Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Greeks had a word for Bush: IDIOT!

The great British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in his Wisdom of the West that Western civilization was and is essentially Greek -so great was that blossoming in the fifth century BC. Of the several factors supporting that thesis, none is more important than a discernable secular, populist trend absent from the older civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Russell supports that thesis by pointing out "...an astonishing stream of masterpieces which have set the standard for Western civilization."

Admittedly this is a bit of a tautology. Any civilization could merely define a standard conforming to those of its own creation. Nevermind, Russell remains one of the profound intellects of the 20th century, having partnered with Whitehead in the Principia Mathmatica, and, later, opposing nuclear proliferation, war, and the Viet Nam war in particular.
Russell believed the Greeks were the first civilization to evince philosophical or scientific curiosity. Eastern civilizations of the period, by contrast, were ruled by "divine" Kings, military aristocracies, and powerful priesthoods -guardians of elaborate polytheistic systems. The Pharaoh Akhenaten was a notable exception -remembered for having replaced many gods with one "Sun" god. The effort did not succeed.

Though each Greek city-state developed and nurtured its own culture, all were unmistakably Greek. As such, they were surprisingly secular even if Socrates himself would fall victim to the "religious right". Russell observes that religion "...was not conducive to the exercise of intellectual activity." He leaves it to the reader to conclude that it was because of this that neither Egypt nor Babylonia developed science or philosophy.

It is at this point that Russell makes the study of philosophy an ingredient essential to an understanding of politics:

A man who took no interest in politics was frowned upon, and was called an idiot, which is Greek for "...given over to private interests."

-Bertrand Russell, Wisdom of the West

The term private interests could be construed to mean hobbies. It is more likely, however, that it is descriptive of burgeoning business enterprises. After all, the city-states must surely have been great importers and traders. As such, it is easy to see certain tensions between the affairs of state and the affairs of enterprise. By the time of Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More's definition of government as "a conspiracy of rich men procuring their own commodities under the name and title of a commonwealth" would presage both fascism and Stalinesque communism. In both, the "State" and business would bury the hatchet and work in concert against the interests of everyone else -as Bush and his cabal do today.

It is the Greek use of the word idiot that resonates so truly today, a time when multi-national corporations dominate the media, when Jack Abramoff and similar ilk broker the corporate takeover of the state, when the people themselves are shunned, when George W. Bush exports death and destruction for the benefit of corporate sponsors.

Idiots, indeed!



,
, ,

31 comments:

Fuzzflash said...

idiot n. 1 colloq. ; an utter fool.
2 a person deficient in mind and permanently incapable of rational conduct.

imbecile n. 1 a person of abnormally weak intellect.
2 a stupid person.

These are the Concise Oxford definitions, but wise Greeks sure saw the likes of moron George and his ilk coming. He's Mammon's main man, and where profit is lusted after uber alles, he's the globe's go to guy.
But this is all Greek to our favorite Camus freak. He's too busy boning up on the new season's fart jokes, and, oh yes, preparing us all for the sacrifices ahead.

Sebastien Parmentier said...

In 1400 bc, at Knossos, in Crete, The ancient Greeks used to have this strange kind of Toromachy, - or "corrida" in Spanish, whatever you guys want to call this - in which one or two young men, in their physical prime, were thrown in the middle of an amphitheater against a mean bull, also in its prime, of course.

For either of both of these young men, surviving the ordeal was awarded by the amazing honor of being sacrificed to the God(s), by having their heart removed out of them perfect bodies while it is still beating; not so unlike the way the Aztecs mastered in chain sacrifice, a thousand years later.

These young Greeks were just like the modern Japanese's Sumo, in that they knew quite well the length of their short life, and accepted this fate for all the festivities, sex orgies and feasts that they were given to participate before their dramatically violent departure.

Just to tell that in all civilizations, even the most ancient or "classic", Stupidity has always had its share of monumental events or stone made monuments raised especially to celebrate and solemnify this very human behavior...

