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Vico or Machiavelli? An Alternative to Dehumanization within Western Civilization

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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In his 1924 book on The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, Edwin Arthur Burtt wrote this perceptive passage: “An adequate cosmology will only begin to be written when an adequate philosophy of mind has appeared, and such a philosophy of mind must provide full satisfaction both for the motives of the behaviorists who wish to make mind material for experimental manipulation and exact measurement, and for the motives of idealists who wish to see the startling difference between a universe without mind and a universe organized into a living and sensitive unity through mind properly accounted for. I hope some readers of these pages will catch glimmerings of how this seemingly impossible reconciliation is to be brought about. For myself I must admit that, as yet, it is beyond me” (p. 324).

We are now in the 21st century but despite Whitehead’s process philosophy and cosmology, and Sagan’s and Hawking’s scientific cosmological schemes the above mentioned reconciliation has yet to fully appear. To be sure there are some encouraging signs on the horizon. I am thinking here of scientists at the cutting edge of quantum physics already lying the foundations for a new revolutionary cosmology. See The Quantum Self by Danah Zohar (1990) and The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot (1991).

I would like to suggest that the bridge between the extremes of scientism and idealism may well prove to be Vico’s philosophy of history, but correctly understood.

For the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico the historical course of civilizations within a providential order is that “Men first feel necessity, then look for utility, next attend to comfort, still later amuse themselves with pleasure, thence grow dissolute in luxury, and finally go mad and waste their substance” (SN 241). Thereafter, when a society at the last stage of development in its “barbarism of reflection” fails to heal itself by taking responsibility for its history, the Vichian ricorso takes place, i.e., the return to primitivism and barbarism which restores simplicity, religion and poetic wisdom (SN, 1106). It is that ricorso which saves Man by preserving his humanity.

To fully grasp the Vichian concept of “historical ricorso” one needs to first return to Vico’s concept of Providence, the centerpiece of his speculation. Anselm and Aquinas have taught us that God is the prototype of the thinker in as much as he creates being by thinking it. Vico too, as we have seen, points out that thinking and making are one and the same for God. Therefore, in as much as God has granted his own Logos to both being and the organs of knowledge, “created being” is “thought being” that bears traces of the divine intellect. Vico patterns this convertibility of thinking and making to man’s artifacts and shows that Man is capable of truly knowing only what he himself has made. He will never comprehend fully either nature or its Maker, at least here within time and space.

And here lies the root of contemporary Man’s cultural malaise: in the presumptuous conviction that the human mind can and in fact will in the future encompass God’s mind. At that point Man becomes a god of sorts. An inversion has occurred: it is God, not man, who is in search of perfection.

Vico describes thus the last stage of deterioration of a whole civilization: “And finally they go mad.” It is the madness of a Caligula that we have already examined in another article. What brings about the madness is the delusion of being a god which is nothing else but the worshipping of one’s cleverness and its derivations; what the Bible calls idolatry. This is the real original sin: the stubborn refusal to be a creature and the arrogant attempt to become a god. This is the secret wish of Adam surfacing in Hawking who boldly declares that “then we shall know the mind of God.” In other words, then we shall narcissistically worship ourselves as the creators of the eighth day of creation; and we shall rule not only empires and kingdoms, but the universe itself.

Surveying ancient history we see a Roman Empire at the summit of its splendor and organizational genius, when unaided human power could go no further, producing a Caligula, perhaps the most representative of the later Roman emperors and a civilization on the brink of its own self-destruction gone mad with the worship of its own achievements. Rome becomes a goddess too. Caligula proudly leads the Roman army to the shores of Northern Gaul and commands his generals to collect shells on the beach for him. A god need not give justifications for his whims.

Similarly, today we see in place a civilization which in its technological hubris has perfected the means and neglected the goals. A civilization which elects psychopaths as its leaders and guides. A civilization that by idolatrous self-adoration of its own cleverness ends up discarding the living God.

As Carl Sagan puts it at the end of the introduction to Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1988): “Hawking is attempting, as he explicitly states, to understand the mind of God. And this makes all the more unexpected the conclusion of the effort, at least so far: a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a Creator to do” (p. x).

