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Thoughts for aces

Filip Kovacevic

Making the World a Better Place

Centuries ago in the ancient Greece, a stranger asked the well-known philosopher Anaxagoras whether he kept in touch with his native city. He looked at the person for a moment and, then, slowly pointed his finger to the skies. “I care very much about what is going on up there” was his response. The stranger left puzzled. He did not understand what the great philosopher wanted to say. He could not understand how it could be the case that someone’s native city was up there, in the skies. Later Anaxagoras explained to his students: “You see, I feel that this whole wide world, this whole universe full of wonders and surprises, is my native land. All that exists on this blue planet of ours is my true homeland. This is why I pointed to the skies. The skies unite us all into one community, no matter where we come from, what language we speak, what gods we worship, if any. We are all one and that is how we should live.”

 

In many ways, I feel like Anaxagoras. I was born in this particular geographical area, but it could well have been any other. It was all a matter of accident, of certain decisions my parents made. Should I then make this accident into the primary feature of my identity? I think not. It would not be logical to build so much on such flimsy grounds. It would be like building a castle in the sand or a house of cards. The tide comes or the wind blows, and it is all gone. Is it not more logical to feel all humanity as one community, to believe that the true homeland is not any particular country which can be found on the map, but all the countries, and all the peoples.

I require only one condition to make me feel at home wherever I go. This condition is the spirit of inquiry and questioning, of courageous exploration and discovery. Where the critical spirit reigns, there I feel at home. This is so because the presence of the critical attitude with an eye to constant improvement makes any place into the place that cherishes the greatest universal values: equality, solidarity, tolerance, justice, beauty, and truth.

This should not be taken to mean that I look down on my place of birth as unworthy of passionate attachment and devotion. Quite the contrary. I am committed to making it better every day by being an active citizen, open-minded teacher, newspaper columnist, and political analyst. But I take care not to privilege this emotion over the emotions I felt when the good people all over the world in the countries where I lived or visited for an extended period of time - for instance, in the USA, Russia, Brazil, France, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Belarus, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania - opened their homes to me and accepted me as a friend. I think that it is only from the standpoint of this kind of a cosmopolitan orientation that one can be truly committed to one’s birthplace. I believe it is only the citoyen du monde (the citizen of the world) who loves his or her native country with a love that is free of that curse of the weak-spirited and the aggressive – nationalism.

 

Yes, nationalism is a great social and political scourge in Europe and beyond and we need – the humanity needs – all caring teachers and scholars to begin to work together and develop their proposals for the setting up of a political system where hatred, prejudice, and bigotry will be eliminated from human existence. What needs to be accomplished is no less than a paradigm shift, a revolution of the mind which can set us all free to become what we are, because, in the final analysis, we are all we can be, we are our possibilities. And the possibilities of Eros, the life force that combines elements into bigger wholes, are, in my opinion, stronger than those of Thanatos, the destructive force of violence. Life with its joys, happiness, and cheer must be helped to triumph over death with its brutality, desolation, and misery.

 

In order to do my part in that great scheme for a better life of all, I have chosen to become a teacher and a public intellectual. I took my cue from Socrates. His task, as Plato describes it in The Apology, was to “question, cross-examine and test everyone … and if I [Socrates] think he does not possess virtue but only says so, I will show that he sets very little value on things most worthy, and sets more value on meaner things.” This virtue that Socrates talks about is what we would today call “excellence”. Excellence means doing the best one can, considering one’s interests, care, and abilities in order to help others get to know universal things, things that bind us all together as human beings, as fellow citizens on this small, miraculous planet. I therefore consider it my task to assist whoever comes my way to attain that excellence, that state when the potential which the individual carries within himself or herself like a hidden seed blossoms and is realized to its fullest extent. This is no easy task, but I welcome its pleasures and its pains, its hopes and its disappointments, its successes and its failures. And I recommend to all others to pursue excellence in their own lives as well. This is the only way we will make this world a better place for all.

 

Source: Diogenes Laertius, "Life of Anaxagoras" in The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Translated by C.D. Yonge (http://classicpersuasion.org/pw/diogenes/).

 

 

Biography Filip Kovacevic

Filip Kovacevic has been teaching political psychology and psychoanalytic theory at the University of Montenegro since 2005. He received his PhD in the US where he lived for more than a decade and later taught for two years at St. Petersburg State University in Russia. He is the author of Liberating Oedipus?Psychoanalysis as Critical Theory (2007), No Pasaran: Zbirka tekstova (2010), Lakan u Podgorici: Ciklus predavanja (2010), Markuze u Podgorici: Ciklus predavanja (2012) and a number of articles published in international academic journals.  He has lectured on psychoanalytic social theory and contemporary philosophy in several European countries. He is an activist public intellectual, a columnist of the Montenegrin daily newspaper Vijesti and the independent weekly Monitor, and a political analyst for the print and electronic media in Montenegro and beyond.

 

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