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Ovi Symposium; sixty-sixth Meeting Ovi Symposium; sixty-sixth Meeting
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2016-02-24 10:37:35
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Ovi Symposium:

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

between Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Ernesto Paolozzi and Emanuel Paparella
Sixty-sixth Meeting: 15 February 2016

symposium01

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Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

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.

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Subtheme of session 66: “On Misogyny and Feminism: Two Faces of the Same Coin?”

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Levinas, Jung, Sayers, Berlatsky, Chisolm, Steinem, Friedan, Morgan, Smith, Obama, Zarum, Jane, Bennett, Matis, Vico, Kazantzakis, Fermor, Christ, Sagan, Ali, Jung.

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Table of Contents for the 66th Session of the Ovi Symposium (15 February 2016)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “Feminism and Women’s Rights: An Alternative Vision or a Substitution of Power?”  A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 2: “Misogyny, Revolution, God and Lost Hope.” A Presentation by Nikos Laios

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Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella
(Ovi Symposium 66)

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This 66th meeting of a Symposium program which is now in its fourth year, is in some way a follow-up dialogue on the controversial issue of modern feminism which the symposium has explored occasionally. The last time we dealt with it extensively was in the 33rd symposium’s meeting titled “Feminism throughout Time and Space. As sine qua non for a new Renaissance and a New Civilization?” That question remains open-ended, nevertheless it seems obvious that without women’s substantial contributions to civilization at every level (for after all they constitute about half of humankind) no new Renaissance will ever be possible and the term “ Western enlightenment” will remain a mere empty aspiration. The thorny issue of women’s rights needs to be settled once and for all, especially in the Western World which claims to be exemplary on the proper treatment of women, and in fact claims primacy in many humanitarian fields. Be that as it may, there currently exists a general consensus that until women are free and their human rights fully respected and guaranteed everywhere, no man on earth will be wholly free either.

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For, to claim to be exemplary implies that one is also willing to look unflinchingly at the issue of feminism, without prejudices and biases, remaining well disposed to admit one’s faults and to do amends for one’s past and present failures; otherwise one risks coming across as a hypocrite long on sublime words but short on concrete actions. In fact, in the preamble for the above mentioned symposium meeting we began by referencing the rather obvious fact that for a while we in the West have lived within a “patriarchal imperialistic culture, long on theory, abstract principles, and utopian ideals, but short on practical humanitarian healing social practices.” Some prefer to ignore those inconvenient truths or deny them outright. To be sure, much progress has ensued since the time of colonialism and imperialism in the West,  but unfortunately an in-egalitarian approach in the treatment of the opposite sex still persists today even in countries that consider themselves progressives. Equality has hardly been achieved. When one considers the current plight of Syrian refugees vis a vis the EU or the US one becomes acutely aware that the philosopher Emanuel Levinas had it on target on the ethical failure of Western Civilization as a whole in the treatment of the “other” despite the claim to universal enlightenment. If truth be told, since the Enlightenment the moral compass of Western Civilization has been regressive, putting the emphasis on materialism rather than progressive as the initial comments of Nikos Laios in the second presentation would also strongly suggest. Of course the same can be said for other cultures around the world when it comes to the treatment, or rather, the mistreatment of women, not to speak of  rampant xenophobia and out-right bias and racism.  

Undoubtedly, to talk of feminism is also to talk of misogyny; in some way one is the other side of the same coin. It can easily be proven that feminism was initially a wholly justified reaction to misogyny and the denial of human rights to women. But the issue is not so starkly simple, and that’s why from time to time we continue to explore the issue of feminism in the Ovi Symposium. It remains linked to women’s right to equality and to misogyny. We’ve repeatedly attempted to ascertain to what extent the various feminist movements that have blossomed within Western Civilization, and elsewhere in the world in the last few decades, have been motivated by a legitimate desire to achieve equality and complementarity with men, and to what extent it is a desire to merely assert superiority; that is to say, a desire to assign intelligence to it; something men have reprehensibly done from time immemorial thus falling into a patriarchal exploitative mind-set.

The issue has been resurrected recently within the Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign which had former Secretary of State Margaret Albright declare that “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women,” referring to younger women, many of them in college, who have shown a tendency not to vote for Hillary Clinton merely because she is a women; they seem to lean toward Bernie Sanders, the social-democrat. Which raises the question: is the new generation of women declaring that politics as usual, and feminism as an exclusive club of sorts, is over and done with and that a new vision of politics (to which belong both genders equally) is now in place? I suppose in November we will know the answer to such a question; but there seems to be no doubt that a new feminism is on the horizon, more inclusive and egalitarian.