What is at work in that statement is the Cartesian mind-set: first God is made the underpinning of one theory of knowledge. Eventually He is discarded as superfluous. For indeed, in our consumer-produced society, having nothing to produce is the equivalent of being superfluous. Once God has been rendered superfluous, anything is possible and allowed. As Dostoyevsky points out in his The Brothers Karamozov, if there is no God authority itself loses it legitimacy. Then the world will be governed by Machiavellian “virtù” and “fortuna” with man asserting himself in the world as amoral energy. Inevitably the “will to power” will tend to replace the “will to truth.” The gulags and the lagers become not only thinkable but possible. This is the “sickness unto death,” a “self-forgetfulness” of one’s nature, the final dehumanization of Man.

This is the dead-end on which Man is presently embarked in a closed world utterly immanent and deprived of any transcendent principle. When Man in his freedom wills such a world God respects that freedom and simply leaves it alone. He becomes the absent God. As J. Ellul renders it: “The silence of God entails the disappearance of the very meaning of western history. The paradox that is the West exists no longer…The West is dying because it has won over God” (The Betrayal of the West).

Those are powerful words. Perhaps more than any other contemporary thinker, Ellul has pointed out that we are the heir of a Cartesian world, both in theory and in practice. That is the logic behind a dehumanized world emphasizing technological progress at the expense of Man’s humanity. Ellul calls it the world of “efficient ordering” implying the transformation of al the spheres of human activity, be they productive, political, and even psychological, into systems of order arrived at through technology. All spheres of life are ultimately converted into procedures and structures. Humanistic thought rooted in imagination and intuition is simply excluded from this kind of efficient ordering (See J. Ellul’s The Technological Society, 1964). What lies behind this modern phenomenon is the Cartesian scientific mind-set eventually transforming itself into logical positivism.

Way back in the seventeenth century the Cartesian mind-set envisions the machine as a tool to systematically order human experience through a rationalistic division and conversion into procedures of al the processes of the human world. Vico intuited that in that kind of technological world little room is left for works of humanistic imagination (i.e., literature, the arts, history, philosophy, ethics); i.e. the very modes of thought and sentiment through which Man may attempt to understand himself. It is this inability to associate humanistic thought with truth that lies at the root of contemporary technocratic mentality and its sheer inability to provide a unifying vision of the whole of human knowledge.

As Gilkey has pointed out, in that kind of world human beings become the servants rather than the masters of the very organizations they have created. The worth of an individual will not be conceived as intrinsic to his humanity any longer but as related to his contribution to an effective, efficient part of a social scheme. Any sort of transcendence over the social system, any inwardness and creativity are not only unappreciated but more often than not they are discouraged. The individual is seen as a mere cog in the system: a producing and consuming machine devoid of any inwardness. Robocop will be seen as a better law enforcement agent than a human being who has fears and emotions and more liable to make a mistake.

What is highly ironic is that this cultural disaster and impoverishment has come to pass in the “Christian” West which has always valued, at least in principle, the transcendent dignity of the individual. After all, the inalienable rights enshrined in the US Constitution were not invented by Thomas Jefferson one fine day. They were already intrinsic part of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Christianity has always conceived them as rights that inhere to the reality of the human spirit; what used to be called soul but is today called the “software” of man the machine. One cannot be too far from the truth in asserting that this degeneration of the concept of human spirit is directly related to our civilization’s present state of dehumanization. Indeed, to live by bread alone, for one’s belly, is to have sold one’s soul for a bowl of lentils, and ultimately to die spiritually.

Spiritual destitution lies at the root of our external problems such as the ecological devastation wrought on nature and threatening to swallow both nature and civilization. The prophetic warnings of 1984 and Brave New World ring even truer today. We live in a Machiavellian world whose main concern is the grasping and retaining of power, a world preoccupied with economic issues and oblivious of social justice, integrity and compassion. As the world gets more efficiently order, it seems to become less free, less dynamic and innovative, even less affluent, at least for the majority given the scandalous widening gap between rich and poor. Presidents talk of a “gentler kinder nations” and “compassionate conservatism” but the sad reality is the sense of being at the threshold of a new Dark Age, when those whom Vico dubs “the barbarians of the intellect” are already inside the citadel of civilization as we know it.

