only the very young, to children, and few other minorities. But there are those who’d like to further amplify the majority and we ought not be surprised if soon somebody will invoke the right of children to exercise their will to judgment. It has already happens in many elementary and middle schools.

 sym26_01

Europa from a Roman fresco at Pompei

Liberalism coincides in many aspects with this movement of continuous, growing democratization. In fact, as is easily understandable, the right to vote is a right to freedom. The will of each man to exercise his will within the community in which he lives and works. Liberty and democracy march together, and this justifies the common expression “liberal democracy.”

However, liberalism is different from democracy in many other aspects, and one is a fundamental difference: the principle of majority. The majority of English could choose to forbid the freedom of religions of Catholics, or it could deny to Scots the right to play bagpipes. What happens then to the freedom of those minorities? It is possible that the majority of a people approves, from time to time, laws that, when all is said and done, end up eroding the freedom of the whole population: absurdly the Scots could vote against the rights of Catholics, and the Catholics could vote against the rights of Scots and both of them could vote against the rights of the English and so on ad infinitum. The freedom to vote is what would win out, but in effect freedom as such will have been destroyed.

Liberalism can be understood in many modes but it is also, if not completely so, the incessant struggle to limit power, of any power that could harm the freedom of the majority, of the minority, of the individuals, of each and every citizen. It is therefore also the struggle to limit the power of the majority.

Up to now we have analyzed political doctrines which each reader could deepen and critique, immersing himself in an abundance of writings on the subject, so vast that one may never come out of it: there is ancient democracy and modern democracy, direct democracy and representative democracy, parliamentary democracy and plebiscitary democracy, or liberalism and liberality, conservative liberality and liberal socialism, constitutionalism and jus-naturalism, historical liberalism and anarchic liberalism, radicalism, just to mention a few. It is in fact not possible to scientifically examine this issue. It is our task, rather, to question ourselves on the issue above mentioned: what is the nature of the crisis (if in fact there is one) of that which we approximatively call democracy?

Democracy has many enemies, the first being totalitarianism. The attack against democracy can be external to democracy, but in other cases can come from inside as a tumor, from its own cells. Democracy can die for an excess of democracy. It can suppress liberty from inside. From this vantage point, which is ours too, we are not living a crisis of democracy, but its extreme triumph. It is liberty that is dying, or better, liberal-democracy. We are witnessing the realization of what Tocqueville had denounced, warning that the principle of majority rule, on which democracy are founded, can transform itself in the tyranny of the majority and destroy liberty. This is a book that needs to be resurrected among the deluge of research projects: Democracy in America  written between 1840 and 1845 by the great French thinker.

 sym27_01

The analysis we have conducted on contemporary democracies to highlight the dark points, or the cancerous cells, so to speak, may partially coincide in various points with the anti-democratic or illiberal thinkers: the results are changed by the intent of the analysis, since ours is not aimed at the destruction, but at the strengthening those doctrines and those legislations which look within their own horizon for a remedy of the crisis. It seems necessary, to individuate and propose, in a few words, the limits of democracy so that liberty can increase in it rather than diminish. This is the uncertain border we need to trace, the dangerous sliding road on which to venture: an attempt to understand up to what point the enemies of democracy, are in fact advantaged when it becomes, as it has often happened, a democracy without liberty.

If this is true, it would confirm our idea that the fundamental theme remains that of liberty. Undoubtedly, the ecological drama, the Pascalian thought, the anguish of death, transformed with atomic energy from an individual sentiment to a collective sentiment, seem not to leave any space to philosophical debates on the nature of liberty. The monstrosity that the future of genetic engineering may be hiding, are today a far away fear that may soon become panic and desperation. The diffusion of troubling epidemics, which remind us of the darkest times of medieval times lands us in a state of bewilderment at the eternal contradiction between infinite power (technical power) and the poor nihilism apparent in our essence as humans. The power of communication allows us to intuit an Orwellian world inhabited by empty servants. The saddest poverty is still persistent while inequality between global regions becomes deeper. Old racial discriminations are not dead yet, rather they are becoming more cruel and better rooted. Even the equality between men and women which seemed reachable is now slowing down and its civil charge seems to be vanishing. Conformism pervades the entire planet while thousands of particularities are reborn. The two phenomenon co-exist because they give life to each other. Moral values seem to be decaying and with them religion, and vice-versa, depending on how one looks at it. de-Christianization, secularism are marching forward like a desert deprived of any rain.

What to make of liberty, of democracy and other such inanities? Liberty, we assert with some embarrassment, is a luxury that we cannot afford. Yet, each of the issues here raised is an issue about liberty, every problem we have touched upon cries out for an answer as regards liberty, at least if we understand such a concept. It will not be the spirit of pragmatism, nor science, nor mere politic, to resolve the intricate issues of bio-ethics, of the use of nuclear energy, of the relationships among races and continents. Liberty is the critical dominion of power: it is what guides man to make his choices. If this is true, before we proceed, we still need to question ourselves on the nature of liberty and its future.

Does Liberty have a Future?

Is it possible that a people voluntarily gives up liberty or that it loses it without even realizing it? It is possible. This affirmation must be well motivated and circumscribed in order for it to lose irritating charge of paradox it has or to avoid disagreeable equivocations.

Polling is today the instrument with which to rapidly measure popular will, the diffused sentiment of a people in a given historical moment. It is quite probable if not almost certain that no people when asked if they would like to be free, would answer negatively. But is also probable that if the question were put indirectly the answer might be different. We could ask, for example if they prefer wealth or liberty. Or we could ask to make a list of values and classify them. One could ask, as many newspapers do: “which value below indicated do you consider more important: honesty, justice, the family, wealth, friendship, liberty, patriotism, fidelity, religious faith, and so on. One can safely assume that liberty would not be at the head of the list.