Even more cogently, one wonders if Jung was on the right track when he postulated a psychological feminine element (which he called “anima”) within the self of each normal man, without which a man ends up dehumanizing himself, as well as a masculine element of “animus” within the self of each woman, barring which a woman ends up becoming an adoring and feckless clinging violet, a mere subservient satellite to a man? Is this deep insight yet to be fully explored and reflected upon? Some of those issues are explored at some lengths in the first presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

In the second presentation Nikos Laios follows up with a challenging thesis on the status of misogyny in our modern world asserting that in the West misogyny has been mostly eradicated. It is now up to the rest of the world to follow suit.  This assertion can in turn be challenged, if not on the level of misogyny per se, surely on the level of feminism and women’s equality where much work remains to be done and where the   promises of Western culture (the white man’s burden, so called) remain aspirations rather than unchallengeable realities. Many women in the West are still not receiving equal pay for equal work, just to mention one example.  

In the second section of his presentation Laios places on the symposium’s table another highly controversial thesis, namely this: Christianity, rather than the conventionally acknowledged Jewish roots (for after all Jesus Christ himself was a Jew and the apostles who promoted his message were Jews also and the Bible as such comprises both New and Old Testament), has Greek roots to be traced back to  Greek mythology, in the gods of Mt. Olympus who also came to earth as demigods to aid mankind and determine its destiny. This is a Bultonian operation of mythologizing and then demythologizing of religions which allegedly are all founded in myths; they may be false exteriorly but true interiorly (consider the myth of the Garden of Eden, for example), not excluding those occurring in religions which claim the same God: the so called Abrahamitic religions (Judaism-Christianity-Islam). Following this train of thought a hermetic separation then gets established between Old and New Testament: one belongs to a Middle Eastern patriarchal culture, where a tyrannical vengeful god reigns supreme (the old man in the sky) the other to a Western more “enlightened” culture where a more liberal god (the force?) predominates; the two live in different universes. The almost necessary implication here is that the importance and continuity of history and even the genealogical record is not that important when one deals with mythology; it can safely be ignored.

A counter-challenging question is bound to arise at this point: is the Christ of Christianity a non-existent purely mythological figure at a par with the Greek gods, or was he rather an historical figure born under Caesar Augustus who died under Tiberius during the governorship of Pontius Pilate in a place called Palestine? Moreover, was this figure a mere theological mythological construct springing from the fertile imagination of the Jew Paul who while in Athens dared to preach a sermon to Greek philosophers on “the unknown God” thus attempting, as it is claimed by those who deny that Christianity is initially a branch of Judaism, to substitute the God of the Old Testament to the Western Olympian gods? Here obviously Leo Strauss’ postulation of the dichotomy Athens/Jerusalem, the particular/universal comes to the fore again. An issue this that has employed rivers of ink and is centuries old and continues to be debated because it deals with the very essence and identity of Christianity. Such an ongoing debate, in fact, makes this meeting of the Ovi symposium particularly interesting

There is however a cogent question which goes to the heart of the matter and can be quite useful in placing the issue of the Incarnation and the divinity of Christ in a wider perspective and it is this: would a group of ignorant Hebrew fisherman have been willing to bravely give witness and die for a mere idea or a myth or a theological ideology, a la Socrates? That it to say, were they following a myth or a person?  Perhaps the most logical answer is “definitelyly not”; and if that be so, does it in any way lend credence to the notion that the events as narrated in the New Testament are in fact historical and inextricably linked to Jewish culture; that they are not of a mythological nature? If Christ was historically a Jew, as were the twelve apostles who promoted and spread Christianity in Europe, can one assert that Christianity is the final triumph of classical Greek culture born in Europe? Can we then proceed to reduce Christ to another hero of the Greek pantheon, thus rendering moot the essential reality of the Incarnation? That is to say, is Christianity in fact an historical phenomenon and a branch of Judaism, or an ideology, a mere philosophical idea? Is being a spiritual Jew (the gentiles being a branch of  the tree of Judaism as Paul intimates in one of his letters in the New Testament…) integral part of the Christian identity? Or, in the name of “enlightenment” is it to be reduced to a cafeteria-like relativistic “spirituality,” one of the various religions one can choose and pick from time to time depending on the circumstances of one life?

On this matter too, it seems to me, a dialogue may be sorely needed, a dialogue that has in fact already begun years ago in the pages of Ovi magazine. There is plethora of articles on the issue, and they will undoubtedly continue since the magazine, since its inception, has promoted the examination of a variety of points of views and opinions on various topics, examined under the light of rationality without falling into relativism and reducing the True, the Good and the Beautiful to a mere opinion and what may be merely trendy in the shallow times in which we presently live.