So the pressing question seems to be this: how could a culture issuing from a dynamic, creative civilization extolling Man’s dignity and grandeur such as the Italian Renaissance (when Machiavelli lived) have stooped so low? How did we end with “thought police” inside the very citadels of thought and free speech in academia? The answer cannot be given by science. Only speculative philosophy or theology can attempt one. Gilkey has already intimated one when he declared that “technology by itself, or technical-manipulative reason when made the exclusive form of reason and of creativity possesses a built-in element that leads to its own destruction and eventual destruction of all it manipulates.”

Now then, if our very cleverness has brought us to this impasse, is there any hope left? Or should put the lights out and go gently into the night?

I would modestly suggest that in order to recover hope humanity needs to recover its sense of a transcendent power beyond reason (which is not say irrational, far from it, Aquinas has taught us that much) able to temper this built-in evil which seems to be present in what we, who live in an “enlightened” culture, presently consider normal and even good.

There is undoubtedly a vast gulf in our present civilization between that for which and toward which man is oriented and the wretched reality in which he finds himself. Dante, as well as the Bible call this gulf sin. This reality can hardly be understood in a society where sin and guilt are either caricatured, or excused as neurosis, or exorcised by one’s analyst.

Indeed, modern man finds himself at the crossroads. He needs to choose between a dangerous delusion of being capable of his own redemption and salvation, that a few more push-button technological wonders will do the trick, or to live in the apathy of a “quite desperation,” or to muster the courage for a genuine concern for the meaning of his humanity. He has to resume his quest for meaning. Only that concern can arrest the process of dehumanization. But in order to make this crucial choice he needs a concept of what it means to be human and how nature, history and humanity are part of a larger spiritual whole. In theological circles this goes by the name of “creation spirituality.” In more traditional and simpler words, Man must know himself. “Know Thy Self” said Socrates and with those words he began the philosophical revolution which put ethics at the center of one’s humanity, “for the issue, gentlemen, is not whether we live or die, for we all die eventually, but whether corruption which is faster than death catches up with us and grabs us and does not let us go.”

We like to envision Jonathan Edwards and the Calvinists as men obsessed by the concept of original sin but a proper understanding of original sin would make Man conscious of the fact that he cannot justify and redeem himself through technology. But then, how does Man express this unity with nature in the light of the modern post-Kantian consciousness of human freedom and the autonomy of the human conscience? The German theologian Bonhoffer pointed out that modern scientific man has done away even with a working hypothesis of God because he is convinced that everything works just as well without Him. This seems to be modern man’s dilemma, how to avoid, on one hand, the pitfall of subjugation to nature, and on the other hand, that of abusing nature for his own allegedly “superior” goals. To overcome this dilemma man must be confident of being capable of transcending nature without destroying it.

At this juncture of mankind’s journey the rediscovery of Vico appears to me providential. It may be one of the best alternatives available within Western culture between two extremes: Cartesian technocratic man on one hand, and Nietzschean charismatic man on the other. As we have seen, Vico’s truth while aiming for the transcendent remains at all times open to existence and its contradictions. His historicism may be evolutionary but it is never deterministic as a Fontanelle’s or a Nietzsche’s. Vico insists throughout his speculation that the historian must not anticipate but rather interpret reality. He must always begin with the certum in order to understand the verum.

After Croce’s discovery and popularization of Vico in Italy in the 20th century, modern scholars began to understand, although confusedly at first, that (1) Vico is indeed very modern in his insistence on a pragmatic approach to thinking; in his insight that thought must be incarnate in life and experience and specifically the nature of history, (2) a mode of thinking that jettisons outright from the flux of reality the pole of the particular and concrete with its inherent contradictions, is a mere game of intellect and cannot possibly constitute thinking, (3) Vico’s merit is that of salvaging the particular from an abstract rationalism without falling into the trap, very common among positivists of all schools of thought, of a purely materialistic dimension of reality, (4) Vico’s “ideal eternal history” is not idealistic; it is rather the conclusion of a long speculative process beginning with experience and the particular and always returning to origins; a far cry from Descartes’ scientism setting up the deductive demonstrations of geometry as the only criteria of certitude and reducing philosophical speculation to mere calculation, and the whole of experience to the observation of mere physical materialistic phenomena.