Len Hart said...

According to Russell, "idiot" is of Greek derivation. I found it interesting that in its original context it was political -then as now. Adn you are correct, Fuzzflash, the Greeks were certainly aware of the trappings of politics. Greek politics was awash then as now with what we would call PR men and spin doctors.

Len Hart said...

More about idiocy....

Joe Galloway: More Troops for Iraq: Bush's Next 'Flight from Reality'
The commanders and the public are against it. This isn't a new way forward, nor is it a recipe for victory, this famed war correspondent declares. What on earth is this president thinking?

Fuzzflash said...

The Ship of State is drifting rudderless in Caine Mutiny waters.


"The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you're not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one. All the shortcuts and economies and common-sense changes that your native intelligence suggests to you are mistakes. Learn to quash them. Constantly ask yourself, 'How would I do this if I were a fool?' Throttle down your mind to a crawl. Then you'll never go wrong."
Words from Herman Wouk, author of "Caine Munity"

OK, try substituting “Navy” for “Project for a New American Century”, the neocon wet dream, and you get my drift. Retrospective apologies to Humphrey, but Bush is Bogart. So, this time; are the “crew”, willing to bend to the will of a clinically and criminally insane "Captain", or, as SadButTrue alluded some posts back, relieve the tyrannical idiot of his command?

As a kid I saw a film in the local picture show(entry:one shilling and threepence) whose name eludes me but the plot has gurgled around in my subconscious since. Set in the early days of American “annexation” of Hawaii, white stud with heart of gold falls for the most beautiful of the indigenous virgins. Absolute honey. Nearby volcano erupts: it’s a gusher. Local lore insists that you know who, has to do the leap into the lava routine so that the gods will be appeased. Stud tries all the usual stuff to rescue her, to no avail. One...two....three......Wheeeee. Phhhttthhh. Heartbreak all round.
Had a problem with premeditated human sacrifice ever since.


Mike Luckovich (yahoo comics) has run with a similar theme in his Jan 5 cartoon. Files of combat-togged US soldiers are marching like zombies on a plank towards the lip of a volcano labelled “Bush’s Ego”. A Halliburton witchdoctor in a buffalo-horned helmet and holding a spear ushers them over the edge with the casual exhortation: “New Way Forward”.

Makes a freshly sworn in lawmaker wanna swoon in bipartisanship and brush up on his or her good manners and etiquette in order to wish the upcoming surgent troops all the best, lest they become premature manifestations “pink mist”.

The purple haze of Apocalypse Now is so yesterday.

Fuzzflash said...

Duh...... of "pink mist".
Heard Michael Ware say it on an ABC Radio report on Iraq yesterday.

SadButTrue said...

I disagree with the premise that "neither Egypt nor Babylonia developed science or philosophy." It's just that in both societies these endeavours were reserved for the use of the hereditary rulers and priesthood, and utilized to maintain a 'magical' mystique of their godlike superiority. There is a dramatic wall painting in one of the pyramids depicting the young prince learning geometry (literally 'measuring of the earth) at the hands of the chief priest. This particular discipline was critical in the Nile delta society. Every year the floods would cover up the land, and move it around a bit. The ruling class being able to measure and parcel out the newly-deposited land contributed in no small part to their political power.

Similarly the related discipline of astronomy was used to predict the time of the flood, eclipses, and so on - with the aim of portraying the rulers as having special magical powers. The word authority derives from the Latin augere - cf. English augur. Compare august, oracle, miracle, prophet, divine, ordain, etc. The idea of predicting the future and its association with power of a particularly religious nature is quite firmly embedded in our language. One might also remark in passing on the implied fatalism of this point of view, and how it served to prop up a strict caste system.