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1

Feminism and Women’s Rights: an Alternative Vision or a Substitution of Power?
A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

“The rule seemed to be that a great woman must either die unwed ... or find a still greater man to marry her. ... The great man, on the other hand, could marry where he liked, not being restricted to great women; indeed, it was often found sweet and commendable in him to choose a woman of no sort of greatness at all.” 
                                                   -- 
Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night

“Misogyny is a cage for everyone—as long as women aren't free, men won't be, either.”
                                                   --Noah Berlatsky, Can Men Really Be Feminists?

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Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967

Does intelligence have gender? Even a cursory reflection on such a question would hint at the obvious common sense answer. I, for one, have never considered it very intelligent to assign gender to intelligence and clarity. For those qualities are closer to the spiritual than to the material and the bodily, and possess therefore a trans-gender, almost transcendental nature. The Platonic world of the intelligible belongs to human kind as a whole, not just half of it. Plato was far from being a feminist but most probably he would be the first to acknowledge that fact.

The current women's rights movement, embodied by the planned "special Inaugural edition" cover of Ms. magazine, is hardly recognizable to those who are trying to advance the discourse on gender.

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Wonder Woman on the first cover of Ms.

Indeed, that first cover picture which debuted way back in 1972, under the patronage of Gloria Steinem, sports a giant figure of Wonder Woman, an emblematic symbol of the women’s movement of the time, striding across the vast landscape over a caption proclaiming “Wonder Woman for President.” Why four decades later, when a woman finally ran for president, her photo was mysteriously absent from the cover of Ms. magazine and the nation opted for a different first, the first African-American president.  Is it high time now for women to take back the term ‘feminism’ and restore its dignity and honor, and for the daughters and granddaughters of feminism discover their inner Wonder Woman?” Unfortunately, a movement for women continues to be about men. In the present presidential campaign where two women are running in each of its respective political parties, the feminist term “ethics of care” is hardly ever heard. What one hears from both women running for the prize is a constant reminder that they are capable and in fact have done a man’s job and have done it better. Despite their ideological differences, they have something in common: both seem to crave the honor of being dubbed “iron maidens” a la Margaret Thatcher.  How so?

 sympo0053

In attempting to probe those troubling questions let’s begin with a schematic survey of the feminist movement in America beginning with the second wave in 1961, (the first one being that of the suffragettes claiming the right to vote) when Eleanor Roosevelt, a true heroine of that movement, was appointed by President Kennedy to chair the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. To be sure those heroines of the 1960s and 1970s belonged to a whole spectrum of political parties and made possible groundbreaking strides for women. Just to mention a few names: Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Robin Morgan; they all fought hard for political representation, maternity leave, equal pay, affirmative action. Moreover, Margaret Chase Smith, in 1964 became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the US presidency.

sympo0055

 The current women’s rights movement is hardly recognizable to those, both male and females, who are truly trying to advance the discourse on gender.” Take, for example, the planned “special inaugural edition” cover of Ms. magazine. There, one is presented with the current vision of feminism:  a man striking a Superman’s pose. That man is nobody else but the current president of the US: Barack Obama. The implication is clear, those who belong to the clique are out not to change anything but to imitate men and displace them. It’s a mere question of replacement and substitution, of access to power and privilege, not a real alternative in search of a more humane world. The ultimate aim is power and superiority, not genuine equality; which is to say, incessant war between the sexes is at least implied if not explicitly advocated. It ultimately means that the issue is still not about women and their ethics of care but about men and their power-based way of conceiving social reality.

In an article in The New Republic which appeared very recently on 9/17/2015 Lara Zarum had this to say about Feminism and Confessional Writing, one of the most controversial issues being debated within the movement: “For many women writers, doling out their stories has proved a successful path to a career in writing. In the past decade, a vast online space—websites like Thought Catalog, Rookie, and xo Jane—has opened up for women to write about their early confrontations with adulthood, preferably with emphasis on their growth from awkward girls to complicated, yet desirable, women. Writing about “the Internet’s bottomless appetite for harrowing personal essays,” Slate senior editor Laura Bennett argues that the internet’s appetite for confessional writing points many young writers inward—not necessarily because they have something pressing to say but because, for women in particular, a pitch based on a traumatic personal experience is a reliable way to get an editor’s attention.

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Others, to the contrary, argue that confessional writing is a radical act, providing a template for women to be their own subjects. But the troubling paradox is that in their quest to spin a narrative out of the fabric of their lives, these writers often fall back on the same objectifying impulse of male writers and artists since time immemorial. In 1972, the art critic John Berger wrote, “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” Berger was writing about the depiction of women in classic oil paintings, but in so much personal writing today, young women fall into this same trap, and that writers like Aspen Matis, the young author of the memoir Girl in the Woods, or Lily Brooks-Dalton, who recently published her first book, Motorcycles I’ve Loved end up—or, rather, start out by—co-modifying their own womanhood.

