About This Blog

Welcome to James' Philosophical Agora - James' Meeting Place On-Line. (Updated September 2017)

This blog is the place where I write in a more personal way on various areas of philosophical interest. Please be careful when I say 'philosophical' because this does not often mean about purely academic or abstract subjects and ideas; but rather like much of the philosophy of Socrates, it means an investigation of some fundamental things that have a very important baring on the way we live our lives as individuals and as communities.

I have a separate blog where I share my enthusiasm for the specific philosophical tradition and ideas of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle Plutarch and others at: Socrates 4 Today However, this blog James' Philosophical Agora expresses mostly personal viewpoints and so I prefer to have two separate blogs.

Please feel free to comment on any of the blog posts, or add some thoughts of your own to the subjects discussed. You can also contact me personally if you would like to discuss any particular items further at: jamesdelphi2000@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Modern Politics 01 - Please Can You Tell Me the Answer to Some Basic Questions On Politics and The Media ?

Can someone answer the following questions for me?

1) How much do our political leaders really know?
- Where did they learn it?
- Who taught them all these important things?
- How long did it take to teach them these things?
- Is being a politician - or running the local council - like learning to be a doctor or a pilot or a physicist? After all, we would not let a doctor operate on us without the correct training, or a mechanic fix our cars, so I was just wondering what training politicians have to run the country?

2) Does it take any special qualities, abilities, or intelligence to be a politician; or can anyone learn how to do it?

3) Has our type of democracy with power always resting with the same few 2 or 3 political parties become out of date; or is the system working just fine? Are there any alternatives or improvements we could make?

 - Would is make things better or worse to have more independent MP’s?
-  What other types of democracy are there anyway?

4) Does the media - which is largely owned by a very few big companies and individuals - have too much influence on which political party gets elected?
- Are there some measures we could easily take to limit the power of the media in our democratic elections - and so improve a little the democratic system we have?
- What recommendations do we expect the Leverson inquiry to suggest on such matters?

5) Does the media present the public with a balanced argument on most important issues so that ordinary people have a reasonable grasp of the positive and negative points surrounding an issue?
- How will ordinary people decide who to vote for if they do not have a reasonable grasp of both sides of an argument?
- Should there be a new law in the UK like the trade description law and libel law to cover deliberately misinforming or misleading the public on various important issues - e.g. 'The deliberate Misinformation Act' Is such a proposal so ridiculous – when all other products and services are subject to the Trade Descriptions Act easily enough? Would it be so difficult to insist on more balanced reporting in major media news - printed, TV, cable - outlets?

6) Does the general public know who owns most of the media? After all, we would not allow one banker to own 70 % of the banks (monopolies commission) or one grocer all the supermarkets, or even brewer to own all our pubs. So what is the situation with the media?  For example, if BSKY has 12 million “subscribers” - out of around 15 million households in the UK. Was Vince Cable right to be concerned about this matter? Has anyone apologised to him publicly for the way he was treated last year when expressing concerns when the BSKY deal looked like going through?

7) Is the current monopolies legislation adequate in the UK to oversee the media and take good regard the public interest? Is anyone public figure brave enough to put their head above the parapet and say what they would like to see the Leveson Inquiry do. Or will they simple wait to criticise whatever recommendations Leverson actually makes?

Philosophic Footnote:

'..... to understand how it is - is to begin (the first step) to improve what is.....'
(Zeitgeist – The Movie)

‘…..  We must not let people remain doubly ignorant. If people think they already know the answer to something when they do not they will not even look for the correct answers to problems or consider better options. They will remain “doubly ignorant” – which is much worse than knowing you do not know something and looking for the right answer.’

Friday, January 13, 2012

Greece Thinks It's Germany Who Owes The Debt.....

DISTIMO and The Greek Debt Crisis....

‘….. On the morning of June 10, 1944, a company of SS troopers hunting Greek partisans entered the mountain village of Distomo, near Delphi.  When the Red Cross arrived nine days later, they found 218 bodies of murdered villagers, the oldest 86, the youngest a baby of two months.  Most of the village had been burned to the ground.’  

‘….. In 1941, Manolis Glezos, a young resistance fighter, scaled the Acropolis and pulled down the Nazi swastika.  At the age of 89, he is mounting a fresh resistance campaign, demanding reparations and insisting that it is not Greece whose debts remain unpaid, but Germany.’
The full articel is below:

Tue 13 December 2011, The Times Newspaper (UK)

Greece thinks it’s Germany that owes the debt…
By Ben MacIntyre

The Distomo massacre in 1944 is seared into Greek memory — and full reparation has yet to be paid

Don’t mention the war.  But whenever Britain gets into an argument with Europe, we cannot resist it, deploying every wartime image we can muster.

Even before heading for his showdown with “Merkozy” (Merkle and Sarkozy), David Cameron was being warned against appeasement, and told not to return “with a kind of Chamberlainesque piece of paper.”  Another Tory MP urged him to show Winston Churchill’s “bulldog spirit”.

