Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Telemachia

1) What does Telemachus learns about "civilization"?

Telemachus learns that what is happening in his house is not the norm, and that civilization is actually quite functional and proper beyond the borders of Ithaca. He learns from King Nestor and Menelaus what true civilized feasting and hospitality is. The stark difference between his fathers' estate being abused, and the Nestors' respectful orderly meal is apparent in the Odyssey. From the two royal houses Telemachus learns that being civilized means not submitting to every whim, but reeling in your human emotions in order to benefit the collective in a society. Nestor and Menelaus exhibit this by always keeping in mind the almighty gods and not allowing their pride take over their minds. They are hospitable to strangers in need, feeding and entertaining them, repaying the numerous favours other have done them, and even just preparing for a future where they may be in the desperate strangers' shoes, despite them being powerful kings. Telemachus observes the order in the dining hall, all the guests paying respect to their host, their host respecting them. He sees the guests not exploiting, but receiving in a mannered way what the host has to offer. Any of the persons at the feast could exploit their providers' generosity, but because of their civilized nature they reel in their temptations and uphold the societal ideals of respect, humility, and order.

2)What does Telemachus learn about "hero"?

Telemachus learns what the true meaning of heroism is from the stories Nestor and Menelaus tell of his father. They speak of his father's noble suffering, his willingness to risk his life for his comrades, and his renowned cunning, all things that shape Telemachus' view of what a true hero is. Again a stark difference is seen between the male figures at home and the male figures abroad. On Ithaca the men who are held the highest are the cowards who eat away at his estate and exploit the absence of great men. In the realm of the greats, men are courageous respectful men who adhere to civil norms, strive to make the lives of those around them better, and above all have a balance between the kleos and the time returned home. It is from these lessons that Telemachus will learn what it requires to become a hero, an important step in the absence of Odysseus.

3) Is it possible to be over-civilized?

Telemachus learns from King Menelaus that it is possible to be over-civilized. When Telemachus first enters King Menelaus’ palace, the king does not even insist upon knowing his guests’ names or purpose. This is being too generous because the stranger could be a man with bad intentions, or a man un-deserving of such hospitality.
Menelaus offers Telemachus horses and additional nights of feasting, while these are enticing offers, Telemachus sees that he must not dabble in luxuries but go out and face the challenges that plague him. This is an example of over-civilization because Menelaus offers the civilized feast and gift, while Telemachus must see where the limits are, and react accordingly.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Too much of a good thing

3) Is it possible to be "over-civilized"?
Yes, it is possible to be over civilized, just like it is possible to be undoer-civilized. It is all about finding the golden mean. Like in Goldilocks and the Tree Bears one chair's too tall, one's too short, and the one's just right. We need to find what is "just right" for everything. Too much freedom and you have anarchy, to little and you have dictatorship. But the middle ground is where you want to be.
Telemachus learns this at King Menelaus' palace. When Menelaus says on page 125 "..Bring them in, strangers, guests, to share our flowing feast..." He unconditional invited them into his palace, not checking to see if they were friends or foes. This is over civilized, yes we should be hospitable but only within reasonable limits. You don't invite the enemy into your house so they can pillage about and destroy your possessions. Again, its all about the golden mean, hitting the "middle mark" so to speak.

How to be a Hero

2) What does Telemachus learn about "hero"?
There are two very important lesson that Telemachus learns in Books 3 and 4,the first being that it is the sons duty to defend their father kleos should they be unable to claim it them selves. He learns this through hearing the stories of Orestes and how he avenged his fathers death. Also by being around Pisistratus who is a perfect example of what a heroes son should be like.
The other lesson that Telemachus learns is one from Nestor. Nestor tells Telemachus that it is okay to go away from home to be a hero, but you must always return home. And vice versa. A hero can not stay home all of the time, they need to leave home, slay the proverbial dragon than come back. This lesson also is about gaining heroic glory or kleos. You need to return home in order to get your kleos, which is why Odysseus must return home.

