Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fires in Greece

We are extremely sorry for all the ongoing bushfires in Greece. Please post you comments if you have something to share in this connection.



At 4:48 AM, Anonymous Alex Z said...

Here’s a quote from ‘The Crisis of Culture and the State’, which is relevant to what is going on in Greece right now. Castoriadis writes:

‘Why speak about “crisis”? I am not using the term in its proper, original sense. The word comes from the Greek, meaning separation, judgment, decision (the verb ‘krino’), and is intimately linked with the word ‘kairos’, meaning a moment of opportunity or of necessity for acting. Adhering to the original sense, one would say that there is a crisis when a process has reached a point where, implicitly or potentially, a moment of decision arises between opposing alternatives. For instance, in the evolution of a sickness, a crisis is a moment or a stage when the physician can say: either the patient will pass away in the next few hours or he will begin to get better. The word is frequently used in this sense in the old Hippocratic writings. But I am using the word in the present context to denote a protracted period of wear and tear, of corrosion of the world of imaginary significations which animate society’s institutions and which hold society together. The existence of such a protracted corrosion points to an important deterioration of a society’s capacity for self-repair, to use a biological metaphor. Society is, of course, not an organism, but societies always possess the equivalent of self-repair capacities.’

These catastrophic fires have certainly crystallised the nature of the social, political and environmental crisis affecting Greece, but they have also provided the country with a ‘moment of opportunity or of necessity for acting’, and a chance for Greeks to show their long-standing capacity for ‘self-repair’.

Also, I’ve been thinking lately about another important Paris-based Greek philosopher (of the 1960s and 1970s), Nikos Poulantzas – who wrote from a Marxist/Gramscian perspective on, among other things, the relative autonomy of the capitalist state. I’ve never in Castoriadis’ work come across any reference to or engagement with Poulantzas. Does anyone know if Castoriadis took any interest in Poulantzas work or vice versa?

At 9:09 AM, Blogger ΑΥΤΟΝΟΜΙΑ ή ΒΑΡΒΑΡΟΤΗΤΑ said...

CC refers to Mr Poulantzas in The French society (p.221). I'm trying to translate: "I haven't disappear despite the efforts that some Greek friends of Althuser have made during the years of the Occupation (and to come from something that wasn’t funny at all to something which definitely is, despite the efforts of another little fellow of Althuser, someone called Poulantzas, who wrote in the euro-communistic –yes- Greek newspaper Aygi in January 1977 –yes- that it doesn’t worth discussing my ideas, because I work for the American imperialism)”. Somewhere else in The French society CC talks about the athuserian mules. I believe that Poulantzas could had been a member these mules’ flock.


At 2:45 PM, Anonymous alex z said...

Thanks Thanasi
That’s a really funny quote. I had a feeling Castoriadis wouldn’t be too impressed by Poulantzas. There’s nothing like a feud between two Greek revolutionaries – although, of course, Castoriadis would have denied the exalted epithet 'revolutionary' to Poulantzas. Poulantzas, as I’m sure you know, committed suicide by throwing himself out of a window – an act which for the renowned filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos symbolised the end of Marxism and Marxist intellectualism and was the inspiration behind the main character in The Beekeeper.

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Maria said...

Dear Alex,
my analysis of the fires in greece is entirely in line with your analysis. I am currenlty preparing a small editorial for an academic journal along these lines, and I would like to acknowledge your comment here, if you don't mind lifting your annonymity. I am happy to give you my name and email so that you can send me your details, but not publicly. I don;t know exaclty how we could do this. Please advise, if you would.
thank you Maria

At 1:20 PM, Blogger NSU Network Group 8 said...

Dear Maria and Alex,

You may send me your email adresses in the form of comments, which I will then not publish. I will then put you two in touch, if you like.

Ingerid S.

At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Ingerid, according to the previous comment this is almost a match-blog. I’m joking. I would just like to mention that, if there is anyone who speaks Greek, there is an interesting analysis of fires in today’s Kyriakatiki Eleftherotypia. It’s an article of Evgenios Aranitsis in pages 30 and 31 of 7 magazine. Unfortunately, I cannot translate this because of its excellent literary language (my translation would had been a total disaster), its extent and my lack of time. The main idea is the transformation of the human’s relation towards nature due to the destructive human false-rationalistic domination over nature, to use the term of CC. This domination is a main part of the capitalistic/marxistic imaginary, which we need to overcome in order to create a new kind of balanced relation between human and nature. The thinking of Serge Latouche (who is a great admirer of CC) and the ideas of radical ecology generally are always a good start.


At 3:12 AM, Anonymous alexz/john akritas said...

Hello, Maria

If you’d like to contact me, then you can find my details over at my blog

or just use this email address: johnakritas@yahoo.co.uk.

On my blog, I’ve just posted something I wrote about Castoriadis and Ingmar Bergman, which people here might like to read. I haven’t quite pulled it off, but at least I had a go. Excuse the self-publicity.

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Hermes said...

Interesting feud between Poulantzas and Castoriadis. Does anybody know of the relationship between Castoriadis and Kostas Axelos or even Kostas Papaioannou? From the little I have read of Axelos and Papaioannou seems closer in thought to Castoriadis than Poulantzas.

At 4:38 PM, Blogger ΑΥΤΟΝΟΜΙΑ ή ΒΑΡΒΑΡΟΤΗΤΑ said...

Castoriadis accepts a part of Papaioannou’s criticism of Marx. But Papaioannou had been a very conservative man. For example he was against the revolution of May ’68. He was a De Gaulle supporter.
Axelos is a fun of Heidegger. CC has revealed that Heidegger is just a disguised defender of traditional theological ontology of Middle Ages. I cannot see the relevance to the ideas of CC, except their common trip to Paris in 1944.
I have just also checked Alex’s nationalistic blog and I want to mention that Castoriadis had always been an internationalist rebel since he participated in Agis Stinas defeatist group during the Occupation. So, I’m always disappointed when I see all these –truly unsuccessful- efforts of assimilation.


At 5:04 AM, Anonymous alexz/john akritas said...

Sorry to disappoint you, Thanasi.

I guess, on certain issues, I am nationalistic – whatever that means; though, on others, I can be quite internationalist. I’ll go with whoever’s telling the truth. For what it’s worth, I don’t agree with a lot of what you say on your blog, but there you go.

A few, more serious, points:

How do you reconcile Castoriadis’ excoriating repudiation of postmodernism and cultural relativism, his uncompromising denunciation of Islam and Judaism as heteronomous ideologies par excellence, and his insistence that the Greeks remain fundamental to any understanding and advancement of the project of autonomy, with internationalism, which nowadays places emphasis on recognising the value, legitimacy and equality of all cultures? I don’t think Castoriadis would be into this kind of internationalism at all. What do you mean by Castoriadis’ internationalism? Does his horror at cultural relativism undermine his internationalism?

Castoriadis emphasises Greco-Western culture, and is often quite scathing of other cultures, to such an extent that, from your perspective and using what I take to be your language, he could easily be accused of ethnocentrism. In fact, I’ve always thought that one of the reasons Castoriadis remains a relatively unknown philosopher is because of his insistence on the Greeks and the Greco-Western tradition, both of which are extremely unfashionable at the moment, having become associated with the world’s ills – from racism, to misogyny to militarism and so on. Do you think Castoriadis’ emphasis on the Greco-Western tradition makes him ethnocentric?

