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04 March 2008

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Margaret

"I say it's not only about voting, but about lobbying, campaigning, participating in government, educating and through art and exemplary citizenship that we influence who rules and how they rule...."

Desperately trying to keep my rescuing tendencies in check ... I think Hermes would recommend a dose of Epitectus. That or some light therapy. My mother would have sent snowdrops.

Very thought provoking post (again) though, and thanks for a week's worth of references. I agree, like you, that Simon's pithy description of active citizenship is an ideal to aspire to. I think what often keeps people away from those activities is a lack of belief that they can make a difference. Hope has been knocked out of them. I know that I can make a difference, that things can be changed as a result of my actions. I think I learnt that from my mother - the time when she (a very ordinary constituent) asked our local MP to intervene in immigration proceedings against my then boyfriend, and he did, and the decision was reversed as a result of his intervention. It's possible that if the decision had remained unchanged, as I guess it does for other people in similar situations, that I would have lost my faith in the system and now be a cynic instead. You only need one instance of change in order to believe that you can make a difference.

You paint a bleak picture of the press in America. Are there no exceptions? Things are not so bleak here, though a daily diet of some newspapers (the Telegraph springs to mind) would leave you jaundiced (and in desperate need of light therapy).

Margaret

That would be Epictetus, I think. Too tired.

Stavros

Hi Margaret,

Yes, morale is low. It will require light therapy; Greek light therapy. Come to think of it my legs are beginning to take on a fish belly white hue. All that will be resolved in time when I return to Greece this summer and my legs begin to match the olive colored skin on my face.

Thanks for opening the door on Epictetus for me. I intend to pass through it especially after reading how he kept Jim Stockdale going during his stay at the Hanoi Hilton. (Sorry about using a telegraph article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/07/07/db0701.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/07/07/ixportal.html

Yes there are exceptions, good journalists, with ethics and an understanding of their role and profession. Unfortunately they are a minority.

Your mother taught you some valuable lessons it seems but where did she get that song about Bangor? They have even more snow than we do.

Theophilos

Stavros,

I've been reading about the weather in your part of the woods and the picture is indeed rather bleak. Are you really longing for Greek summer "kafsonas"? (the other extreme).

You raise several key points here. I was always intrigued by the Platonic theories of politics - which nowadays are seen as "elitist," to say the least. And we have given up on noble lies long ago, replacing them with vulgar, thinly-veiled lies instead which promote the kind of "societal bonding" we experience today in the deteriorating societies of the "developed world."

On the issue of the masses, I don't think there's much hope in trying to educate them. One look at the faces on the Metro station in the morning, for example, will convince you that the battle is lost before it began (all these people though do vote, which makes the idea of 'mass participation' much scarier than it originally was).

You say:
QUOTE Clearly, the problem rests squarely on the shoulders of the average American citizen, those folks most impacted by American policies both national and international. Nowadays, given the rise of alternative media such as the Internet there is no reason for Americans to claim ignorance about any issue. END QUOTE

True. But who really cares? I just bet that for every 100 beer bellies there's perhaps ONE shining exception who tries to keep up with things. I don't know what the actual statistics are, but I feel that the ones who do wish to be proactive are easily swamped by the hordes of the useless. And since our Western (at least, European) "democracies" place an overarching importance on making all the useless feel better and more protected, those with the true fire in the belly end up being viewed as odd and "out of the mainstream" in the best of cases.

Plato had the right idea of course. But his breakdown of the classes would have landed him in court in the present day for spreading indecent notions and racial hatred. This conclusion does not change the fact that he was right and we are wrong. Trouble is nobody would admit it lest we introduce "totalitarian" views into the debate.

Margaret

Don't thank me, thank Hermes - he suggested it to another blogger in distress. I'd never heard of Epictetus, but - now I have - his name crops up everywhere. Great article, even if it was from the Telegraph :). I was brought up in a house wallpapered with the Telegraph, so it is very familiar ... I've been carrying a small version of Epictetus around with me, for odd moments of quiet. It really is very good stuff, though no man is an island.

[http://adifferentvoice.wordpress.com/2008/02/03/sticks-and-stones/]

I don't know how the Bangor song made it across the Atlantic, but D was brought up on his parents' University of St Andrews Song Book, and it featured in there too. Imagine a University nowadays having a Song Book!

Hope the snow melts soon. It has felt like a long winter here too, beset by constant illnesses, tiredness and other people's problems, but reading your blog made a difference.

Margaret

S, I've just read the most recent post on this:

http://saminkie.blogspot.com/

and thought you might be interested - for what he says at the end about the sound of Arabic ... I enjoy little coincidences like that.

legein

You have only just heard about Epictetus? Shame on you! More seriously, he is brilliant. There has been a recent surge of interest in these people (incl. Marcus Aurelius, Seneca etc) in recent years - the perfect antidote for an uncertain age.