Civilization 101

1) What does Telemachus learns about "civilization"?
Telemachus leearns a very impotant lesson on page 127 when he comments that Menelaus' treasured rivaled those in Zeus's palace, and Menelaus chastised Telemachus for thinking that any human could rival the Gods. He learns that has learned about the importance of knowing your place; and that not even a king can rival the Gods. Having some form of hierarchy is an important part of Greek civilization, and knowing your place in that order.
Telemachus also learn about the importance of hospitality. Although there has been previous evidence that he is already aware of the importance of hospitality; seeing as he took in Pallas-Athena when she arrives at his house. But on his journey Telemachus learns just how important hospitality is to civilization because he relies on it during his adventure. Like the hospitality that Menelaus shows him, a stranger, on page 144.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Odyssey: Books Three to Four

In order to be civilized, a culture or an individual must be brought out of a barbaric state, and adapt to a more simple social and private life. In The Odyssey Telemachus develops the understanding that in order to have a civilization a heiarchy must be in place, and must be understood by all individuals. For instance, when a person of authority and power such as Telemachus would call an assembly it was a custom that gifts were given at the assembly as a way of controlling. When gifts are given there is often the subconscious sence of obligation and debt to that person. The act of giving gifts could be used to ensure an indiviauls loyalty to another. This remains to be true today when guests feel an obligation to bring a hostess gift when attending a party.

A hero can be defined by many different traits. In The Odyssey, Telemachus characterizes a hero as someone who possess' courage, and is able to obtain heroic glory upon their nostos (return home.) A hero, in Telemachus' eyes, is one who stands out from the crowd for their actions of excellence, whether those actions be through a journey, bravery, or strength.

I personally think that it is not only possible, but also very common to be over civilized. Over civilized is the point of adapting to such a degree that a society, or an individual looses sight of what was important to them, or what their goals were in the first place. Today, in the twenty-first century, North American counties are very close to, if not already have become, over civilized. With the advancments in technology, the speed of communication, and effortless accessibility to practically whatever you want, North American countries have become, by far, the most civilized continent in the world. People generally now see their posessions, and the materialistic factors of their life among the most crucial things in their survival. However, in many of the countries in Europe they live a much more "down to earth" lifestyle.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Heroes: helping to build civilizations since 1400 BC

Civilization: Telemechus learns that recognizing rank and hierarchy is essential to building any civilization, especially politically. A special emphasis was put on what it means for members of a civilization to be considered civilized. The way people feasted said a lot about them too. Civilized people were polite, hospitable, respectful, and caring while the suitors represented the barbaric and uncivilized through their gorging, rude, and chaotic ways.

Hero: Telemechus learns that a hero is a man of great courage and most importantly has a strong sense of self control and restraint. A hero is someone who is bold, brave, and fearless, achieving glory when they return home (nostos) and leaving a legacy when they are gone. But most importantly, they victoriously emerge after enduring some form of suffering to prove their determination, skill/intelligence, and strength. The greater the suffering the greater the KLEOS.

Overcivilized: the point at which a society becomes so far developed that its people begin to lose a sense of priority within their life and compassion for the people around them. I think there becomes a point at which society can be too civilized for its own good. As a result, morals may become skewed, religion may eventually seem useless, and the legal system may ultimately become so structured and unforgiving that is in fact unjust or unfair. What drives a society to crave so much structure? And is the technology of our century taking us down this emotionless path?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Three Questions

What does it mean to be civilized?

Being civilized means that a person or place is brought to a stage of social, cultural or moral development that is considered more advanced than other people or places.

What does it mean to be a hero?

A hero is a person who is admired and looked up to by others for their exceptional achievements. Being a hero means others look up to you and admire you for your accomplishments in life.

Is it possible to be over civilized?

My opinion is that it is not possible to be over civilized because social, cultural, and moral aspects of life can always improve, for the reason that nothing is perfect. The flawed inherent features of these aspects of life creates limitless room for development.

Books 3-4, The Odyssey

After reading through the books of 3 and 4 of the Odyssey,we see how Telemachus travels around Greece in search of his manlihood. The purpose of this is to gain experience and knowledge of his father. In book 3 he has no luck hearing of any decent information about his father, but is told a story of King Agamenmon and his fate. This alowed Telemachus to hear a story of the men who fought beside his father. Next in book 4 he travels to Sparta to speak with the King and Queen. Helen is the first to recognize Telemachus because of how much he looks liek is father. They both rejoice Telemachus' mind with epic deeds that his father accomplished in the Trojan war. They then talk about his cunning ( metis ) actions. His idea of the Trojan horse and is mastmind plan of dressing up as a beggar to sneak into the walls of Troy.

