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Thirty years ago I contributed an article to the magazine “Democracy and Nature” with the title Religion and “Believers”. The thesis of that article was that in human history not a single human had ever really believed in God or Gods, hence the quotation marks of the word believers. Naturally, people have the right to believe, to have faith, or, better, to claim that they believe, especially in the presence of other humans.
So, exercising my right to have a ‘faith”, I believe that humans belong to a branch of creatures we call apes. The branch of apes closest to us are: the Chimpanzees (chimps, from now on) and the Bonobos. The bonobo was discovered in 1929. “The name ‘bonobo’ probably derives from a misspelling on a shipping crate from Bolobo, a town on the Congo River” in Africa [Frans de Waal, “Our Inner Ape”, Riverhead Books, 2006, p. 9].
The chimps are violent and mean. The bonobos are kind and they prefer sex to violence.
[Necessary Note: A chimp, in a Dutch Zoo, decided to become a Leader in his community. Two other chimps, rivals, attacked him, opened small holes in his scrotal sac and “squeezed out” his testicles. The chimp died. (De Waal, pp 43 , 44).
A couple of days ago, on March 25, 2021, all over the planet there was a ‘celebration’ of the 200 years after the Greek liberation from the Turkish Empire in 1821. One of the most important ‘heroes” of that 1821 revolution was Odysseas Androutsos
, who was so strong and so fast a runner that he used to compete with horses, as did Jesse Owens, to earn a living, after the 1936 Hitler Olympics. On the night of June 5,1825, the Greek politicians, instruments of the European elite, decided to kill Odysseas, as he was a rival to their plans. He was kept in a prison on the Acropolis.
The guard at the prison door was Kostas Kaladzis
. He was replaced with another soldier, by four officers, who visited the prison but sensing what was going to happen Kaladzis hid in the darkness and was a witness of the events that followed. His words: “I heard the groan, the sighs, and the moans of that lion and my heart broke. And after that complete silence.” (Konstantinos Kleftodemos
, ‘Roumeliotes Agonistes
of 1821′, 1988, p. 49, in Greek). Kaladzis
did not see how Androutsos
was killed. The official report was that Androutsos
was killed while trying to escape from the Acropolis prison with a rope. He was murdered by someone squeezing his testicles on the Acropolis. End of Note]
Scientists cannot say, yet, whether our ancestors derive from chimps or bonobos. If I were to guess, I would say that some of us derive from chimps and some of us derive from bonobos. Given that chimps and bonobos belong to the same ‘race’. Actually the bonobos have been characterised as pygmy chimps, because they are smaller than the chimps.
Therefore if we belong to that branch of apes why do we call ourselves human ? Why was I taught in high school that the following dictum is the salvation of humanity?
The English word calisthenics
is a compound of the word kalos
and the word sthenos. Kalos
means ‘beautiful’ and sthenos
means ‘strength’. Anthropos
means human, as in anthropology. End of Note]
Os kalos ee o anthropos ee anthropos ee-ee
How beautiful is a human if human he were
Was it Plato who said that?
Even if our origin is more ‘complex’ than a straightforward one from chimps and bonobos the indisputable fact exists: Our life, unfortunately, is connected to the next-door Trump. Or, fortunately, is connected to the next-door Murray (see below). So unless we ‘meet’ our next-door Murray, Noam, Lucy Parsons and Emma Goldman, we shall not be able to face our next-door Trumps, Bolsonaros, Erdogans and Thatchers. End of Note]
The conclusion that we reach about apes, if the above holds, is that Turks and Greeks (or Germans and French) in their core (inner) ‘structure’ are identical. Any differences between peoples are due to ‘narture’ , that is the environment and history. If so, then why the wars, the massacres, etc.? Today (March 26, 2021) in George Orwell’s Burma (Myanmar) “the military (are) killing civilians” (The N.Y. Times).Why the Hitlers, the Trumps, the Erdogans, the Thatchers, and so on?
There are three root reasons: the City, the Leader and Religion!
In this month’s Scientific American, of March, 2021, on page 62, there is an article by Annalee Newitz with the title “The Origin of Home”. It is one of the rare references to one of the most important discoveries in Human history: Catalhoyuk (Çatalhöyük, pronounced Chah–tahl-hew-yook in Turkish, meaning ‘forked mound’). Catalhoyuk was a ‘town’ about “34 acres” big, with a population of at least 6,000 people, built about 9,000 years ago in the south-west of today’s Turkey. Today all that is left of that city are the foundations of its houses. The town was inhabited by people “for almost” 2,000 years.
In 1987 Murray Bookchin (1921- 2006), that precious (American) ‘human being’, wrote a book, “The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship”, published by ‘Sierra Club Books’ (!), of San Francisco.
