Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Aristocratic thought versus a realistic theory of conduct.
 Key-words for the two groups: 
Aristocrats: idleness, prudence and honor
Realists: versatility, intelligence and self-knowledge.
Versatility is the characteristic of an Athenian democrat according to Thucydides. Euripides taught us about the difference between versatility and idleness. Amphion, the ideal of an educated young Athenian aristocrat, prefers a peaceful man rather than a reckless seaman or governor. We find the resonance of this opposition in the work of Sophocles who also believes in idleness.
Mental intelligence is the main important characteristic of an Athenian democrat- and of Themistocles in Thucydides’ Book 2 of the “History of the Peloponnesian War”. However, this characteristic does not have an ethical element, which is the one thing creating a difference between mind and intelligence.
Sophocles looks for the ethical element of shame (l.249). A man that feels ashamed cannot lie. However, Sophocles that lies will not prevail in the end. An intelligent man will use any resources he has in order to achieve his goals.
On the other hand, Sophocles rejects beautiful words that mask idiotic acts.
At this point, we should say that eloquence (the beautiful words or even the political double-speak) of demagogues has always been and still is nowadays a very serious problem.
Opposite to the mental intelligence of the realists we find Sophocles and his aristocratic idea of prudence. Prudence helps us with discovering the “limits” of the human potential and with logically and carefully observing the changes in our life.
Prudence can help people and protect them from stubbornness, extreme self –confidence and misleading hope, things that nowadays are serious dangers. People like the heroes of Sophocles deal with this kind of dangers.
Prudence has two sides:
un ethical side (modesty and absence of exaggeration)
a mental side (knowing the limits of human potential)
We should keep in mind that “Thoughtlessness is called the true sister of Wickedness”.
So, Prudence means restraint, modesty. Modesty is the opposite of all forms of outrage and passion.
If we examine the gap (that we cannot bridge) between the aristocrats (prudence) and the realists (intelligence without conscience) we end up at a crossroads:
Do we wish to rule everything? Or, do we prefer an honorable failure rather than a dishonoring victory?

The aristocratic ideal in Pindar’s work
Pindar praises on one hand the physical power and beauty of victors and, on the other hand, their ethical strength and restraint. He thought that these qualities were inherited from demigod ancestors. He believed that ideals were based on the innate personal virtue.

Sophists applied to the human behavior the principles of mechanical causality- the principles used by the physical or natural philosophers of the 6th century BC. Pindar thinks that man is the creation of circumstances. “He is good, if his luck is good, and vicious, if his luck is bad”.
Sophocles did not agree with the Sophists’ opinion that man’s behavior is merely a result of natural elements. Being himself aware of the dangers of life, he adopted the opinion that the gods watch over the world and that human behavior has a deeper meaning.