Castoriadis would be amused that the Greco-Western tradition is being repudiated by those who claim they are in the vanguard of progress – since, he would argue, you are only able to denounce that tradition from the privileged vantage point it has afforded you.

Castoriadis is a determined defender/advocate/exponent of the Greco-Western tradition, which he insists remains relevant to us today because it is the history of freedom.

Castoriadis states repeatedly that only in classical Greece and in the first Renaissance in Western Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries have we witnessed moments in human history when there have been ruptures with heteronomous societies.

Do you agree with the emphasis and precedence Castoriadis gives to Greece and Western Europe politically and socially? Do you agree with him that other traditions have little to say to us politically and socially?

Castoriadis never tires of referring us to Oedipus Rex, Tristan and Isolda, Hamlet, Mozart’s Requiem and so on. I don’t recall him expressing much interest in the artefacts of other, non-Greco-Western, cultures? Why do you think this is the case with Castoriadis? Does this make you feel uncomfortable, as an internationalist?

Generally, of course you are right that Castoriadis is not a nationalist – whatever that means – but I do think there’s something of the Ellinolatris (worshipper of things Greek) about him, in the same way that I’ve heard Theodorakis and Elytis describe themselves as Ellinolatres. I like the distinction between an Ellinolatris and a nationalist – whatever it means to be a Greek nationalist nowadays.

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Hermes said...

I never knew Papiaoannou was a supporter of De Gaulle. This is encouraging news.

On the issue of Castoriadis nationalism/internationalism, I do believe Castoriadis was an internationalist at all. He often placed Greco-Western tradition above others in his hierarchy and he was clever enough to realise that one must place Greco-Western tradition above others because the whole process of questioning traditions was a Greco-Western one. He is very clear on this. And I think Thanassis would agree that this blog and its contents would be impossible without the Greco-Western tradition. We must not be afraid to say this.

Was Castoriadis a nationalist? No, of course not. At least how nationalism is defined by most people today. In Rorty he had this to say about nationalism:

To say: 'The proof that nationalism was a simple mystification, and hence something unreal, lies in the fact that it will be dissolved on the day of world revolution,' is not only to sell the bearskin before we catch the bear, it is to say: 'You who have lived from 1900 to 1965 and to who knows when, and you, the millions who died in the two wars . . . all of you, you are in-existent, you have always been in-existent with respect to true history. . . . True history was the invisible Potentiality that will be, and that, behind your back, was preparing the end of your illusions.'

Castoriadis is saying it is naive to believe nationalism will just go away. It is also rational and has as must place in human endeavour as social justice.

At least in the latter part of his life Castoriadis was a Greek thinker.

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once upon a time (in 1940-44), the members of the Greek nationalistic gang called EAM, had been looking for Castoriadis and the other members of Stina’s group in order to execute them. Why? Because Stina’s group was the only political organization in Europe which remained faithful to the ideas of internationalism during WW2. Castoriadis used to say that Stinas had been something like a father to him and in every visit of him in Greece he used to meet his comrades Stinas, Tamtakos, Archytas etc. He was also –we can reveal this fact now- sending every month an amount of money to Stinas, because Stinas was too decent to accept Greek State’s pension. This attitude has been common in workers movement generally. So, I don’t really imagine how your nationalism could ever make me or CC feel uncomfortable. I believe that you should start feeling uncomfortable when you read Thoughts on racism in World in Fragments. I should also inform you about CC’s open attack to Greek nationalism in his lecture in Tripotamos of Tinos island in 1994. Of course after this lecture all the mob of Greek nationalism started attacking CC. I don’t really mind if you invent "successful" words like “ellinolatris”. I don’t also care if you call nationalism “ellinolatreia”. You have the right to be a nationalist, but the project of autonomy is an antinationalistic project no matter if you accept it, no matter if you like it or not. Milan Kundera, who has been a friend of CC, has reminded me the words of Stravinsky: “Here, you are not in your house, my dear”. If you think that the tradition of ancient Greece “fits” to your nationalistic imaginary you are wrong. Why do we admire ancient Greece? Because we are Greeks? No, because we find there the sperms of an autonomous society. [And we find also the sperms of internationalism in Irodotos, Antifon and the other Sophists, who CC admires a lot (read Ce qui fait la Grece)]. If we had found them in China, would we still have been admiring ancient Greece? No. That’s what your nationalism –and every nationalism- does. You say that “I guess, on certain issues, I am nationalistic – whatever that means; though, on others, I can be quite internationalist. I’ll go with whoever’s telling the truth”. If you had studied more CC’s writings you should have satisfyingly understood that “the truth is our continuous effort to break our closure”. This means, that nationalism -being a total and eternal closure- has no relation to the truth. If you refer to the idealistic sense of truth, the one of the German romantics, the truth of the nation, you should search somewhere else, possibly in the the 3rd Reich. Concerning cultural relativism you should read The nature and the value of equality in Domaines de l’homme.
I’ve already written too much. I believe that this is enough and I’m afraid that we embezzle Ingerid’s hospitality. So I suggest continuing this conversation –if there is anything else to be said- in our blog (autonomyorbarbarism.blogspot.com).


At 10:06 PM, Blogger imaginaire radical said...

1) I totally agree with Thanasis’s answer. It is a dishonor for the memory of Castoriadis to even think of associating his work with patriotic and nationalistic aspirations. Castoriadis remained an internationalist, defeatist revolutionary to the end. And exactly here lies his freedom of thought, his radicalism and the revolutionary (politically, philosophically and psychoanalytically) consignment. However that’s what is going on in Greece for many years. That’s no coincidence. Modern Greek imaginary –Castoriadis has repeatedly insisted on this- has never achieved –nor even wanted or tried- to liberate itself from the religious and nationalistic closure. Modern Greek culture is sterile, sick and outrageously narcissistic: Modern Greeks think that the whole world is preoccupying itself by trying to find the way to exterminate “Greeks” from the planet –they even have “discovered” the “existence” of the “Kissinger Protocol”, a project of the American external policy aiming at the eradication of Greece. That’s why the Greek state calls itself “Hellenic Republic” instead of “Greek Republic” –see also how is called the National basketball team: “Hellas” (I guess that the do not speak French… helas..!): they usurp the profoundly liberatory (ancient) Greek civilization for nationalistic goals. I think that Alex is a highly demonstrative incarnation of this imaginary. I do not even try to refute his deceptive distinction between nationalism and “Ellhnolatreia” - Let’s be a bit serious! I will only say that the reference to Theodorakis and Elytis proves nothing in favour of it –quite the contrary: both Elytis and Theodorakis are profoundly nationalistic as are the vast majority of Modern Greek poetry, literature and art in general. The only exceptions are the poets Andreas Empiricos and Nanos Valaoritis, both close friends of Elytis and Seferis, but clearly remote from the formers ultranationalism.

2) Castoriadis also refers to Embiricos, before quoting him (some verses from his poem “Eis thn odon ton Filellhnon”, from Oktana), as “a great Greek poet”. He has also expressed, at least two times (in an interview in France Culture and another one in Radical Philosophy magazine), his admiration for the Greek surrealists (and for surrealism in general, especially Breton –besides Peret’s “La deshoneur des poetes” was published in Socialisme ou Berbarie). His rejection of Modern Greek culture is based on his dislike for nationalistic attitudes like yours (see the ending of his interview in To epanastatiko provlhma shmera –in Greek only and what he says about Xenakis and Axelos) and on his firm belief that Modern Greek people haven’t succeeded to create liberating forms of living, remaining mentally castrated by the nationalistic/religious imaginary –see the already mentioned, by Thanasis, Tripotamos lecture.