Margaret

Legein,

Is that you, Hermes ;)?

I never mind admitting my ignorance, or giving credit where credit is due.

legein

Sort of.

People waste so much time and money on new fashionable therapies when most of the answers cost about $20 from a bookstore. The remainder can be gleaned from parents, grandparents and good older role models. Total cost=$20 for a lifetime.

Today, the therapy industry is like the stockmarket. The more turnover, the more the intermediaries make money, regardless of whether it goes up or down.

And even Freud said that psychoanalysis was not for the masses. The masses already had psychoanalysis, namely: culture.

Kosta

Stavros,

Boy, you reference a lot of different things on this post!

You say "the world would be a much worse place if America did not exist." Well, there are millions of people who would vehemently agree with you and millions more who would vehemently disagree with you. All depends.... Just as for many, the fall of communism was a great thing. For those who have sufferred in the wars in Africa, fueled by cheap arms from the former Eastern bloc ... not such a great thing.

Islamic extremism? A nice term invented by the Bush administration, one that I am not prepared to swallow. On this topic, I know we sit on opposite sides of the fence, as you have a number of extreme right blogs listed in your favorite blogs section that I am making an assumption cater to your view on this matter. No offense intended, and my apologies on this matter, that is just how I am interpreting things. While I am certainly no expert on Islam, the Middle East and Central Asia, I have concluded from my readings that it is an extraordinarily complex region with all the conflicts between diferrent sects of Islam and ethnic groups, and has a long bloody history. One that the current administration and the extreme right greatly oversimplifies.

While I adamantly believe that the support of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan was correct, I believe that the abandonment of that country has been one of the largest mistakes in foreign policy post-WW2. A flame was definitely lit, and it has erupted into quite a quagmiry fire.

Kosta

PS. I actually looked up the adjective version of quagmire - lol

PS2. Nice jab at Gore with regards to global warming. Easy statement to make, even look at the all the snow in Greece this year. Snow even in Crete! However, another complex subject. Is the world getting warmer overall(as I understand the polar caps are most affected)? It appears so. How much is the human race responsible? There lies the debate....

Stavros

T,

Keep in mind that my stays in Greece are relatively short and we are blessed to be able to spend them in close proximity to the sea, not in the sweltering apartment blocks of Athens. I lived outdoors in some pretty inhospitable places with extremes of temperatures. I've been hypothermic in Norway and Korea. If you think Greece is hot try the Saudi desert. I'm sure that after I get my fill of hot weather I will be longing for the snow of Maine again.

It's easy to be apathetic in our societies until things begin to affect you in a very personal way. Part of the problem is the sad state of public education these days. Our schools are not churning out people with the skills that they need to be citizens with a sense of civic duty and the ability to think critically. I sense that this is even a greater problem in Greece with its emphasis on rote learning.

This may be a very egalitarian view, however, I don't think responsibility, filotimo, common sense or civic mindedness is the monopoly of any one class of people. These qualities are most definitely in short supply across the board, a result, as you rightly suggest, of our democracies failing to value them.

M,

Your first link is not working. I thoroughly enjoyed the second which I will continue to read. Thanks for that nugget and Epictetus as well. H gave it to you and you gave it to me. There are plenty more out there that we may still discover including a few even H doesn't know about. It's all a matter of being curious and digging beneath the surface. I have never stopped learning nor do I intend to until I die. Even that journey might offer a few surprises.

H or L,

I still smile when I remember you mentioning your post- coital readings of Marcus Aurelius. Better than a cigarette but guaranteed not to warm the heart of the lady in question.

K,

What "extremist" blogs are you referring to? As for including a lot of different things all at once, I think we have that in common. :)
Not that I complaining mind you.

Despite being on opposite sides of the fence I think both of us are willing to hear both sides. The blog list is more for your benefit than mine since I think you probably end up on blogs that agree with your point of view most of the time, as well. It's only human.

Actually I am belatedly beginning to realize the inconsistencies of US policy and policymakers' inability to understand the regions we are engaged in. That doesn't mean I don't think the major issue of our time (no its not global warming) is how we deal with a very aggressive Islam. The world is indeed complex, all Muslims are not bad guys and all Christians are not good guys. Nevertheless, I can't ignore current events or history.

I agree with you on Afghanistan. Why are we abandoning that country again by not acting collectively on its behalf?

I don't give Al Gore a second thought. The issue is extremely complex and the science is far from conclusive. I don't like double standards; one for the elites and one for the rest of us. I don't like people telling me what I must think.

BTW, I'm interested in what you think about the Kosovo quagmire?