[Note: The word ‘precious’ was used instead of the usual word ‘Great’, as it should be used for that other ‘precious’ (American) human being Noam Chomsky and for all the other ‘precious’ human beings like them. Let the word ‘Great’ be used for humans like ‘Alexander the Great’, the young man, who used as mercenaries, what he, cotemptoouusly, called the ‘Greeks’, especially Athenians, to murder and destroy. As for Noam, we should note that these latest years he insists to grade the dangers for the end of humanity as: 1. The Nukes and 2. the CO2. End of Note]
Back to Murray:
Murrey writes: “… the occupants of the city (of Catalhoyuk) were strikingly matricentric in their orientation.” (Something Donald Trump approves wholeheartedly.), Also, “careful attention seems to have been given to the internment of women and infants in joint graves, presumably mothers and children, a feature that is absent in male burials.” The Scientific American article mentions that; “People buried their loved one underneath the floors’” especially under their beds, “perhaps as a way to keep them close.” What Is of paramount importance, he writes: “Nor do hierarchy and war seem to be features of the city’s social life”. Also, that “the city was fairly egalitarian”. And what is strange, for a human society: “Cases of violent death among the hundreds of skeletons examined on the sites were notably absent” !
Finally, Murray writes: “(T)he transition from tribe to city was not the necessary result of economistic relationships that our Euro-American minds foist upon prehistory and history… (p. 20)”. He goes on: “…it is that early cities formed to meet cultural rather than strictly economic or defensive needs. (p. 21)”. By cultural Murray means “quasireligeous” acts that even today take place in human societies, for example on the first of May mothers.tie a red and white string, as a bracelet, to protect their children against something. I don’t remember what that was, which my mother used to tell me . [About real religion see below]
All of us realize that.the creation by us of a ‘monster”, the city of 20 million people, even the city of one million people, is destroying us and the planet. Is there a solution? Yes! The “Main Street” of Sinclair Lewis, the Catalhoyuk of our time! The small-town society of America. There are already the seeds of such a solution. For example the 3-volume work of 1975, 1977, and 1979 (Oxford University Press) by Christofer Alexander, professor of Architecture at the University of California Berkeley.
Is this Utopian? No! The problem of yore was the social and physical communication among the small-towns. The ‘digit” has solved the problem of social communication. The solution of physical communication already existed! It was the “light rail’. The reader can find the truth of this statement in the text of an article by Jonathan Kwitny, “The Great Transportation Conspiracy”, in Harper’s magazine of February 1981, pages 14-21. Also, it is the duty of the Transportation Research Board of the US National Research Council, as well as of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to bring back the steel wheel on steel rail and admit that the automobile and the highway was not only a catastrophic choice but a ‘criminal’ act. as proven in the Chicago trial of 1949.
As for the social quality of the Main Street of 2021, compared to that of 1920 of Sinclair Lewis’ time, it has the potential to be as rational and as honest as our chimp or bonobo roots allow and even better.
The analysis of the inexplicable social problem of the Leader is redundant, a list of recent Leaders is sufficient:
Teddy Roosevelt, De Gaulle, Churchill, The Bushes, Erdogan, various German Chancellors, Pinochet, Peron, Stalin, Tito, Bolsonaro, Blair (the ‘poodle’), Thatcher ….and finally the Donald.
The post-Catalhoyuk era of 9,000 years BC to probably Mesopotamia around 5,000 BC, saw a change in the ‘quality’ of religion from the benign and calm one of Catalhoyuk to an aggressive and ‘politicized’ religion that exists up to our time. A religion that has rules that dictate our way of life, through “Commandments”, which we know by instinct, That demands an overwhelmingly ‘militaristic’ behaviour from its followers, That has definitely a basic economic foundation as a ‘corporation’ with its own banks. That, according to the testimony of an American seminarian: six out of ten seminarians join the religious ‘personnel’ for sexual reasons. (For example the odious case of the priest in the German city of Regensburg, who was raping the children of the city for decades, while their parents did not dare react) That. the US President has to get permission from a religious official to be President. (The Greek similar case is much more advanced. The entire ‘army’ of politicians has to get permission from about a dozen priests inside the building of the Greek Parliament, for except the Commies and for other Leftists!). But what is worse is that a huge part of humanity has to succumb to religion, just to stay alive.
This extremely potent instrument of Religion is used by the Trumps of the world for their personal benefit. On the buckle of the belt of the Nazi soldiers of Hitler angraved were the words: Gott Mit Uns (God [is] With Us).
Of the above three ‘root easons’ the one that is most difficult to change is the ‘City”. it will, probably, take half a century to accomplish [See also my ZNet commentary titled “Of Pyramids and Skyscrapers” of September 30, 2001.
Ece Temelkuran is one of Turkey’s best known authors and political commentators. She was sacked from the Milliyet newspaper after criticising the Turkish government. In her book “Turkey the Insane and the Melancholy” (Zed books, 2015), on page 7 she writes: “… if (a piece of) bread is found on the ground, it has to be kissed three times and placed on a high self.”
In 1939 I was nine years old. One day I was at the beginning of “Mytilinis” street, the only street with an asphalt pavement, close to my house, at the time. On the pavement there was a piece of bread. I picked it up, kissed it once, and I started like crazy trying to find a safe place to put the piece of bread.There was a masonry wall separating a vacant lot from the street about 5 feet high built with simple clay soil as mortar, which had weatherd to a point that there was a gap at the joints between the stones. I tried to place it there but did not succeed, so I managed to put it on the top of the wall. My mother was a very rational (!) Greek woman and my father was a deeply Christian and patriotic Greek.
Mytilini is another name for the Island of Lesbos, of poetic fame. Also, it is the name of the capital city of the island.
To examine the relationship between the Turks and the Greeks I chose to refer to the Turkish serial “Karadayi”. (This, in Part 2)