As an antidote for rampant Cartesian rationalism, Vico, way back in 1725, proposed his New Science. He correctly perceived that the whole of reality operates on two paradoxically related and complementary poles; for example, particular/universal, form/content, transcendence/immanence, free will/providence, barbarism/civilization, objective/subjective, passion/virtue, intuition/reason, spontaneity/reflection, matter/spirit, body/soul, poetic wisdom/reflective wisdom, tradition/progress, life/thought, and so on. This complementarity issues forth not from a rationalistic pseudo-unity of intellectual categories but rather from an organic unity derived from the phenomenon of its very origins.

Unfortunately Vico was not accorded an attentive hearing in the 18th century. In philosophy text book he is usually relegated to a footnote if even mentioned. Even in today’s courses on myth, language and history, academics at best accord Vico a passing nod or a tip of the hat. In his autobiography Vico mentions that his own colleagues would cross the street so they would not have to acknowledge and/or discuss the publication of his book. Indeed, academics and political pundits are a strange lot.

Paul Ricoeur, who has offered us some brilliant insights into the relationship between history and language, in his Time and Narrative (University of Chicago Press, 1985) dedicates the whole of chapter 10 to the hermeneutics of historical consciousness but does not bother to as much as to mention its progenitor. Vico is found in a footnote (n. 33, p. 310), in passing, within the context of Hayden White’s Tropics of Discourse, and Kenneth Burke’s Grammar of Motives. Moreover, a brilliant philosopher of science such as E.A. Burtt, already mentioned above, former professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago and Cornell University, investigates in depth the scientific thinking of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton in his classical The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science (1924), points out the fallacies of modern scientific thinking, repeatedly mentions precursors from the Italian Renaissance who greatly influenced the development of scientific thinking (Tartaglia, Bruno, Campanella, Leonardo, Ficinus, Nicholas of Cusa, Patrizzi, Torricelli), and utterly ignores Vico’s New Science.

Indeed, academics have never been overly kind to Vico’s scholarly fortunes. Various reasons have been proffered for this sad neglect, among which the fact that Vico was not a systematic thinker and could not therefore be easily pigeonholed in a textbook. This intriguing phenomenon of Vico’s neglect in academic circles, which begins when he was still teaching at the University of Naples (where he never rose beyond the rank of Assistant Professor), and continues even today remains to be examined and studied carefully.

Be that as it may, the cultural malaise took its tragic course in the 18th and 19th century till Nietzsche proposes the abandonment of rationalism on rational grounds, pronounces God dead and the Enlightenment dead with Him, and in order to revitalize a sick civilization proposes the creation of immanent values as discoverable at the very core of human nature. Nietzsche correctly perceives that these values spring from a primordial religious impulse in Man. The cultural disaster seems to occur when the pole of transcendence is abandoned and the will to power replaces the classical Platonic Aristotelian will to truth. After that fascism is not far behind. Nowhere is this more apparent than in modern academia where truth is piously professed but power games are cavalierly engaged in. Machiavellism can be applied anywhere, especially under the pious pretension of searching for the truth.

The disaster need not have occurred had Vico’s alternative been given a more serious and attentive consideration. Today Vico is much better known than in his own century, however, he continues to be subsumed under idealism or romanticism and even under the Nietzschean rediscovery of the sacred. That is a mistake and a disservice to Vico’s thought. Vico’s signal contribution and importance, to my mind, consists in the fact that he is still today the most valid alternative between Cartesian rationalism ushering in technocratic man ready to efficiently order the world, and Nietzschean anti-rationalism ushering in charismatic overman devoid of transcendence and ready to transvaluate values and impose them on a world locked in a deterministic eternal return.

The final cricial question then remains this: Will our over-rationalistic culture finally opt to change its current paradigm of reality and recover humanistic imaginative poetic modes of thinking as exemplified by the poetic philosophy of Vico? At this juncture of our historical journey our very humanity may be at the crossroads and Vico may be the guide we desperately need in order to choose wisely and continue the journey to its final destination. Dante needed a wise guide to begin his arduous imaginative inner journey to salvation. Can we afford to do any less?

