Remarks by Ambassador of Greece, Alexandros Mallias at At “The Dynamics of The Hellenic Language” event, Capitol Washington, D.C., Friday, June 5th, 2008
Lack of symmetry, harmony and geometry in the 21st century world.
Ancient Greeks recognized that man is part of a greater whole, and it is obvious today that the safety of the world rests upon the realization that our fates are intertwined and interwoven; we are all part of a greater whole, which needs balance and equilibrium. This balance requires the blend of harmony, symmetry, geometry and a sense of measure (metron), qualities that the ancient Greeks understood better than anyone.
These qualities are explicit and mirrored in classical Greek sculpture. Ancient Greek statues and temples are all on a human scale, something which shows a profound understanding of man’s proportionate relationship to nature and the cosmos. You only have look to the Parthenon, a structure which embodies these characteristics, regrettably disrupted by the fact that the Parthenon marbles are in the British Museum.
I find that many of the problems and challenges we face today are precisely due to the fact that these qualities are missing.
And so, I often find solace and counsel, if you will, in the ancient Greek classics, as they negotiate ways to maintain this balance and harmony in relationship to the whole:
On Geometry – ΓΕΩΜΕΤΡΙΑ
Clearly, the concept of Geometry includes the sub-concepts of γαία and μέτρον. It is not very difficult to argue that today in international relations at the global level the essence of metron is lacking.
On Harmony – (ΑΡΜΟΝΙΑ)
Harmony presupposes a fine-tuned equilibrium and a proportionate relationship of all components of all our regulatory systems, including our ecosystem.
Climate change and global warming are but blatant examples of this lack of harmony.
In the 21st century, we have introduced the concept of asymmetrical threats. It is clear to me that the environment and global climate are victims of asymmetrical threats of our own making.
On Symmetry (ΣΥΜΜΕΤΡΙΑ)
The lack of symmetry, such an important concept in the Greek classics, manifests itself in at least two main ways today:
First, the lack of symmetry manifests itself in the gap between rich and poor.
Aggregate wealth estimates provided by the World Bank demonstrate that the European countries, along with the United States, and Japan, dominate the top 10 wealthiest countries/nations. The 10 poorest countries at the global level are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It is with the rise of the Greek city-States that we see a civilization concerned with the delicate balance between food supply and population. Ancient Athens was especially troubled by demographic pressures. Thus the ancient Greek philosophers, particularly Plato and Aristotle, were sensitive to the relationship between population and resources when contemplating the ideal size for a city-state of their day.
A second phenomenon resulting from this gap, and allow me to be a bit of a heretic here, is that of human trafficking. In ancient and not so ancient times, we know there were slaves; there were the dominant and the dominated. Today, albeit within a different context and perhaps different form, we have generated the phenomenon of a modern form of slavery, that of human trafficking.
LIVING TOGETHER IN DIVERSITY
A basic characteristic of Athenian democracy was the concept of co-existing, of living together in diversity.
Today, both in the United States and in a number of European countries, a critical phenomenon that has entered the domestic political agenda is that of immigration.
And given these values and concepts of ancient Athens, it did not surprise me to discover that Martin Luther King himself was interested in the classics and so freely referred to them in his many great speeches, including the most famous “To the Mountaintop”.