Above all, nature means a course of evolution. In one way, it has to do with this common phrase: “it’s in a man’s nature to do this or that”. This phrase refers to a superior or more modest nature. As to what exactly these two kinds of nature mean, aristocrats and realists (philosophers of the 5th century BC) are divided in two different sides.
For the realists, nature, besides meaning a course of evolution and the development of the whole world, also means man’s modest nature (his passions).
The sophist Antiphon (who is placed at the group of realists) says: “Most of the rights that are registered in the law are against nature” (Hippias, C.1. Antiphon.) Law and convention are powers that constrain nature.
For Sophocles, whose ideas matched those of the aristocrats, the word “φύσις” (“nature”) means that growth comes from a seed that somebody has planted.
Like Aeschylus, he thinks that this seed has been planted by the father (l.1413, 1509) and not by the mother. The child inherits the father’s nature and the child’s nature consists of characteristics inherited by its father.
Chrysothemis has inherited her nature and her ideas from her father and when she accepts the attitude and behavior of Clytemnestra, this means that she has abandoned her own nature.
Her nature is not only the character she inherited but also the highest level of conduct that this character could achieve.
At this point we would like to say that Sophocles appears as a precursor of Plato. Plato builds his ideal of the state on the principal that each citizen is predestined, due to his inherited nature, for specific acts.
What is Sophocles’ response to Pindar’s view that: “If nature is defined by birth, change via education is impossible”?
Sophocles allows nature to evolve sometimes.
An important factor that can help the young people’s natural growth (so that they can have a stable nature and choose a right path) is the city they live in. Sophocles, creating his play “Electra”, seems to regret the little effect that Athens has on its citizens.
At his point, I would like to make clear that the two groups of Realists and Aristocrats are not contradicting each other but they are influencing each other.
Sophocles was deeply impressed by Protagoras (the most important sophist and teacher of virtue). Sophocles, like Protagoras, describes the evolution of human civilization and man’s spirit. However, Sophocles in his play “Electra” states clearly the dangers of rationality and puts the theory of moral contamination in the words of an infuriated Clytemnestra (l.528: “It was Trial who killed him also, not only me.”)
The fact that different heroes use the same word but with a different semantic content (ambiguity), like for example the word “prudent” used by Electra and by Chrysothemis, shows us that Sophocles was influenced by Prodicus and his “synonyms”.
The divergence or the convergence of the two groups of realists and aristocrats is aptly described by Busse: “Sophocles agrees completely with the sophists when they honor the creativity of man’s spirit in the sphere of cultural progress, but he also explicitly attacks their immorality, when they consider the ethical law as the creation of specific humans and they place themselves above it without any scruples.”
The sophists’ biggest influence is obvious at the process of reasoning. Sophists’ arguments appear in the works of Euripides, pseudo-Xenophon, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Herodotus.

Protagoras’ method of teaching
His method of teaching was “antilogiae”, contradicting arguments on a subject, known as weak and strong logos. Training his students in this way he meant to familiarize them with alternative ways of reasoning.
Almost all the writers of that period, even, Thucydides, used pairs of arguments in order to present more clearly an antithesis of opinions.
The battle of arguments portrayed the basic questions examined in the play.
Sophocles, during the decade of 450-440, is influenced by the new rhetorical processes, a fact that is confirmed by the political content of the speeches he uses in his plays.
A kind of sophists’ argument is the interest: “men have the tendency of doing whatever is in their own interest.”
However, this idea is against the ideals of justice, honor, rightness, virtue. Unlike Herodotus, Thucydides devotes his work to the analysis of the real (and therefore material) aspects of war. Sophocles’ observation on Euripides is analogue to that of the elder historian on the younger one: “I present people the way they should be” (Aristotle, “Poetics”).
Thucydides presents people the way they are.
Antiphon is generally interested in showing that the human behavior is more influenced by the laws of nature rather than the explicit and inconsistent laws of society. His argument was that of people break the laws of nature they are immediately punished by being unable to survive, but if they break the laws of society there may or may not be a loss.
We find this very interesting matter of the influence of nature and convention (nature-law) in Plato’s “Gorgias” and Aristotle’s “Politics”.
Many people supported the idea expressed by Callicles in the dialogue “Gorgias” that powerful people are meant by nature to act at liberty according to their personal interest. This extreme idea appeared for the first time among argumentative circles when democracy reached the point of its worst excesses.

Man transcending the law
This chapter treats the subject of man’s condition when he defies the laws and places himself above the law.
The state demands that the citizens obey the laws and the government, but under one condition: that the governor does not only care about the interest of his citizens but also knows what that interest is.
Reading many translations and renditions of Sophocles’ text brought on some political thoughts.
Infringement of the law.
Lies that must be denounced.
Vicious circle-chain reaction.
Reparation of justice.
Reinstatement of the law.
Shame, lawlessness, tyranny covered by the mantle of democracy.
Nowadays, people should be interested in these things. We live in times when the “Golden Boys” and governments “make profane love” without any scruples (l.271 “I look at their latest profanity”).
L.275: “All this stupidity”. This is a wonderful expression from a human who sees and experiences these profanities. And this universal being that is “electrified” bears the name of “Electra”.
Because people with authority use whatever laws they like trying to safeguard their private privileges. And this kind of authority is surely tyrannical. I’ m aware of the fact that this word is not going to please certain people, however, I must point out that hubris, as the Chorus in Sophocles’ “Electra” says, is part of a tyrant’s nature. A tyrant rejects the fundamental right of the freedom of speech and annuls equal opportunities (minimum wages exist-and they represent a humiliating number-and the six-figure comment!)
And this is what a democratic Europe demands.
Sophocles could not accept that the state was supposed to be exploited only for the privileges of a few people. He thought that there should be equal opportunities for all people. “The unimportant people could easily be saved along with the important ones and vice versa”. Their collaboration would be for the benefit of both the unimportant and important people, thus leading to the progress of the society, rather than the self-interest of a tyrant or demagogue.