This sort of anti-liberal sounding is verifiable in many electoral returns when parties present their programs. Between a party that promises more freedom of speech, and one that promises to diminish taxes, it is very probable that the people would choose the latter. The issue of the little relevance given to the value of liberty can be observed everywhere in the world if we except, as is said, the countries with an anglo-saxon culture such as England, United States, Canada and Australia. 

On the other hand, it is well known that no social nucleus from the smallest to the biggest trusts the choices made by the majority. A family does not chose what kind of instruction to impart to one of its children in a democratic mode but consulting an expert; a constructor does not ask to his workers advice on the choices to be made, but consults a director; the churches do not listen to the opinion of the faithful but order, suggest, indicate, inspire…

If in the past people had chosen by majority its poets, philosophers, composer or scientists, it is most probable that the names of Michelangelo, Dante, Kant, Beethoven and Eistein would have disappeared from the historical record, buried with their own works.

Why then should men behave differently in their political life and privilege liberty above so many other opportunities? Does the scene just described leave some hope for the future? Has Western Civilization reached a dead end? One feels as if one has arrived at a crossroad whose paths all lead toward tragic forms of moral and political life. Once the moral foundations of the West are weakened, Christianity, liberalism and socialism, democracy, the most excellent form of Western civilization seems to fade away slowly. It tends to transform itself into the organization of conformism, into the despotism of mediocrity, destined to die carried by anarchism to give in to the old and new totalitarian tendencies that always return on history’s stage.

 sym28_01

Is this then the only possible epilogue that the moral crisis is preparing? It is not a coincidence that in the years of the crisis of liberal democracies, born in the 19th century from the struggle for Constitutions, was born a vast literature which, in condemning the present hinted at the coming future tragedy. In the years preceding World War I, the advent of Fascism, Nazism and World War II, the writings of Spengler (The Decline of the West) and Huizinga (The Crisis of Civilization) appeared which may seem the inspiration of these reflections. Ortega of The Rebellion of the Masses is heard once more. Without any doubt, the inspiration are many and varied and some analogies appear rather obvious and transparent. For a while criticism of those works was quite harsh which were considered pessimistic and reactionary, as indeed happened too to the Italians Pareto and Mosca and even Croce. In some way those critics were confusing the diagnosis with the hope. To become aware of a incipient disease does not mean that one wishes to spread its germs. It certainly was not the case for Huizinga who fought and died for the independence of his country as he resisted Nazism.

 sym29_01

But the analogies are many, it does not mean that today we find ourselves in those conditions, given that history never completely repeats itself; given that in the final analysis, there are no civilizations which are rigorously definable, but civilizations that are born and die as Toynbee believed, perhaps naively or cleverly, who claimed that he could count and measure them with extrinsic abstract criteria. It would be banal to compare the Roman Empire to the American Empire (unless we intend to place emphasis on the globalization of economic and political choices and the consequent decadence of democratic representation), as the last true military power left in the world. To compare the moral decadence of the late Roman Empire to what characterizes our times and imply that our civilization is once again attacked from barbarians from the third world is imaginative as are all simplifications when declared firmly, but they remain simplifications.

 sym30_01

The truth is that we have to attempt to under stand our peculiar situation, sincerely confess our uneasiness, our bitterness, perhaps our anguish. But they do not designate an ontological consideration, or for that matter reveal the future that awaits us: if anything they pretend to orient it. Everything given an orientation to the future, even the sundry notes written in a short book such as this, and therefore we must feel responsible for what we think and say just as much as when we act.

 sym31_01

So, let’s not imagine catastrophes and disasters, neither should we delude ourselves into a false optimism: “and what would happen if our decadent civilization were to be reinvigorated from the new barbarians as it happened with the Greeks when they were conquered by the Romans or the Romans when they were subdued from the barbaric waves?” I say, let’s put aside emperors and barbarians and let’s reflect on our destiny. Liberty never ceases to exist and it never affirms itself definitely. It constitutes history and cannot live without its contrary, without a perpetual struggle against it. One does not eat unless one is hungry; similarly one cannot love unless one desires. We cannot consider ourselves free unless there are dangers that could render us slaves.

 sym32_01

Europe beyond the Euro: an Ovi e-book

Therefore liberty never dies. It lives eternally; but it lives concretely, that is to say, struggling against its enemies which, as we have seen, are many, unpredictable, infinite. Clearly liberty identifies itself as the incessant struggle for liberty. It is up to us, men of flesh and blood, to struggle for it amidst many incertitude, danger, temptation, many cowardly acts and more rare courageous acts; but liberty is indeed generated by its enemies. Only in that sense liberty does not die whatever might be the pessimistic conception that we have of our times, our civilization understood as an hermeneutical category, not an absolute one. It is indeed our civilization, that is to say, what we consider to be the proper sense of the times in which we live.