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A poll conducted in November 2008 found that just 20% of women are willing to use the term “feminist” about themselves and only 17% would welcome their daughters using that label; which is to say, the term feminism has been hijacked and corroded by those who formed the clique, excluded most of us (both men and women) from joining, and used feminism for their own purposes. The movement has been destroyed from the inside by hard core ideologues who think that intelligence has a gender and that the ultimate goal is to achieve superiority rather than mere equality. I would hazard to say that the more hidden agenda, consciously or unconsciously adopted, is the destruction of the institutions of marriage and the family as we know it. Perhaps the more troubling unintended long term consequence may well turn out to be the degradation and even destruction of Western Civilization. Giambattista Vico, for one, is convinced that once the strong initial foundations of any civilization, no matter how primitive: language, marriage and religion, begin to decay, such a civilization is well on its way to decline or even extinction.

sympo0058_400 

 These urgent questions seem to come to the fore: where are the modern day national organizations to act as champions of women and to speak out against the issues that affect us all? Where is the outrage about the alarming escalation of domestic violence? Or the fact that women still earn 78% of what men do? Or that women’s representation in politics, academia, and corporate leadership tends to hover around 16%? There is a pattern here—we are moving backward within a civilization that proudly claims to be “enlightened” and superior to all the others.

The contrary idea that progress may not be deterministic and inevitable, that it is possible to move backward even within advanced modern Western technologically advanced civilization is of course anathema to hard core ideologues and mindless activists who believe in mindless irresistible progress and modernity for its own sake. For them progress (often understood as a sort of shallow modernity buttressed by technology and push button gadgets) is a sort of demiurge, unstoppable and devouring in its path all those who oppose it. It appears that the final Hegelian synthesis always justifies and rationalizes any social enormity and/or monstrosity. But the end does not always justify the bad means employed to achieve it, not to speak of the fact that inevitably sordid means will end up altering and corrupting even good-intentioned ends.

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These issues do not affect just liberal, Democratic, pro-choice women, the present ideological core of the former feminist movement, but also all women, our children, and grandchildren not excluding the men who are fathers, husbands, and sons and are generally not included in the clique, and no longer understand what the clique is fighting for. The clique has become a like a cocoon that, even granting good intentions, has by now lost sight of the big picture and, as a result, has inadvertently sold out the former grand vision for equality.

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Within this bleak picture, there is however a silver lining of sorts. On the horizon we now have the beginning of a fourth wave or rebirth, if you will, of the women’s rights movement; a big tent movement that invites women, and like-minded men, of all political parties and all views on rights, particularly those which are inalienable and belong equally to all human beings. A movement this that does not erect a large tent on the basis of a rite of passage or ideology as a litmus test, but admits anyone of either gender who is willing to consider and work for an ethics of care and equality rather than one of power and supremacist principles.

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In conclusion, after this brief exploration of modern feminism it can perhaps safely be asserted that it is shortsighted and ultimately counter-productive to conceive of the women’s movement as a mere war against male chauvinism, or patriarchy; even worse, as a war against men in general. That kind of misguided goal will eventually defeat itself by destroying the very foundation of any viable society or civilization, the family. It may indeed be time to take back the term “feminism” and restore its dignity and honor; time to restore the inner Wonder Woman, if Western Civilization is to have a viable future. In other words, it is time to be self-critical, considering that perhaps even the Enlightenment needs to enlighten itself and that constant self-criticism remains a sine qua non of any genuine progress.

Jung would agree enthusiastically, for, as already mentioned above, he postulated, even for men’s self, an inner   feminine principle without which they, as well as those women who mindlessly imitate them to better compete with them, end up brutalizing and dehumanizing themselves by rationalizing what ought never be rationalized. Whatever social approach or ethical system is chosen and implemented, it needs to remain holistic, which means that ultimately opposite genders need to be conceived as complementary to each other rather than fiercely competitive with each other. This is even true in economic and evolutionary terms. Many naturalists are increasingly discovering that cooperation, from the dawn of human history, has yielded much more fruitful results in the flourishing of cultures and civilizations than perpetual struggles and competitions. The “laissez faire” crowd of course disagrees with that insight, nevertheless the issue remains a thorny and ongoing one. The only proper reaction to intransigence and intolerance is to let the dialogue continue unabated.