3) Axelos is a “left heideggerian”, that is a supporter of a Marx-Heidegger salad, inspired by the Master’s sayings about the “productive dialog with Marxism” in Letter on “Humanism”. See on this matter the essay of Jean Beaufret –Heidegger’s official French acolyte- «Le “dialogue avec le marxisme” et “la question de la technique”» which is dedicated to Axelos. Here what David Custis, Castoriadis friend and favourite American translator, says about the former’s ideas on “left-heideggerianism” (ideas which should have been self evidend right from the start, given that someone has the least acquaintance with castoriadian thought): “In conversation Castoriadis told me how much he regretted that the (entirely justified) critique of “left Heideggerianism” had been undertaken in such a way by Allan Bloom in the latter’s surprise 1987 neocon bestseller, The closing of the American Mind” (D. Curtis, “Unities and Tensions in the Work of Cornelius Castoriadis With Some Considerations on the Question of Organization”, footnote 15).Castoriadis also refers to Axelos, negatively, in an answer to his interviewers question in the Greek interview Philosophy and Science.

4) There is a great difference between Castoriadis’s and Papaioannou’s critique on Marxism, Leninism and totalitarianism. In his greek book on totalitarianism P. traces the origins of Leninist thought and methods in Bakounin, Netsajev and the other Russian “terrorists” whereas Castoriadis believes that Leninist thought incarnates in its extremity the modern Marxist/capitalist imaginary of total pseudo-rational pseudo-domination.

5) Poulantzas is not an “important philosopher”. He isn’t a philosopher and he isn’t important. He was just one of “those queer mules” produced during Althusser’s seminars. He was also a detractor of Castoriadis and a Stalinist “ideological functionary”. That’s all. There is a great response to his nonsense on Castoriadis’s alleged working for the IMF in the Greek Socialism or Brbarism periodical, no. 3, May 1977, p. 40: “Poulantzas and his political morality”.


At 4:15 PM, Blogger NSU Network Group 8 said...

Dear Thanasis and the rest of you,

If I didn't find this conversation worhtwile for this forum, I would not have published the comments. Please feel free to continue here for as long as you like. We are not worried about disagreements, au contraire!

Ingerid S.

At 5:22 PM, Blogger john akritas said...

Thank you, Ingerid. So far, the debate has been fairly civil, references to the third reich and racism notwithstanding.

Thanassi, Nick, everyone

You’re understanding of the project of autonomy as defined by Castoriadis as being antinationalist and that nationalism – or at least what Castoriadis calls ‘robust nationalism’ – is total and eternal closure is, of course, correct. Castoriadis’ work is full of references to his distaste not just for nationalism but also the nation. Nationalism and the nation, for Castoriadis, are mystifications.

Unfortunately, while I appreciate what he’s saying and understand what he means, I don’t agree with him – I think I am allowed to enjoy and appreciate Castoriadis without having to agree with every word he says. Specifically, I don‘t agree with him that national imaginary significations (let’s use this term rather than nationalism because I think, for you, Greek nationalism conjures up the junta, the extreme right and the clown Karatzaferis, while, for me, it is more to do with the Ellinolatreia of Theodorakis and Elytis – who I cannot accept are ultranationalists) are antithetical or preclude autonomy, the endless interrogation of institutions, the striving for self and collective government, the realisation of human beings/citizens ‘capable of governing and being governed’, creating or receiving creation, asking what is a just law and so on.

Castoriadis admits (in Reflections on Rationality and Development: a response to critics) that national movements aimed at overthrowing foreign oppression and colonialism might be necessary. Nor does he associate in Reflections on Racism, as you seem to imply, national imaginary significations with racism, which he convincingly argues – as a form of hate and self-hate – is as far away from autonomy as it is possible to get.

Racism does not just invoke the other; it becomes obsessed and enslaved by the other, hates and seeks to destroy him/her; but racism is not the necessary outcome or the defining feature of all national imaginaries, just like not all socialist imaginaries end up with or are defined by Pol Pot.

Castoriadis has already recognised the potential value of anti-colonial national movements and he also says that in Greece and Rome – both of which were shaped by powerful national imaginary significations – there was ‘almost perfect tolerance for the religion or the “race” of others’.

Castoriadis describes Pericles’ Funeral Oration as ‘the most important political monument of political thought I have ever read’ and repeatedly states that it was in Athens – the Athens of the tragedians, Aristophanes and Thucydides – that the democratic and emancipatory project first takes hold. Athens asks the question ‘what is it that the institution of society ought to achieve’ and comes up this answer: ‘the creation of human beings living with beauty, living with wisdom and loving the common good’.

But the Athenian polis is not some anarchist commune and Pericles in the funeral oration as well as advocating living with beauty and wisdom also boasts about the power of the Athenian state – and its empire – and the valour, honour and the military prowess and endeavours of Athenians. Indeed, the Parthenon – built on Pericles’ instruction – is not just a monument to the Athenian pursuit of beauty, wisdom and the common good, but also to Athenian national assertiveness, to its glory and unity.

Is Pericles an Athenian nationalist? Sounds like it to me. If Pericles is an Athenian nationalist, then why does this not prevent him from simultaneously postulating Athens as a society geared towards beauty and wisdom, from describing a collectivity that satisfies the criterion for the project of autonomy, in terms Castoriadis would accept?

Castoriadis knows that individual and collective autonomy are inseparable and accepts that collective organisation has often been at the level of the nation. He also accepts in The Dilapidation of the West that the nation can be defended if ‘as a collectivity [it] has created works capable of claiming a universal validity’; revealing once again that the nation does not necessarily have to be excluded in any project of autonomy.

Generally, my argument is that, despite his instincts and overt declarations, Castoriadis does leave room in the project of autonomy for national imaginary significations – so long as they create unending interrogation, individual participation in the creation of significations, resist bureaucratisation, possess universal validity and so on. I do not see why national imaginary significations, by definition, cannot do this, and Pericles’ funeral oration would seem to suggest this too.

I would also argue that national imaginary significations are legitimate weapons in the fight against cultural homogenisation/globalisation, an important way to resist a world dominated by McDonalds, Starbucks and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Regarding cultural relativism, I’ve read The Nature and Value of Equality and Reflections on Racism, etc, and Castoriadis is quite explicit that though there exists a paradox, it is appropriate for us – the Greco-West – to challenge and reject other cultures and assert our own. In The Dilapidation of the West, Castoriadis says this:

‘Certainly, most of these [postmodern] “philosophers” today would shout… their devotion to democracy, the rights of man, antiracism, and so forth. But in the name of what? And why should one believe them when they in fact profess to be absolute relativists and proclaim that everything is only a ‘narrative’? If all ‘narratives’ are of equal value, in the name of what would one condemn the ‘narrative’ of the Aztecs, with their human sacrifices, or the Hitlerite ‘narrative’ and everything it implies?’

Again, I ask how does this preference for the Greco-Western tradition – this scathing criticism of the Aztecs or Islam or Hebraic racism – fit in with today’s versions of internationalism, which regard the Greco-Western tradition not as liberatory but as oppressive and reject all attempts to rank cultures?