“Leader wanted”
Sophocles said that he created the kind of people that had to be created (Aristotle, “Poetics”, 1460). So, we would say that Sophocles’ political ideal example is a governor that runs the city in the citizens’ interest and is obeyed by the citizens.
What happens if this fails?
Clytemnestra (l.1410 “Oh, child, have mercy on your mother!”)


Friday, November 30, 2012

What is the role of fanaticism in the application of programs for change?
Does fanaticism succeed in making a change?

First of all, the phrase : “I want a change” means : I refuse and reject a view or position, I do not accept the world and civilization as they are created (in general or in part).
I do not agree with the means and ways of acting and behaving that this world has established and I am trying to establish new means and ways.
Sophocles’ Electra longs for change as we can see in these lines: l.165 “...He (Orestes) who unwearyingly waits for him...” , l.173 “... did not have the chance to show me...” , l.303 “... and me, constantly waiting for Orestes to end all this.” It looks like change is a vital need for Electra because it satisfies her desire for freedom.
A change that will save her from boredom and the emptiness of her soul. These two had destroyed all the goals she had in her life (l.166 “... I go on without destiny and without a husband”). Her only goal now is becoming a mechanical character in action.
Electra’s fanaticism
Fanaticism is a curious combination of passion and virtue. We would say that it is a bond of contradictory elements that cannot coexist in theory. It contains qualities worthy of admiration but also evils that threaten to cause the most terrible disasters.
In order to grasp its content, let’s think of the fanaticism of Islam (in the text of Sophocles we come across fanaticism under the name of TRIAL)
The core of fanaticism is a stable, rigid, uncut faith in the value of an ideology aiming at the progress of society.
Clytemnestra believes in this Ideology, worships it as a god and promotes it as the savior of mankind. It is a program with specific rules, commands and actions that demand absolute application, execution to the letter and blind obedience.
Electra answers to her mother in lines 578-583: 
“...Did he have to die by your hand? Be careful, by giving out this law, you place a hot knot around your neck and you will be sorry for it. If you must kill each other, you first will die due to this law.”
However, we come across the element of fanaticism in Electra too. Anything foreign to her own truth, whether it is a person or an ideology, must be destroyed. (l. 115 “... Come, help, pay for my father’s murder.”, l.348-349 “... I think about my father and you don’t help me and you turn me off my path.”)
This viciousness often exceeds the limits of muscular ferocity and always causes horrific disasters, like the hideous crime at the end of the play: matricide. Electra believes that in order to combat her mother’s cruel and rigid attitude she will need a new change. In the dialogue between mother and daughter the fanaticism of conservation (Clytemnestra) is confronted by the fanaticism of change (Electra).
Ancient tragic poets believed that change comes at a price for peoples, but, through destruction, progress timidly appears and mankind moves forward at a slow pace.
A vicious circle, then.
Without fanaticism it is hard to have a change and with fanaticism, a new narrow-minded conservative spirit takes over the adjustment of society.
Changes are always planned by theoretical minds (that may not have the power to enforce them). The devoted followers play their role.
Fanaticism cultivates in Electra the spirit of heroism and self-sacrifice, coating the purpose with sacredness. 
It creates groups with common ideas and goals (l.343-344: “... All your advice is her own saying, not even a word is yours...”, l.358: “... However, in reality, you’ve made up with the killers...”)
It makes imminent the reality of the purpose – it fills hearts with enthusiasm and makes the soul eager for action.
It makes fighters strict and rigid, determined to kill and be killed with no mercy. “Hit again, if you can! (l.1417).  “Courage! We are almost at the end” (l.1435). For those that possibly have not examined  this point of view I add an extract from Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements”:
“Though there are some obvious differences between a fanatic Christian, a fanatic Muslim and a fanatic nationalist, the fanaticism that characterizes them can be considered as the same. This is also true about the force that pushes them towards expansion and worldwide domination. All kinds of faith, devotion, ambition, unity and self-sacrifice, share some similarities. Although there are some great differences in the content of every “sacred cause” or theory, we constantly discover correlations between the factors of this cause or theory that support their influence. Whoever – like Pascal – finds out the real reasons for the effectiveness of communist, National Socialist and nationalistic dogma. No matter how different the “sacred cause” that people sacrifice their lives for, they may actually be dying for the same thing.
Judging from the fact that the first followers of every mass movement are recruited mostly by all kinds of disappointed people, and that they join the movement voluntarily, we reach the conclusion that: 1) Failure and disappointment can create most of the characteristics of the “orthodox”.  2)An effective technique for influencing public opinion is the assimilation of the disappointed...”

