We eagerly await a Savior.
Wrapped in symptoms of climate change the 10th anniversary of the World Philosophical Forum took place in the eternal city of Athens; short downpours of torrential rain, one of hale stones as big as blood diamonds loudly drumming the ground on the last day of its dialectical symposium or a total of three monsoon-like downpours all in the middle of the day. Such sudden torrential downpours with ice followed by flooding are taking place worldwide, hotter summers are conducive to forest fires, carbon dioxide accumulation and planetary warming. One can only hope that politics have minds and ears open to pay attention to the dreadful drumming of the hoof beats of existential issues and take a much stronger stand. At grass roots protests are fomenting. The madness must stop, social dementia must be curbed and political deceit end if humanity is to reshape its leadership and pull back from the brink of extinction. It is 2 symbolic minutes to midnight.
According to one climate scientist Michael Mann The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price—in the form of a degraded planet—so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits, this quoted by Dan Drollette (deputy editor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) who also states that 20 fossil fuel companies are directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions registered today. The WPF joins all those who are deeply concerned with the well-being of all indigenous peoples’, threats to the Amazon, and all existential dangers from climate change, from Siberia to Oklahoma.
The socio-economic background to the dialectical symposium of World Philosophical Forum (WPF, Athens, 1-5 October, 2019) was one of public sector strikes demanding better wages to alleviate the deprivations of Greek austerity a result of external economic forces and problems of governance at home. As a result the GDP per capita of Greece fell from 30,000€ to 23,000€ between the years 2009-2013. The strikes precipitated several days of frustrating difficulties to daily life a result of disrupted public transportation. Helicopters circled the skies and police discreetly patrolled the streets.
The Symposium followed on from WPF’s ignored Urgent Appeal to the political worlds of Greece and Europe asking them to reach back to classical philosophy as an untried vehicle of change to secure peace and sustainable development and to use it as a tool in decision making at all levels of society from individual to institutional to systems. The Appeal pointed to two opportunities; one to application of geo-economic diplomacy in the Eastern Mediterranean in ways to minimize contributions to climate change and make it easier for Greece to live with extreme weather phenomena in the future as it does now, with seismic activity. A second opportunity for change is through application of civic education, social integration and harmonisation through the presence of the World Philosophical Forum (WPF) and by discussion in its dialectical symposia, the 10th just now completed.
In advocating the revival and practical use of classical philosophy to the decision making agenda the WPF adds a unique dimension to the many other organizations focusing on human rights, peace and democracy, equality and solidarity and in their uphill fight for survival and their attempts to create a viable alternative to the world as it is. UNESCO in pointing to a better imagined world introduced World Philosophy Day in 2002. It is still imagined!
In support of philosophy Irina Bokova, former Secretary-General, UNESCO, said that philosophy confers humility and is a means to take a step back and engage in reasoned dialogue to build solutions to challenges beyond our control. It is the optimal way to educate and enlighten citizens as well as to equip them to fight stupidity, prejudice and social dementia. The greater the difficulties encountered, the greater the need for philosophy. Audrey Azoulay another Director General, UNESCO said philosophy is a bastion against the narrowing of opinion and of minds. Even though UNESCO promotes the concept of Global citizenship to reflect the thinking of Socrates, not one country (including Greece) has adopted it. Life and its purpose must be imagined and seen through the prism of what in ancient Greece was the concept of a well fulfilled life; wisdom, reason, morality, responsibility and obligation encapsulated in classical philosophy.
Not one politician of any colour responded to the Appeal of the WPF, or even demonstrated an interest in Greece’s philosophical past. The Dialectic-Forum although held in the land of hospitality, of Xenios Zeus, was not able to provide even one crumb for the third year running to its foreign participants who this year came from Holland, Rumania, France, Germany, United Kingdom, America, Mongolia, Denmark, Sweden Venezuela, Russia, Ukraine, China, Uganda, Bulgaria and Serbia. The vacuum was covered by the participants themselves and its hospitable Greek participants. For the second year running the public sector was not able to unravel its own bureaucracy to provide timely busing with access and a guide to an archeological site in the promotion of Greece. In contrast, the important and recently completed Athens Democracy Forum hosted 15 heads of state and much was lavished on it by the Greek state as it addressed the means to tackle the refugee crisis and the security challenges of the European Union, jointly.