Author’s Note: This article first appeared on March 17, 2008 in Ovi Magazine. It was relevant 9 years ago; I dare say it is even more relevant today.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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World history From Alfa to Omega Or The human tragedy

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The Beginning

While reading the Bible the first thing that strikes the eye is a holistic image of a human being. At first, according to the Book of Genesis, God created man on the last day of the creation in his own image and likeness and let them have domination on an entire world. But although outwardly a human being has divine qualities their nature and essence is not ideal. Moreover at the end of each day of creation it is said: “God saw that it was good” but the same conclusion was not made at the end of the sixth day. Probably God was in doubt. God created man endowed with reason and free will and is immediately convinced that his created being is imperfect hence the man and the woman does not obey the will of God and sinned. And in order to put a man to the true path Adam and Eve were punished and were sent forth from the Garden of Eden. And God told the first woman “great will be your pain in childbirth, still your desire will be for your husband, but he will be your master”. These means that from the beginning God created man and woman equal and the consequence of the first sin became ruling.

In turn God said to Adam: “the Earth is cursed on your account; in pain you will get your food from it at all your life”.

Secondly, Cain killed his brother Abel.  And the Lord said to Cain: “you are cursed from the earth. No longer will the earth give you her fruit as the reward of your work, you will be a wanderer in flight over the earth”.

And later when humanity has multiplied the Lord saw that the sin of men was great on the earth, and that all the thoughts of their heart were evil and the Lord had sorrow because he had made men on the earth, and grief was in his heart”. And the Lord said to himself: “I will take away creatures, whom I have made from the face of the earth, even man and beast  and that which goes on the earth and every bird of the air for I have sorrow for having made them”.

Thirdly, God made up his mind due to and granted people one more chance again. The Lord said to Noah: “The end of flesh has come; the earth is full of their violent doings”.  The destruction came on every living thing moving on the Earth, birds and cattle and beasts and everything which went on the earth and every man”. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark were kept from death.  And when the waters were away the “Lord said in his heart: “I will not again put curse on the earth because of men for the thoughts of men’s heart are evil from their earliest days; never again will I send destruction on all living things as I have done”.

The fourth, God said that the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were evil and sinned a lot. Thus he decided to destroy these cities and told Abraham about it. When Abram said to God “Will you let destruction come on the righteous with the sinners?”  And the Lord said that if by chance there are even ten righteous men within the cities, he will have mercy on the towns for their sakes.

In the book of John it is written, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  I won’t dare to talk about the Word, but I can briefly touch upon some of its manifestations – the speech and the especially significant part of the speech—the “word”: It can be stated that words are condensations of human mind, with the help of which meaningful speech is formed. In other words, things and phenomena – utterly everything is expressed through words. Every time when we narrate or write a word, a thing or phenomena emerges within us. That is why it is said that every word is a whole word. By the way, the possibility to create words is God’s gift to humans. “And out of the ground the Lord formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof”. Combining the words we express a complete thought, and combining separate thoughts we get, for example, a story. To write the World history many ideas formed from different words are needed that can become a thick book or a multi-volume work. But if this is the only way of writing history. The reader may himself connect, combine words, make them vivid, as much as he is familiar with words.

Reader create yourself, you are able to do more than I did.

And Here’s the Whole Story

Sinning, fratricide, genocide, theft, robbery, greed, deceit, crime, treachery, betrayal, selfishness, philandering, homosexuality, child abuse, harlotry, drug abuse, ebriosity, self-seeking, violence, authority, ambition, avarice, greediness, vanity, ostentation, adulation, servility, self exaltation, materialism, bribery, racketeering, corruption, dictatorship, tyranny, slavery, peonage, avidity, murder, state, World War, oligarchy, banditry, terrorism, the mafia

The End

After reading these words, new words are coined within us and the list of them gradually increases and everyone of it visualizes a human vice which gives birth to a vile deeds and acts. As these deeds and acts are vast, the words visualizing them are vast. But the question is not limited to the words. The words are gathered, combined and linked, and turn into ideas, thoughts, images and then outgrow into a story.

The story lines up human villainous blemishes and inhuman deeds.  At first there was a sinful person. Probably he was lazy, nefarious one who had stolen the food from his brother or neighbor at the dawn of the story. Then appeared the other, relying on his strength, seized others food. Thus loot rises which becomes the lifestyle of others. Human story is a story of deeds of human faults. On the core of the blemish lies the biggest sin – delusion to enjoy the life at any rate, to serve everything to satisfy this delusion. Not to work as much as possible, to eat delicious foods and drink, to have sex, to keep servants, to achieve power at any cost, at least over a child, over people, over a state, over the world, over the nature to be able to give orders, as Nazar the Brave  said “Now stand there, punks!”.