Liberty is the fundamental category, the first indispensable. Under the influence of an ancient reputable scientific and political tradition we have gotten used to contrast liberty to the other values: liberty and justice, liberty and equality, liberty and order, liberty and efficiency, liberty and solidarity, and so on. We were not trained to despise history and tradition and therefore we shall not deny the significance of so many oppositions that have created parties and movements, revolutions and social changes that have contributed to the enlargement rather than the limitation of liberty. But to respect history always means to historicize, or to locate events in their proper place within the course of history, taking care not to abstract them from their context and render them formulas deprived of ideals and myths. The oppositions we have listed can be justified within their relation with particular (historical) conceptions of liberty and with specific doctrines or political contingency of various parties. Each historian of political doctrines can easily clarify of what justice and what liberty was on stage in the 18th century or the 19th century, distinguish between liberalism and liberality, Christian solidarity and Christian liberty, and so many other issues and events.

Our interest here is rather, to discuss our contemporary idea of liberty: that complex idea born in the turmoil of the 20th century: the century of Nazism, of Communism, of two world wars, of atomic explosion. An idea of liberty which has tried to detach itself from the particular doctrines which form the corpus of classical liberalism, that liberating liberty of which Omodeo spoke in a Crocean mode. A modern idea of liberty cannot be opposed to other values because it aims at being, and it is, the indispensable element of human life understood as civil and moral growth, unpredictable in its trajectory but constantly active and operational. We have already hinted at the simple awareness that man is born free and then becomes democratic or Christian, Moslem or socialist.

Is Liberty Disorder?

There is a common notion found in all eras and all places: liberty, the same democracy, the republic, are synonymous with disorder, relativism, chaos. Our great grandfathers, still under the influence of the the ancient regime, confronted with social or even family disorder would complain by uttering that “This is what the Republic is.” The defense from such an accusation is as old as the accusation itself and it is not profitable to tarry on it too long.

True liberty is in fact and act of con science and awareness, that i sto say the contrary of chaos and disorder. Man, by nature inclined to disobedience and pseudo freedom, acts freely when freeing himself from his natural inclinations acts well. Beginning with Kant, this is the mature idea of liberty: exactly the contrary of chaos. This is not to deny the reality of the sensation of confusion which political liberty provokes in some moments of history. We cannot affirm that “liberty provokes chaos,” but we can say that sometimes liberal governments have tolerated a certain disorder. And up to that point, all that needs to be done is correct the behavior of those governments.

A more subtle argument is made by those who claim that human nature is not worthy of liberty even thug it is supposedly its very essence. This position is usually taken by those with a totalitarian temperament who go around mouthing platitudes about liberty as being a beautiful and worthy thing but that the vast majority of men are not able to live it and exercise it. They invoke order and the strong man (or a group of men). Those worthy men never ask themselves where would destiny place them: among the regulators or among the regulated. As in every game of imagination where one dreams of living in ancient Greece or in the Italian Renaissance, they do not ask to what social class they would have belonged, nobility or slave, master or servant. But the dream ends and we return, if not happy, at least reassured of our modest condition of free citizens of the present era. The weak and the unwise of course continue to advocate a dictatorship since they feel vulnerable when confronted with the competition that liberty implies, and they quiet down, or think they can quiet down, within the rigid order which darkens everything and puts all to sleep, having satisfied their sick imagination.

Having thus constructed the issue, liberty remains nevertheless an advantage over dictatorship. There is a part of Western population ready to admit that liberty is superior to any dictatorship. But our problem has a different nature: the risk we are currently running is very high because totalitarianism which opposes liberty understood as disorder and chaos, inconclusive relativistic pluralism is a subtle, never proclaimed openly, kind of totalitarianism: it the totalitarianism of a decadent democracy, conformism, a spontaneous adhesion to oligarchy and dictatorship which is blowing  like a draft of gelid air all over Europe lately and has touched even America.

Renouncing Liberty for Fear of Liberty

Liberty provokes fear when it is real liberty. J.P. Sartre, to quote on author among the many possible, speak of the vertigo of liberty. We all experience this tragic emotion in our lives. I am free to decide my son’s future on an important matter; I am free to invest my savings, I am free to love or not to love a particular woman; all this provokes angst, fear, panic. It would be preferable if my son’s destiny were dictated by objective conditions, that my investments put in the trust of an expert in the matter, my love conditioned by what is customary. Most men, in most situations prefer tranquility to liberty. In fact for most liberty and tranquility are two faces of the same coin. This state of affairs is heightened during periods of social turbulence. Under this point of view our present condition enhances and renders comprehensible the fear of liberty which seems to characterize it.

The crisis of some values produces chaos, the crisis of other values leads to a weakening of the moral quality of civil life: all this induces fear and preoccupation, so order and discipline are adduced as the least harmful antidotes. The leadership of the Catholic Church are alarmed and for good reasons, as they witness the degeneration of life’s meaning. Abortions are easily available and practiced, euthanasia is practices as a way to relieve the physical suffering of a patient and as saving method for the relatives and the community. The death penalty institution prospers, the suicides increase, playing with one’s life an that of others has become a game, echoing the literature of Gide and Dostoyevsky. The attitude of Raskolnikov has become a mass phenomenon. It is all shocking and so liberty is denounced (even John Paul II, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor referring to liberty without truth, seems to identify liberty with lack of responsibility, taking his distances from a concept of liberty which associates it with morality) and the attempt is made to tie it and limit it as much as possible ignoring the fact that it is the degraded moral conscience which leads to a lack of responsibility, a responsibility which liberty imposes.

 sym33_01

But liberty per se is not completely responsible for all this. I would dare say, in fact, that she is the victim. We need to turn the question up-side-down: is the weakened moral conscience that generates the crisis of liberty, or is liberty that generates the chaos rather than its own triumph, as is generally presupposed. For example, conformism, is the fruit and the seed at the same time of immorality. A classical example, from the literature of the 19th century perhaps can help us. The conformist “well thinking” people condemns mercilessly a young girl who becomes pregnant. So the unfortunate girl decides to have an abortion to escape the majority of her fellow citizens who are out to condemn her. In our times the story would have a different conclusion: the girl could decide to bring to completion her pregnancy but, in order to keep the baby she knows that she will not be able to pay for the gym to keep up her figure. Becoming fat and hampered in her movements, most of her fellow citizens will condemn her. She too ends up renouncing to the baby and getting an abortion. Those two girls are both victims of the tyranny of the majority, not of the diffusion and amplification of civil and political liberties. Had they been free spirits, perhaps they would have kept their babies.