The Dialectical Symposium received encouraging and congratulatory messages from Asia (Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Mongolia), from Latin America and from many of the more than 50 branches of the WPF worldwide. On-site tributes were made from the Russian Parliament and the participants from the Ukraine. Nicholas Hagger (UK) sent a well-wish message in which he stated that Humanity needs supranationalism more than ever, and the peaceful view of the world that classical philosophy can give.
Again this year the WPF celebrated in the History Museum of the University of Athens (1-5 October, 2019) and with preface-preamble activities in the Kostas Palamas Center. the main programme included expert talks, visits to the Cell of Socrates and the Academy of Plato, with an expert archaeological guide (Efi Triri) as well as some insights into the poetic world of Cavafy presented in a cultural program orchestrated by the Greek actor Paris Katrivellis including a special event on ancient musical instruments. Several conclusions were drawn in the Greek-Georgian Cultural Center and on a private visit to the Temple of Poseidon, Sounion. One voiced concern; who listens in the academic, political and business worlds?
Some highlights included an emotional and poetic description of the beauties of Venezuela, its contemporary problems and the plight of mothers and children on the long escape track to Chile and Amanda, descendent of Genghis Khan of her Mongolia, a prophetic review of the expectations for population health in the medium future, an overview of faked reality, insights into other imagined worlds and parallel realities, a University called Logos, with connections to Florida and Latin America while in the beginning was the word that connects it to Greece, fishing for plastic and a technology that can purge the oceans of such refuse, art and philosophy, philosophical tensions between classical and scholastic philosophy. The concepts of deterrence and denial were re-examined; as both a fail safe against nuclear blunders and a fictitious deterrent to climate change; the backdrop, a world passing through disruptions of normal communication clothed in he garb(age) of social dementia. Discussion sometimes overlapped; the changing geopolitical world model from the time of the dinosaur to the contemporary scene; divided regions and countries, North vs. South (Korea), East vs. West (Russia and the USA) and Western (America) vs. the rest, real vs. Virtual (Venezuela), real vs fake. One interesting metaphor proposed for our planet Earth according to contemporary ideas of classical Philosophy, is that of a slowly moving train, moving through infinite universal space-time in parallel with the processes of nature’s evolution. Earthlings enter the slowly moving train at birth and leave on death with an obligation not to destroy the train in their passage and preserve it for coming generations. The Golden Age of Greek mythology was invoked in which each cohort is born to live in tranquility and health and depart at a ripe old age. There were references to population equality and global security suggesting that solution rests in ensuring Roosevelt’s "freedom from want" and "freedom from fear" for all Earthlings. An intervention from Bulgaria was encouraging in that it mentioned Irina Bokova who supported the kick-off of the WPF in 2009 and afterwards.
In my Athenian struggle I failed to make the venue on time. Wary of chaotic traffic, I decided to go slowly through the old town of Plaka, take in the newer and ancient landmarks; from the hill of Lycavitos and its small impressive church, the Maria Callas music hall where in my mind’s-ear I heard the strains of the sleepwalker a pleasant replacement to the traffic’s cacophony, a magnificent Byzantine church close to Omonia, several other welcoming churches with beckoning open doors and flickering votive candles, the Roman Agora and tourists, the Tower of the Winds, which once housed the Whirling Dervishes and where with my children I spent pleasant hours. On the last stretch my eyes looked up towards the Acropolis. On my walk I also thought poetically… oh what of this life so full of care we have no time to stand and stare but stare I did!… I am not yet born forgive them and I thought of unborn babies on hard refugee trails. On my walk it passed through my mind that perhaps it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. One goal was to keep my balance on the rough cobles and uneven stone steps so I also looked down. Catching my breath I talked to a lady sitting outside her home where I have found her sitting over many years. On the morrow we drank a Turkish coffee together. I made my final assent in a warm sweat in the sunshine of autumn keeping my eyes glued down and as I took the last and steepest of steps I hugged the wall. Entering the venue late came ear-to-head with the word noble, which seemingly and momentarily reverberated in the small auditorium and an already started talk from Logos.