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2.
Misogyny, Revolution, God and Lost Hope
A Presentation by Nikos Laios

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Athens in the 50s

I
The Golden Age

What a forlorn, lost, listless, vacuous and angry generation that we live in that presently inhabits the earth. I look back to the generation of my grandmother and mother's era of the 50's and 60's in Greece,  and look back longingly at those innocent and beautiful years. Where everything had a balance and harmony,  a simple serenity in the everyday milieu of one's existence in comparison  to today. I sometimes think that I might be subjectively participating in 'golden-age' thinking, romanticising about another age. Yet many times my mother reassures me that indeed, those were beautiful and Innocent years, where in even in near poverty, people still had a plate of hot food a day, family gathered around the table under the boughs of a tree, while an uncle played the accordion as all the family joined in singing. The evening strolls along the piazza with the girls wearing their good dress, pressed cleaned and washed with hair gathered back in ponytails. Their brothers and uncles wearing clean shirts with the cuffs of their sleeves rolled up on their arms, in pressed gaberdine pants, with the older men lost in their thoughts wistfully through the wispy rising

tendrils of cigarette smoke looking dreamily at the watery horizon westwards towards Ithaca and Cephalonia. Accompanied by the sounds of the clacking backgammon games, and the peeling church bells; a timelessness that bound them to all the preceding generations that have continuously lived in their city of Patra in the province of Achaea in the Peloponnese . Those are the days that my mother talks about, and that I was privileged to have lived as a very young boy, on the cusp of last of these golden days in the mid seventies; spending time between Patra ( or Patrai in Ancient Greek) and the highlands of Epirus.

Yet now we supposedly live in a better age, an advanced age of milk and honey; technological, compartmentalised, a supposedly higher intellectual age, an age that has found a new meaning  through materialism and consumerism. An age that has left behind as redundant the innocent and mystical age of the childhood years of our humanity, our yesteryear. We live in an age where one can order home delivery pizza, where we live cloistered in our houses and apartment blocks in the big cities sprawled across the world in front of the Internet and cable television. Where people walk around like zombies with their heads bowed down , their eyes glued to the Facebook and Twitter pages scrolling on their mobile phones oblivious to the world around them. While the middle classes try to outdo and complete with each other in respect to who can buy the bigger and better house, and the shiniest car, boat and gadgets; who has the most attractive wife or mistress, while women shop around for which prospective husband can be the best provider for them.

While in the third world -  in Africa and the Middle East - the descendants of the once great Islamic civilisations are living in the decayed ruins of the former grandeur of the various caliphates that sprawled across the world from the 13th century through to their zenith in the 16th century and its decline in the 17th century. A civilisation that grew only through conquest by fire and the sword spreading this new religion called Islam by force. The spoils of this conquest playing out in the bazaars and harems across the Islamic world, and the subsequent bejeweled and gold decorated conquest fantasies filling the dreams and aspirations of the subsequent generations. It is against this background that the present drama of the Muslim world is playing out against. In the stone ruins and cobblestones of their fallen hopes and civilisation, in empty abandoned halls laced with spiderwebs,  the black Ravens flapping their wings looking down on these ruins. As the sullen and dour faces of the present generations look up and outward to the outside world. On their knees shaking their fists against the sky and blaming all the failures of their civilisation, of their lost hopes and desolate aspirations against the west; using the western world as a scapegoat for their very own failures. A civilisation that only grew and prospered when the physical boundaries of their empires geographically expanded, filling their coffers with booty, riches, slaves, new taxes and new believers. A civilisation that started to crumble once their boundaries of their empires stopped expanding and started contracting, a contraction that the Islamic world never came to terms with

and is still affecting this present age. This is one of the pillars at the crux of the societal and civilisational crisis of consciousness. The other structural issue being the inability of Islamic civilisation to look into the mirror at their own religious beliefs, at the Koran, and to undertake the necessary reformation to separate their religion from politics, to separate mosque and state; to separate the secular from the divine.

Therefore, the two great civilisations in the world at the moment are both suffering from a traumatic civilisational crisis. The west,  one of a vacuous and shallow materialism that has built the current financial world order that is currently running the scheme of things and failing the world very badly; and the Moslem world,  delusional theocratic fascist dictatorships denying people their fundamental freedoms and human rights. Where it currently has the inability to provide for the physical, temporal and existential needs of its people, and which holds as a solution the delusional belief that a submission to an invisible God in heaven will somehow solve all temporal societal needs.

This is the conflict-riddled world that we are currently living in at the moment; both the west and theeast living in dystopias of their own making, both built upon delusions of their own making from the construct of their own conceptions of the self. Yet the question persists: what are the bright peaks and achievements of our world civilisation?

One could if time and space allowed, undertake an excursus of the various and long list of  civilisational achievements of the many wonderful and varied civilisations from right around the world; but the one achievement in this writer's mind that stands at the apogee is the equality of men and women. Also the other humanist values such as the respect of human rights;  the freedom which allows for the exercise of the free will of everyone to dictate their own destiny as they so wish,  the freedom of thought to think whatever one wants, the equality of all races, beliefs and people of different sexual orientations, lifestyles.