Margaret

S, Funny, the image of a post-coital Hermes in bed with Marcus Aurelius is one I could do without ... though I, too, remember his comment.

Also, though it matters not a lot, I was not the intended recipient of the Epictetus gift from Hermes, or was it Legein. It was intended for DD on her blog, but I followed the link and liked what I read. The link that doesn't work was only to a post on my blog that, again, referenced Epictetus. No matter. Glad you liked the link to the Iraqi psychiatrist's blog. It's humbling to think he has to walk three miles to get an internet connection ... I read, but haven't commented, though I have another link to a Baghdad dentist if you're interested :). I do hope Kostas tells you what he thinks about Kosovo - I'd like to know too.

H/L, I agree and I disagree with you. There are a lot of modern therapies out there - take this one (http://www.rebt-cbt.net:80/My_Homepage_Files/Page2.html) that a friend sent me this week. Not difficult to relate that back to Epictetus, is it? The man gets everywhere. However, it would be isolating to be married to a stoic, I think, and I don't believe the choice is between philosophy and therapy/counselling: there is a place for both and good therapy/counselling will reach parts that the reader will often not let philosophy any where near. Yes, I do speak from experience.

maria verivaki

I read your blog with great interest, and I can see how much you genuinely care for the country that took in your parents. And don't think it's just you who piles logs onto the fireplace - we have to save on fuel too! I will try to read other posts of yours in the weeks to come.

Stavros

Maria,

Apologies for not responding sooner, I've been away from my computer.

I didn't mean to imply that we live a life of hardship, far from it. Americans live much better than most of the rest of the world. Like everyone else we like to complain a bit.

I hope you find something worth reading in this blog and I look forward to your comments.

Kosta

Stavro,

The blogs I refer to: Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt.

A couple of my favorite sites:

http://newsbusters.org/ (far right site)
http://www.newshounds.us/ (far left site)
http://mediamatters.org/ (left site)

On cable, I watch Fox more than any other channel. Though I will admit, some of it is hard to stomach. I don't see the same personal attacks on other networks as I see on Fox (Rathergate being an underhanded exception).

On a side note, McCain "blowing his temper" at the reporter? As they say down under, what's that all about? I saw no such thing. Doesn't the man have a right to be annoyed with stupid questioning, especially from a news agency that came close to slander (imo)?

It is interesting to note that those on the right tend see me as on the left, sometimes far on the left (the farther right, the farther they see me on the left). And vice versa. Those on the left tend to see me as on the right, sometimes far on the right. I see myself as left of center (under the Clinton administration I saw myself as center-right).

I'm a difficult person to pigeon-hole politically. I stand firm against lies, deceit, and whitewashing. So whoever is in power, I'm probably not for them!

Regarding Kosovo. No comment. Period/full stop.

Just kidding! ;)

Seriously though, I consider myself as uninformed, so please take that into account with what I say.

First, I have a problem with the destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches, just as I have a problem with the destruction of Orthodox churches in Palestine (Kosta, please keep your comments on topic).

Second, I do not support the independence of Kosovo. The United States fought a bloody civil war over economics to maintain its integrity. I see American support of Kosovo's independence as hypocritical, as well as support by the UK, Spain, France, and many other nations that have suppressed secessionist movements. Serbia has full right to maintain the integrity of its borders as it for whatever reason it sees fit.

Self-determination is a tricky situation. Using Cyprus as an example, if they desired Enosis, they had a right to it. Historically, they were the first on the island, and being the majority, they have to right to self-determination. Of course, they sought independence from the British at a time that much of western Europe maintained colonies throughout the world. Those colonial powers feared the domino effect that independence of Cyprus could have caused. (side note: so what choice did the Cypriots have other than using violent means to achieve independence?)

However, the situation in Kosovo is different. Historically, it is a Serbian region. I believe (being one myself) that immigrants must assimilate into their host country. This does not mean abandonment of their language or culture. This means that they abide by the laws and the social norms of their host country.

I do have a couple of books from different sources on my bookshelf on Yugoslavia in the 1990's that I have yet to open. As I've told you before, I collect books faster than I read them (currently reading something non-polictal and non-historical: "Blink" - very interesting, I recommend it).

I think you have made some interested and well founded statements regarding Greater Albania. I greatly enjoyed the comments made by the Canadian officer. The Balkan region is an extraordinarily complicated area historically and politically. Irredentism claims can be justified by many. Domino effects from one event are possible and quite unpredictable. I believe caution must be exercised always. My gut tells me that Clinton failed to exercise the necessary caution.

If anyone disagrees, feel free to tell me why and I'll gladly respond. As I said, I am not an expert on the specifics.

Margaret

Kosta,

I imagine Stavros will love your comment.

