Vasilios Theodorakis – An Online Author is a digital repository of all my written work (in text and podcast formats)…

October 29, 2010

Site Update 059

Filed under: General — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 7:05 pm

It’s back to working on my old anthologies and this week’s poem dates from Christmas 1989. It was written for a work colleague at David Jones who was a great support to many people. Its called: Warmth

The author of the week is the great American poet: Walt Whitman.

Cheers – Vasilios Theodorakis – October 2010

October 22, 2010

In The Absence Of Religion

Filed under: Culture And Society,Religion And Theology — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 4:19 pm

Years ago, one of my social work colleagues entrusted me with the horrors she experienced during the break up of the old Yugoslavia. Much of what she described is far too graphic for the likes of this little blog, so let me give you the sterilised version. Both her and her husband grew up in a tiny village along the boarder of Croatia and Serbia, and identified themselves as Croatian Muslims. Their village was made up of both Roman Catholic Christians and Muslims who were descended from Ottoman Turks. The two groups had lived together harmoniously for decades, but when the Serbian army reached their village, the soldiers tried to separate out the groups. All the women of child bearing age were rounded up and raped and all the men, irrespective of age, were taken to concentration camps. Her husband, and a few others managed to escape, get back to the village and help her and some relatives get across the boarder into Hungary. From there, they eventually gained refugee status and migrated to Australia.

Why did this colleague share her ordeal with me? At the time I was an overly zealous young social worker and notorious for touting the virtues of Orthodox Christianity. Her experiences and pain very quickly brought my naivety about religion to an end. Interestingly, she never blamed the Orthodox Christian Faith for what happened to her. She believed that no genuine religious person could have done what those Serbian soldiers had done.

Her story did get me thinking about the sociological basis to law and order, and helped me come up with the following idea in the 1990s.

If an individual has genuinely internalised a peace loving religion and uses that religion to inform their conscience they cannot carry out such horrendous acts – even if society falls apart. Why? Because they carry around within themselves a sense of right and wrong.

On the other hand, if an individual has not internalised their religion and does not have an internal yard stick directing what is right and wrong, their morality is governed by external restraints i.e. like a society’s laws. Therefore, were a society to fall into anarchy, as Yugoslavia did, and were most of its citizens secular with no internal yard sticks of right and wrong, then its not hard to see how individuals without a personal morality could perpetuate the barbaric acts that were carried out on my friend’s village.

Unfortunately, as I’m no academic, I never carried out any serious research to back up my theory. Many refugee horror stories however, tend to support its premise, even if that premise makes people who lead secular lifestyles in stable societies like Australia very uncomfortable.

So my question to the good secular atheist is this: you live your life based on what external forces tell you is right and wrong i.e. the laws of society. What happens if those laws are suddenly removed, and you have no law courts or police officers telling you what to do or what not to do? What will you use as your reference point? What will pass as “right” and what will pass as “wrong” and who will decide it for you? Or do you think you are some how different to those Serbian soldiers who suddenly realised they no longer had to answer to anybody or anything! I fear that most people who are not bound by a code of ethnics, drawn from a higher power, revert very quickly to their animal state – we are not as advanced as we’d like to think!

Despite how untrendy it is to adhere to a religion and internalise a moral yard stick, I fear it’s the only thing that will save civilisation in the long term. Shocking case studies, such as those that occurred during the break up of Yugoslavia or the civil wars in Africa, add weight to my theory and the notion that just being “a good person” really means nothing. Nothing that is, unless an individual’s morality is drawn from God and written in their heart!

Post Update: 26/11/2010
A friend recently challenged me on part of this post’s premise, and on reflection, I have to concede that internalising morality and ethics need not be based on religion. The important thing is that one’s moral yardstick is (or has become) an internal construct and is not based on external enforcement! In this way even the secular can maintain law and order even if their social system has collapsed. Thanks for highlighting this John M.

Copyright © Vasilios Theodorakis 2010

October 15, 2010

When Political Polling Overrides Commonsense

Filed under: Culture And Society — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 11:47 am

While listening to the radio during this week’s unseasonal rain, I had the misfortune of hearing our illustrious premier, Ms Bligh, comment on the state of water restrictions in Queensland. Her public statement being – “our polling of the community indicates that people are happy for us to leave in place the current water restrictions, so that’s what we’ll be doing.”

Despite me not being in the best of health, I couldn’t help but fall on the ground in a fit of laughter or was that just me chocking in disbelief – I can’t tell the difference anymore. :) For those of you unaware as to what is happening in the city of Brisbane, we’ve been living under a regime of water restrictions, despite the fact that our dams are almost full. This week saw the dams, not only reach capacity, but the water authorities had to open the flood gates and empty an enormous amount of water into the Brisbane river which in turn spills out into Moreton Bay. As I write this piece, water is being wasted in huge amounts by the government while the average person isn’t allowed to irrigate fruit and vegetables on their own land because of an ad hoc daily water quota!

What is truly incredulous, is that our leader is unashamedly making decisions based on polls and ignoring common sense. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that if the dams are full as we enter the rainy season, there is no longer a catchment mechanism to prevent Brisbane’s natural flood plains from being inundated with water. If anything, the premier should be encouraging people to use as much water as possible in the lead up to the rainy season – maybe even temporarily reduce the cost of water, so that the dam levels are lower and thus prevent a 1974 style flood. Such a decision, based on compassion for your constituency, might also ensure the water is put to good use instead of being flushed out into the bay.