Also, are you sure that modern Greeks do not have a special and unique relationship to the ancient Greeks – by virtue of language, landscape and so on – that is different to the relationship someone from India, China or America might have to them? The ancient Greeks may belong to everyone, but they also uniquely belong to us.

I meant ‘truth’ not in the way you describe, but more in terms of parhessia – frank and honest speech. An example of dishonest speech would be the recent attempts in Greek education to describe the massacres and plunder in Smyrna in 1922 as some sort of orderly ‘departure’ or a glossing over of the Pontic genocide or the 1955 pogrom, in order to achieve reconciliation with Turkey. I would argue that reconciliation with Turkey must be based on parhessia and agree with those ‘nationalists’ asserting these ‘truths’, no matter that they make Turkey uncomfortable or disrupt Greece’s relations with the neighbour.

Finally, I meant Poulantzas was ‘important’ in terms of his influence and used the term 'philosopher' in his case loosely.

Finally, finally – Nick, you make reference to Castoriadis and Xenakis. Could you elaborate on what Castoriadis says, or where it’s possible to find the article you mention? I regard Xenakis as the most interesting Greek of the 20th century.

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Thanasis said...

1. Thank you for your tolerance, Ingerid. My concern was that all the comments above had nothing to do with the subject of your post (the fires in Greece). Anyway, after your permission I shall continue this dialogue.

2. I’m glad that you finally accept that CC is an antinationalist. I shouldn’t be glad, because this fact is more than obvious. Sometimes we need to defend the self-evident. Anyway, as I’ve already said you have the right to be a nationalist and you have the right to be heteronomous.

3. I suppose you understand that a nationalist, a man who is hidden beside the myth of his nation, is a heteronomous person. You may agree with CC’s analysis of ancient Greece because this analysis seems to serve your closure, but you close your eyes in front of the most important think of CC’s theory, the will of being an autonomous person. This is not just an idea of CC, it is the main idea of his whole philosophy. This eclecticism is a first sample of your lack of respect towards CC and a sample of nationalism’s spiritual poverty. So I believe that your eclecticism is illegitimate.

4. I’ve tried to make clear that Greco-Western tradition is the tradition of ancient Greece and West of modernity. It is clear, CC defines it in Tripotamos lecture, that there is not a real connection between ancient and modern Greece. Of course the nationalists believe that this connection is based on the language or in the landscape. That’s what is called mystification. Concerning the language you would find more evidence reading the introduction to the glossary of The imaginary institution… It is funny enough to base your nationalism on the landscape. I suggest you to go back to the most serious nationalistic ideology, which you truly and deeply finally support, the racist theory of the common blood, because only there you could find a secure place to hide your feeling of inferiority. This feeling of inferiority makes the heteronomous beings to look for a myth which equilibrates their lack of faith in their selves (you can find this analysis in Sujet et verite…). I don’t have any need of these myths because I’m trying to be an autonomous person. We cannot say anything else on this because we are already far inside the field of psychoanalysis that you must start immediately. I’m sorry if I have entered your psychic sphere so clumsily, but this is a truth that must be expressed. Even if there is a kind of nationalism which is not racism in its kernel –I do not believe such a thing, because the confronting of the inferiority is relied on the exclusion of the other who becomes the one to whom the inferiority is transferred - it is definitively an heteronomous closure which protects the heteronomous being of facing the existential facts of the human condition. Nationalism is just a kind of heteronomy.

5. Once again referring to CC’s view on colonialism (in Reflections on Rationality ) you use your ability of eclectic vision. You should study the antinationalistic position of Socialisme ou Barbarie concerning the war of Algeria. Of course, CC never changed his mind about this position, although it is based on marxistic arguments. He just believes –and I believe this also-that the liberal oligarchy is better than the colonial regime. CC never supports nationalistic movements and you should stop this slander.

6. I want to inform you that the imaginary signification of Nation does not exist before Renaissance. This a common thing to every single contemporary historian. Of course the Greek nationalists want desperately to prove their connection to ancient Greece. I’m sorry but you have to find somewhere else to play, maybe in Tripotamos.

7. Polis is not nation-state, my dear. Polis is polis. This is what CC believes. Ancient Athens is a polis. Rome is the capital of the empire. And modern Greeks are the descendants of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. That’s why they are called Romioi (which means Romans) in Greek. If we translate polis as State, Pericles’ Funeral Oration becomes a nazistic brochure says CC. You make the same cheat. You translate polis as Nation. The importance of this text is the description of the democratic imaginary and not its relevance to your nationalistic illusions. CC accepts the fact that Athens has been an imperialistic city and that’s why he is criticizes the slaughter of Milos. On the contrary you think that the important thing is the Athenian militarism.

8. What can I say; you can make your nationalistic “revolution” eating soublaki and seftalia. Isn’t this silly enough?

9. Unfortunatelly, nationalistic education hides the nationalistic crimes of its own side. The Greek nationalistic education hides the facts of the massacres of the Greek army during the expedition of 1921, the genocide of the Greek nationalists against the Turkish people of north Cyprus (1963-74) etc. Let me ask you, your nickname (Digenis) is luckily the same with the leader of EOKA who made the genocide (Georgios Grivas-Digenis)? Hermes, do you find the relation between genocides, nationalism and the 3rd Reich still banal? We believe that all the crimes of nationalism (Greek, Turkish, German etc) must be revealed in order people to learn from their history –if it is still possible- and abandon nationalism (http://autonomyorbarbarism.blogspot.com/2007/04/blog-post.html). Even if whatever Digenis believes is true, we must not forget what Grivas-Digenis did. The fight against nationalism is a part of the fight for an autonomous society, because an autonomous society is a society which tries to solve its problems democratically, according to peoples solidarity, and not through the nationalistic blood-baths.


At 3:08 PM, Blogger imaginaire radical said...

You made a slight irony concerning the style of mine and Thanasis’s responses to your sayings. For my part I follow this style consciously, because I think that fanaticism is a revolutionary virtue (Blake, Breton, Embiricos). It’s identification with dogmatism is completely erroneous and it’s nothing more than a form of avoiding to reflect on what is called “passion” or engagement to a cause or to an ideal. In addition I think that the present social situation of mass hypnosis and generalized conformism oblige us to be even more ferocious in our supporting of the revolutionary ideals. The need to be clear and precise has to fight against the “anything goes” attitude and the “indifferent interest about everything” (Lipovetsky) which characterizes contemporary mentality. I think that the relation –or at least the breaking of the barriers- that you try to establish between Castoriadis and a (mild) nationalism is a sample of contemporary relativism.