                                              Retribution: Old Law

The dead cannot rest unless their keen desire to be avenged is satisfied. This is a remnant of the old as time perception that blood must be avenged with blood.
This old as time saga of vengeance is one of the unwritten rules of the old law, the Retribution.
Unlike Aeschylus (as we can see in his play “The Libation Bearers”) Sophocles adopts Homer’s point of view. In Homer’s work, we do not find the perception that the dead asked for vengeance. They don’t get mad and they don’t tell the living what to do. They are not “angry at the killer” as Plato himself admits (Laws, 8655 d). They don’t interfere with the lives of those still alive. The only thing they ask for is to be buried (if they haven’t already been buried) and to have the necessary libations, offerings and honors appointed to them.
In Hades, they move around like “lifeless heads” (Odyssey, 11. 29, 49), “images of dead mortals” (Odyssey, 11. 476). They walk around like helpless shadows, without wit, without fibers (Iliad, 23.104, Odyssey, 11.219).
Homer and Sophocles tell us that: when one commits murder, he is exposed to the wrath of the victim’s relatives, which wrath, however, is not appointed by the dead. 
Sophocles’ heroes, Orestes and Electra, are led by their personal passion for revenge and a higher sense of honor. 
Sophocles and Aeschylus examined the unwritten rules of Old Law because they could see that this law, in a new form, still regulates and has impact on human relations, despite the fact that the state has substituted this law with a new one.
According to the old law, the son of the murder victim had the sacred obligation to avenge his father’s death. Thus, Orestes, the only son of Agamemnon (who, according to the etymology of his name, comes from the mountains), has an “alpine” point of view and plans to do credit to his father’s memory and to avenge his dishonorable death. In these tragic circumstances, his enemy is his own mother. 
In order to do his duty against his dead father, he must commit the most hideous of crimes: matricide. He is a young man that lived away from his home for so many years (this was Electra’s doing since she gave him away to be raised by the tutor) and has stayed clear from all the blood spilling that polluted his family.
He is a young man with an immaculate soul, who has committed no unholy act on his own, but who bears the weight of a grave and unforgivable sin committed by his ancestors, for which, though, he has to pay. He has to acknowledge the great debt he is obliged to pay.
Nowadays, anything relating to tradition is often considered as an element dead or inhibiting progress. So how can this play of Sophocles, and ancient Greek tragedy in general, be of any help to us?
The word “dead” brings to mind the corpse, something useless and susceptible to endanger its environment. It’s something that people must get rid of, it inhibits, in a way, the progress and evolution of civilization, it stops the improvement of the way of life. However, there is another point of view, with which I agree, that reaches a compromising solution after examining the relations between these concepts. We think of the word “tradition”. We often hear so much about it, however, the reality it represents is not easily understood.
Parents pass on to their children the best things they have , that they earned and acquired at their own effort, their language, their abilities, their ethics, their customs, their virtues and vices that they’re unaware of, their perceptions of life and death.
This act of passing on values that takes place every day in the families has been silently repeated in social life for centuries. The previous generations bequeath and deliver to the young people whatever they consider as prime material in order to help them make their lives better and easier. Hence, we understand that tradition is not only elements of civilization created in the past. It is actually an all-time process of uniting the past and the present. We would say it is a function of humanistic and educational character.
Because it helps young people of all eras, and their children, to overcome the obstacles and ordeals that their ancestors suffered from.
It passes on, through words and actions, selected elements of previous forms of civilization.
Tradition is the basic cultural function that roots from the ancestors’ love and will to help the next generations.
Tradition presents ideal examples that must be imitated, surpassed or even avoided, as we mentioned in previous chapters: it connects the present to the past while preparing the future. It is perhaps the most important factor for natural unity and independence.
Peoples that have no tradition find it hard to deal with the future and are always in danger of falling apart or getting absorbed by other peoples. Tradition pushes peoples towards the creation of a better future. These are some of the positive elements of tradition. However, returning to the introduction of this text, we must consider this question:
What good things can someone expect from superstitions, national and social prejudice, racial disputes and war? No matter how strange it seems, these are traditional elements. They were preserved for the following reasons:
In the past, these elements were effective during difficult times of a people’s history, for example, the hatred for a neighboring nation kept the people ready for war, a fact that saved them from slavery in several occasions. This conclusion helps us explain when and in which way traditional elements play an inhibiting role.
Younger generations that receive these traditional elements find them totally correct, perfect and therefore effective, thus reaching the point of sterile adoration of the forefathers and rigid conservatism.
Although they see that some of these elements have no meaning at the present time, they refuse to replace them with other more practical elements. They consider them sacred and privileged and they don’t think of judging them in order to prove their legitimacy. They object to progress because they think that any change will destroy tradition, so they fight against change.
Instead of turning their gaze towards the future, they look all the way back at the past.
The conclusion is this: Tradition is a process of love and union of knowledge.
The usefulness of its elements depends on the way the recipients use them.
Tradition = the conscience of peoples.
Strange as it seems, tradition is the conscience that evaluates, selects and transports elements of culture from the past, incorporating them, unabridged or slightly changed into the present.
Therefore, whatever good exists today was, at its most part, born as an idea and realized in the past.
The process of tradition gives the young people the chance to acquire the knowledge coming from the experience of others.
Ancient drama and tradition
In my opinion, ancient drama has offered a lot, since it contains some final and some temporary solutions to basic problems of life. Thus, tradition is a sacred support helping us deal with our current problems and also a motive for us to approach new problems.
At the same time, tradition achieves the union of time, a concept that man is used to grasp in fragments. We would say that tradition prepares the entrance of peoples and individuals into eternity.
In conclusion, I cite the beautiful scene described by Plutarch, where three successive generations of Spartans execute a triple dance. Each generation lists its virtues and accomplishments and all of them together plan the future of their country. The younger generation promises: “We will be much better than you”. 

