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01.07.06: Theodorakis at the Cultural Amphictyony 2006

At the Cultural Amphictiyony 2006 in the European Cultural Centre of Delphi concerning "The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century - Reforms in Goals, Structure and Functions", Mikis Theodorakis was the Key Note Speaker.

Mikis Theodorakis, Mr. Giallouridis, Mr. Michaloliakos

We are glad to publish his remarkable speech.

I must admit that I was rather reluctant to agree to speak at such an important event and before such eminent personalities, since, contrary to what is customary in such cases, I will not be able to speak words of optimism, nor express positive thoughts and proposals.

And this is because I am deeply pessimistic about the future. I no longer have faith. But since I think it might be useful to you, I have decided to add an out-of-key note to the harmonious and grandiose „symphony“ that I am certain will mark all the speeches to be delivered.

Carried by the general flow, I too believed, until recently, that the root causes
of violence and war lie in financial interests, religious or ethnic fanaticism and other similar phenomena.

I am now certain that finally the above are merely pretexts and that the root cause of this lust for conquest and blood lies within man himself; with one additional precision: that as man becomes more civilised, so his savagery increases. Meaning that so-called civilisation is nothing but a cloak used to cover up and dissimulate our true selves, which through the centuries remain equally savage and monstrous.

In order to make myself clearer, I ask you to join me in comparing the savagery of the savages of the past to that of yesterday and today’s supposedly civilised people. Is there, I wonder, in all the history of mankind, any savagery that could exceed the atrocities of Nazism? Yet at the time, Germany was considered to be one of the most civilised nations. With its high level of education and culture, an organised society, thousands of scientists, artists, intellectuals, it was a model of evolved human society. Yet, from one day to the next, we saw these millions of civilised people surpass in violence and savagery all the savages of all times, from the Neanderthals, through Attila the Hun, the Crusaders and the Conquistadors right up to the saints of the Spanish Inquisition.

The explanation or excuse was that they were the victims of a paranoiac. However, even this paranoiac boasted that he filed his nails each morning, that he was a vegetarian and that he adored Richard Wagner. He would never miss the Bayreuth Festival, during which he stayed at Wagner’s house. But weren’t his fellow-countrymen ardent classical music lovers as well, to the point where they would set up small symphonic orchestras of prisoners in concentration camps, in order to accompany the condemned to their places of execution – the gallows, the block, or, most usually, the gas chamber.

And let’s not delude ourselves that this was the work of the SS and Gestapo alone. I experienced the horrors of that period and know the Gestapo cellars, with all the instruments of torture arranged with German precision. And I have to say – with regret, as I wouldn’t want to upset today’s Germans whom I sincerely respect – that all this required the participation of many millions of formerly civilised people grown suddenly savage, taking pleasure in the pain of others and more blood-thirsty than the wild beasts of the jungle.

Yet today I am convinced that they are not to blame. Or rather, they are to blame, as we all are, for being born human: as humans they have inherited this schizophrenia we all seem to suffer from; namely, on the one hand, our nature leads us to intellectual heights and the pursuit of freedom, democracy and peace; on the other hand, this very same nature can turn us from one moment to the next into savage beasts.

Of course we have also seen the phenomenon of civilised Germany in the case of other civilised countries, such as ancient Athens, Rome, England, Spain, France, and so many others. To speak of my own country, Athenians built the Parthenon and at the same time, like wild beasts, slaughtered all the male inhabitants of the island of Milos, just to set an example.

A civilised people turned into savages

Let us now return to today. I ask you: is there another people with a higher standard of living than the USA, with millions of scientists, intellectuals, technocrats, industrialists, bankers, etc., together making up a society that is a model of growth and civilisation? In a nutshell, a nation that has everything and at the same time, has so much power and wealth that it would be able, at will, to turn our planet into heaven or hell? I wonder what it would cost America to literally flood starving Africa with goods, followed by the suffering peoples in Latin America and Asia? And first and foremost, the children, dying like flies of hunger and disease? I am not referring to charity, which could also be an option, but to business, capital investments, and the economic utilisation of resources in the good sense. I am referring to an absolutely reasonable and beneficial choice. To an industry and trade of peace, certain to generate large profits and at the same time spread happiness among the peoples.

The same, of course, goes for the rich countries of Europe, especially those that rely for a large part of their economic growth and prosperity on the arms industry.

They tell us that profits from selling arms are much more direct and substantial. I accept that. But have all these arms-dealing states considered the option of converting the industry of war into an industry of peace? The profits may not be so direct and substantial but can they not consider the fact that like this they could save hundreds of millions of our fellow humans from under-development, hunger and death?

And why is it, I wonder, that today’s rich and civilised peoples, led by the US, have not gone to the trouble of even contemplating the possibility of an industry and a trade for peace? Is it merely financial considerations or is it something deeper? Could it possibly be that running a war industry, apart from the financial gain, also puts a country in a position to perpetrate violence and maintain colossal forces of war and destruction, thus belonging to the club of the carnivores, the powerful and the savages? In other words indulging those wild instincts that seem to offer greater satisfaction to those who possess them than intellectual brilliance and the side of our humanity that considers man as a creator of life rather than an instrument of death?