Theodorakis is an ultranationalist, as it is Elytis. You should inform yourself on what the former said some months ago in Katuna, a village in Peloponnesus, where a museum devoted to his work was inaugurated. You should also remember that slightly afterwards he publicly praised archbishop Christodoulos, a well known supporter of the junta and declared opponent of the Enlightenment, the Human Rights and western civilization in general. Theodorakis told us that we should “purify our mouth before speaking the name of Christodoulos”. Given the tight connection that exists, in the basis of Modern Greek mentality, between Orthodoxy and nationalism, this declaration is one of the best –and most recently offered- proofs of Mickey’s ultranationalism. Besides, in his autobiographical books, Theodorakis makes it quite clear that his adhesion to the Left was done in a nationalistic basis (see also what he said about the recent fires, wholeheartedly supporting the –self evident for every nationalist- conspiracy theories about an organized plan against Greece etc etc: http://www.ardin.gr/blog/ -it is the blog of RIxi, a newspaper published by the famous Greek nationalist Karabelias. It is not at all coincidental that Theodorakis’s sayings are almost identical with the “analysis” made by the nationalists of the following blog: http://greek-flags-everywhere.blogspot.com/. Consequently no substantial differences exist between him and let’s say Karantzaferis). Elytis is also a declared opponent of the “West” –in theory of course, because his poetry is following the Greco-Western patterns, despite his efforts to incorporate in to them some characteristics of Romanos’s poetry. “Axion Esti” is the fulfillment of the fundamental ambition of the mainstream of Modern Greek poetry (Aristotelis Valaoritis, Palamas, Sikelianos, Seferis etc) which was to finally compose the National Poem. (I want to be clear: I do not use political categories to make aesthetic judjements. Aesthetically I like quite much Elytis’s poetry. This however does not annul his nationalism).

I think that you cannot understand why I accuse Elytis and Theodorakis –among many others- for ultranationalism, because, supposing that you are not a nationalist but only an “Ellhnolatris”, you are not approaching the matter from a revolutionary or even militant –in the French sense of the word- perspective. As far as I am concerned I am a member of a revolutionary group (Autonomy or Barbarism), inspired by Castoriadis, and I fight “practically” against the values of “nation”, “fatherland” and every other thing that emanates from them. That’s why I give so great an emphasis to the fact that Castoriadis was not only an internationalist but also a defeatist. Nationalism is in no way just a “theoretical” matter.

I never said –nor did I imply- that nationalism is the same thing with racism. Castoriadis is very clear about their fundamental difference in “Reflections on Racism”. You can see also our group’s recent tract on racism: http://autonomyorbarbarism.blogspot.com/2007/07/blog-post.html .

I think that, to put it frankly, you cannot support the basic principles of castoriadian philosophy and at the same time be an even “mild” nationalist that is a patriot or an “Ellhnolatris”. If nationalism, in all its forms, is a type of psychic closure, then a conscious adhesion to it automatically means the rejection of the autonomous project and the consecration to the quest for truth. Things are quite simple. Besides, given its profound radicalism, I do not think that it is possible to make selections and keep only certain parts of castoriadian thought, dismissing others. It is acting like some charlatans here in Greece that support the liberal oligarchies and even are members of political parties but at the same time praise Castoriadis and his work. Castoriadian philosophy is not just another theory among every other. It is not simply a “theoretical” point of view or –even worst- simply a method for thinking. Contrary to all this, it is a militant philosophy, as it have been said, which oblige us –if we say that we agree with its basic ideas- to act in a certain way, that is to fight for the diffusion of the autonomous and democratic project.

And some more precise answers:
1) The ancient Greek Polis is not a state.
2) It is ridiculous and a form of historical provincialism to deal with the matter of nationalism giving the example of Rome or (Ancient) Greece, for the reason that the nationalist imaginary is a Modern creation (French Revolution and German Romanticism). Ancient Greek poleis were not nations.
3) Castoriadis fought against the national imaginary for all his life. His “career” as a militant begins with his critique of KKE as “chauvinistic” and continues by his participation to the defeatist group of Aghis (Spyros) Stinas. Also during the Algerian war Castoriadis took an internationalist position, contrary to that of Lyotard or even Mothe (inside Socialisme ou Barbarie: see Vidal Naquet, “Castoriadis and SOcialisme ou Barbarie”in G. Busino (ed), Autonomie et autotransformation de la societe. La philosophie militante de C.C., p. 23).
4) The idea that national values should be used as a weapon against the “homogenization” promoted by “globalization” is the basic –and only- “argument” of extreme right allover the world. Karantzaferis’s rhetoric is based on this idea. Karabelias’s also. Besides it is nothing more than another form of heideggerian conservatism: capitalism is bad, it destroys traditional values and so we have to fight all this by trying to revitalize the (dead) past. That’s exactly what Plato calls “noble lie”. It is the core of eteronomous thinking and a great demonstration of the reactionary essence of every type of nationalism or “ellhnolatreia”. If we are revolutionaries –that is Castoriadians- we should fight for the overthrow of capitalism not in order to restore gone sociohistorical forms but in order to create an autonomous society. It’s ridiculously simple, but you seem unable to grasp it.
5) You interpret in a completely decisive way Castoriadis’s idea about our preference for the Greco-Western imaginary. This is the imaginary of an autonomous society and not a national imaginary and it is defended on internationalist and political terms.
6) You speak of parhesia but at the same time you support nationalism that is the ideology which is based on the systematized eradication of any historical information that does not fit to the creation of a nationalistic imaginary. Take for example the brutalities committed by the Greek army in its way to Sangarios River –in the heart of Turkey-, just before the Catastrophe of 1922. Consider also the merciless slaughter of 30.000 women and children committed by the askeri of Kolokotronis during the famous “Alosi of Tripolitsa”. Kolokotronis, as we know, is a great national hero, one of Theodorakis’s idols. We can also mention the imperialistic occupation of southern Albania by the armies of Metaxas during the WW II (glorified by Elytis and officially known as the “epic of 1940”) or the brutalities against the Turcocypriots organized by Maka(v)vrios. What do you say about them? Do you dare to deny them? I am asking you because I saw that you referred only to the Turkish brutalities. If we pursue the truth, we should be honest and admit that the history of both Greece and Turkey is full of blood, oppression and carnages.
7) Xenakis –whose work I like very much- said once that “The Glauka of Athena flew away” in order to give an explanation about the cultural sterility of Modern Greece. This was said during an interview to G. Pilichos, a Greek journalist (see now G. Pilichos, Ten Modern Greeks, Asterias publications, 1974). Slightly afterwards (1975) Pilichos interviewed Castoriadis. This interview was taken for the journal To Vhma but Lambrakis blocked its publication saying that “I am the one who will decide when Castoriadis is going to become known”. It is during this conversation that Pilichos asked Castoriadis to make a comment on Xenakis’s position. Castoriadis said “Ok, I agree. The Glaux flew away. But where did she go? Because I have been living for 30 years in Paris and I cannot dare to say that she migrated in order to settle down here or anywhere else in contemporary western world”. This interview can be found in Castoriadis’s book Το επαναστατικό πρόβλημα σήμερα, εκδόσεις Ύψιλον.


At 2:48 PM, Blogger john akritas said...

I sense we’re coming to the end of the discussion, now that we’re trying to get into each other’s psyches. Inferiority and nationalism? Who knows? Not that I believe I am a nationalist or think the word has much meaning nowadays. You keep trying to define it – a belief in common blood, you say – and I keep finding it doesn’t reflect what I think.

Of course, I could make a similar ‘diagnosis of inferiority’ for people attracted to socialism or revolution – that in seeking to overhaul society what they are really seeking to do is overhaul a despised self. Self-hatred transposed into hatred of society, nation and so on. It makes sense to me. I won’t go into what Nietzsche says about socialism and resentment.

Since, as you know, Castoriadis says that individual and collective autonomy are inseparable, and that Greece is, according to you, a collective overdetermined by rampant nationalism, I wish you good luck in your pursuit of autonomy. Given the asphyxiatingly heteronomous society you live in, you’ve obviously got a long way to go to liberate yourself – and the Greek collective. (I hope in your zeal to destroy the Greek national imaginary, you won’t allow yourself to become enslaved by it – like Captain Ahab and Moby Dick).