These achievements are the ones that I am most proud of, achievements that were born in the west from the long, fruitful yet bloody years through the Millenia that have shaped the evolution of the western world today. Yet against this completion of the fulfilment of the best of these human achievements stands racism, bigotry and misogyny; which is the belittling of women as second class citizens. Misogyny is manifested in

many different ways; through violence against women, the sexual objectification of women and the sexual discrimination against women.  Anytime that bias, racism, the subjugation of freedom and misogyny is expressed, then these automatically become the base and worst side of humanity which must be fought with vigour, and where we must never compromise the integrity of these universal values that marks any civilisation as advanced.

 sympo0063

Atlas holding the world

As it stands today in the west, women have achieved equality in many areas; women can walk down the street in any western city dressed how they like at anytime without being molested or harassed. Talk how they like, decide to be a mother or not, have relationship with a man or a woman or not at all, become an engineer, doctor or astronaut if they like. This is the western world that we live in, a world that values the fifty percent of its population. Yet it wasn't always like this, patriarchal and misogynist attitudes have until recent memory dominated rural areas in Europe, and in some areas, they still do. In my country of Greece, even I can recall an event in the 80's regarding an unnamed distant cousin of mine in Epirus, who upon hearing that his sister was having a sexual relationship with a shepherd boy in the valley over the other side of the mountain,  went and found the shepherd boy to confront him regarding his intentions. When the shepherd boy advised my cousin that he had no honourable intentions towards his sister, my cousin then shot him dead and shot his sister dead, and then gave himself up to the police advising him his motive was an honour killing, for the sake of family honour.

In the novel 'Zorba The Greek' by Nikos Kazantzakis, when the attractive young widow in the village rejected  the advances of a young man and chooses an a outsider. The young man commits suicide from his loss of honour, and then the father of the son slits the throat of the widow in a baying throng of villagers in public. Once the widow was killed, all the villagers went back to their homes happy that the debt of honour has been paid. As alien as this story sounds to we modern Europeans, these cultural mores and

practices occurred right across Greece and the southern Mediterranean from the early twentieth century right through to recent times in the 50's, and even some isolated cases in the last thirty years, like that of my cousin. Though now women have achieved equality in the western world only very recently in the last two decades, yet these barbaric attitudes are still very much common in India, Africa and the Middle East. Which has been recently brought to the attention of Europeans by the behaviour and cultural attitudes brought over by African and Arabic male refugees to Europe.

II
The Burden of Man

The patriarchal misogyny that has until recently infected the western world, is still a staple belief and cultural system encompassing many third world nations and civilisations in Africa, the Middle East and India. Where societies are deeply traditional, tribal and patriarchal; where women are second to men and require to be covered up and modest at all times. Where strict social and religious laws dictate how a woman is allowed to act, how to express their sexuality, what they can say and what they can contribute to society. That if a woman is not modestly covered up, then that woman is considered loose in morals and deserves no respect and thus fair game for the sexual whims of men. The events that unfolded in the German city of Cologne and other cities in the new year which resulted in the mass sexual assault by refugee males of African and Middle Eastern origins against German women brought to clarity this cultural clash between the west and east in regards to how they view women.

The English newspaper 'Sunday Express' published on 19/1/2016 in an article titled "German girls are just there for sex’ What migrant told woman as he groped her in street" by the journalist Nick Gutteridge has highlighted this. Where the article states; "Police reports from the city of Dortmund claimed that a recently arrived refugee told one young woman that German girls are “just there for sex” after he approached her in the street and offered her money to sleep with him. They also described a shocking incident in which three migrant men seemingly tried to impose Sharia Law on the streets of Germany, attempting to stone two women in public. The disturbing reports are just the latest in an avalanche of revelations about refugee sex crimes to emerge since the sickening attacks in Cologne, when 1,000 migrant men went on the rampage raping and robbing women out celebrating New Year’s Eve". The article goes in to further state about the events; "The police report, published by the Presse Portal website, reveal how at 3.48am a gang of several refugees approached a 25-year-old German woman and hurled “filthy” insults at her as she made her way

home from the city’s train station. When she ignored them one of the group - a man described as around 30 years old and “remarkably small” - apparently followed her and asked her to have sex with him in exchange for money. When the woman refused he reportedly told her he had only just arrived in Germany and assumed that “German women are there for sex” before reaching into her blouse and trousers and groping her". In another incident, transgender women were also attacked where the article states the following; "The migrants, who spoke Arabic and are described as north African in origin, hurled sordid insults at the transgender women and claimed that they had to “stone” such people under Islamic law. They then picked up stones from a nearby flower bed and threw them at the terrified women - one 50 and the other 37 - who were lucky to escape unhurt."