The Pope has indicated a remedy via the veto which a revealed truth imposes, whatever environmental conditions we find ourselves in: one ought not abort because it is a sin. One can be free within the boundaries of this truth but one ought not argue about it. Tocqueville too held that religion is necessary so that neither liberty nor democracy would decay. On a practical level one could agree, but this is not true at all times, as a principle. It could happen that two truths may be in contrast with each other: for example, the truth proclaimed by two different religions. One may retort that what counts is religiosity per se, not the single, historical religions but the belief in an absolute truth, not arguable, whatever it is in concrete.

But no truth is ever completely outside the realm of discussion, not even in the realm of faith. The tragic case when one needs to choose between the life of the mother and the life of a baby about to be born leaves open a whole dramatic vacuum within any revealed religion. And here we are talking about a right, the right to life, which seems to be evident and accepted by almost everybody. What would happen would we refer to so many other truths under which to place liberty? As Croce has written, truth itself is a religion since it is not possible to proclaim it as absolute truth but only as truth which appears and is completed within history, which then manifests, when indeed it does manifest itself, in our consciences.

Let us review with a brief synthesis: after its strengthening, due to the military, political and moral defeat of Nazism, liberal democracy in the West seems to hesitate in a frightening way. We have been using the adjective “liberal” because other models of democracy do not correspond to the exigencies of moral, political and economic liberty. Communism and fascism, even if in different forms and with opposite ideal references, seem to incarnate forms of degeneration of democracy rather than represent a complete opposition to the democratic model. The absolutism which precedes the French revolution, in fact, has no need, except in a very relative way, of popular consensus. The sun king had no accountability to public opinion, to the majority or to the people, only to very restricted sectors of society. Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini, to the contrary, founded their strength on consensus. Think of the modern dictators: Casto in Cuba, Mao in China, Franco in Spain, they are all compelled to utilize every means at their disposal to conquer or capture the people’s consensus. Sure, they have recourse to violence, but that’s not enough. They are compelled to realize a complex system of involvement of public opinion, which they desperately need.

History teaches us that unfortunately the people and public opinion let themselves be carried along much more often than an edifying rhetoric has led u sto believe. Nobody dares to deny any longer that in Italy fascism enjoyed a spontaneous and intense consensus, something that paradoxically cannot be equally affirmed of the democratic regime which followed it. We could safely state that if by democracy we mean the quantitative majority of the citizens of a country and the ideas expressed by the same democracy, then fascism, communism and Nazism were democratic dictatorships or totalitarian democracies, or as an analogy, as it has been said, democracies without liberty. Despite Nietzsche and the Nietzcheans, no super man has come on the scene, but rather mass man of which the dictators are a projection, an imaginative synthesis.

From these considerations we have the confirmation that democracy contains within itself the germs of its own destruction. This is an ancient idea that is rooted in Plato all the way to Tocqueville. The latter, who was sincerely democratic, mistrusted the principle of majority and experienced in his sad old age the truth of his own theories when French democracy produced the dictatorship of Napoleon III. The crisis of the Italian political system which we are now undergoing produced a sort of democratic dictatorship of Napoleon III. These are alarming analogies. What should we do? The only real solution is to be found in the re-proposal of the liberal way to democracy, given that it is not democracy as such which is in danger, but liberal democracy or liberty itself.

Within the above mentioned context, it cannot be denied that the Tocquevillian analysis is worthy of a second reading. He borrowed much from the American democratic system which at the time, and perhaps even today, was the most attentive to the exigencies of liberty. Remedies that have become classical and are well known, even if not always understood in all their relevancy. Federalism, for example, a concept needed to protect minorities from the power of the majority. Tocqueville believes that the act of association can be an efficacious instrument to resist the dominant tendencies, to conformism, to the latent forms of despotism. It may be useful to remember that in Italy for one, there are many association of solidarity, charitable, humanitarian, but rarely do we find any established for the purpose of defending principles of liberty in general or in particular.

 sym34_01

And this is the most relevant aspect of Tocqueville’s thought, even if it cannot be codified: without the sentiment for liberty, for the moral choice, for the critical spirit, there is no hope for democratic political institutions. That is to say, without the religion of freedom, as Croce rightly emphasized, there is no juridical organization, nor electoral reforms, nor empirical programs that will hold, and freedom will be lost. This may happen slowly, because liberty does not die suddenly with a heart attack; it is not like a tragedy where at the end the curtain comes down suddenly, as we are taught in school books where we read that in 1925 Italy lost its freedom which was only recovered twenty years later. It’s not that simple and neat, because we are not dealing with sudden events but with long tortuous processes.