A state is created that should become their defender, to ensure their safety. But, instead, the state becomes a tool in the hands of the authorities for advanced and vast stealing. It is just to the point to remember the story of Alexander the Great. A pirate was brought to him for punishment. Alexander asked him: “Are you a pirate? Do you rob people?”. The latter replied: “Yes, My Lord, I rob people with my little boat to meet the needs of my family and I am called a pirate. But if an entire nation is robbed with thousands of ships and people they are called a Great Leader or a Great Ruler”.

A new era of war between states begins and is going on up to present. What is war if not a legalized robbery and a legalized murder? Wars have never ended with victory, because the victorious state had been defeated in the next war, and on the other hand, the both sides – the victorious and the defeated states – had only victims, one more, the other less. The theft was dilapidated in a short time. Thus the result of wars has always been blood and destruction, the human suffering. Has the Europeans realized that they had destroyed the creation of God when conquering America? Has the Turk realized that he has not only destroyed chapels built by others but he has stopped the building of the new ones. Of course not. And the victorious war is presented as a heroism, protection of Motherland, the nation safety, the base for a brilliant future, a pompous words are woven to glorify the victims, slogans “no one is forgotten nothing is forgotten”, unknown soldiers are praised, monuments are build, even Medal of Honors are rewarded posthumous. It is apparent, that all this is directed to the alive that are prepared for the next wars. But the reality is that the rulers has nourished their ambition and urge for power, provide their entertainment and pleasure, enjoying life in their own way. The losers had partially revoked from their amusement and pleasure, filled with revenge and got ready for the next war.

By the way as to the revenge; in ancient times blood revenge was very common when in case of a murder, the relative of the victim,  to uphold the honor of his family, was obliged to kill either the murderer or his close relative. The latter should treat likewise and thus endlessly. In the course the civilization of the society, realizing the dangerous effects of this phenomenon, the state assumes the responsibility to punish the murderer and gradually the blood revenge is being forced out from the civilized societies. But the States moved this phenomenon of revenge to international relations.

It is not arbitrary that great tragedians Aeschylus , Sophocles , Euripides , Shakespeare  and other geniuses see the tragedy of a person as well as of a society in human poor-spirited blemishes. Dante , describing the hell in his “Divine Comedy”, had probably suffered a lot finding appropriate punishment for each vice and placing human soles in a hell and had to describe the hell as giant abyss which is divided into several circles of suffering. Balzac in his “Human Tragedy” has not suffered less describing the human vice. Pavstos Buzand  uses such words as hatred, jaundice, malice, rancor, villainy, conspiracy and so on in describing the human ghastly taints and deeds. More horrifying is the description of Movses Khorenatsi  – ignorance, whoredom, stupidity, self-conceit, gold lover, insincere, vainglorious, vanity, rigmarole, indolence, arrogance, peroration, ebriosity, swank, authorities steeling with thieves, grafter, stingy and greedy, abductor and so on. Movses Khorenatsi the cause of the tragic situation of Armenia of his times considered the inhumane vice and deeds of humans. Hardly a nation is found that does not agree with Movses Khorenatsi’s “Lament”. But if Movses Khorenatsi is mourning the Armenian condition, Grigor Narekatsi  in the poem “Book of Lamentations” is mourning for the world generally, for human condition laden with sins. He is sure that if we put human vices on one of the pan of the scale and on the other – the Mount Ararat, the mountain will be lighter. As to enumerating the words describing the human blemish used by Narekatsi, means to do Sisyphean work. Since the world has currently become a big market and everything has become a matter of trade, and consumer philosophy prevails; when every single day the advertisements tell us what we do need, and the criteria of human, social and spiritual values is money, the inhumane vices and deeds of a man has become more vivid and advancing.

The story has not changed because the man himself has not changed but has accumulated and multiplied his blemishes and vices in the course of time. The man keeps on finding the causes of his inhumane blemishes outside of himself, blames the devil, but there is no devil, we are the devils, it is inside of us, it is our freedom of choice of free will given to us by God, which is generally wicked. The man keeps on justifying even the largest sin with the divine power of reason not only before the others but also before his own conscience, tries to justify his the most villainous deed before others. It is more vividly described in the Bible, when after committing the first sin the God asked Adam why he ate that apple, he answered: “This woman, whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree and I took it”.  So Adam first blamed the God then Eve but not himself. When the God gave the same question to Eve, she replied, “I was tricked by the deceit of the snake and I took it”.  As we see Eve was more humble, she blamed only the wisest snake. It is noteworthy that there is no devil in this case. It is not accidentally said that a good deed has thousands of parents, and the evil is an orphan. Everyone is to be blamed but the sinner himself.

