Dear Director-General, Unesco,
Recently, and by invitation, I heard your comprehensive and impressive Belfer Center interview. I was also surprised and disappointed that not even once did I hear the word philosophy, from either host or guest. I would suggest that philosophy deserves a place at the heavenly table. A once common slogan was: “There is no humanity without philosophy”! I believe you yourself once said, philosophy is a bastion against the narrowing of opinion and of minds. When Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary-General placed education first with civic education at the forefront and called for global citizenship, Unesco recommended a “Strategy for Philosophy” and inaugurated a World Philosophy Day. It proclaimed there is no Unesco without philosophy! But does Unesco have any philosophers?
Justinian ousted Greek philosophers from Constantinople. As they scattered, many went East to give the Persian poets access to the works of ancient Greece. They were later translated into Arabic and then passed on to the West. On a threshold of despair, Persian literary tradition saw butterflies and moths in love with light, drawn to flames, and candles. They wander in a force field of fate, find their way to the source and catch fire and are no more. In Greek mythology, a butterfly of hope is given by the gods to man, which flutters out following catastrophe’s fallout.
Although I admire the work of Melina Mercouri, Greek Minister of Culture and that of her deputy Manolis Hadzinakis I believe that culture belongs with people and institutions, which should have the resources to transform scholastic philosophy developed and mainly studied in university and unable to offer solutions to contemporary problems and challenges as humanity comes ever closer to self-destruction. Realizing the Herculean task in global problem solution and the daily life challenges for most earth citizens, Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General proclaimed the initiative: “Education first!”, appealing for the spread of universal civic education on Earth and for supranational global citizenship, as originally suggested by Socrates and a path carved out by Asklepios who with his student Hippocrates proclaimed: “We have an opinion… let’s consider it ... if it is not confirmed by evidence we can change it”!
The development of humanity, human thought, culture and all cultural phenomena is strongly connected to philosophy in its study of fundamental problems, our existence and concept of it, meaning, knowledge, speech, mind-brain dichotomy, language, and our value characterize cultured minds, minds that have the capacity to examine a proposal without necessarily accepting it. What a developmental gesture if Unesco can cause a butterfly to emerge.
Your Belfer Center presentation with a focus on cultural diplomacy, however, was impressive, explicit, famously detailed and provided a sense of optimism to the background of existential problems for your all too important agenda. On behalf of the World Philosophical Forum1 (WPF), Athens I wish you Godspeed on our road to a better-imagined world. Your predecessor Irina Bokova strongly supported the kick-off of the WPF in 2009 and in continuum. Let me also say as a midterm octogenarian you reminded me of my youthful enchantment in listening to French girls speaking English. Igor Kondrashin, President, WPF recently presented his Memorandum to Humanity.
With perseverance, you continue to engage in reasoned and seasoned dialogue of diplomacy to find solutions to challenges beyond our control as well as to educate and enlighten citizens and to equip them to fight, stupidity, prejudice and social dementia. Although Unesco once promoted the concept of global citizenship to reflect the thinking of Socrates, not one country (including Greece) adopted it. He also gave us an interesting and simple dichotomy for order-disorder, system-chaos, creativity-destruction in stones, bricks, tiles, disorderly scattered on the ground or arranged in a functional erected dwelling.
Let me add that the European Center Peace and Development, (ECPD) Belgrade whose current President, Federico Mayor is one of your predecessors has interests in diplomacy including cultural, protection of ethnic cultures, restoration of churches in Kosovo and mosques in the Republic of Srpska and the interface of civilizations. Within that context, I have spoken on the Inscriptions of Argos: Birth of cultural heritage protection. The Inscription is a decree etched in marble relating to making amends and settling claims between two Cretan cities of asymmetrical power. I have also connected the said institution to Asia where it now has an outreach professor in Islamic thought and philosophy. Unesco-Greece awards the Melina Mercouri International Prize for Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes. One suggestion would be to encourage Greek Unesco to move in these directions. Using a wave-particle model to heal wounds from the League of Nations to the United Nations and in the third wave, World Government. Cultural diversity is essential to all social, political and economic processes, including the healing of humanity.
Great efforts are called for to reverse the accumulating misery of man, indiscriminate killing of civilians in bloody conflicts, and the senseless loss of migrants in the Mediterranean, while maintaining social justice and human dignity. One pillar would be a strengthening of the concept of know-what and a return to the principles of wisdom, reason and morality embedded in classical philosophy. We ask that you cultivate the forces of philosophy and in such efforts, the WPF stands with you; this in the name of a better future for all children and our children’s children.
Dag Hammarskjold once said that the United Nations was created to save humanity from hell for which I would say and from social dementia on earth. Neither hell nor social dementia provide enlightenment, or an olive branch to wave or culture to inspire but only an enlarging button to be pressed by accident or intent. With one misstep with nuclear weapons, evolution can unravel and human consciousness and culture disintegrate. Delay in dealing with climate change will further disrupt physiological homeostasis and biological immunity. Artificial intelligence can be a boon to doom or help in the reduction of coming uncertainties. These problems are interrelated and one mix leads to greater inequality and social dementia. The denial of a complex problem or the promotion of an oversimplified solution is a disservice to mankind. Your support of the struggling Greek branch of the World Philosophical Forum.
1 World Philosophical Forum, Greek Annex, 12th Dialectical Symposium, Athens, Greece 7-10 October 2021, Parnassos, Philological Association (Agios Georgios Karytsis Square) Theme: Practical Philosophy as a vehicle of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue for the creation of Global Political Consciousness. It will be presided over by Steven Roy. It will take place at the time of 200 years of free Greece and with ecological disaster in the Mediterranean, Athens besieged by smoke as extreme and deadly weather conditions in Europe became commonplace while in every region the voice of water, telling of endless disaster is heard and feared and human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. Throughout Europe and the World, peoples are in a state of psychological confusion and their societies in the throes of social dementia.