And here comes into play Croce’s thought which takes over from that of Tocqueville…Liberalism must re-conquer its lost energies, its revolutionary force, its utopic dimensions which are part of its identity or the game is lost; if we leave the field to the enemies of liberty who cleverly will never show themselves as illiberal, but as those who have new paradigms, better social conditions, economic progress, more efficiency, more order, a better State administration, of justice and so on. Shall we forget that the devil always chooses the most seductive aspect of his proposals for entrapping his victims? And this is our problem: how do we build a new synthesis, a wider synthesis, a new perspective.

 sym35_01

…There is a nexus between liberty and justice, between liberalism and socialism. Much has been written on these connections, but is certain is that on the political plane, looking at the development of historical events, at economic-social struggles, liberalism has appeared to be opposed and at times has in fact opposed the so called social justice, even to justice understood as legality. That justice is not equivalent to legality is accepted by most people has explained from the beginning of political philosophy, and it should be clear to all those who have experienced the abstraction and false appearance of the necessary justice of the tribunals (let us remember that those of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union, as well as those of the Inquisition were also tribunals) compared to the kind of justice that real every-day life requires.

Liberalism has been a defender of the law when it was indispensable to bring down arbitrary privileges founded on the arrogance of classes and groups. It has also been a sever critic of the law when it was used as an instrument of new privileges and new exploitations. In that sense liberalism was in tandem in some way with the harsh struggles of the progressives and the socialists which identified a la Marx, the law with the ideological over structure of power usurped from the middle class. The debate on this specific issue was one of political accents and tones and less of theory and principles.

The debate on liberty and justice is fiercer when justice is understood in the sense of equality. But what kind of liberty and equality are we talking about? Of equality before the law, which would mean a leveling of the taxes and the resources imposed from on high (from the State) or as a will to insure equal opportunities to everyone? For some equality means a diminishing of creativity, an abstract attempt to impose (sometimes with violence) what does not exist in nature; for others liberty ends up coinciding with the freedom of some (or even of the many) to overcome others, of fooling them, of keeping them in a perennial state of inferiority.

The crisis of our times, as all crisis, is essentially a moral crisis, which will not be won on the field of politics, of administration, of efficiency, of fundamentally economic values exclusively, and therefore referring only to a part of man, no matter to which class or group or nationality or race he belongs.

Efficiency and coherence are instrumental values (and therefore, they may not be values in the strict sense), and cannot overcome other values as we have seen regarding justice which, when located at the apex of the imaginary pyramid of values, strangle liberty and with it justice itself. Quite often the anxiety about efficiency, the moralistic request for coherence, become a weak despotism, if not a veritable tyranny. The communitarian individual remains the term of general reference around which we need to build a new system of values and a new model of society, to say with words which have perhaps been abused. Respect for the individual, to return to our in depth analysis, is also equivalent  to the limits of democracy and thus we can explain the paradoxical notion of the very title of this essay: liberty after democracy. Democracy is the institutional, juridical, political system through which modern liberty explicates itself in concrete. If the equilibrium breaks down, liberty finds itself in a crisis.  

..Finally, it seems that democracy and liberty need to coexist, even when at times they find it hard to live together, since historically democratic doctrines can be placed within a neutral space between liberalism and socialism and ought not take it for granted that democracy by its nature is closer to socialism or to liberalism. In some respects the dialogue between socialism and liberalism is quite simple. Liberalism and socialism at times are a way to stop the crisis of democracy.

For a long while it has been held that the terms liberty and democracy are practically synonymous. Recent history has forced us to a hard second look at our optimism, or, at least at our superficiality. There is always something that transcends us and that we need to recapture laboriously, daily, to render it immanent. This is our adventure, perhaps it is our drama, the fascinating drama of liberty.

*******************************************************

3

EUROPA, EUROPA; MY EUROPA
A Presentation by Nikos Laios

I
A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

 sym36_400

Portrayal of Greek Civilization at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: a photo by Nikos Laios

The civilisations that arose from what we call Europe, are not constructed on the basis of race but on an inheritance of thoughts, ideas, cultural achievement and a religious affinity. Where every European race and civilisation has therefore made a contribution to this European inheritance and that specifically separates it from the civilisations of the Semites, the Chinese or the Hindus. A European civilisation that is built upon the myriad and kaleidoscope of the differing races and peoples that we now have come to know as Europeans; and this is one of the profound achievements underpinning the victory of European civilisation.

Where the races of Europe have been vigorous and thoroughly mongrel, breeding with each other throughout their history in that stimulating landscape to form new peoples and nations, with the various Indo-European peoples mingling with the pre-existing Pelasgian and pre Indo-European peoples of Europe. The Alpine mixing with the Nordic, the Nordic mingling with the Mediterranean; and out of this mingling arose from the Bronze Age the peoples that were to shape and dominate the history of Europe - the Greeks, the Latins, the Celts, the Teutons and the Slavs - the great success stories of European history.

The first stirrings of this European consciousness appeared on the shores of the south eastern Mediterranean with the first emanations of European literature through the cycle of Homeric poems that showed a distinct European character, and this was due to the first societal success story of Europe, the Greeks. Those dazzling, intelligent, quick-witted, hardy and adventurous people, who shared the same characteristics with all the other subsequent European peoples throughout history; where Europeans lived in a free world of minstrels, poets, pirates, warriors and artists and where this psychology divided Europeans from the theocratic and hieratic civilisations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. 