"Serbia has full right to maintain the integrity of its borders as it for whatever reason it sees fit."

Did "Serbia" include Kosovo, then? I thought they were both separate units within Yugoslavia? Whilst it seems that Kosovo was originally a district, and then a province of the Soviet Republic of Serbia, Tito granted it increased autonomy so that, as I understand it, it became equal in status to Serbia in 1974, and thus no longer part of the Serbian Republic. Of course, it remained part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Have I got this wrong?

Is it, then, really Tito's promotion of Kosovo in the 1970s that you object to?

Also, how is the secession of Kosovo different from that of Montenegro (which Serbia endorsed willingly)?

Stavros

Kosta,

I don't like labels. On the issue of Kosovo I find myself, here in America at least, rather isolated.

My evaluation of your political leanings, based on your opinions, concurs with your own. I get the sense that you are not a true believer or a fanatic. Always willing to learn and reassess.

Your views on Kosovo do not fit in to the majority Left/Right view of the matter. We are in agreement, on this one.

Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt are not extreme. Describing them as such is merely a reflection that you disagree with them. On the other hand, I can point you to some Left wing blogs that I think fit the "extreme" description quite well based on specific things one reads there.

Fox is "less" partial than say MSNBC however, I find their treatment of the news to be superficial at best and sensationalist at worst.

On McCain. I watched the video and it is just a poor attempt to paint McCain as "tempermental." As we say here: "you ain't seen nothing yet." McCain has always been a darling of the left wing media. All that will change quite rapidly once they figure out who to support, Obama or Clinton.

You say: "The Balkan region is an extraordinarily complicated area historically and politically. Irredentism claims can be justified by many. Domino effects from one event are possible and quite unpredictable."

I say: Yes, Yes, Yes. Why did Europe and the US, exponents of multi-culturalism and human rights for all, oversee the dismantling of a multi-cultural state, in of all places, in the Balkans? Why do we have to protect the rights of Albanians in Kosovo but not other minorities. Why do the rights of Bosnians or Croats or Albanians trump those of Serbs, each and every time?

We have let the genie out of the bottle in the Balkans and we are not putting him back anytime soon.

Margaret,

From Wikipedia:

"In the 1974 constitution, the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo's government received higher powers, including the highest governmental titles — President and Prime Minister and a seat in the Federal Presidency which made it a de facto Socialist Republic within the Federation, but remaining a Socialist Autonomous Province within the Socialist Republic of Serbia. (Similar rights were extended to Vojvodina)."

BTW, please read Nald's comment. Some Albanians have claims on Montenegro, FYROM and Greece as well. This thing is far from over.

Margaret

Stavros:

From Wikipedia:

"The Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija received more and more autonomy and self-government within Serbia and Yugoslavia during the 1970s, and its name was officially changed in 1974 to Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo ("and Metohija" was removed because it was not used by the Kosovo Albanians and "Socialist" added to further show the Socialist ideal of then's SFRY) as per the Constitutions of SFRY and SR Serbia, when SAP Kosovo also gained its own Constitution. The Province of Kosovo gained the highest officials, most notably Presidency and Government, and gained a seat in the Federal Yugoslavian Presidency (including veto power on the federal level) which equated it to the states of SR Serbia"

But what does it all mean - a constitution, a presidency and a government and a seat in the Federal Yugoslavian Presidency.

You have my full permission to say "I told you so" when it all goes lily-white belly up, and let's hope there are not too many Nalds around. I don't even know what I think about it yet, but I don't want to take up more of your time.

Kosta

Stavros,

I personally find Malkin to be quite extreme with some of her venemous statements. She almost (not quite) reminds me of Ann Coulter. Hewitt on the other hand, is far more collected, someone whom I disagree with, but I still respect mostly.

To some of my reading of political blogs. I pretty much focus on blogs such as newshounds or media matters and right leaning blogs (to see what the "other" side is saying/arguing), though sometimes I find (mostly with newshounds) that they take this too far and act unprofessionally. DailyKos? I became disgusted with this blog a long time ago (the comments are out of this world). I seek intelligent debate based on fact, reality, and an acceptance of history. Name calling, innuendos do not impress me. And there is simply too much of that in the blogosphere.

Anyway, back to the show.

Margaret,

I stated that I am uninformed on the detailed history of Yugoslavia. You obviously posses much more knowledge than myself. I cannot really debate you. You have brought up some excellent points, things that I will think about when I do get to reading the areas history.

Stavros

K,

I dislike Coulter's overly enthusiastic style. Malkin never rubbed me the wrong way however, I'll pay more attention to what she writes.

The two worst political blogs are by people who have Greek ties: Arianna Huffington and Markos Moulitsas.

M,

I declare a truce on Kosovo, for awhile.

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