Speech is dialogue

In the dialogues between mother and daughter and between the two sisters (Electra and Chrysothemis) we see clearly that they have alienated each other. 
We feel their differences, the distance between them, their loathing, their hatred, their dispute. 
Relationships of this kind cause anomalies in social life and have the tendency to disrupt the unity and to dismantle society.
If we look closely at the relationships of this kind, we will realize that their common factor is disagreement and lack of emotional connection.
Thus, we could say, with a certain degree of skepticism, that these relationships are “anti-spiritual”. Their origin lies in a tragic misunderstanding regarding the role of others, which role has been described by Jean-Paul Sartre in his quote “My hell is the others”.
Roger Garaudy looked deeply in this issue and reached the exactly opposite conclusion: “My heaven is the others”. He even dedicated his book “Human Speech” to proving the great importance of dialogue. 
Psychoanalysis- as everyone knows- used effectively the dialogue as a way of curing mental illness.
When we disagree with someone, isn’t dialogue the suggested solution? Therefore, we are well aware of its role, judging from our personal experience. 
Dialogue in ancient Greek drama
The texts of the ancient Greek drama were especially created for the use of dialogue. As we can see in the dialogue between Clytemnestra and Electra, they both talk about the law and justice. So, what is their dispute about? I will answer that with the help of a historical event. 
Criton suggests that Socrates escapes from prison. He even justifies his suggestion using a number of arguments and tries to convince his friend of accepting his proposition. Socrates starts the conversation in good faith, without scolding his friend for his immoral suggestion. The first thing he says is: “My friend Criton, your eagerness is valuable, if only your words had a shred of rightness”.
So, Socrates, and also the tragic poets are concerned about rightness and we, as spectators, are prompted to check if the dialogues we hear are in fact correct. The point of the dialogue is that spectators understand this rightness. 
Let’s look closer at the content of the notion “διάλογος” (“dialogue”) in connection to the notion “λόγος” (“speech”) [since these notions are related both through their etymology and their meaning]. The preposition “δια” means that we deal with speech between two or more persons. The “λόγος” (“speech”) is the expression, the revelation of our mental world with the help of language. Language is considered as a tool for communicating and speech is the act of communicating in a logical manner. Because “λόγος” means also justification and rational thought. The dialogue always “means well” since, in order for it to start, good will is required. Line 554: “But if you let me, I will tell you good things about the dead man and my sister.” Line 556: “I leave you and if you start talking this way, then your words will not fall heavy on my ears”.
This question arises: Do the ancient Greek texts provide us with solutions?
These texts were written in order to educate citizens and help them reach a deep level of consciousness. The structure itself of these texts is meant to allow the different ideas collide. 
When it comes to us, these texts offer us the greatest lesson of democracy.

The audience wonders if Orestes had the right to kill his mother and waits for the poet to give an answer. 