When you learn the modern scientific understanding of the Universe, you see a great explosion, millions of temperatures, collision of stars, collapse, black hollow which absorbs everything, and suddenly you imagine a trivial, lost corner of the Universe, where reason was shaped, birds are singing, the river is flowing, the trees cast a shadow and in this boundless divine surroundings people instead of enjoying the life, they struggle with each other and do everything to destroy the life on our Earth.

A question rises. Where are the human generous impulses and inclinations that we see around us? Have they vanished? Of course not. They do exist and proceed with the existence. Let`s talk about the self-sacrifice; for instance, heroes of the war are ready to give their lives for the sake of their battle friend, for their Motherland sacrificing themselves and the future of their children. But such generous, eminent and stately actions get lost, dissolved in the horrors of war, whether the war is won or not. The Don Quixotes exist nowadays and probably thanks to them that the world has not been finally and totally destroyed.

And at last a prominent question; all the children are wonderful, where do the villains appear from? Let us find the answer to this question.

When I decided to give an ostentatious title to this little essay and wrote it on computer, a black square appeared, and it seemed to me that I am starting to understand the meaning of the K. Malevich “Black Square”. It is known from physics that the absolute black body absorbs all the energy. The same happens in the course of human history when human vices and repulsive actions absorb the positive actions and lofty intentions, and the spirit plunges into the darkness. This process is very similar to the astrophysical “black hole” which devours all the material in the sphere of its influence, and as much it devours, there’s nothing that can get out of it, even a small spark of light.

Human history, too, absorbs everything humane and is apparently like a “black hole” but from which, unlike the black one, blood is poured out of it

We all have to look way out of that predicament. We may burn a lamp of hope and try to stay a man, much better Human.

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Elpidophoros sees his future in GOA. Or not?

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Archbishop Demetrios’ possible retirement has been discussed more and more often, and not only in the media but also in Orthodox forums and blogs, which highlights the importance of this event and the difficulties the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will soon face. However, the accents drastically differ from those in official statements and open letters.

The GOA issues are much more complicated as Demetrios is not the root cause of the crisis. The point is that even after at the moment of its birth the Archdiocese wasn’t independent enough, and now it’s even less so. Each of its Dioceses is subject to Constantinople, each of its bishops is controlled directly – so nothing really depends on the Archbishop in these circumstances. In spite of this, the GOA Primate’s retirement is inevitable.

In this situation many see Bursa Metropolitan Elpidophoros Lambriniadis as Demetrios’ successor, though opinions vary. His supporters say that his appointment is a chance to increase the GOA’s self-sufficiency and make it more modern and open. Opponents consider this Constantinople’s trick to impose dictatorship and dispel all hopes for independence in the guise of liberalism and an effective crisis manager. There are even those who believe Elpidophoros will become an American Patriarch…

It’s hard to say if these conjectures are based on reliable information. Either can’t we say with certainty that Elpidophoros is involved in disseminating these gossips, but they obviously play into his hands. Metropolitan of Bursa is not only an ambitious person but also a pragmatic one, and his program is not of that great significance in this context. By the way, he may become the one to bring the LGBTQ issues to the GOARCH agenda. Recently, along with some largest benefactors to the GOA, even Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia has paid notice to them in his essay for the Wheel.

However, for such an ambitious person as Elpodophoros, the American Archdiocese is unlikely a primary career interest. The Metropolitan likely sees the GOA as a platform to return to the Patriarchal elections in Turkey. Although this fact fills the Archdiocese’s members with indignation, but today the GOA is just an interim stage in a race for the Patriarch See in Istanbul, on the outskirts of Europe. It will be so until the Archdiocese’s benefactors and hierarchs become concerned not with the figure of Demetrios but with internal reforms and the revision of relations with Constantinople. Or – until the See indeed moves to the US. Up to this moment anyone can promise to the GOA laity anything in blogs and on the sidelines – this is a free country.

