Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Would Euripides' Answer to Violence Nowadays?

In a previous chapter we examined the fine line between democracy, in its fundamental meaning, and the utopian democracy. Our goal now is to examine the causes that led to this situation, meaning the difference between Helen-reality and Helen-appearances.

After Theoclymenus finds out by the messenger's mouth  that Helen and Menelaus escaped, he cries: "Oh! What ineffable shame I have to endure because of a woman and a Greek (l.1621)". He continues (l.1625): "But now I will punish my treacherous sister for not revealing to me that Menelaus was in the palace". He is about to kill his sister.

Later, we hear the slave trying to prevent him from performing this act by saying that this is a forbidden act (it is taboo). If we analyze this word we will understand the point of this enraged slave talking against his king.

So, we have the word "taboo". According to zoology, the term "herd" refers to the way that animals of the same species are organised and coexist in small or large groups. These animals live free in the wild or are brought together by man for economical reasons. In the herd, the individuals are behaving in a congenial way. Each member's activities are monitored by the orders of another member: the leader-adviser. The necessary prerequisites for the formation of the herd are: a) the control of the individual's self-centred passions and b) the prevention of collective sufferings. The leader's rights are at odds with the individual's rights. Specifically, the adviser (sovereign) performs his leading duties and coordinates the  masses. Meaning, he makes sure that the team has discipline and does not stray away. However, we would say that, in a preferential way, the adviser acts in his own accord (somewhat like the father of the primeval horde). All the members are restrained while the leader (of the herd) is free. And this attribute makes him  forbidden, sacred and demonic (taboo) Why taboo? Because the governed members (of the herd) have a dual attitude: a) they wish to cast off this constraint but b) they are afraid exactly because they have this desire. Fear is stronger than desire (something that political powers are well aware of).

According to psychology, the prohibition  of desire (imposed by the leader) causes the birth and advancement of conscience. Because conscience means consequence (of the desire). So, the development of the individual is the result of a) the tendency for personal happiness (egoistic) and b) the tendency for uniting with others and forming a community (altruistic).

However, forbidden (taboo) is not only the leader but also the rebel who breaks the laws given by the leader. So, he is taboo because he is dangerous due to his acting in a forbidden way. Why? Because he tempts people into following his example. He is a dangerous role model. This wrongdoer against power is bound to try and take over the Adviser's power (his authority). There are two possible consequences: the old leader loses his power or the new contender is defeated. It is certain though that stability is shaken. The result of this battle will lead to a new (note: on the social level) set of rules, however, the rules remain always the same as far as their causality is concerned.

If the male goat loses the tragic fight (for taking over the power), he will be sent to exile, out of his herd. This lonely creature will then be mourning because he will have realised his inability to act in a collective manner. This creature bursts into tragic song, hence the word tragedy (τράγος = male goat + ωδή = song).

Let's get back to our drama. What would happen if the slave had not tried to prevent the murder of Theonoe? Theoclymenus would be a role model and, since he is so capable of it, somebody else would try to be a leader in his place. After what we mentioned before, the individual that breaks the rules gives credit to an important and absolute (complete) action.

These days, we watched another tragedy. I'm referring to the incident of August 24th that shocked the American public. The perpetrator of this incident, Jeffrey Johnson, age 58, according to the New York Times, killed a 41 year-old former coworker with a 45-caliber handgun, shooting him three times. The culprit did not have a record and, as the New York Police Department states, this crime is not related to terrorism.

 A lot of people criticize the fact that it is very easy for anyone to acquire a handgun in this country (USA). The mayor of New York has been asking for the prohibition of handguns for years. In another country, Greece (although, recently, at the London Olympic Games the great sponsor of Coca-cola chose not to include Greece in the universal map that the company had prepared for the games) bearing arms is forbidden. However, the Greeks, after the elections of 2012, used another kind of weapon to express violence (se the increase of extremism, suicide, fights and crime).

The deeper reasons that lead people globally to despair should be examined. We can give a possible reason: both perpetrators (the American and the Greek) took action because they were fired from the jobs to which they devoted themselves for several years. On the same day (August 24th) we heard the statement of the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel at her meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras: "I wish that Greece remains a member of the Eurozone, I'm working for this goal and I know of nobody inside the government who is against this."

What kind of advice would Euripides give to Mrs. Merkel? Euripides wrote in his plays: "Beware! Anything that does not agree with Justice does  not  last long."  Troy was burnt to the ground, but the Greeks are at fault because they went too far and murdered women and children. Euripides was kind of foretelling , as if he knew the end of those who talk about the law and Justice. Yet, they should know that the words they're using (law, justice) are ambiguous.

The answer that Euripides would give to the question about violence: (l.512-514) "There is a saying, it's not mine (he is influenced by his teacher Aeschylus and his play (Prometheus Bound", l.125) but it still is wise : there is nothing stronger than a horrible need."

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