Sophocles and other tragic poets have not always offered an answer (a given answer).
In Homer’s work, the son’s (Orestes) vengeance for Agamemnon’s murder is mentioned several times.
The Twelve Olympians consider the murder of Aegisthus a fine example of a son’s devotion. They don’t say much about the death of Clytemnestra.
As for Aeschylus, many people think that the poet approves of matricide, since Orestes is acquitted in the end because his act was necessary for the preservation of society.
In his play “The Eumenides”, Aeschylus acquitted Orestes not because he doesn’t consider him responsible for his actions but because he wanted to stop the vicious circle of blood-spilling. As we mentioned in a previous chapter about the Old Law (Trial), the killer would have to be punished by another killer: an eye for an eye.
Aeschylus, by including Orestes’ trial in the last play of his trilogy, puts an end to this strife and says:
“Stop killing each other, justice is the one who will judge criminals”.
The goddess Athena, mainly the goddess of Wisdom and Justice and the daughter of Zeus, is presiding over this court. Euripides, in his play “Electra”, has a totally different opinion than Aeschylus , and the heroes Electra and Orestes, having committed the crime of matricide, cannot find satisfaction in this act of vengeance.
There were also some other poets like Stesichorus (a lyric poet) who found nothing ethically wrong with this matricide. As far as we can tell from the few existing fragments of his work “Oresteia”, Stesichorus praised this act and called it a victory of the oppressed over their oppressors. 
Sophocles could not possibly have ignored Clytemnestra’s death, let alone omit it from his play. In the end, which point of view does Sophocles agree with?
1) With the point of view of Aeschylus, so that he justifies Apollo’s order as a decision deriving from a son’s higher duty to his father, rather than his mother?
2) With the point of view of Euripides, so that he places human passions (feelings) above the gods?
Perhaps he traces a path of his own and tries to discover a new solution.
Orestes has to deal with a dilemma. Should he avenge his father’s death, as the gods dictate (Apollo), or should he respect his mother, as Plato suggests. Plato thought that matricide, under any circumstances, is a monstrous act and no punishment fits this terrible crime. It’s an unjustifiable act, even if the killer was acting under the influence of an uncontrollable passion.
Sophocles may not offer a solution in the way that Aeschylus does, nor does he present the heroes of the play discussing if vengeance is right or wrong, however, a number of insinuations in the play urge us to think about the consequences of this drama.
These consequences are presented in a dramatic way and we end up with this question: What are the dramatic characters doing and saying?
The conclusion may not be as clear as that of Aeschylus it is, however, satisfactory.
One by one, the dramatic characters of this play express their expectation that the gods will assist this vengeance (lines 82, 110-118, 173-175, 411, 626, 637-659, 792, 825). All these characters believe that the gods will offer their assistance because they are punishers and protectors of the murder victims. We would say that Sophocles carefully creates the defense of this matricide, because he considers it to be moral, religious and legal.
This is also demanded by the human justice, which is in turn authorized by the gods.
Euripides asks a very serious question:
“Is it really right, under any circumstances, that someone should kill his mother, and why?
If in fact Clytemnestra should die, couldn’t the perpetrator of her murder be someone else?”
In Sophocles’ play, Electra hears the untrue story of Orestes’ death and decides to finish off the vengeance herself. 
However, in the end, Sophocles does not preserve this ending. Why? Why does he change the turn of events? Isn’t Electra, because of her nature, capable of accomplishing the will of the gods?