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New Social Compact

Rohingya Crisis Needs World’s Support

MD Staff

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Rohingya women with kids are walking to the camp with relief food at Camp Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. © Tanvir Murad Topu/World Bank

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres came to Bangladesh to see firsthand the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.

Before they left, they urged the world not to turn a blind eye to the plight of Rohingya refugees fleeing their homes in neighboring Myanmar.

Over 700,000 Rohingya have taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh since August 2017. Many now fear that their shanty homes – made of bamboos and plastic sheets, perched on deforested hills – could crumble under the heavy rains of the monsoon season.

But the flow of refugees has not stopped. As Kim and Guterres visited Cox’s Bazar under gray skies, more people arrived with stories of hardship and brutality.

“I have worked in some of the poorest countries in the world, but the experience here has been deeply troubling,” Kim said. “I have been deeply moved by the courage and the dignity of the Rohingya people, and appalled by their stories of what they had to endure: rape, torture, killing, burning of homes. As the UN Secretary-General said, the Rohingya are one of the most discriminated against and vulnerable communities on Earth. ”

The Government of Bangladesh has done the world a great service by keeping its borders open and supporting the refugees, Kim said. But the responsibility should not be Bangladesh’s alone.

The number of refugees in Cox’s Bazar— one of the poorest districts in Bangladesh—is now more than twice that of the local population.

Despite its own challenges, Bangladesh has been drawing from its own resources to respond to the crisis. Among other measures, the country has allocated 5,000 acres of land for temporary shelters, provided food relief, deployed mobile medical teams, and carried out large-scale immunization campaigns.  Bangladesh has built 13 access roads to the temporary and registered camps and established water points and sanitation facilities.

With the monsoon rains continuing, the government has relocated 30,000 people to safer ground while preparing to move other vulnerable people, with support from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations

As the needs continue to grow, the World Bank Group announced last week up to $480 million in grant-based support to Bangladesh for health, education, sanitation, disaster preparedness, and other services for the refugees until they can return home safely, voluntarily, and with dignity. This financing will also help build the country’s capacity to deal with the crisis. The World Bank’s ongoing programs also will support the people in Cox’s Bazar.

But the UN Secretary-General said more funds are urgently needed as a key $950 million humanitarian aid plan is just over a quarter funded.

Prior to visiting Cox’s Bazar, Kim and Guterres met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to express their gratitude to the people and government of Bangladesh.

“The government’s relief effort, along with those of domestic and international relief agencies, has saved thousands of lives,” Kim said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the government to create and maintain dignifying living conditions for the Rohingya people. We’ve come to an agreement that we will build some more permanent structures and provide more services—the kinds of basic things that everyone needs, such as health care and education.”

Kim explained that support for the Rohingya is one of several areas where the Bank Group is working closely with Bangladesh.

“With respect to the government of Bangladesh, we believe so strongly in the direction they are going – for issues quite separate from the Rohingya – that we provided over $3 billion of low interest, long maturity loans this year for Bangladesh’s development priorities,” Kim said.

He added that this is the highest level of financing the World Bank has ever provided to Bangladesh from the International Development Association—the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. IFC, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, also committed more than $420 million [AC1] [DLB2] of financing to private companies in Bangladesh this year.

“We consider Bangladesh an important partner in reducing global poverty, and we’re committed to helping Bangladesh achieve its aspiration of becoming an upper-middle income country,” Kim said.

The joint World Bank-UN visit to the refugee camp signals a closer working relationship with the United Nations to address fragility, conflict, violence, and forced displacement—situations that can last a decade or more, requiring more resources than humanitarian aid alone can provide.

Kim, Guterres, and Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, all described the current level of cooperation between the World Bank and UN agencies as unprecedented.

“We have been working very closely with our UN partners to bring humanitarian response and development together,” Kim said. “The refugee situation around the world is everybody’s problem. It’s not just a problem for host countries, or just a problem for the refugees—this is everybody’s problem. What I saw today was heart-breaking and appalling. On the other hand, I was deeply inspired by the courage and dignity of the people who were kind enough to speak with us.”

“The work is not done; it’s just getting started,” Kim concluded. “At the World Bank Group, we are committed to doing more to make sure that the Rohingya, and all of us, can see justice. We are all Rohingyas.”

World Bank

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