Educating their own children was/is important to the rulers of any slave state or despotism, but no less so than indoctrinating their subjects into a belief system that was as mystical and irrational as their own was practical and subjective. The fact that the knowledge of the ruling classes has not been as well preserved by history as that of the hoi-polloi leads us to underestimate the advancements of the ancient world prior to the dark ages. Consider the discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism. This predates Charles Babbage's Difference Engine by a full two millenia.

However, I fully agree with your main premise that Bush is an idiot. I would add that he is also a psychopath, and probably held together by careful administration of big pharma's most exotic psychoactives known to man, just so that he can seem semi-normal during his public appearances. Some days it almost works.

Larry said...

Perhaps the word idiot is giving the emperor in chief far to much cranial credit.

Sebastien Parmentier said...

Is the idioty of Bush a camouflage for his evil?

SadButTrue said...

I think it would be more accurate to say that Bush's idiocy is a camouflage for Cheney's evil. I think Cheney is using Junior in the same way Poppy used Ronald "I'm not the president, I just play one (in a folksy, lovable way) on TV" Reagan. The difference being that Poppy successfully did an end run around the 22nd amendment through his use of the 'sock puppet strategy.'

damien said...

Bush gets a free psychological analysis here. Not much more than we already know. Bush is committed to attacking Iran as the latest blog discussions make clear. As suspected, the rusted on Bush supporters and Republican die hards will only ever understand when they actually see the bloodied failure before them. Of course, even then they will never admit the failure. What's it going to take for the US to wake up to the possibility that there is still even greater damage to come from this pathological, lying sociopath?

JollyRoger said...

A limited person who understands that he or she is limited can be worked with. You can usually find some niche that they fit into rather well.

A moron who thinks he's a genius, of course, is impossible to work with, and El Shrubbo's peerset produces a lot of them. Mentally stunted, but with all the opportunities coming from a privileged background has to offer them, far too many of these dolts wind up in positions of high authority-though you usually don't see them elevated to this kind of a position.

Len Hart said...

Sad wrote: I disagree with the premise that "neither Egypt nor Babylonia developed science or philosophy."

That was Russell`s position and even geniuses can be wrong. Still, I think he was correct if qualified. Certainly -the modes of inquiry that emerged in ancietn Greece differ qualitatively from those in either Babylonia or Egypt. It must be kept in mind, also, that Russell was referring to the Ancient cultures about which his statement is probably nearer to the truth. Clearly -what happened in the fifth century in Greece was unique.

I think it would be more accurate to say that Bush's idiocy is a camouflage for Cheney's evil. I think Cheney is using Junior in the same way Poppy used Ronald

There is much truth in what you say -but I've lost patience with the distinctions. The Bush admin -as a whole -has achieved evil and corruption that would have made Harding blush. There is not enough room in the dock for the number of Bushies who could be charged with heinous war crimes. Unlike the show trial given Saddam, I support fair trials for Bushies and especially the evil idiot in the White House. The truth must come out. Also -Bush is not excused by his idiocy. Rather, he is indicted by it. It was Kant, I believe who proclaimed a moral imperative to be intelligent.

Dante wrote: ...even the most ancient or "classic", Stupidity has always had its share of monumental events

Examples include both Napoleon and Hitler invasions of Russia. The US in Korea. The US in Viet Nam. The US in Iraq.

JollyRoger said:

A moron who thinks he's a genius, of course, is impossible to work with...

That Bush thinks himself a genius was one of his least attractive features when, in fact, he has NO attractive features or redeeming qualities.

Sebastien Parmentier said...

Isreal on the starting block...

Len, it looks like my three year old prediction is shaping up... I say March is the Month "M"...

SadButTrue said...

Len, I get pretty heretical on matters prior to the age of Constantine. In particular, I believe that the 'modes of inquiry that emerged in Greece' in the Classical Period had already existed in private - Socrates broke the seal, and paid the price. But that discussion is of and for another time.

Saying that Bush acts as a sock puppet for Cheney in no way implies that he is any less culpable. The gangster who drives the getaway car is, in law, equally responsible for all acts committed by the thugs who enter the bank. So is the shadowy Moriarty figure who never comes near the scene of the crime, but plans, directs, and shares in the spoils.