As Cameron took his solitary stance, others cited the famous wartime cartoon from 1940 showing a lone Tommy (ordinary soldier) standing up to tyranny: “Very well, alone.”  A single column in the Daily Mail yesterday draped the “Churchillian mantle” over Cameron, who was “sticking to his guns” in a “war of attrition”.

The instinctive resort to wartime symbolism is understandable, predictable, and almost entirely irrelevant to this particular episode, except as a shorthand way of praising a British leader, and simplistically damning his detractors.

But there is one area of the European (debt) crisis in which the war matters very greatly, for if the Second World still looms over Britain, it does so far more insistently and importantly over Greece, as it struggles to establish a viable economic future in the face of increasingly strict rules laid down by Germany.

The complex, painful and unequal relationship between Greece and Germany, hinging on the appalling experience of Nazi occupation during the Second World War, is central to the current crisis.  The Eurozone meltdown is reported in terms of accountancy and economic responsibility, bailouts and debt, but for many Greeks the debts involved are moral not financial, the issues historical, emotional and patriotic, inextricably entwined with Greece’s wartime experience, and one event in particular.

On the morning of June 10, 1944, a company of SS troopers hunting Greek partisans entered the mountain village of Distomo, near Delphi.  When the Red Cross arrived nine days later, they found 218 bodies of murdered villagers, the oldest 86, the youngest a baby of two months.  Most of the village had been burned to the ground.

Germany handed out $67 million in war reparations in 1960, but has refused to pay more for fear of encouraging additional demands.  The case of the Distomo survivors, with the backing of the Greek government, finally reached the European Court of Human Rights last summer, which ruled in favour of Germany.   The timing could not have been more telling: to many Greeks, it seemed that Germany was reneging on a moral debt, while insisting that Greece pay its bills.

The Axis occupation was a defining catastrophe in the short history of modern Greece.  The country’s economy was ruined, its treasures looted wholesale, tens of thousands died at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators, hundreds of thousands more through mass starvation caused by the requisitioning of food and the Allied blockade.

The occupation was only the most traumatic period in a history dictated, to a large extent, by external powers.  From the middle ages until the war of independence, Greece languished under Ottoman rule.  Greece’s first modern king was a teenage Bavarian prince, King Otto, imposed by the Great Powers, which also demanded the repayment of debts incurred by Greeks fighting for their freedom.  Even the outcome of the civil war that followed in 1946 was largely dictated by outside intervention.

It is against this grim backdrop that many Greeks see Germany demanding that Greece once again pay up, insisting on the most stringent austerity in exchange for a bailout package.  This is not just about money, but about dignity, and Greek sovereignty.

One Greek newspaper shows Horst Reichenbach, the German-born head of the European task force on Greece, in the uniform of a Wehrmacht officer.  A magazine depicts the swastika rising over the Acropolis.  Protestors carry red Nazi fags, the swastika replaced by the euro symbol.

The German tabloid press has stirred the pot by describing Greeks as lazy and profligate, and calling on Athens to sell off its islands and archaeological heritage to pay its ballooning debts.

That deliberately offensive caricature is partly accurate – for years Greece and its government lived way beyond its means, on borrowed money – but the suggestion that Greece surrender its patrimony bites deep in country that still feels a deep sense of anger over Germany’s refusal to pay compensation for the sins of the past.

The Greek relationship with Germany is deeply conflicted, bitter resentment coupled with profound admiration: many German fought for Greek independence; Greek opponents of the junta took refuge in Germany, and millions found work there; before the Second World War, Germany was seen in Greece as a source of cultural and political inspiration.

Greece’s admission to the EEC was seen as a sign that it had finally achieve equality within Europe, no longer the peripheral plaything of greater powers.  The rest of the Europe club welcomed Greece not so much because its economy fitted into the union, but because, as the cradle of democracy and western civilization, Greece seemed an essential adornment to the project.  The decision, like so much about the European project, was more romantic and historical than practical.

France, which did so much to encourage Greek membership, now says that “some”  countries (read: Greece) should never have joined the club, an observation that to Greek ears is almost as insulting as the idea that it should sell off the Parthenon to make ends meet.  Greece will not willingly leave the Eurozone.  It will go only if it is kicked out, by Germany.

Memories of war still shape national responses to crisis.  These memories may be misguided, even self-deluding, but that does not make them any less potent.   Our own familiar wartime narrative tells of a plucky bulldog Britain, standing up to Europe.  Greece’s story is of a country for too long pushed around by others, admitted to an elite club but then told it did not deserve to join, ordered to pay up when it believes it is still owed, and no longer in control of its own destiny as more powerful states, most notably Germany, wag their fingers and lay down the rules. 

In 1941, Manolis Glezos, a young resistance fighter, scaled the Acropolis and pulled down the Nazi swastika.  At the age of 89, he is mounting a fresh resistance campaign, demanding reparations and insisting that it is not Greece whose debts remain unpaid, but Germany.

Glezos is an apt emblem of the unfolding Greek drama: a country facing a deeply uncertain future, and haunted by the past.