[AAACE-NLA] The Glory of Greece
andreawilder at comcast.net
Wed Apr 5 09:22:33 EDT 2006
I know it's your culture, and I'm trying to think of the whole picture.
I did reading on the web last night, and the term "oligarchy" applies
to what the Greek city-states evolved, that is, rule by free men from
within a certain high class of families.
What I'm trying to do is get away from mythic elements that cloud our
thinking about what really happened. I am partly reacting about what
Sen talked about, and what he said was part of that democracy myth that
is part of the teaching about Greece.
You (and Andres, ?) have championed, as I recall, literacy behavior,
that is, looking at literacy not as private reading, but as engagement
with the world. This is how we think of literacy, now, I think.
So under literacy behavior we would have to place the magnificent Greek
plays, Greek drama, which explored....everything. So the discussion
about issues of concern to the populace maybe took place there, in the
theater. Certainly themes which engaged an audience were not ones that
would have necessarily engaged an oligarchy. I am thinking of
"Antigone" and how she stood up for a concept of honor. I think I've
got that right. Who attended those plays, i wonder.
Sen also talked about Greek influence going eastward, into Persia and
carrying ideas of democracy. Who took those ideas? Greek influence
even went down into Sri Lanka, I've seen art there which looks
classically Greek--the drape of robes, for example.. Part of the
democracy myth is that Western civilization is all there ever was, and
this isn't accurate.. This is why Sen is so important, he has
different points of reference, but he can get trapped in the myth,
And this is also why we have to look critically at literacy, voting and
citizenship, here, and get away from easy myths. Myself, I would not
use the term "evolution" because that suggests an organic change and we
leave out leveling effects of technology and of course power.
If the library at Alexandria hadn't burned, what more would we have of
On Apr 4, 2006, at 2:30 PM, George Demetrion wrote:
> I agree that if you freeze the thought of democracy at a single line
> of development, one would not be accounting for the evolution of the
> concept. From what I remember (I was there, but was very young)
> ancient Athenian political culture was democratic based on its notion
> of citizenship, namely Greek men, I think of a certain basic property
> class. There was a popular assembly which was elected by citizens, in
> which, obviously, a lot of people were ruled out. Clearly, by late
> 20th century standards, this was not much of a democracy, but one
> might argue that it would be the height of presentist hubris to place
> such a standard on a political phenomenon that is 2500 years old. The
> fact that there was a constitution, representative government,
> reasoned political discourse, including sharp polemics does
> substantively speak the political foundations of western
> constitutional government.
> It’s possible we are saying the same thing. I agree that what existed
> in ancient Athens is very far from the ideal of what a democratic
> political culture should be—-an ideal that eludes the reality of
> contemporary US political culture, too, one might argue. Still,
> without the foundations there wouldn’t even be a basis for a
> discussion of such a phenomenon as democracy as the concept, emerging
> from its Greek etymology would not have even been invented.
> Remember, this is my culture I’m defending.
> Socrates the Younger
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