For Napoleon's invasion of Russia, Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' is a recommended read. Known by most people for its length, it is considered to be pedantic and tedious. In fact it is quite lively, and Leo surpasses all others in the depiction of characters and their motivations. I will grant you, the first half is much better than the last half, which may be the reason for its negative reputation.

Fuzzflash said...

“far too many of these dolts wind up in positions of high authority-though you usually don't see them elevated to this kind of a position.”
Agreed, jollyroger, it’s the Presidential Peter Principle Mark II. Dutch was Mark I. Corporate psychopaths , or as well explained in damien’s link, sociopaths have zero empathy with others because if they did, they would be overcome with guilt. So that even if Laura and Barney are the only creatures who support him, then that’s OK, because in The Imbecile’s eyes, he is still right. So what W. has now are 2 options.
Apocalypse in the M.E. or total destruction of self image.
As a clued-up Buddhist once observed;
reality is not that which,
when you stop believing in it,
it doesn’t go away.

How many more dumb life-or-death decisions does the Decider-In-Chief have to surge on, before he’s committed as criminally insane? For the good of just about everyone on earth.

And yes, NostraDante, it wouldn’t be the first proxy war that Israeli Forces have fought at Uncle Sammy’s insistence, eg. the creeping colonization of Palestine, and the slaughter of Lebanese civilians last year. Also IAF surgically struck some of Saddam’s alleged nuclear sites with widespread clusters of extremely smart bombs, some time in the eighties. With Mr. Olmert in thrall of BushCo it’s a good bet, unfortunately. But you called it 3 years ago. Bien entendu.

Sad, Leo’s labours are like a large lunch that morphs into a massive moveable feast. He’s very much the Russian Homer (B.F), and absolutely worth the odyssey of engagement.

Damien, you recidivist dissident, you’ve been at it again in Citizen Rupert’s Ed. Letters to Ed. in the OZ. Notice that kenj has a bit of support this time from Captive Kangaroo of Noosa. David Hick’s imprisonment and torture at Gitmo is legitimate proof of the bastardry of John Winston Howard’s soul.

* Before Fox

Fuzzflash said...

DOCO ADJUSTS CANDIDATE’S THERMOSTAT


“Gore Leaves Door Ajar for 2008

By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, January 7, 2007; Page A02
Will he or won't he?
As the Democratic field for 2008 takes shape, one big remaining question is whether former vice president Al Gore -- winner of the popular vote in 2000, an almost-candidate in 2004 and now the public face of the movement to address global warming -- will be in it.
Over the past six years, Gore has become a heroic figure for the party's liberal left, thanks in large part to his early and steady opposition to the war in Iraq. And it's not just liberals who have taken to Gore. "An Inconvenient Truth," the film detailing Gore's lonely quest to raise awareness of climate change, is one of the most successful documentaries of all time and, as important, has transformed Gore's public image from cold to cool."

What we have here comrades, is a man for-his-time taking the great American shot at redemption. But he needs to time his run right. He’s got ten months to play with. If Al hangs near the fridge while HRC and Obi savage each other in the quaint tradition of Primary’s politics, then his chance for the nomination should improve dramatically. Some Toby and Josh types would be a smart addition to his team. Maybe then, Gore’ll kick out the jambs, metaphorically and dramatically when he declares. Even the Nascar Dads and Moms would pick up on a gesture like that. Teflons him against the oh so predictable Girlie Man Gambit.
Re photo ops: No torso and head shots from mobile tank turrets and under no circumstances go within 1000 yards of a sailboard. Polar bears in situ? Fine.

damien said...