The couple that committed the murder was placed above the law because of the fact that they were not content only with the crime but also, they usurped the dead man’s power. So the law itself (which, as we can see, was created by themselves as rulers of the state) cannot be turned against them.
In consequence, the act of exterminating the killers cannot be an “inside job”, but it falls on people that they cannot control and that are capable of changing things.
When the power is in the hands of people that show no respect for the law, justice can be served only by people that have the will and the duty of doing what could, of course, be considered as a crime.
Sophocles reaches this conclusion, having already created the character of Clytemnestra and portraying her as a woman who is no longer a mother. He created her character in such a way that Orestes does not feel any strong guilt about killing her.
Electra – always according to the text - says that she no longer considers Clytemnestra as her mother, since her actions are in no way maternal. To sum up, we would say that she does not deserve her children’s affection and respect, because:
1) She killed Agamemnon.
2) She usurped his power.
3) She appointed to her lover the post of her murdered husband Agamemnon.
4) Aegisthus sits on the dead man’s throne.
5) He wears his clothes.
6) He offers libations on the hearth where Agamemnon was murdered and he sleeps in his bed.
7) Clytemnestra organizes monthly feasts in memory of the murder, meaning that she praises her crime. She treats badly not all of her children but only those that have a different opinion and show it with their attitude and their behavior.
We understand that Democracy is abolished. Another sign of her bad behavior towards her children is this: As soon as she hears about Orestes’ death, her motherly love fights with fear and hate.
However, after this inner battle, evil wins. She believes that she is now free to pass the remaining of her days in peace, free of the threat that distressed her.
The situation that Sophocles has created is that when injustice has reached the highest point.
Electra realizes that she is wrong but she thinks that her acts are inevitable. She has no other choice.  Electra and Orestes are obliged to commit this crime because of the terrible situation created by the original crime of their mother.
Sophocles accepts this evil act. Of course, in no way does he try to belittle this evil but also he thinks that duty is necessary and fair. This terrible situation can be changed only by terrible means.
In conclusion of this chapter, I provide an answer to a question addressed to me by an actor. Why is the play called “Electra” and not “Orestes”, since he is the one who kills the two usurpers and the one who takes the power afterwards? 
Electra is the one who has lived in the presence of evil for many years and not Orestes.
In order to give an answer to this question, I quote the following dialogue. I also explain my point of view, as a director, concerning “Electra-People” (λαός=people), since she is being referred to elsewhere by the name of “Laodice” (λαός=People + δίκη=Trial)
Orestes: I cannot hold my tongue anymore... Is this the famous face of Electra?
Electra: Yes, the one that has become like this...
Orestes: Alas! Poor woman! What a horrible disaster... Oh, body! You are ruined, in an indecent and unholy way!
Electra: Since I am living with killers.
Orestes: Of whom?
Electra: Of my father; and I am forced to work for them.
Orestes: Who forces you?
Electra: She is called “mother”. She is not a mother, though.
Orestes: What does she do? Does she insult or does she hit with her hands?
Electra: She uses her hands, she insults, and many more.
Orestes: Is there anyone helping you?
Electra: Noone.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Chorus and Theatre

The protagonist of ancient Greek drama will always be the Chorus.