So what is the solution to this vile and outdated misogynist behaviour? The knee-jerk reaction of some Europeans is to fall back to their evil, vile and dark fascist side and revert to racism and stereotyping; where this would be horribly wrong and a crime. For just as we Europeans were patriarchal misogynists until very recent memory, it would be very wrong now to point the fingers and cast stones at our new Moslem friends and guests; because just as we have transcended our misogyny, we now need to reach out our hands of friendship to them and help change their misogynist beliefs and behaviours to the egalitarian and humanist traditions that we Europeans are so proud of. To help them integrate and assimilate as positive and contributing Europeans, while being faithful to their culture and where this involves a compromise of sorts by migrants to balance their two worlds as this writer personally well knows: to integrate somehow the old and the new.

What we cannot do here however is to compromise on our civilisational advancements of gender equality, freedom, democracy and the respect and primacy of the individual to self actualise; and anyone that does not want to adhere to these fundamental and basic principles has no right to be part of our civilisation. Dutch-American activist, author, and former politician of Somali origin Hirsi Ali in her book 'Heretic; Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now' states the following; “Multiculturalism should not mean that we tolerate another culture’s intolerance. If we do in fact support diversity, women’s rights, and gay rights, then we cannot in good conscience give Islam a free pass on the grounds of multicultural sensitivity.” 1

Thus far, everyone in this present age has arrived at the existentialist crossroads where choices needs to be made both on a civilisational and on an individual level. Since the late 19th century the western world has used the movement of revolution as a catalyst for positive change, from revolutionary movements aimed at the overthrow of tyrannical foreign oppressors, to revolutionary movements within nations and civilisations. Such as the assassination of the archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the beginning of the 20th century that precipitated World War One, or to the radical experiment in Russia with the overthrow of the Tzar and the adoption of Marxist political theories through communism. Through to the vile experiment of fascism that nearly destroyed the word, to the more personal revolution in the late 60's in the US and the west. The 'Flower Power' revolution where  people attempted a personal rebellion against the meaningless materialism and consumerism of the capitalist world. An idealistic revolution that

failed like all the others, and finally to the adoption of the theocratic fascism of ISIS in our very own age by disaffected Moslem youth is a continuation on this long line of revolutionary movements that were adopted by the people as a cure against the alienation and meaninglessness they felt.

This revolutionary movement will fail just like all the rest. So we have it at present that the failure of the west lies in its failure through an empty and vacuous materialism, and the Moslem world through a delusional theocratic fascism via sharia. So if revolution has thus failed, what then is the answer? In reflecting on the question, here we have to see our journey of the self, the individual interrelating to his environment around him and who can never be truly alone, and of how important this is, and we would do well to reflect on the words of the psychologist Carl Jung who once stated; "Just as man as a social being, cannot in the long run exist without a tie to the community, so the individual will never find the real justification for his existence, and his own spiritual and moral autonomy, anywhere except in an extramundane principle capable of relativizing the overpowering influence of external factors" 2.

In discussing an existential journey and a search for meaning through idealistic revolutionary movements, one needs to undertake an exploration of religion as well, for this has shaped and defined human history. Where here this writer needs to take a brief detour and a frank personal critique of religion, starting with  our very own western religion. For through pages of this magazine, this writer has written both for and against religion, and this contradiction needs to be explained; for it is a contradiction that is common in the western world today. I have stated before that many years ago, that I had a motor vehicle accident which resulted in the death of ten children, my temporary death and an after-death-experience. Of witnessing a glowing white light, a long hallway and a brief glimpse of the other side. What I felt was a transcendent universal cosmic feeling of peace and serenity, and not the stories that we learned in church as children, of a  bearded frowning patriarchal God. What I felt and experienced was a profound all encompassing shapeless energy and presence ; a creative force  bigger than the narrow conception and confines of what we think is God, and even that word I am loathe to use because it is more of a presence or energy than a label.

I was born into the Byzantine Greek Orthodox Christian faith, and am still a proud member who enjoys its symbolic mysticism and traditions, but this after death experience and peek into the other side gave me some insights into what is true and what is false. Where her I jettisoned all of the Old Testament, and alien Jewish mythological text unrelated and remote to the Greek and European mind; Noah, the world made in seven days, the Abrahamic father, completely alien, irrelevant and secretly ignored by most Greeks. The New Testament is where the action is, where some ancient Hellenic gems of moral wisdom are embedded.The divinity or not of Jesus therefore becomes irrelevant being that the crux of matter lies in the metaphorical and symbolic value that a religion can bring and not some dogmatic literalism. That's why I reject here  the patriarchal, dogmatic and 'absolute truth'  of Abrahamic religions outright as they are false, and I take what I want .Where the Byzantine Greek Orthodox religion stretches back in a continuum to the Ancient Greek Olympian religion barely disguised, and that's why I equally believe and respect the old religion as well, for this is our  'old testament' for us Greeks.