Where as a result of this invigorating and enlivening open-air existence, Europeans where able to escape the paralysing, stifling control of an organised priesthood and where never enslaved to a church or holy book like the peoples of the east were and as they are still today. Where neither the Delphic, Eleusian mysteries or any other religious movement throughout European history was able to crush the free spirit and inquiry of their luxurious imaginations. Where this spirit of bold individual freedom, free inquiry and the primacy of the individual is what separated the west and east then, as it does between Europe and and the Islamic East today. Two distinct and alien philosophies and modalities of living completely antithetical to each other. Yet the shared European religion of Christianity is what also bound Europe together into a distinct shared identify; for Christianity was the superstructure and framework within which the classical ideas of morals and ethics were given a more concrete form which influenced every area of European achievement and thought which lead to the reformation and the humanism of the enlightenment, which along with the Greco-Roman legacy is what constitutes what it is to be a European.

Yet before we can continue further through the time tunnel of European development, one has to dwell firstly on the biggest influence on the formation of the European consciousness, and that is the influence of nurture and the physical environment of the European landscape itself. Where the monotony of the plain level spaces are broken up by towering mountain ranges and green rolling hills, valleys and hills dissected and intermingled by gurgling rivers and babbling streams, the cold north balanced by the unbearable summer heat of the South, the well watered plains filled with fauna and flora of various variety of shapes and form, independent city states set apart from the others in the rustic embrace of highland valleys, lowland plains with citadels overlooking the sea splashed with oranges, lemons and olive trees. To the archipelago of island chains that lace the edges of the European mainland. This is the secret of the European miracle that helped shape the gregarious free-thinking, free-spirited minds that lived life in the open-air which promoted a thoroughly social community.

The very name of Europe itself holds the baptismal marks of its ancient Hellenic origins, an origin rooted in the very early foundation myths of Greece itself. In Greek mythology, Europa lived on the coast of Asia Minor and was the daughter of King Agenor - who himself was the descendant of Io, a princess of Argos in Greece. Europa was the paragon of feminine beauty, and Zeus fell in love with her instantly and decided he had to have her. He took the form of a wondrous snow-white bull with dazzling horns and approached her as she was frolicking near the sea with other maidens picking flowers. When Europa approached the bull, he smelled of flowers and timidly lay in front of Europa, where she interlaced the flowers she had picked and wreathed them around his horns and climbed on his back, and he instantly charged into the sea and began swimming away from the shore followed in procession by Poseidon, Triton blowing his horn, and nereids riding Dolphins.

Upon reaching the shores of Crete, Zeus consummated his love for Europa under a green dappling evergreen tree and after which she gave birth to three sons of Zeus; Minos, Sarpedon and Rhadamanthys, where all three due to their fairness and wisdom, at their death became judges of the underworld. When Europa died, she was transformed into a star complex by Zeus accompanied by the shape of a bull. The name Europa has two forms in Greek, one is Ευρωπη (Europe) in the Ionian Greek, and Ευρωπα (Europa) in the Doric Greek. The first usage of the word Europa to donate a sense of identity was used in ecclesiastical terms in the 8th century AD to describe the imperium of the Holy Roman emperor Charlemagne who ruled most of Western Europe and who laid the foundations of modern France and Germany; and the other reference was the term Europenses which appears in the Hispanic Latin chronicles to describe the Christian people of Western Europe.

The journey of Europe therefore that started with the Greeks in turn continued like a baton being passed forwards in a chain of relay runners to progress the history of Europe forwards; the Romans, Byzantines, the Germanic peoples, the Franks, the Saxons, the English, and off course the Italian Renaissance which revived the Ancient Greek and Roman learning when Greek scholars such as Bessarion brought over eight hundred Greek codices of ancient works  from Constantinople. One of his predecessor and teacher - the Neo-Platonic scholar Plethon - was one of the chief pioneers of the revival of the learning of Ancient Greek knowledge in Western Europe.

This cultural relay race through time then culminated in the rediscovery of rationality and logic, and the leap forwards into the growth of the discovery of Humanism; which is an ethical stance and philosophy which empathises the agency of human beings on both an individual and collective basis that pursues rationalism, empiricism and critical thinking for the exploration and understanding of knowledge; and which affirms human nature and its characteristics of acting, feeling and thinking independent of the influence of culture; and this is the legacy of Europe (and its colonial progeny in the Americas and the great southern land) and of its identity and characteristics which separate it from other cultures and civilisations from around the world.  

Then we come to the question of the Europe of today, and the basis of the construction of the European Union. Out of the loss and death caused by two world wars which tore Europe apart in the twentieth century, the idea came for the unification of Europe as a bulwark against another self-implosion by European nations inspired by two former leaders of Germany and France, Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand who pushed for the idea of a European Union as a vehicle through which the peoples and nations of Europe could achieve a fruitful and peaceful social, cultural, political and economic intercourse and coexistence.

However, the first idea for a European Union came from the Russian Tsar Alexander, who first proposed a union of Europe at the congress of Aix-La-Chapelle in 1818, and then a European Union was next propounded at the end of World War 2. The late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill first coined the term "The United States of Europe" in a speech delivered on  9 September 1946 at the university of Zurich, Switzerland, when he said; "We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living."

Then further in the final paragraph of his speech, Churchill's vision is of a Europe without Britain when he states; "We see nothing but good and hope in a richer, freer, more contented European commonality. But we have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not compromised. We are interested and associated but not absorbed."

This therefore begs the question, how much of a European Union should there be? On what should it be based upon, and what values? This tug-of-war and confusion is at the core of many of the problems affecting the Europe of today in many various ways and forms.

Prior to a further reflection and expansion of this, one needs to revisit one of the foundations of Europe, one of its 'legs', like the legs of the statue of a Colossus. The one being the legacy of the Greco-Roman civilisations, which quite clearly is very much in influence in Europe today. The other 'leg' is its religious identity of its Judeo-Christian beliefs, for even though secularism has claimed a supposed victory over Christianity, Europeans actually live and decide their lives very much so by the morals, ethics and philosophies that have sprung from and which where inspired by Christianity; and the question now begs to be asked, where to next?