Yes Fuzzflash, the Bush regime is a bunch of cheap thugs. Their terrorism charges are bunkum. Just look at the case of Jose Padilla who was initially accused of plotting to explode a radioactive 'dirty bomb' within the US. He was held for two years (three?) without charges being laid or access to a lawyer. When it became apparent that there was no evidence to support the charges and that the US Supreme Court was certain to overturn his illegal detention the Bush administration then dropped the original planned indictments and charged him with 'lending financial support to terrorists' - charges based on vague remarks made by him in 1996(!) when he was a lowly paid Taco Bell employee. Padilla has had a mental breakdown, but the US is determined to stick him with something.

Enter Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian detainee at Guantanamo, who allegedly 'conspired' with Padilla on the non-existent 'dirty bomb' plot. The US rendered him to Morocco and obtained his confession under torture. (Apparently they tried to tie him into Khalid Sheik Mohammed and others - Binyam Mohamed would have confessed to being anything they wanted.) He's likely to be found guilty of this trumped up charge despite claiming he has never met Jose Padilla. Not to worry though. Binyam Mohamed is not a US citizen and can be held at Guantanamo forever. They're running David Hicks through the same bullshit.

Sebastien Parmentier said...

Well, Fuzzflash, the "fuzz" around Gore's candidacy with a global warming scope is just that: a fuzz.
We live in a time when presidential candidate need a big Hollywood blockbusting budget in order to snap their massage into the TV screens.
And for this, Al will need more than a grant from the National Science Foundation... Meaning a lot of arse kissing to corporate polluters.
Furthermore, American folks won't give a rat's derriere about polar bears unless Pixar comes up with a cute computer generated anime to tell soccer moms about their struggle on an icy raft.

Sadbuttrue made a great point:
Saying that Bush acts as a sock puppet for Cheney in no way implies that he is any less culpable.

Indeed, it would be quite hard for Bush to come up with the excuse that he had no idea that the voice of God in the intercom was that of Cheney's.

Oh, and for the History lovaa, and wonderful quote I picked up last night from Alexis De Tocqueville (I was so bored that I browsed in that wonderful book again):
"If society is tranquil, it is not because it is conscious of its strength and of its well-being, but, on the contrary, because it believe itself weak and infirm, and fears that a single effort may cost its life. Everybody feels the evil, but no one has the courage or energy enough to seek the cure; the desires, the regrets, the sorrows, and the joys of the time produce no visible or permanent fruits."

Len Hart said...

I believe that the 'modes of inquiry that emerged in Greece' in the Classical Period had already existed in private - Socrates broke the seal, and paid the price.

And it must also be remembered that the civilizations referred to by Russell were exceedingly ancient be the time of Pericles, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Also -Greek civilization -though it had no empire of its own -was assisted first be Alexander and later by Rome. Though Eratosthenes worked in Alexandria, his "culture" was Greek.

Saying that Bush acts as a sock puppet for Cheney in no way implies that he is any less culpable.

Indeed!

For Napoleon's invasion of Russia, Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' is a recommended read. Known by most people for its length, it is considered to be pedantic and tedious.

Sadly, my exposure to Tolstoy is limitd to reviews and movies. I remember the old Henry Fonda "War and Peace" which was, for its time and extraordinary motion picture. I'll never forget the winter retreat from Moscow.

Fuzzflash compares Bush to Queeg. Indeed!

From Dante: ...but no one has the courage or energy enough to seek the cure...

And one wonders if it is too late to stop global warming. I am no mathmatician but I understand the concept behind "exponent".

Sebastien Parmentier said...

It is too late indeed, in my opinion to stop global warming.

It is too late however to mangage and reduce its consequence...

Remember how the US was in fact the leader in countering the attack on our ozone layer, thus winning the fight against the Ozone hole above the Antartic...

Anonymous said...

DontLetEmGetOff has the right idea - "Wouldn't that just be the best, a law against the existence of dick cheney".

"It is forbidden for dick cheney to exist within the bounderies of the United State of America and/or it's territories or protectorates. Any attempt to be dick cheney within said bounderies will result in the instantaneous intervention of all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies as well as all available pest control companies."