In my opinion, the Chorus, which represents the essence of team spirit, affects the thoughts and the feelings of not only the spectators but also of the roles of the drama.

How I justify my opinion:

The Chorus represents the Unconscious of people. Unconscious: the stage between the conscious and the subconscious. Subconscious: all the desires we were unaware of having or unaware of having suppressed them or having even buried them.

The Chorus observes the problems that trouble the actors. Each member of the Chorus has its own thoughts but, the minute something happens, these members react to it as a group: “...While we were washing our robes in the sea, we heard a cry of pain. Lady, share all of your problems with us...”

However, Plato thought that the Chorus had no rhythm no harmony in its movements. He said that the bodies of the dancers were not expressive, their movements were clumsy and their voices out of tune (Laws, 665e).

I believe, though, that the notion of individuality is not incompatible with the notion of the Chorus. In the Chorus we find the trace of the current events (that even the Chorus itself does not understand, hence its comparison to the Unconscious). “There are some wheat branches moving and we sense that there is wind there.”(Tarkovsky).In what extent can it help? Individuality: the particle seems to be made of energy. In order to modify the particle we would have to modify its inner energy.

Einstein said that the field that holds everything together is the Managing Authority. He said that the field defines the individual’s attitude. The field is made of electric and magnetic energy, meaning of particles.

Nowadays, science teaches us that by modifying the electric or magnetic field we modify the particle. How can it change?

The strongest electric and magnetic field in our body is our heart. There lies our sentiment. Sentiment: the union of our Feeling and our Thought. In our hearts there is Hate, Sorrow, Compassion, Happiness. The sentiment creates waves of electric and magnetic energy in our hearts, which waves change our body (and in extent our world). Our beliefs also modify the electric and magnetic fields.

The Chorus expresses a view on the relationship of man and god, on peace in the world. Specifically: while addressing Helen after the exit of the first messenger, “He speaks the truth, my lady. Be friends with gods and not with prophets.”

In the scene of Helen-Theonoe-Menelaus, the Chorus says to Helen: “... your words and your appearance have made us feel sorry for you.”  “Those who are fair prosper, while those who are unfair should be cursed.”

“Till when will hate and blood take the place of peace?”

“Who can look for god? And who was able to put god in a box? Man is floating on the tide of fortune. Only the word of god is certain and true.”

Euripides sometimes used odes that are not in concordance with the plot of the play, that’s why they are called inserts. Some scholars condemned this innovation calling it an anachronism. What were ancient Greeks aware of?

They were aware of the fact that the heart’s electric field is 100 times more powerful than that of the brain. The heart’s magnetic field is 5000 times more powerful than that of the brain.

In conclusion, what was Euripides’ purpose in having the Chorus recite old songs and hymns? He wanted to create feelings in the hearts of the members of the Chorus (and consequently in the hearts of spectators).

In accordance with the poet’s expectations, the Chorus implores Dioscuri, the brothers of Helen, for their aid. They believe and hope that Dioscuri will appear and so they do in the end. In addition, the king came to his senses (he changed his mind).

In 1901, during an experiment, scientists proved that the spectators could affect the reality of what they were witnessing. Consciousness affected the king’s behavior. This leads us to the conclusion that we are not mere observers of our world. Our existence in this world has a constant effect on it. John Wheeler said that the word “observer” should be replaced by the word “participant”. Hence, the Chorus participates.

In 1998, the above mentioned experiment took place again with the same results and with a more interesting observation: it was discovered that the longer the observation, the bigger the effect it had.
Euripides does not let the Chorus interfere in a great extent. However, it still participates in the play.

Scientists, in 1998, discovered that the more we observe our natural environment, the bigger the influence we have on it, with merely our active presence!

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."