Yet before we can ask that question, one needs to dwell firstly on the 'dark shadow' of European civilisation, a shadow which passes over every great civilisation, for one needs to avoid the blind narrow hagiography and hero-worship of a civilisation, and make an honest attempt to come to terms with this dark shadow.

II

THE SHADOW AND THE JOURNEY AHEAD

 sym37_400

The success of European civilisation has also brought with it the terrible effects of the dark shadow of European civilisation, which emerged from the self-cannibalisation of its own soul at times of weakness and insecurity and that manifested itself in horrible loss and suffering inflicted on its own humanity and that of the world: imperialism, empire, colonisation, death, destruction, rapine, slavery and the genocide of not only native peoples around the world, but also a self-inflicted genocide, world war one, world war two, the impoverishment of the world via a stock market crash, and the implicit guilt via association by the genocide committed by the Turks on its Christian peoples.

However terrible and heinous these events are, all other civilisations are guilty of just as many offences against humanity, and unfortunately this is due to our mammalian territorial nature and survival tribal instincts which has never left our DNA, or was ever fully able to be controlled. Where the dark aspect of humanity's Dionysian archetype was never fully able to be tempered by the higher and nobler aspects of the Apollonian archetype.

The great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung talked about the 'shadow' as the darker, negative part of our human psyche; the dark, negative, primal, and violent aspects of our subconscious which collects and projects individually and through the shared archetype of society. Where any attempt to grow as an individual and a society must entail the recognition of the moral problem of the ego-personality, where one needs to become conscious of the dark shadow to overcome the negative aspects of our dark shadow and dark projections - and which unresolved - explodes in an unexpected mass psychosis as it did in Germany after World War One and that lead to the tragic results of World War Two.

This aspect of a self-examination is a very important, cathartic act of knowing thyself and where this moral conflict also stimulates some of the greatest artistic and cultural achievements. Yet the terrible results of the dark shadow which has manifested itself through various periods of European history can never by forgotten, and where we must humbly as Europeans remember these dark shadows of our past before we set sail for a new brighter future; where on the balance of things, the overall positive legacy and gifts of European civilisation -  democracy, freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry, spiritual inquisitiveness, the primacy of the individual in society, the gift of humanism and the pursuit of knowledge - these gifts far outweigh the terrible legacy of our sins and that can provide a vehicle for the next level of human evolution for mankind.

In attempting to answer the question 'where to next?' for Europe, one needs to briefly dwell on this  Delphic maxim of 'know thyself', and briefly explore the idea and question of what the European soul and identity means when one only includes by selectively picking some aspects of our past to the exclusion of the rest; rationality, science and humanism? Or ethics, morals, religion, philosophy, and in what proportion? A brief reflection is required before delving into the economic and political dystopia that Europe is starting to find itself in.

Even though Christianity finds its origins in a Jewish prophet from - and from what was in the first years of the Christian Era an obscure Jewish religious sect - Christianity would have remained nothing than an obscure Levantine sect had it not been transformed into a universal religion by the filtering through the dialectics of Greek learning and thought that had permeated the Middle East for nearly three centuries after the conquests of the Greek warrior-king Alexander the Great - and before that - the long history of Greek colonisation of the coast of Asia-Minor from the Mycenaean times.

For had it not been for this, Christianity would not have gained a foothold in Europe had it not transformed itself into a thoroughly Greek - and thereafter European religion - via the transmutation of this early Semitic/Jewish cult through the filtering and transmutation with Platonic, Aristotelean beliefs along with the thoughts of Cynic philosophy. For not only were the ruling classes and scribes of the East Hellenised by Greek thought, but the first Europeans that considered this new religion were Greek; and they did so through Greek eyes and thought.

The regenerative beliefs of Dionysian religious beliefs, the mysteries of Eleusis, the sun-God Apollo, and many others; and it is the Greeks that gave the name of Christianity to this new belief, and where the similar liturgical rituals and motifs carried forward into the new religious, with the same wafting aromas of frankincense and myrrh that previously that coated the pagan temples now rising in the high Christian alters. Where the Greek word for God that was previously used for the Greek Olympian gods - θεος (God) was then also used also for the new Christian God. Where the Greek word  Χριστος (Christ) meaning 'the anointed one' was used, and the other derivative from this Greek word  Χριστιανος (follower of Christ).

This new religion was therefore passed onto the Greek's Roman brothers, where it then spread west and north; Catholicism, Protestantism,  and the rest is history. A religion which laid the ethical and moral foundations of Europe today and which influences everyone's code of conduct in what is right and what is wrong. Thus the reason this religion which became the binding glue of Europeans is called Judeo-Christian is that even though this religion was inspired in the east, it was in turn thought out and invented in the west, and a legacy that has underpinned the highest artistic, cultural and architectural achievements of Europe from the early Christian Era right through to the enlightenment when Europeans where confident enough to separate church from state - and rightly so - yet the question begs to be asked, what role should it play in the construction of the European Union?

In considering the European Union of today, it has become nothing other an enterprise  run for an economic imperative only;  of four thousand years of European evolution being boiled down to a board of directors of the ECB, IMF, Brussels and Berlin running the European Union as a capitalist company on a profit-and-loss basis, with ledgers and bookkeepers, where the soul of Europe, its essence, its culture is excluded from the equation, where people and nations are only valued on their monetary and financial success, and this is a sad state of affairs indeed and the crux of the basis for all of the problems of the European Union.