Putting myself in Telemachus' shoes, I believe that hearing these great stories about his father would encourage him to make a change in his life. It is just like watching a profesisional sport. You watch and learn. In your mind you try and picture yourself doing the things that these heroesin your mind are doing. This will then give you that little boost of confidence that is needed. Being confident is the number one thing that a man like Telemachus needs in his life. He has nothing to look forward or up to in his life because of his fathers absence. The more Telemachus hears, watches, and sees about what a great impact his father Odyssesus had on the Greeks lives, the more he will mature into the hero that he was meant to be.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bobby D's view

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.
Bob Dylan

I found this quote and thought I'd share a modern icon's view on the hero question. This view is very pro-service, pro-army and the host of other sacrifices one is sought to make to defend ones freedom. Again the ideal of freedom comes up, a classical notion, and the notion of the servant leader arises as well. A lot of people in contemporary 20th century society identify with Dylan, and his ideas and songs have become the inspiration for much of the music that has been, and is being produced up until today. It's interesting to see how one of the great communicators of the 20th century, someone who shaped our modern perspective, follows philosophies founded over 3 millennia ago, on a mountainous landscape, covered in olive trees.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Architecture Dissappears out of no Where!

(pg 41, The Ancient Mediterranean World) "Mycenaean Places were often constructed on high ground, either for social reasons( to symbolize the higher status of the ruling class) or for military reasons( to make the site more defensible)"

Although the Mycenaean civilization could be said to be descendants of the Minoan culture, their technology in their architecture was still below that of the Minoans. Even though the Minoans were alive before the Mycenaeans, their technological innovations were lower. Mycenaeans built their palaces on high mountains/hills. Like the quotation states, it was for both military and social reasons. Building a town or palace on a hill/mountain is extremely smart for the time because as enemy lines would approach the palace to attack, they would need to be angle up while defenders of the palace would be aiming down, making it allot easier to defend. Also it would show from a distance where the palace was and showing off the social status of the people in the area. They also built their walls very thick, 25 feet thick to be exact! This made it extremely hard to think about breaching the walls as it would have been impossible in the time period. But for the time period these were extremely innovated techniques that we will not see for another 1000 years. While the Minoan culture was above the Mycenaeans, they both were extremely innovated cultures that would shape history throughout the ages.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. There is an idea, Mr. Creedy - and ideas are bulletproof."

The quote above is from the great movie; V for Vendetta. V says this after being repeatedly shot by government agents and one of them (Mr.Creedy) asks why just won't die. It relates to the quote I have chosen from our reading on page xiv; "History makes it clear that we may die, as we may live, as a result of what someone believed to be quite true in the relatively remote past."

All throughout history people have laid down their lives in the name of the ideas they believed in or, sometimes more importantly, in what their leaders believed in. Right now wars are being fought in the name of freedom, democracy, and secularism. Most of the great memorable battles in history are relevant today because they were fighting for ideas. The Persian Wars, Peleponnesian, Punic Wars, Crusades, American Civil War, and World War II were all clashes of ideologies. These wars are relevant to us today because they dictated which ideas were going to live on to the next generations. Its mind blowing to think that in an indirect way, the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, or the Romans on the sands of Tunisia dodging Punic elephants are responsible for giving us the opportunity to vote. Seems like we should thank the greeks for more than just souvlaki.

The Mycenaean Civilization

"Between about 1700 and 1100 B.C., a separate Bronze Age civilization flourished on the Greek peninsula. Until the late nineteenth century, this civilization - like that of the Minoans - was known only through the mythology that later developed around it..."

What I found to be most interesting about the Mycenaean civilization was that they were known only through the mythology that established around it. The civilization is not being reminisced for being civilized, or for events that altered the way other civilizations were formed, but rather the Mycenaean civilization is remembered by the myths that were formed around its culture, and religion.

Monday, October 18, 2010

History Forms Current Opinions

"But we also discover something fundamental about a people in what they choose to argue over in the past."

This quote from Preface: The Value of History, taken from The Ancient Mediteranian World, refers to what effect history has on current culture. The writer is implying that history shapes peoples opinions, and posions in today's society, and that what has happened in the past alters people's decisions in the present time. People learn about historical events, and change their opinion about different topics. For instance, people learn about past conflicts between countries, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has been going on since the 1940's, and use that knowledge to establish their opinion on the current issues.

When reading this quotation in the text, I took notice to it because immediatly many different examples of past issues, becoming present came to mind. Issues such as, the one between The U.S. and Iraq. This issue was occuring in the early 1990's, and became a current issue again after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

People are too often are reluctant to change and alter their opinions about highly controversial topics. Occasionally their opinion is on based off of correct information, and is not necessarily an unfair opinion, but I beleive that everyone should keep an open mind when it comes to important issues.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reading Between the Lines

"History is a series of arguments to be debated, not a body of data to be recorded or a set of facts to be memorized."