For the next two hours I listened to interesting presentations and interventions ably managed by Steven V. Roy (Scotland) and Dimitris Pollatis (Greece). When I was called upon by President of the WPF, Igor Kondrashin, my first comment was that although I had walked to the venue hopefully, I was very happy to have arrived. In continuum, I presented Igor with a book a hero in France suggesting that his territory takes in the entire globe. His summing up of day one told of a world and its peoples facing imminent threat to life on earth, to humanity and to the whole planet with the situation growing worse at accelerating speed. Torrential rain over Athens came somewhat later.
Warnings have come from scientists and science, poets and politicians. The late Stephen Hawkings said we should ready ourselves for another planet. A warning was given by Wislawa Szymborska (Nobelist in Literature) at the end of WWII with his paraphrased words, there are those who know well what is going on and what it is all about but are pushed aside by politics to make way for those who know little and as little as nothing. Jay Forester forecast the planet’s demise with a complex computer simulation and the Club of Rome called attention to the limits of growth. Most recently Greta called upon politicians to put their faith in science. Speaking to the UN Adlai Stevenson reflected on his fears from the horrendous and universal implications of nuclear holocaust. President Kennedy said every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when the planet may no longer be habitable while Vaclav Havel told the US Congress that mankind runs the risk of an earth-shattering moment triggered by man’s genius and the force of nuclear weapons. He added that without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness nothing can change for the better; catastrophe will be unavoidable. They all saw the need for a socio-political transformation.
In 2012 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon picked up on the concept of human consciousness when he pronounced a new world-dimension initiative, Education First, with civic education more important than literacy and numeracy but fostered within a framework of global citizenship. UNESCO supported his appeal, by putting it into its ‘Medium-term Strategy for 2014 – 2021. Civic education and fostering a sense of Global citizenship were seen as the main goals and tasks for Humanity. However, little positive reaction has been shown by national governments to these UN appeals and it seems and I hope wrongly that even Ban Ki-moon, Irina Bokova and Audrey Azoulay have backed away. The WPF reacted positively while during one of its Forums in Kuala Lumpor led by Dato Dr. Halo-N the opinion was offered that in the age of knowledge, existential questions cannot be solved by limiting enquiry within a box of strict empiricism or constraining it by scholasticism.
The United Nations has done incredible things for mankind and must be reinvigorated-reinvented to create a new social order for Humanity and conditions for a secure planet. Dementia depleted consciousness is a dangerous threat to democratic society, human existence and WWIII can result from its growing impotence.
In his summing up of the 10th anniversary of the WPF it’s President Igor Kondrashin stressed the need for the practical philosophy of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, which brought about State opposition and the eventual demise of Socrates the first global citizen; the prohibition of philosophy teaching by Justinian (529 AD) that lead to the Athens School and expulsion of Philosophy from Western educational Institutions, which was reinforced by religious bigotry in the Middle Ages and while post Renaissance Scholastic Philosophy rose to dominate Western education ever since. As a result of a worldwide dominance of Scholastic Philosophy societies and leaders have grown prone to corruption and have adopted materialistic values causing moral decline in all fields of human activity and the emergence of consuming existential issues that threaten humanity and the planet. He referenced environmental pollution and climate change as two major factors of a growing menace to flora, fauna and human life on the planet.
In concluding he emphasized the lack of support to WPF by the Greek State and reflected on the refusal on scholastic grounds (discrepancies between the then and current legal systems) of the Greek High Court to officially pronounce the innocence of Socrates. His ultimate phrase was to pledge a proclamation of innocence of the great philosopher during a special convention of the Supreme Council of Humanity to be held in Athens 2020 or elsewhere by the World Philosophical Forum.
But the big question remains is anybody there?