This devaluation of the individual in Europe can be traced back to the development of the industrial revolution and capitalism; which in turn gave birth to materialism and the  consumerism that supplanted the the pursuit of knowledge and the cultivation of the soul through the fracturing of the individual through narcissism, relativism and particularism; resulting in a dumbed-down generation interested only in the accumulation and consumption of material goods. It is through this warped prism that this very shallow parameter has somehow become the preeminent determinant of what it now means to be a European ruled through puppet governments by the puppet-masters in Brussels, Berlin, the IMF and ECB, with democracy being the sacrificial scapegoat burnt on the Abrahamtic  pyre of expediency.

The question of Greece at the moment and its potential economic failure brings to sharp focus the devaluation of the individual in Europe and the failure of the EU, where capitalism, the banking and the political systems needs to desperately to be reinvented, to again place the good of people at the centre of all of societal goals, where the EU has now lost all moral authority and claims of promoting European fraternity and happiness.

In respect to the GFC global meltdown of several years ago which precipitated today's economic problems, the U.S. Senate's LevinCoburn Report stated that the crisis was the result of "high risk, complex financial products; undisclosed conflicts of interest; the failure of regulators, the credit rating agencies, and the market itself to rein in the excesses of Wall Street". The irony here is that Germany has been  the biggest debt transgressor of the twentieth century.

Capitalism, the banking system, the IMF, the ECB, Brussels (and Berlin) have all failed miserably whereby the very ideals of the European Union have been compromised and destroyed. Consumerism, materialism and the economic narcissism of the self have somehow dominated and taken centre stage as the modus operandi of Europe, and how wrong this is indeed. One can go into detail into an economic exegesis of the 'why' and 'wherefore' of the financial minutiae of the economic running of the material needs of Europe, but this would be digressing from the real underlying issue here, and that is that we have lost sight of the meaning of what it is to be Europeans, that we have somehow lost our way and jettisoned along the way our souls in our rush into a badly constructed Union of Europe.

The very essence of our European identify lies in our Greco-Roman past, our Christian religion and values, and the achievements of the great successes of the victory of the human spirit through the enlightenment and humanism that placed the individual under the sun, free to think and dream. These values should become the mission statement of the European Union; that the current EU is a terrible dystopian nightmare that needs to be blown up, so that a new ideal can fashion the union as it should have been from the start; with the human being at the very centre of its attention.

The curled, unfurled shimmering triumphs of European - and therefore human civilisation - taking center stage instead;  the golden baroque cities with delicate stone flying buttresses and archways, and colonnaded porticoes lacing ethereal crystal fountains splashing water into the air over glowing marble statuary of Europa, the nymphs and nereids: or Michelangelo's majestic David, the burghers of Calais, or the haunting elongated flame-like green cypress trees and broken classical columns captured in the paintings of masters; as the strains of Beethoven, Bach and Ravel waft from the bowls of the elegant European cafes.

To the small jazz clubs throughout the history of Europe in the twentieth century that have been a beacon to so many souls, pulsating warmth and humanity into space. The cornet softly squealing mellow musical notes, wafting; mingling with tendrils of cigarette smoke and  perfume in the air. People reclining in their mahogany leather bound chairs; the ice clinking in crystal scotch glasses; these moments highlighting the ephemerality of our creation under the shadow of the melting, colourful, dynamic and modern paintings of Dali or Picasso hanging on the walls.

This is the Europe that we need to revisit, this is the Europe that we need to place as the central ideal of any European Union; a union that celebrates the European humanist soul. With one eye ever so respectful and solemnly casting a glance back at the dark shadow of our European past, and with the other eye cast with humility at the magnificent European civilizational achievements.

In understanding our journey though our European past into the present and our redemption from our dark shadow, it would do well to reflect on the words of the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur who once said: "Man is this plural and collective unity in which the unity of destination and the differences of destinies are to be understood through each other."

 

*********************************************************

 END  OF 52nd SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (21/05/2015)

*********************************************************

Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

2nd Meeting - 3rd Meeting - 4th Meeting - 5th Meeting - 6th Meeting - 7th Meeting - 8th Meeting -

9th Meeting - 10th Meting - 11th Meeting - 12th Meeting - 13th Meeting - 14th Meeting - 15th Meeting -

16th Meeting - 17th Meeting - 18th Meeting - 19th Meeting - 20th Meeting - 21st Meeting -

22nd Meeting -23rd Meeting - 24th Meeting - 25th Meeting - 26th Meeting - 27th Meeting -

28th Meeting -29th Meeting - 30th Meeting - 31st Meeting - 32nd Meeting - 33rd Meeting -

34th Meeting -35th Meeting - 36th Meeting - 37th Meeting - 38th Meeting - 39th Meeting -

40th Meeting -41st Meeting - 42nd Meeting - 43rd Meeting - 44th Meeting - 45th Meeting -

46th Meeting - 47th Meeting - 48th Meeting - 49th Meeting - 50th Meeting - 51st Meeting -

52nd Meeting -

***********************************************************************

 
 


   
Print - Comment - Send to a Friend - More from this Author

Comments(0)
Get it off your chest
Name:
Comment:
 (comments policy)

© Copyright CHAMELEON PROJECT Tmi 2005-2008  -  Sitemap  -  Add to favourites  -  Link to Ovi
Privacy Policy  -  Contact  -  RSS Feeds  -  Search  -  Submissions  -  Subscribe  -  About Ovi