Quo Vadis?

“Quo vadis” is a Latin phrase meaning “Where are you going?” The modern usage of the phrase refers to a Christian traditional story regarding Saint Peter. According to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, Peter [Yanis Varoufakis] is fleeing from likely crucifixion in Rome [Brussels] at the hands of the government [EU], and along the road outside the city he meets a risen Jesus [Alexis Tsipras]. In the Latin translation, Peter [Yanis V] asks Jesus [Alexis T] “Quo vadis?“, to which Jesus [Alexis T] replies, “Romam vado iterum crucifigi” (“I am going to Rome [Brussels] to be crucified again”). Peter [Yanis V] thereby regains his courage to continue his ministry [opposing austerity]. However, Peter [Yanis V] is eventually martyred by being crucified upside-down by the authorities [no analogy translation needed for this last part].

After this little bit of fun, it is indeed pertinent to ask: Where are we going?

The Greek government is now playing games in their parliament. Pretending that this is real democracy at work. But no amount of debating on any of these bailout conditions is going to change the course that Tsipras & Syriza have set for themselves. Unless, of course, they make a hundred and eighty degree turn-around. The economic situation continues to get worse by the day and after all of the hoo-haa about bailouts and financial assistance, the Greek person-in-the-street has yet to see a cent of this, and will likely never, since it will merely be the moving around of numbers on the government’s balance sheet!

And it seems to me that the Greek people are just stunned and paralyzed. Yes, I know that various organizations are trying to organize rallies and marches. But look at the turn-out! The Greeks are struggling to get to grips with how badly they have been shafted. And where are all of those pro-Euro supporters? I would have expected that, by now, they would have all been out in droves telling everyone how wonderful it is that Greece is still in the Eurozone.

So this makes me think. While we argue and debate the merits of the different economic solutions. While we anguish over whether Syriza is actually Left or Left-Centre or Center-Left or populist or whatever. While we read (and write) all of the stories of who is to blame and analyze what they did wrong. While all of this is going on, I am reminded of the pictures of the Greek pensioners, standing patiently in the queues at the banks to just be able to get 60 Euros.

And I wonder. What about the morality of all of this?

Somehow the moral values of civilized nations seem to have been quietly packed away into a locked cupboard. “Suspended, temporarily while we sort an irksome problem out.” Can it really be said that moral principles are being taken into account whilst a solution to the Greek crisis was being hammered out? If this line of thinking was to be argued in a court of law, would it stand up to intensive scrutiny?

Or am I wrong? Maybe morality does not need to be a part of this? So many questions to be asked, but is anyone asking them? Maybe the strong must just overcome the weak. The wealthy must just crush the poor. Those that have must feast and those that don’t must starve. What about the offer of humanitarian aid being provided to Greece for the poorest of the poor. Why suddenly is this no longer needed?

On reflection, even I never considered to ask – do the economic solutions being proposed also uphold our moral values? But what values are we talking about? I will make a start and present something simple.

It is said that, to avoid heated arguments and violent disagreements when having conversations amongst people, never touch on any issue to do with politics, religion or sex. Since we have already crossed the line with politics, why not really put our foot in it and discuss religion. But I am misleading you a little.

Our moral principles and values have been molded into a “moral code of conduct” through the ages as our societies have advanced, by the development of our laws and legal systems and due to the teachings & principles embodied in our religions. Leaving aside the first two points, I would broaden the concept of religion and refer to spirituality in general. I say this because it is my view that even those who claim not to have or not to belong to any religion, usually do have that power of spirituality within them. But still, spirituality is not the issue that I wish to discuss. I wish to address the following question. What should a really good “Moral Code of Conduct” for a modern civilization consist of?

Maybe I have found a good answer. I have come across a blog “Whistling In The Wind” written by Robert Nielsen. Robert started his blog in April 2012 when he was 20 years old. However, from the outstanding quality of his writing, his depth of knowledge on the subjects that he writes about and his obvious intellect, my conclusion is that he is either an incredibly brilliant young man or he is lying about his age. Interestingly, although he states that he became an Atheist, Robert writes a lot about religion & god. Even one of his blog categories is called “Religion”. But this is not the point either. In Feb 2013, Robert wrote an article titled “A Better 10 Commandments”. This sounds exactly like the “Moral Code of Conduct” that I am searching for:

“I want to add the modern wisdom we have discovered and share [save] humanity a lot of suffering in the process. What if democracy had been the norm thousands of years ago? What if people had valued human rights we take for granted today? In this I turn to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for inspiration. It is a far superior document to the bible and a strong case for the triumph of humanism over religion.

1. Judge someone not on the colour of their skin but on the content of their character.

2. Treat women the same as you treat men. Make them bear no burden you would not bear yourself.

3. Do not divide yourselves based on where you are from, what nationality you are, we are all humans.

4. Judge your life based on how much you have helped humanity, through wisdom, charity and joy.

5. Always think of the less well off, society will be judged not on its rich and important people, but on how it treats the poor and powerless.

6. Always question authority.

7. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, speech and expression. The world has no more right to silence the individual than the individual has the right to silence the world.

8. Everyone has the freedom of association and to organise.

9. Everyone has the right to elect their leaders and law makers in free and fair elections. The right to govern comes directly from the will of the people.

10. Everyone has the right to a fair trial and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The first three commandments are a condemnation of (1) racism, (2) sexism and (3) nationalism. The first commandment is deliberately reminiscent of Martin Luther King. Racism and nationalism have been major causes of war and violence, while sexism has subjected half the population to unnecessary hardships. It calls on men to share the burden. The fourth commandment is more advice. The most important thing in life is to help others and make their lives better. This can be done literally through charity, but also by adding to the stock of knowledge and making new discoveries. Simply being a good friend helps people more than anything. The fifth commandment is to avoid the mistake of history where a small handful lived in opulence while the rest of humanity lived in degrading poverty. We judge the Middle Ages not on the splendour of the royal court or the majesty of the cathedrals, but on the desperation of the peasants.

Never give[n] into dogma and accept things unquestionably. Always challenge the powers that be and never accept mediocrity. Hold the powerful accountable. No matter who says it, never simply accept it, but rather always question it. From 7-10 the clear influence of the UDHR can be seen, in particular Articles 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, (10th Commandment) 18, 19 (7th Commandment) 20, (8th) 21 (9th). The second half of the 7th commandment is based upon a quote from John Stuart Mill and would be an antidote to the plague of censorship. Between them they are the hallmarks of a liberal democracy and are the rights our society is based upon. Imagine if 3,000 years ago these rights were given to Moses? Imagine if they had the democracy, the right to free speech, to vote, to form political parties, to form a union and to a fair trial? Imagine dictatorships trying to overcome these hurdles? If these rules had been adopted 3,000 years ago, the world would have jumped into a prosperous and tolerant future.”

Here is the link to the full article:

http://whistlinginthewind.org/2013/02/01/a-better-10-commandments/

So I will conclude in the worst possible way by answering a question with more questions. What do you think? Do you think that if only some of these principles had been applied in the past 6 months, or even earlier, in order to address the Greek Catastrophe, we would be where we are now?

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About Peter Smith

A "foot-soldier" in the wider Post Capitalism Movement. First task - keep spreading the words of change, hope & inspiration.
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One Response to Quo Vadis?

  1. Pingback: Democratise Europe!….can it be done? | Thoughts on European Politics & Economics

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