Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The rise and fall of ....Humanity

I have been thinking about Greece a lot these days, for obvious reasons, with a range of emotions. But most of all I have been asking a lot of questions, such as:

How did the Birth Stone of Western Civilization become the tombstone of decency?
How did the pursue of the Golden Mean become an uncontrollable decent into moral bankruptcy?
When did Justice, the godess that even all the other gods revered, become an exiled beggar?
How did industriousness turn into unearned entitlement?
When did "know thy self" become mental apathy?
When did moderation become greed?
How did the alchemy of the mind (turning vice into virtue, turning the darkness of ignorance into the bright light of knowledge) become the alchemy of the Stock Market (turning horse manure into "gold")?

This past Easter I stood in Plaka, the ancient market place in Athens, with Acropolis looming mormidable above me, just under the cave where Socrates drunk the poison defeding his principles to its last bitter drop and I wondered with trepidation what the Teacher would have said about his beloved town. I stood at the Lyceum where Aristotle taught that towns will flourish only when kings become philosophers and philosophers kings and I wondered how he would have felt at the sight of Greece now, and I cast my eyes to the ground in shame.

But, does the fallen angel have something to teach the rest of the world? I believe so, maybe even the biggest albeit most bitter lesson of all. I believe world empires, beacons of civilization such as Greece and Rome did not fall because they became too big but because in doing so they lost their moral moorings.

Please tell me what is wrong with this picture: I am walking to the door of Starbuck's, two coffees in my hands, the 14 year old ahead of me opens the door exits and lets it slam in my face while her mother looks on and continues to blabber on her cell phone unperturbed by her daughter's rudeness. My father would have made me go back and apologize and followed it up with a 20 minute discussion about the virtues of politeness, respect and cooperation.

Do you prefer a different picture? Try this one: Two adults fighting about a parking space, yes a parking space, using a language totally inconsistent with that social status their cars and clothing so loudly advertise. A bunch of adolescents 50 feet away egg them on. One screams "kill her, kill her" which is followed by another one's pearl of wisdom " I hope he blows her head off"

One needs to ask: If a 14 year old has no social conscience, if his idea of conflict resolution is: "blow her head off" why would we expect the 30 year old wiz with an MBA from the Ivy League School of Live and let Die have any consideration for the society at large when he skillfully manipulates numbers to sell manure for gold?

What would Washington have to say about His beloved country? I lament the decline of my birth place and I hope that my equally beloved America will not follow the trajectory of Greece and Rome. But, hoping is not enough. We need to be the models, the paragons of morality that our youth needs and deserves. We need to teach, guide and monitor our young. We need
to wake up.