History should not just be about recorded data or a bunch of facts to be memorized, although sometimes it seems as if in the classroom, dates, names, and numbers are the only things teachers are concerned about. Because of this, overtime, I think we've lost a sense of priority in what is important in history. A lot of the time we get caught up in all the little tiny details of what went on in the past instead of stepping back and taking a look at the big picture. We really don’t learn anything from memorizing what day the War of 1812 started, but what we are affected by are the mistakes people made, the unruly and unjust things that were enforced, world wide epidemics, and the hardships people endured. Those are the things that with discussion help to stretch and expand our horizons.

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth...?

“Who controls history, and how it is written, controls the past, and who controls the past controls the present.”

What would your view point be on Hitler if you never learned or were exposed to all of the horrendous things that he and the Nazis did? If historians kept all of these crucial bits of information from us, we might think Hitler was a great, positive leader. The point is, people who write about history control the past. The way they write about certain events, and the details they decide to include or exclude influences the minds of modern day people. Historians may not be intentionally lying to us, but if they decide to only include half of the facts, as readers, that’s all we’ll ever know and essentially, that’s all we’ll ever believe, hence also controlling the present. This can drastically change or viewpoint, and although we expect history to be completely unbiased and strictly factual, that is not the case at all. In essence, when we read about history, we are forming our own opinions based on other people’s opinions, not raw facts. So, are our thoughts considered to be valid if what we read is already a skewed version of the truth? My real question is; how is our society supposed to “learn from the past” if we’re only given one side of the story where certain aspects are embellished and downplayed?

"Cometh the hour, cometh the man."

I found this an interesting concept that only an unhappy land looks for heroes. I also find it a true concept. I agree it is the environment that creates the hero. When society faces disaster they need someone to look up to and guide them through difficult times. Further on in the paragraph Hughes-Hallett goes on to say “It is desperation that prompts people to crave a champion, a protector, or a redeemer and, having identified one, to offer him their worship.”

People do not go looking for Heroes on a day-to-day basis. Disaster must strike, and that disaster fuels desperation and desperation sparks the need for a leader, and this is where a hero comes in. Desperation is a powerful notion; it dulls your logic, makes people do things they wouldn’t normally do in the right frame of mind. For example, after WWI the German people were in despair, and Hitler seized this opportunity for power. He was in the right place, at the right time, and desperation clouded the people’s judgment. Of course he did not end up being a hero, but he proves that only in the right time will we seek a leader. Heroes need tragedies, like police need crime, and firefighters need fire.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Products of our Culture

"In the end, to know the past is to now ourselves-not entirely, not enough, but a little better"

What struck me while reading this, is how very true that statement is. If we are products of our culture, which I believe we are. Than in order to understands how we became who we are today, we need to understand how our culture came to be. In order to understand that, we need to study the history of our culture.

Twisted Truth

"When a society seeks to alter how the record is presented, well-proven facts notwithstanding, we learn how history can be distorted to political ends."

I agree with the the authors on this fact, but I disagree that well proven facts can not be twisted for political reasons. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for example is clams that the Holocaust is a myth. Even when it is a well proven fact that the Holocaust did happen, and there is an amply supply of proof. This is a modern example of a political figure twisting history. I found an interview with President Ahmadinejad that was conducted on the topic. If you have a few minuets it can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykd-syzZ4ZY&feature=related.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Hour Makes the Man

“It is in times of emergency that heroes are looked for, and found. Bertolt Brecht wrote, famously, that it is an unhappy land that looks for heroes.”

Extraordinary circumstances foster the heroic qualities in everyday people. In other words, heroes are born when there are surrounded by ideal circumstances. More specifically, it is usually under unfortunate circumstances or tragedy that heroes often emerge. When something goes wrong, as a society, we look for some individual to take lead, step up to the plate, and ultimately "save" us from the crisis at hand. But without these specific circumstances, heroes would not exist. Their success and claim to fame heavily relies on the fact that they were in the right place, at the right time.

Just another thought...

Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s case on how heroes emerge is very similar to Gladwell’s, author of Outliers, view on how successful people are made. Gladwell insists that successful people are not self-made, instead he argues that they “are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” Before any other teen on the planet had started programming, Bill Gates acquired 10,000 hours of programming experience by the time he was 19. Now would he be the success he is today without having all of those extraordinary opportunities? Gladwell thinks not. And the same could be argued about heroes and their successes. The average, everyday man who miraculously lifts up a car to save a trapped little girl would be no hero, if the little girl was never trapped in the first place, would he? And would the firefighter who recently rescued a boy from a burning house be considered a hero, if the house never caught on fire? Or how about Martin Luther King Jr., would he have emerged as a hero if racism seized to exist?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Heroes: dangerous or essential?

"The notion of the hero- that some men are born special- is radically inegalitarian. It can open the way for tyranny."

Although great at times, the concept of a hero can be dangerous. Throughout history people have always searched for a hero in their time of need, out of desperation. Hitler's rise to power can be used as an example of this (although Hitler shouldn't be considered a hero). The German people needed a strong ruler who would look after them. Putting so much power in one persons hands is never a good idea, even if the "hero" has good intentions. Putting all of your faith in one thing leads to disappointment, and a heroes status is never secure. He or she is always being closely watched, people waiting for them to make a mistake. Or in Hitlers case, giving one person so much power was a mistake because he abused this power and his influence over people. A hero's success also depends on the time, for example, some leaders are better in times of war or conflict; while others are better at managing a countries day to day issues. Heroes are unpredictable and sometimes dangerous, but everyone needs something to believe in, just in moderation.

Hubris Schmubris?

"The Argonauts left Heracles behind," noted Aristotle, for the same reason that the Athenians took to ostracizing and sending into exile outstanding citizens, "so the Argos would not have on board one so vastly bigger than the rest of the crew ."

One of the major themes in Greek literature is the destructive power of hubris, yet this is a blatant example of such a force being exhibited by the Greeks. The assumption that times are good therefore we do not need a hero, is one for the hubristic kind. That is equivalent to saying that because we think we are getting by as is, we do not want anything that could improve our current state of affairs. This notion is dangerous one because that means whenever we do fall into a crisis there will be no heroes to lift us out, for they have all been driven away. Even the great Athenians, the arguable ideal western state, drove away people that they knew could help them develop and progress. Heroes help us to see the best in ourselves, not taking the status quo for an answer, and shatter the our accepted view of normal leaving the extraordinary in their wake. Human kind would be foolish to assume that we do not need as many heroes as it can find, at whatever time it can find them, for a true hero is not only a beacon of hope, but a catalyst towards a better society and a better future for humankind.

Hero Worship

"Hero worship still plays a vital part in our political lives. It inspires both terrorists and those who combat them. It shapes the rhetoric of our election campaigns. It helps determine the choices made by democratic voters and it eases the dictators' ascent to power."

This passage sums up what hero worship is in a nutshell. Worshipping a hero can have positive or negative ramifications, and shapes the morals we practice today. Today's foolishness, and the personalities possessed by people today are configured by heroes and the story's of heroes.

Timing is everything...

“It is in times of emergency that heroes are looked for, and found…”

Heroes are rebels, they are the brave souls who defy authority and stand up for what is right. The reason that heroes have such an appeal is because in times of need there they are, capes blowing in the wind, ready to save the day. Take Franklin D Roosevelt for example, 10 years before the depression his New Deal would not have been accepted. It was only after a few years of the Depression, when unemployment rates were 25% that Americans were willing to accept governments help in job creation. “It is an unhappy land that looks for heroes.” When times are tough we look to the sky in hopes of seeing Superman sweeping in to save the day.

The Image of a Hero

"Heroes must look, and act the part. They must swagger and preen or, if their public's taste inclines the other way, they must make a show of their humility, as Cato did, going indecently underdressed to the Forum. Heroic gestures are frequently histrionic, which is not to say they are frivolous: a symbolic gesture can have substantial consequences."

A hero does not necessarily need to be wearing a cape, and mask in order to "look the part." However, a hero must be one to stand out in a crowd, whether it be by ones image, actions, or simply just being different. Being a hero does not require any need to demonstrate acts of swagger, as Hughes-Hallett indicates. The simplest, and possibly most discreet of actions can make someone a hero. A manifestation of someone becoming a hero through the simplist actions is an advocate for women with breast cancer. An extraordinary undertaking that few women in support of breast cancer do is to shave their heads regardless of the fact that they are not undergoing chemotherapy, these women instantly become heroes to the millions of women suffering from this disease. This is an example of someone becoming a hero through the most uncomplicated of actions. When people advocate for others at their own will, it makes them a hero, most likely not in a historical sense, but the fact that they put others needs ahead of their own makes them a hero to someone.