While humanity held its breath watching live the biblical shelling of Baghdad by the US air force, defence secretary Rumsfeld, a contemporary Nero, exclaimed with pleasure: „There’s a wonderful sight!“ And I, as an insignificant grain in the sand of insignificant people, publicly characterised Mr Bush as the new Hitler. To be sure, the comparison was ill conceived, in the sense that President Bush merely symbolises the summit of a monstrous industry of death, which in just two years has reduced a country to a pile of rubble.

Here we are then, sixty years after the demon Hitler who, in just four years had the pleasure of eliminating 80 million people, thirty of them in an unspeakable manner, humanity is again faced with a new demon of war, spreading death and offering primitive pleasure to millions of his fellow countrymen in uniform and helping them express the brutal side of their natures. All those who draw monstrous pleasure from seeing entire cities reduced to ruins and imagining women and children suffering horrible deaths in flames and rubble. Or watching footage of torturers, of naked people being dragged on leashes like dogs by civilised young women who, as I’ve been told, were even university professors.

Once again, a civilised country and a civilised people are being turned into savages, taking pleasure in the pain and suffering of others, thirsting for blood and rejoicing in their brutality. And don’t tell me that they too are victims of propaganda. They are just humans, like you and me, who have been given the chance to express the seemingly unchanging inner self, that still remains the wildest beast the good Lord has created in nature.

Concentration of power as the root cause of evil

However, the very thing I have described could possibly provide a hope for the future of man, namely, denying humans the chance for savagery to prevail over good.

Studies of history have shown that the super-concentration of power is the root cause of evil. And I would say that given the huge power of destruction that the US have accumulated, the manifestations of violence we are observing today seem natural. Thus I would say they have fallen captive to their own power.

We need to understand and repeat publicly that every state maintaining an industry of war and great military power is a potential candidate to commit crimes against humanity; this was the case in the past and this is the case today, irrespective of any excuses they may invoke to justify unspeakable acts.

What is probably the most culpable of all is that by flaunting this savage power domestically, they contribute to turning simple people into human beasts, since as we’ve seen, inherent human schizophrenia means that the line inside us separating good from evil is very fine. Indeed, it is astonishing to see how quickly man turns into a beast if his living conditions change.

Therefore it is useless and unrealistic to discuss world peace and equal rights among peoples while there are nations that still engage in the mass production of means of destruction.

This fact, together with the true character of man and his main attribute, namely the genetic schizophrenia that differentiates him from all other animals on earth, contributes to the systematic cultivation, within countries that have military supremacy, of feelings of superiority and arrogance, that can quickly develop into a generalised thirst for violence and blood.

And today, as in the past, this risk stems exclusively from the so-called civilised countries, under the unique superpower, which leads by example.

The meaning of civilisation has changed

In conclusion, I would like to say that the meaning of civilisation has long since changed. Especially since the Nazis and the countless wars that have followed, always waged by the so-called „civilised“ against the „under-developed“, the poor and the „uncivilised“, it has become quite obvious that true human civilisation can only be measured by the standards of peace, tolerance and solidarity, within every society and every people. Where nobility, kindness and, most of all, love amongst people can flourish.

I know that I am referring to a Utopia from which we seem to retreat ever further. On the contrary, I see the forces of evil, which in my opinion lie in the opposite camp from the ones identified by Mr Bush, namely his own and that of his allies; as their thirst increases for greater destruction, for more pain and blood, they will inevitably at some point be led to unleash the absolute destruction, the absolute suffering: the atomic bomb.

This, in my opinion, is what the man-beast we all have inside us is seeking, since evil knows no higher pleasure than self-destruction.

Already, in so-called „Western civilisation“, a sub-culture tsunami has started to unfurl and is daily gaining in force, systematically turning man into beast.

If you fail to strike evil at its roots, if you do not convert the industries of war into industries of peace, if all armies of aggression are not disbanded, then the cause of the other aspect of man, the humane, truly civilised aspect, the one striving for love and peace, will be lost for ever.

Today, the words „freedom“, „democracy“, „human rights“, „solidarity“ have long been deprived of their meaning. Today, the co-existence under one roof of sheep-peoples with beast-states, as in the case of the UN, has turned into a tragic farce for the weak of this earth.
Before this impasse, I see but two ways out: either we must dig deep down to the very roots of evil and strike, with the willingness and cooperation of the strong, or the weak must seek and find other ways of defending themselves, relying on themselves alone, but given fundamental support by the hundreds of millions of weak, the potential victims of the future, who, if they stand together, have a chance of resisting and being victorious.

Mikis Theodorakis
1st July 2006

New English translation by Ariel Wagner-Parker
Subtitles by us

The series of events called „Cultural Amphictyony“ took their name from the Great Amphictyonic League, founded around 1100 BC for the protection of the temples of Apollo in Delphi and of Demeter near Thermopylae.

Read the Ode to Theodorakis by the Arabian poet of Palestine Muhammad A. Al Mahdi

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