For better or worse, I was born, grew up and live in England – whose national imaginary significations mean little to me – so maybe I am more autonomous than you think. Indeed, my choice of the name Akritas has nothing to do with George Grivas – who I don’t like much – but is a joke about living on the borders of civilisation, as I do here in Hyperborea/northern Europe – no offence to our Scandinavian friends.

Anyway, enough of this personal tittle-tattle (gossip).

On parhessia: yes, I agree with you; if the revolutionary hero Kolokotronis – or his troops – killed 30,000 Turks in Tripoli, then put this in the history books, along with any depredations committed by Greek troops trying to liberate Asia Minor. Tell the truth, and let what happens after take care of itself.

However, when you start talking about the ‘genocide’ of the Turkish minority in Cyprus between 1963-74, then it is not truth you are advancing but your antinationalist dogma and prejudice – and you become heteronomous. This isn’t the place to go into details about Cyprus – what did and didn’t happen – suffice it to say that I am happy to admit Turkish Cypriots were killed – some unjustly and cruelly – in the 1960s during intercommunal violence and Greek Cypriots shouldn’t be afraid to address what went on – but to refer to this as ‘genocide’ or attempt to justify the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus by accusing Greek Cypriots of mindless and one-sided brutalities against the Turkish Cypriots, is ludicrous, and indicates that in your haste to abandon what you perceive to be Greek national imaginaries and myths, all you have done is adopt Turkish ones. (Because all you have done is put forward the Turkish nationalist case on Cyprus).

Generally, if all you are doing is attacking the Greek national imaginary and Greek narratives for the sake of it, then there is not much chance for truth and autonomy. I thought the object was truth and freedom, not opposition for the sake of opposition. Opposition for the sake of opposition is nihilism, not autonomy.

On Athens and the Funeral Oration: I know when Nation-States arose and never said the polis was a Nation State. I simply noted that Athens had the characteristics of what we take to be national imaginary significations – significations about citizenship, common history, language, identity, origins, culture and all associated with a specific territory – and institutions we normally associate with a state – a constitution, a legal system, parliament, an education system, an army, navy, exchequer and so on – and that Pericles in the Funeral Oration praises ALL these – and deliberately praises ALL these – and not just Athenian democracy and the Athenian pursuit of beauty and wisdom.
(Perhaps, to avoid confusion, I should have referred to Pericles’s ‘patriotism’ in trying to describe his devotion to the Athenian polis, not his ‘nationalism’, though nationalism can sometimes simply mean patriotism).

Nor is it me who thinks Athenian militarism is important, it’s Pericles who refers to the honour, valour and glory of Athens’s fighting men and regards this as an important component of the Athenian way of life. Maybe Pericles was just having a heteronomous moment when he said this.

Finally, why do you allow Greeks to be descendents of the Byzantine Empire, but not the Hellenistic empires or anything before that? When did we start descending? Is there a specific date? Is Xenakis suffering from nationalist delusion when he says ‘Ellinas, nai, Romoios, ohi’? That is, yes, I accept – or prefer – being called a Hellene, but not a Romoios. That is, I identify myself with the ancient Greeks but not with the Byzantine Greeks.

Castoriadis himself has said that modern Greeks have to make a choice as to which tradition they want to persevere with – the Hellenic or the Byzantine. They can’t have both. Hellas and Byzantium are antithetical – the antithesis being between a democratic and a theocratic imaginary. (I would agree with this. The church in Greece, for example, is, largely, a disaster). And do you disapprove of Castoriadis naming his daughter Sparta, after the ‘eternally closed’ Greek city par excellence. I note he didn’t call his daughter Athena, Sappho or Hypatia or, seeing as we can only justifiably associate ourselves with the Byzantines, Maria, Christina or Athanassia.

And what about Castoriadis’ interest in Antiphon the Sophist? Why does he find him of interest and not Gandhi or Albert Schweitzer? It couldn’t be that as a Greek philosopher, he was drawn to another Greek philosopher? And why are we – all Greeks – here discussing Castoriadis, Pericles and the nature of the Athenian polis rather than William James, Thomas Jefferson or the US civil war? Surely, this is more than just coincidence? Surely, it says something about a shared Greek culture and history? (Who else, other than Greeks – with a knowledge of Cypriot cuisine – would know what sheftalia is, though I didn’t get the joke/insult?)

I’m going to write a summary of our debate here on my blog and I’ll say something more about the modern Greek revolutionary – defeatist, defeated or otherwise.

At 12:59 AM, Anonymous Hermes said...

Interesting how different people interpret the same thing in different ways.

J.Akritas, your comment "In short, I am saying that the pursuit of beauty, wisdom and the common good are compatible with – and maybe even dependent on – devotion to the nation." is very good. Why is it that social justice (which is an important ideal in itself) is seen as compatible with Pericle's sentiments and devotion to the nation is not. Yes, they are both potentially heteronomous but they can also be autonomous systems as long as there are mechanisms to critique both projects.

What is most saddening about Thanasis and the other person is that they a reductionists i.e. there is only one project. I beg to differ. The human is incredibly complex and in my world there is room for the nation, social justice and devotion to wisdom and beauty. Actually, they are all mutually co-dependent. I suppose I appreciate the full breadth of human potential whilst other people seek to break the human down into little pieces. Sounds inhuman to me.

September 14, 2007 11:56 PM

At 3:32 AM, Blogger imaginaire radical said...

First of all: Hermes’ comment is completely ridiculous. According to Castoriadis human being possesses/is radical imagination that is a creative capacity that knows no possible boundaries. This means that human being is infinite. Consequently every possible choice that we may –and of course should- make between those infinite creative possibilities can be viewed as amputating the “the full breadth of human potential”. This attitude is not only naïve and based on an inability to fully understand castoriadian ontology but dangerous as well and politically incoherent, just another expression of the ecclecticist and “everything goes” attitude to which I referred in another comment. If we agree with Hermes we are forced to admit that rejecting communism or Nazism is nothing more than a narrowing of the “breadth of human potential” that is something inhuman. I absolutely agree, because, on the other hand, supporting Nazism, communism and the carnages to which nationalism naturally ends in times of war is an act of humanism… I also spoke about inability to grasp the basic idea of Castoriadian ontology: believing that rejecting some human potential and opting for some other you deprive humanity of the “fullness of its potential’s breadth” signifies a quantitative understanding of human creativity. It suggests that you cannot see that the adhesion to some values opens every time, new and unforeseeable perspectives for our creative activity, especially if those values are autonomous values, norms that favour the breaking of taboos and mental barriers. But I am sure that Hermes is aware of all these trivialities.