The famous and respected scholar, author and soldier the late Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor discussing in detail this continuity between the Ancient Greek Olympian religion with the Byzantine Christian Greek Orthodoxy in his book titled 'Mani' about his adventures and times spent in the southern promontory of the Peloponnese in Greece where he states; "in nothing is the continuity of Ancient Greece clearer than in the superstitions and religious practices (and many of the 'Christian' ones) that still prevail in the Greek mountains and islands of Greece" 3.

In respect the clash and synthesis and acceptance of Christ into the pantheon, Sir Fermor writes the following; " There was not much difficulty among the educated: Plato and his successors had prepared the ground" 4. He further states about the relabeling  of the Greek gods  the following; " ..a compromise was found. Temples and shrines and holy sites were rededicated to Christian saints and converted to basilicas. Columns and blocks from ancient fanes, hollowed by centuries of worship, were built into new churches and, to ease the changeover, saints were inducted into their old haunts with characteristics or names which corresponded with those of their former incumbents; sometimes both"5. Then the rebadging of the Greek gods into Christian gods is clearly laid out here where Sir.Patrick Leigh Fermor states the following; "Dionysus became St.Dionysus and still retains his link with Naxos and his Bacchic patronage of wine. Artemis of the Ephesians became a male St.Artemidoros and like Artemis, his help is sought in the cure of wasting and nymph-struck children, as it was before he changed his clothes, when the handmaids of Artemis had wrought mischief among the offspring of mortals. Demeter suffers a similar operation becoming St. Demetrius, who, under the additional epithet 'Stereanos' - 'He of the land' - is a patron of crops and fruitfulness. In one place the metamorphosis was actually repudiated - she still continues to be worshiped as 'St.Demetra', a saint unknown in the Othodox  Synaxary. Helios the sun-God became the prophet Elijah" 6. In respect to God Fermor says; "Zeus has been almost entirely swallowed up in God the father, whose character, in peasant eyes, he strongly affected: but little of him remains outside church walls except in mainland ejaculations referring to his Cretan birth" 7.

Finally, in respect to Christianity being a Greek construction and child of the old beliefs, Fermor states the following; "The Greeks do well to honour their ancient mentors. They enabled their descendants so save the divine message from the mumblings of the catacombs and to sort out the Semitic data; in cell, and archbishopric and council, they attuned their skilful minds to detect, interpret, and codify the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The evolution of Christianity into a logic system which could weather the shocks of Millenia, was a Greek thing, the Christian church was the last great creative achievement of Classical Greek culture" 8.

Thus these are some of the reasons why I and most Greeks reject the patriarchal absolutism of the Abrahamic religions, in that they deny the feminine and all the shades of symbology of human archetypes; for what we Greeks believe is something of our own, something native that stretches right back to Olympus. If one were to undertake a similar analysis of Judaism and Islam, one would find equally pagan roots for these two religions as well. For humanity to transcend itself, we need to demystify religions of all shapes and boil them down to their healthy metaphorical symbolism, and away from a dogmatic and literalist absolutist  primitive anachronism. For this is what many wars have been fought over, where at the end of the day, all actions good or bad stems from the individual man himself, and as Plato once said: "For all good and evil, whether in the body or in human nature, originates ... in the soul, and overflows from thence, as from the head into the eyes" 9.

So what is the answer? The answer lies in that we need to realise that we are all one, all sharing a common communion on this fragile planet, and before man can transcend himself, mankind needs to first accept the equality of all men and women everywhere, the equality of all races, and the individual freedom of every living soul to be a be able to chose their own destiny; then we can leave our surly bonds. Where here we conclude with the poignant words of the late American scientist Carl Sagan who so eloquently put it; "“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam"10

References:         

1.'Heretic:Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now' - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
2. 'The Undiscovered self' - page23 - Carl C.Jung
3.'Mani' - chapter 13 -Gorgons and Centaurs - page171 - Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
4.'Mani' - chapter 13 -Gorgons and Centaurs - page175 - Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
5.'Mani' - chapter 13 -Gorgons and Centaurs - page175 - Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
6.Mani' - chapter 13 -Gorgons and Centaurs - page175 - Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
7.'Mani' - chapter 13 -Gorgons and Centaurs - page179 - Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
8.'Mani' - chapter 15 - Ikons - page214 - Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
9.'Charmides' – Plato
10.'Pale Blue Dot: A Vision Of The Human Future in Space' - Carl Sagan

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 END  OF 66th SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (15/02/2016)

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