Sunday 24 July 2016

Aristotle's email to Erdoğan

Dear Recep

cc  MustafaKemal@atürk 

Assos with view over to Lesbos
I recently came back from the Great Lyceum in the Sky for a nostalgic visit to my old stomping grounds. I spent two years of my life in the west of Turkey, at Assos (now known as Behramkale), with its beautiful Doric temple of Athena. I was invited there, after Plato died, by its ruler, Hermias, and enjoyed teaching him philosophy.

Where has my statue gone? Assos garbage can
Three Years Ago
I am distressed to discover that the lifesize statue of me which enhanced the village square has recently been removed, as a British Professor of Classics has alerted me. The plinth is now used a public rubbish bin. It was bad enough in the old days that the Behramkalites got my name wrong and called me ‘Aristo’ (an ugly abbreviation which I resented). But deliberately to have erased any sign that rational Greek philosophy and science flourished at Assos under my tutelage is to take your ideological war on openness of intellectual enquiry a bit far.

There is now no mention of me anywhere on the site. There is no Aristotle fridge magnet on any tourist gizmo stall. I found only this garden gnome-like mini-me outside an empty café, with no name inscribed. What is going on? Are you so scared of intellectual debate and pre-Islamic history that you just delete them?

I wrote quite a bit of my Politics at Assos, because Hermias wanted to reform his one-man rule (which we used straightforwardly to call a tyranny instead of pretending it was a democracy).  Although I have now repudiated my former prejudicial view of women, and see that slavery was indefensible, I stand by most of what I wrote and think you need reminding of my observations.

1.    Tyrants abuse religion to consolidate their power in the state.
2.    Nobody can expect to make money out of the community and to receive its respect as well.
3.  States malfunction when there are no friendly partnerships in operation between the individuals who constitute the state, only suspicion and envy.
4. Tyrants discourage any activities amongst citizens which foster self-esteem and self-confidence. These activities include academic work, the formation of study-circles and other arenas for debate.
5. The goal in a real democracy is liberty; your democracy sounds like my definition of tyranny, where the goal is the autocrat’s personal self-protection.
6. As I will explain in my work on Rhetoric, torture doesn’t work. Those subjected to torture are as likely to give false evidence as true, while others are equally ready to make false charges against others, in the hope of being sooner released from torture.

Atatürk Birth Museum
I trust that after digesting this you will free everybody you have recently arrested, reinstall my statue in Assos, and celebrate the contribution made by my human-centred and effectively secular Virtue Ethics to world civilisation. I invite you to visit my other old homes in Macedonia and Stagira to discuss this further. 

You can come by ferry to Thessaloniki, where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was born. While you’re there you can visit the Atatürk Museum to be reminded of another, very different vision of a modern Turkey.  

Yours sincerely
Aristotle son of Nicomachus of Stagira.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting and disturbing post. Yes they are afraid of pre-islamic history, because anything pre or even post islam is just nothing. Islam understands itself in terms of a dispensation, not granted to man before the prophet. As for Aristotle on slavery, his argument in support of it is so weak it reads like a poor conversational gambit, to stimulate discussion. I don't think he believed for a moment in the idea of a 'natural slave'.