Sebastien Parmentier said...

We can definately not compare Cheney to the Avian flu: For Chickenhawks are alive and well...

SadButTrue said...

The Imbecile in chief is about to go before the cameras in an attempt to rally support for his sorry, ill-considered policies. At this point he's just spending political capital he never earned, borrowed on the future of his party in 2008. Good. Let the Republicans be thrown into history's garbage can for their six years of fawning support. They deserve it. Let the Democrats know that the people want and deserve better leadership. They could use a lesson too. Let's hope they learn something, anything.

(actually, as I just discovered, calling him an idiot is an upgrade):
"Idiot was actually once a clinical term that referred to someone on the far left (of the bell curve). It was the lowest grade of “mental deficiency,” as shown below:
IQ range Classification
70-80 Borderline deficiency
50-69 Moron
20-49 Imbecile
Below 20 Idiot."

If this were the nineteenth century he'd be in Bedlam and you'd pay tuppence to see him.

SadButTrue said...

Sorry, I meant calling him an imbecile is an upgrade.

Sebastien Parmentier said...

The scariest hint I heard from Bush tonight seems to be that, if he can’t obtain a victory in Iraq, he’ll look for another one in Iran. Our navy is ready just off her coastal borders, and Bush promised to send another air carrier; meanwhile, Condi did her UPS thing a few months ago, in the beginning of the war in lebanon, in delivering bunker buster bombs to Israel. Olmert is surely encouraged by the Bush administration to start up the show. Thus, Congress will never be able to refuse helping such a close ally… and another Republican victory is assured in 2008.
Cheney has always schooled Karl Rove after all.

Sebastien Parmentier said...

The scariest hint I heard from Bush tonight seems to be that, if he can’t obtain a victory in Iraq, he’ll look for another one in Iran. Our navy is ready just off her coastal borders, and Bush promised to send another air carrier; meanwhile, Condi did her UPS thing a few months ago, in the beginning of the war in lebanon, in delivering bunker buster bombs to Israel. Olmert is surely encouraged by the Bush administration to start up the show. Thus, Congress will never be able to refuse helping such a close ally… and another Republican victory is assured in 2008.
Cheney has always schooled Karl Rove after all.

Sebastien Parmentier said...

The scariest hint I heard from Bush tonight seems to be that, if he can’t obtain a victory in Iraq, he’ll look for another one in Iran. Our navy is ready just off her coastal borders, and Bush promised to send another air carrier; meanwhile, Condi did her UPS thing a few months ago, in the beginning of the war in lebanon, in delivering bunker buster bombs to Israel. Olmert is surely encouraged by the Bush administration to start up the show. Thus, Congress will never be able to refuse helping such a close ally… and another Republican victory is assured in 2008.
Cheney has always schooled Karl Rove after all.

Sebastien Parmentier said...

Picked up in the NYTimes "your comments" regarding the presidential address:

I agree that sending troops is wrong. I’m not a usual poster, so pardon if I’m bringing something up that might siund a bit paranoid. I’m in NYC. My Time Warner Cable DVRs in 2 rooms each programmed to record plenty of TV all the time. I would never, however set either up to record a presidential address. On their own, both cable boxes programmed in advance were scheduled to record this. AND the cable box/DVRs- both of them- would not allow me to cancel the recording. Am I paranoid or did Time Warner force me to record/watch the address. Anyone else in NY experience this?

"And now comrades, please stand up for the Minute of Hatred..."

Sebastien Parmentier said...

sorry guys for the repeats. This is all Blogger's fault...

Vierotchka said...

Etymology of the word "idiot":

Main Entry: id·i·ot
Pronunciation: 'i-dE-&t
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French ydiote, from Latin idiota ignorant person, from Greek idiOtEs one in a private station, layman, ignorant person, from idios one's own, private; akin to Latin suus one's own [bold emphasis mine]

Source

:)