Unfortunately, our politicians are currently incapable of adjusting their position to deal with changed circumstances and the general population will suffer the consequences.

So my question to the premier is this – Where’s your so called leadership Ms Bligh? I fear if you keep making stupid decisions based on what you think people want, not only will you and your right wing labour party be annihilated at the next election, your lack of common sense will endanger the state’s citizens!

Copyright © Vasilios Theodorakis 2010

October 11, 2010

When Does Sport Become Immoral?

Filed under: Culture And Society — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 8:06 pm

Despite what goes on in Australia, sport should be an adjunct to life not the basis to life. If everything else is going well and there is time left over in the day, then sport, especially something like athletics, is a wonderful thing to add into the mix of a balanced life. I should know – in my youth I was an obsessed sprinter and used to love to run in my spare time. Even as an adolescent though, I could never have put “running” ahead of the well being of a fellow human being – not under any circumstances.

Today of course, we have career athletes who earn a good living out of athletics – a natural development I suppose when you look at the economics of other aspects of our society. In itself there’s nothing wrong with earning a living out of what you’re good at – what is a problem however, is when someone is determined to earn a living out of it and ignore the consequences of those actions on other people.

Lets take for instance the situation in Delhi. By simply participating in the current Commonwealth Games, people are indirectly supporting the fact that the local government chose to spend 15 billion (US) dollars on a two week event rather than create housing for millions of homeless people in that city. Attending, participating and following a sporting event under these circumstances, is sending a message to the Indian government that it’s OK to prioritise a transient thing over the life long well being of your own citizens.

Obviously, it could be argued that this also applies to any other field of endeavour, not just sport. In order to avoid being entangled in such an ethical mess, you need to think through how your action or inaction cascades and effects others. After living with my own head in the sand for far too many years, I now have a very basic rule of thumb that guides my social activism and that is – “if you ignore your effect on your surroundings, you are definitely part of the problem!” – a play on – “…if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.” [1977, C. McFadden, Serial xxvi.]

In living this approach, I don’t think you need to construct some grand solution and then be a part of that construction. All you need to do is tread lightly and minimise any detrimental effect you have on your fellow human beings, other creatures and your environment. If we adhere to this one thing, then any of us can participate in a sporting event, or any other event for that matter, with a clear conscience.

Copyright © Vasilios Theodorakis 2010

October 8, 2010

Site Update 058

Filed under: General — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 7:29 pm

I seem to be on a role with commentaries about everything and anything at the moment, so I’ll keep uploading them and hope the material doesn’t get too boring for people.

This week’s pieces include two very recent commentaries and one short poem about the industrial and inhumane slaughter of domestic animals in Western countries.

The poem is called – Oceans Of Misery
The commentaries include – Am I An I Or A We? and Living In The Grey.

There’s no author of the week for this site update but I’ll have one again next time.

Cheers – Vasilios Theodorakis – October 2010

October 4, 2010

Living In The Grey

Filed under: Culture And Society,Religion And Theology — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 10:35 am

Those living with a log in their eye should not be preaching to those living with a splinter in theirs. Reference – Matthew 7:3

We are unfortunately surrounded by institutions and personalities who claim a holier than thou stance, yet in reality do despicable things to other beings or have despicable personal lives. There are of course the very good (the saints) and the very bad (the demons) – both of which walk amongst us – but most humans fall somewhere in between. I’m definitely one of these middle dwellers.

Being neither a particularly good nor a particularly bad person, my life continues to be lived in the grey, no matter how hard I try to improve myself. I therefore think the best any of us can hope for is to be honest about who and what we are on a day to day basis. To pretend otherwise wastes everyone’s time and doesn’t allow for genuine improvement.

Keeping in mind this general shortcoming, I strongly believe having a single human role model is not only a nonsense but down right dangerous. No human being is that Godly and should not be placed on too high a pedestal. The God-Man i.e. Christ, is of course the exception to the rule.

In spite of this, at least one thing can always be learned from every individual. To not look for that lesson in each day’s interpersonal encounters is a temporal tragedy.

Copyright © Vasilios Theodorakis 2010

October 2, 2010

Am I An I Or A We?

Filed under: General — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 6:30 pm

We are a collection of cells working in unison, but what does that mean? Each cell is a life form and can exist separately, but does each cell therefore have our personality and soul? Or does the personality only become apparent and is only an expression of the group of cells that makes up our bodies? To think of ourselves as these separate living cells can get very confusing! Thank goodness for the discipline of metaphysics. :)

Copyright © Vasilios Theodorakis 2010

October 1, 2010

Oceans Of Misery

Filed under: Ungrouped — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 9:03 pm

Rivers of blood pooling across the planet.

Terra bound screams keeping aliens at bay.

Murder of sentience on a massive scale.

Humanity will answer for all that it’s done.

Losing its right to its current existence.

Copyright © Vasilios Theodorakis 2010

Site Update 057

Filed under: General — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 8:28 pm

The Golden Bridge was written just after I was physically revived in the P.A. Hospital in 1991. The initial version was written on the 29th August of that year. Its based on life’s link between the invisible and visible world – the living and the dead. i.e. our minds.

Its subject matter is an imaginary encounter with my childhood role model – my great grandmother – Malamati, and talks a lot about fundamental hopes for the future.

The author of the week is the 70s and the 80s TV scriptwriter Glen A. Larsen who developed stories like Battlestar Galactica and Knight Rider.

Cheers – Vasilios Theodorakis – October 2010

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