WHAT'S IN A NAME? "YOUR CIVILIZATION, OF COURSE...!"

27/02/2017

Our disassociation from linguistic memory is reflected in the fact that more and more people in the West respond to monosyllabic sounds, like household pets. George, Dick, Greg, Bill have the same semantic effect on humans as 'Butch' has on a dog...

It is a law of nature! Most man-made monocultures cannot bear fruit and sometimes not even survive without fertilizers. They bear no fruit without fertilizer and chemicals that protect them against disease and unwanted organisms that would otherwise hinder their growth. Monocultures (like the lawn of one΄s front yard) are systems devoid of multi-organisms that would enrich the soil with minerals and vitamins equipping them with immunity against malignant invaders. They are at the mercy of their one-dimensional fate - to exhaust the soil that has nourished them, dwindle and die.

Unlike monocultures, forests survive on their own without human intervention. Nature plays her ever-blooming game in the orgy of her complexity, an eternal intercourse of micro-organisms, insects and animals hosted within her all-encompassing Sylvan embrace. Vibrant with life, rich in substances, the soil of forests sustains the incomparable harmony and diversity of paradise on earth.

The same law applies to all living organisms of our planet, not excluding mankind since our physical make up is just as complex and diverse as Mother Nature herself. By the same token, we cannot survive unless our diet, like soil, includes a rich variety of life-sustaining substances. Taking it a step further, this rule applies to everything that acts in this wonderful world of ours; and human societies are of no exception. The greater the retention of historical elements chronicling the heritage and the cultural memory of a nation, the higher the standard of civilization and the healthier perpetuation of identity enjoyed by its people. For within cultural wealth, language, literature and the arts bloom, philosophy and social solidarity thrive and flourish like a self-sufficient forest, a poly-organism that needs to import no "fertilizer."

However, nowadays, the planet is being decimated to prepare the soil for monocultures. The greatest blow to both nature and humankind was inflicted by the modern means of transport. Man's addiction to swift mobility placed an increasing demand on the fuel industry. Metaphorically, we could interpret the drills and pumps that descended into the depths of the earth as the releasers of the beasts and monsters that the Olympians had incarcerated in the depths of Tartarus in order to secure harmony on earth. We could further look upon roads as the far-reaching tentacles of these creatures which have coiled their lengths around man who is at the mercy of what he has unleashed.

Besides, how could he regain control, since humankind was also ground through the gears of industry? As the nineteenth century drew to a close, man's spirit and cultural diversity was also put to the plough. Under the steel blade of the Industrial Revolution, agriculturally oriented societies, once interwoven with nature and age old traditions, were uprooted, as was humankind's spiritual equilibrium.

In its fragmented state, humanity now shares the fate of all superficial monocultures. That is to say, as all agricultural monocultures require chemicals for their sustenance, so do the now easily manipulated homogenized human masses feed on the beam-emitting screen conduit of the mass media. TV dictates modes of predictable human behaviour, just as chemical hormones ordain the desired growth of plants. Besides, cut off from nature and traditions, humanity is condemned to a state of oblivion whose gap is filled by the artificial world of the screen. While the world of the screen ordains behavioural patterns, the monotonous, mono-rhythmic beats of modern music direct the piston-like movement of human heads that propel the monocultural mechanism of Homo Digitalis-Consumis.

The degradation of human cultures is further reflected in language and in art. Cliché phrases and typified meanings that ring of an Orwellian world have been tailored to our minimalist societies. It seems that the prefix 'mono' as in 'monocultures' has permeated every facet of our predicament. This is especially evident in the lowest common denominator of entertainment - pop culture of our English-speaking world. Although a great tool for global communication at a business level, with a few exceptions, the mongrel composition of English hardly caries the linguistic memory of older languages that had greater indigenous fermentation with philosophy, myth, history and science.

This absence of linguistic memory is particularly evident in names. In older languages a name bore identity and carried with it a wish of the parent for his/her child or even a trait of the bearer. In Greek for instance, 'Plato' (broad) was given to the philosopher because of his broad shoulders and breadth of thought, 'Demosthenes' meant 'the stamina of the people', 'Ariston' (he who excels) was a common wish name, 'Helen' meant the 'luminescent one,' etc.

Cultures would produce their own names, which was an indication of indigenous cultural development and transmitted wisdom. As the English speaking world had to import both language and names to fill the void, once wrested from the Bronze Age by the more advanced Romans, many words were borrowed from Greek and Latin. However, this diction did not function in derivatives for the speakers of the language to access its semantics. The consequence of this disassociation from linguistic memory is reflected in the fact that more and more people in the West respond to monosyllabic sounds, like household pets. George, Dick, Greg, Bill have the same effect on humans as 'Butch' has on a dog; for a 'George' is hardly aware that his name stems from the Greek 'Geo' (Earth) and 'orgos' (he who stimulates - hence 'orgasm,' 'organization,' etc.), in other words, he who stimulates the earth - a farmer.

What is alarming is that over the years Anglophone pop culture has had an adverse effect on older societies. The impressionable youth of older cultures are recruited into its ranks through the catchy beats of pop music. In Greece this is also reflected in names. Before the exposure of the country to the effects of the international mass media, for instance, it would have been unheard of for a 'Eugenia" to shift to 'Jenny,' or a 'Vasilios' to prefer 'Billy'.

One might say: So what? What's in a name?

Not much, other than the fact that one's incognizance of a simple thing such as one's understanding of the name he/she bears throught a lifetime is indicative of one's broader understanding/oblivion as to the meaning of things. As in the case of American Indians, it would have been unheard of for a Greek to bear a name whose meaning did not strum meaningful/semantic chords according to the bearers persona. Τhe Athenian philosopher Antisthenes supported that "the principle of wisdom lies in the study of names and words," whilst the great Pythagoras held that one should traverse life in quest of his/her real name, meaning that self knowledge is paramount to existence.

Like music and language, visual art and architecture also mirror the schism of humans from nature and from the memory of harmony. The lowest common denominator is also applied there, as reflected in the 20th-century-coined word "minimalism." through which mediocrity acquires counterfeit 'substance' and forged 'prestige' enabling like mediocre art critics to quasi-intellectually declare "profound," let's say, a canvas hosting a black background and a white dot. From Picasso's cubistic approach to the human figure, which he so aptly employed to portray deformed and fragmented modern man, to the cubical and rectangular minimalistic monstrosities cropping up in the world's towns and cities, the absence of Mnemosyne (memory) is all too manifest. The soil has been thoroughly tilled to accommodate the growth of the burgeoning human monoculture of homus digitalis consumis, the digital consumer.

It seems that art, language and the substance of names have devolved in tune with our memorycidal times...


THERE WAS A TIME

There was a time when sound alone could not produce a name;

one proudly bore identity much like a steed its

mane.

There was a time when verdant woods alluring mystery

bred;

when arbour-dwelling, playful gods inspiring Muses

led.

Oh cursed be the hand and blade that severed nature's

cord

and cast into this wasteland man without his Sylvan

Lord!

There was a time when cypresses assumed a Doric

form,

supporting metopes, pediments to heaven's dome

adorn.

Anathema's the era that descended deep

below

releasing beasts of Tartarus to strike the final

blow!

There was a time when harmony presided over

all;

when in the midst of trees peripatetics sought a

goal.

The cypressis engulfed in flames by the infernal

foe,

the swan song of Hellas resounds within its crackling woe.

There was a time when sound alone could not produce a

name.

In our forsaken, hopeless state all meanings seem

inane.