Let’s now come to the main point of our discussion that is Alex’s objections. I have to admit that I am pretty tired of all this. Our differences are insurmountable and because of this our talk has become a bit sterile. I am posting my last comment now. Nietzsche’s position is nothing more than an inverted form of Christianism. His obsession with the “slave morality” and his hatred against the “herd” is exactly the exteriorization of the unconscious hatred that he fills towards himself. It is the problem of the relations between Ego and Superego under the heteronomous regimes –quite sufficiently analysed by Freud or even Embiricos. Castoriadis’ remarks on racism are driving further this analysis by bringing to light the continuous attack of the Id against the Ego. So your critique is not very relevant. Besides Castoriadis has shown that the traditional subjectivist imaginary, even in its most “extreme” and “volountarist” forms (Sade, Stirner, Nietzsche, early Heidegger) –and against which Heidegger thought that he fought- is nothing more than the consubstantial twin of the passivity mentality expressed in traditional ontotheological notions such as apatheia (Stoicism), desiderium quietis (Augustine), Gelassenheit (Eckhart and Heidegger) and the rest. Besides I am not a socialist -at least if we understand the term in the way Nietsche or Spengler did.

It is self evident that English society is one million times more liberal (both politically and mentally) than contemporary Greek society. You are very lucky that you haven’t lived at all in Greece. I thought that you went to England for the purpose of studying or something relevant. Here in Greece it is impossible to speak openly about some matters especially those that have to do with the nationalist taboos. That’s why I referred to Makarios and the violence exerted against Turcocypriots. It is clear that I do not deny what was done by their side and nor do I intend to justify the Occupation –as you said. I am an enemy of every version of nationalism be it Greek or Turkish.

It is self evident that I judge on the basis of political and philosophical criteria ant that is why I am discussing about Castoriadis. I love Castoriadis not for his “Greekness” –nor for his “Frenchness”- but for his philosophical and political importance. On the contrary it is you that preoccupy yourself with Castoriadis, Xenakis, Axelos or Poylantzas because of their alleged Greekness. Besides it is not at all by chance that at least the first three have openly quasi-rejected their Modern Greek half in favour of their French one. For me, to give an example, Xenakis or Castoriasdis are Greek-French and in no way just Greeks. The same goes of course for El Greco, who is not very Greco. What is important here is that I, for my part, reject the notion of nation not only as social reality but also as a mental category and as a criterion for determining my faculty of judgement. I think that this is the deepest sense of internationalism (and of course, in the opposite case, the deepest proof of the existence of a nationalist mentality).

I completely disagree about what you say concerning Castoriadis’s treatment of historical topics such as Athenian democracy and American Revolution. Castoriadis places Athenian democracy in the core of his historical analysis because of its political importance. Like me he is using political-philosophical and not nationalist criteria. Besides he has repeatedly expressed hia admiration for the American Revolution, saying that “one of the most important aspects of Modern Western creation has taken place in New England”.

In case you were interested in the defeatist movement in Greece you can seek information for Spiros (Aghis) Stinas. Here is a link (A. Stinas web archive): http://www.vrahokipos.net/subs/stinas/.


At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Thanasis said...

I’ve been thinking that maybe I’ve been too aggressive in order to defend the project of autonomy against a nationalistic assimilation effort. Then the nationalism –may I still use this word, or it does not mean anything in this post modern salad?- appears to be gentle and mild, so I’m thinking that what I wrote wasn’t fair. A common autonomous prejudice says that people are responsible for their (own) history, their acts and their ideas. Of course, I cannot be responsible for the fact that I was born in a little island of Aegean Sea. So, I guess that I cannot be proud due to this fact and I cannot be proud due to the fact that I’m called “Greek”. The first nationalistic argument goes already down. I am responsible for what I defend and I cannot imagine myself defending this accidental fact. Of what could I be proud? I can be proud of the ideas I defend not only in words but with the acts of my own life. I choose to defend the idea of internationalism despite the education I took and despite the influence of my social environment. I should mention that the road I’ve chosen is not the easy one, because my autonomous decision means that I’ve left back the possibility of feeling secure in this hostile world. I know that neither of you has ever felt such a loneliness and such an abandonment. Maybe you can find a description of this situation in some writings of existentialism (Camus, Heidegger). I come to the point that the conscious abandonment of all myths (God, Nation, Class etc) costs and costs a lot for people who decide to choose it. This will for freedom which has existential roots may mean nothing to people who avoid to pose and to answer to these questions, but it is sure that it is the source of the passion that Nick has referred to. This passion is just dogmatism in the eyes of anyone who speaks from the secure arms of his or her religion, nation etc or even cynicism.
Concerning the imaginary signification of nation I have something to add. And it is something that we can say for every Absolute like the ones above. In the name of the nation many people are butchered in human history. You can say that the same thing happened with gods or classes. I could say that Christianity’s (in a way) and Marxism’s perspective was to unify the whole world, to create a future into which people will live together peacefully. Unfortunately, nationalism’s own vision on history is at least to separate people. Nationalism is the answer to Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It says: no, we cannot be equal because we are different. We say we are all different and we want to live as equals. We suggest solidarity and coexistence. Nationalism suggests differentiation’s invention and separation. That’s why nation is probably the most vulgar idea of human history. Because it is invented in order to put an end to people’s liberation and coexistence project, the project of autonomy. You will probably answer that nation is not what I say, you will invent new words etc. But the questions are already posed. Will you fight for people’s solidarity and coexistence or against it? You have to answer in front of the millions dead bodies that the imaginary signification of nation has caused during the World Wars. These dead bodies is the question that our history poses to us. A signal of Greek-Cypriots nationalists says: “I will never forget”. Yes, I will not forget what they have done, but I will not forget what I have done either. I will not forget what nationalism (Greek and Turkish as I have already mentioned) has done and I will abandon the idea of Nation –because it is synonymous to hate, war and blood- and I will forget. And I will try to create a future of coexistence and not a new past of nationalistic hate. And I will fight every single day against myself in order to elucidate and to strike the hate I have learned to feel out of my soul and to grow inside me day by day the faith that another world is possible. A world of freedom, equality, solidarity and justice. That’s the project of autonomy and that’s what really matters.


At 5:46 PM, Blogger john akritas said...

This has been a useful and interesting discussion – for me, at least. I accept that a full reading of Castoriadis – going where he expects us to go – does lead to a radical questioning – in fact, a rejection – of nation and nationalism. But I don’t want to go there – to a rejection of nation – so I suppose charges of eclecticism stick.

I don’t want to get into how liberal English society is and how repressive Greek society is in comparison, suffice it to say that if you look at how the English have dealt with immigration and race – issues intimately tied to a national imaginary – over the last 50 years and Greeks over the last ten years, Greece doesn’t come out badly at all. Greeks have a tendency to see Greek society as much worse than it is and foreign societies more advanced than they actually are. English xenophobia is more pernicious and ugly than anything Greeks have shown themselves capable of.

Finally, when the Greek Cypriots say ‘I won’t forget’, they don’t mean ‘I won’t forget Turkish atrocities’; they mean ‘I won’t forget the towns and villages from which we were ethnically cleansed and I vow to return and revive the way of life we used to enjoy.’

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Thanasis said...

About the Greek Cypriots: You can understand the relevance between what you say and what I say. It's the same thing. I don't know if they really want to return and revive the same way of life. Concerning their denial at the plebiscite, I suppose that they don't.

At 6:21 AM, Blogger john akritas said...

I don’t want to get into a discussion about Cyprus – you can do that on my blog if you wish – but your last comment – about the refugees not wanting to return to their homes – is, I’m sorry to say, ignorant, insulting and illustrates what can happen if you become trapped or obsessed by a desire to overthrow what you perceive to be nationalist mystifications. One of the reasons the sick Annan plan – devised by the British and the Americans, with the object of assuaging the Turkish military uppermost in their minds – was rejected by Greek Cypriots was because it largely prevented people from returning to their homes and tried to create two ethnically-pure component, federated states, an apartheid Cyprus, where every single aspect of Cypriot life would have been strictly regulated by your ethnicity, by your Greekness or Turkishness.

I would have thought such a plan would have been utterly abhorrent to you; but here you are appearing to back it because you believe – or want to believe – without giving the matter much consideration – the rubbish about bad, ultranationalist Turk-hating Greeks turning it down because they are incapable of existing with the ‘other’. This is not analysis or reflection, but antinationalist hysteria. Indeed, you are far more dogmatic in your antinationalism than I am in my nationalism, and I fail to see how dogmaticism, which interprets everything within the confines of the narrowest of prisms, without regard for nuance, flaws, oversights, variation or error of any kind in perception, argument or conclusion, is anything except the worst kind of closure and heteronomy.

I’ll have to read this Tripotamos lecture you have referred to – where can I find it in English or Greek? – because I can’t believe your kind of indiscriminate, inflexible prejudgment is what Castoriadis had in mind when urging us to challenge and question the Greek national imaginary. (I don’t doubt your determination to challenge and question the Greek national imaginary, but you seem to have already decided what the outcome is going to be before you’ve set out on your enquiry).

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Thanasis said...

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s my interpretation Greek-Cypriots rejection of Annan’s plan. Maybe you’re right that they want to go back to their old homes, but I don’t believe that they want to coexist. You can imagine how a combination of these two desires can take place. Tripotamos lecture was published in Eleftherotypia newspaper in 20/08/1994. You can find it in the newspaper’s archives (www.enet.gr). You can also find a part of it as a documentary “a ecouter” in Association Castoriadis’ site. Good luck.

At 5:58 PM, Blogger john akritas said...

Again, your last comment about Greek Cypriots not wanting co-existence reveals more prejudice than knowledge, which, apart from saying something about your method, I don’t really mind – since I don’t think I’ve ever come across a Greek (a Kalamara) who has ever had even the faintest idea about Cyprus; so much for your claims of asphyxiating nationalism stifling the life out of Greece.

As for Castoriadis’s Tripotamos lecture, I couldn’t find the Eleftherotypia article you refer to, but did listen to the audio clip and found references to the lecture and its thesis in these places:

1. An article by Teta Papadopoulou, The heritage of Castoriadis. http://www.enet.gr/online/online_hprint?q=%EA%E1%F3%F4%EF%F1%E9%E1%E4%E7%F2&a=&id=85676260
2. An article by Giorgos Oikonomou, Christian Byzantium against the Greeks. http://www.enet.gr/online/online_hprint?q=%EA%E1%F3%F4%EF%F1%E9%E1%E4%E7%F2&a=&id=38525140
3. An article by Takis Fotopoulos, The ahistorical relationship between religion and democracy. http://www.inclusivedemocracy.org/fotopoulos/gre2000/2_12.htm

Now, I have problems with all three articles, particularly Oikonomou’s which I think falls into the category of ‘not letting the facts get in the way of a good story’; nevertheless, regarding Castoriadis, Papadopoulou sums up his assault on Greek national mythology as follows:

‘Πρώτον, καυτηρίαζε την “αντιφατική και ψυχοπαθολογική σχέση μας με τον ευρωπαϊκό πολιτισμό και με τη Δύση γενικότερα”. Δεύτερον, τόνιζε με ιδιαίτερη έμφαση - το έκανε και εδώ στην Τήνο στην ομιλία του στον Τριπόταμο, το 1994 - “τη θεμελιώδη αντινομία της ταυτόχρονης επίκλησης στην αρχαία Ελλάδα και το Βυζάντιο, δύο παραδόσεων τελείως ασυμβίβαστων μεταξύ τους”. Τρίτον, στηλίτευε τη βολική και δημοφιλή αντίληψη σύμφωνα με την οποία “για όλα τα δεινά στην Ελλάδα φταίνε οι άλλοι”.

‘First, he is scathing of “OUR [i.e. the Greeks’ – my emphasis, in order to draw attention to one of the traditions Castoriadis the internationalist sees himself belonging to] contradictory and psychopathic relationship with European civilisation and the West generally”. Second, he stresses “the fundamental antinomy present in the contemporary invocation of ancient Greece and Byzantium, two totally incompatible traditions”. Third, he condemns the convenient and popular perception accorrding to which “it is the others who are responsible for the suffering of Greece”.

My reaction: Is this it? Is this the remorseless assault on Greek nationalism, on the Greek national imaginary, you’ve been going on about?

To be honest, anyone – left, right, nationalist, communist, anarchist, liberal, Greek, non-Greek – with half a brain, could agree with Castoriadis’s views in this instance, which do not amount to a brilliant epiphany – unless the level of debate and intellectual life in Greece is at such a low level that perfectly fair, reasonable and long-standing criticisms of the Greek national imaginary are construed as political and philosophical dynamite.

Point 2 – regarding the distinction between the democratic Greeks and the theocratic Byzantines – is important and should be pursued, diminishing the role of the priests in Greek society is a worthy cause; but Points 1 and 3 could just as easily apply to the left in Greece as to the right – probably even more so – while it is quite possible to accept all of Castoriadis’s criticism of the Greek national imaginary and still emerge from it an ellinolatris – in fact, there is nothing there to stop you from emerging as a raving, foaming-at-the-mouth nationalist.

Indeed, variations of Castoriadis’s criticisms have been made by virtually every Greek intellectual of note for more than a hundred years.

‘I am sorry that teaching in our country has distorted and disfigured so many values, thus preventing the formation of a steady, robust and free didactic style which could very well be the foundation stones for an enduring modern Greek tradition.’

Castoriadis could have written this, but it was actually written by Seferis in 1938 (Dialogue on Poetry: What is meant by Hellenism?). In fact, Castoriadis’ criticisms are even reminiscent of the criticisms made of Greece by the 1897 generation of Greek nationalist intellectuals – Dragoumis, Giannopoulos, et al; that is, opposition to artificial and imposed cultural forms – such as katherevousa; a plea for Greek self-reliance, Greeks taking responsibility for their own actions and for the state of the country; and a hope for a new or renewed Greek tradition, overcoming the burden of association with Byzantium and Ancient Greece. See my piece on Dragoumis – http://hellenicantidote.blogspot.com/2007/09/dragoumis-and-kazantzakis.html

Castoriadis’s repudiation of certain aspects of the Greek national imaginary is hardly revolutionary and it makes me wonder whether this wave of antinationalism in Greece at the moment amounts to anything more substantial than a Dadaist pose, Johnny Rotten on stage singing ‘Anarchy in the UK’ or ‘God save the Queen, her fascist regime’, snarling and spitting at the audience. I’m all for teenage rebellion, but in the realm of ideas I don’t take children seriously. I’m all for rewriting and reinterpreting history to make it more complete – for example, noting that Greek life in certain parts of the Ottoman empire – Constantinople, Smyrna, Alexandria – particularly after the Tanzimat Reforms in 1839 – could be described as thriving, contradicting the view that Greek existence under the Ottomans was simply and always 400 years of slavery; but it doesn’t seem at the moment that Greece has reached this state of maturity, neither on the right or the left, who – represented by the clowns Alavanos and Karatzaferis – deserve each other, need each other. Poor Hellas. Poor, poor Hellas. Thankfully, there is the Diaspora.


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