Rough Drafts and Challenges; A Discussion of Face Value and Opinion, With Help from Neil Postman and Micky Flanagan

Ancient Greece, specifically Ancient Athens, was a place of great honour and distinction; poets, philosophers, mathematicians, physicists and theologists developed theories and paradigms so absolute and extensive in their structure that even to this day, these ancient minds are regarded as geniuses and experts in their fields. These metaphysical spheres of knowledge were so final in their creation that despite technological and intellectual expansion and advancement, modern humanity has yet to find true alternatives to the postulations posed by the Ancient Greeks; it is possible, therefore, to say that the biological and cultural decendants of the Ancient Athenians have done nothing more than prove and expand upon the minds of the Ancient Greeks, often doing nothing more than proving a point that has existed for millenia. The basis of modern democracy, mathematics, art, language, and science can all be traced back to a single individual, or group of individuals, all having been born in Ancient Athens.

The Visigoths, in comparison, provided nothing more to human civilization than proof that killing someone absolutely ends their physical life; doing nothing more than acting as selfish barbarians, the Visigoths are remembered today as a kingdom that enjoyed proving its superiority over other, weaker, existences.

The real question quickly becomes, “Where is the correlation between the two cultures?” Former professor of Communication Arts, Neil Postman, provided his readers and audience this correlation in his satirical graduation speech, aptly titled My Graduation Speech. The speech is a 12-or-so-minute talk discussing the comparison between the two previously detailed cultures, using them as an example of the two kinds of individuals that modern humans can, and often do, become. On the side of the Athenians, humans can grow cultured, worldly, and social, choosing to take interest in the well-being of others, while the humans that are born Visigoths, and who do not evolve past this primitive state of mind, are selfish, brutishly minded individuals, who choose to suffocate in their lack of interest in the progress of those around them.

It is interesting to note that Postman makes a point of stating that humans are born Visigoths and must grow, and quite possibly evolve, into Athenians; unless one is born with a belief in agapism, one is not an Athenian and must learn to overcome their selfish desires, or so he postulates. Despite this statement, one does not necessarily need to be cultured or educated to be an Athenian; quite the contrary, as many Visigoths, Postman admits, that many intelligent and educated humans from well-known universities working in high paying jobs are Visigoths, “And I must tell you, as much in sorrow as in shame, that at some of our great universities…there are professors of whom we may fairly say they are closet Visigoths.” To be an Athenian, one must have nothing more than an interest in their society and must be willing to contribute opinions and ideas that will benefit those around them.

In this regard, English comedian Micky Flanagan, despite his so-called brutish behaviour, his unrefined sense of humour, and overall unconventional academic career, coupled with his remarks about his uncultured behaviour, is a perfect example of an Athenian, owing entirely to his opinions and ideas regarding society, the arts, and education, in addition to his poignant views on culture. Suffice it to say, when an individual mentions culture, literature, music, travel, philosophy and so forth, the image of Micky Flanagan does not readily associate itself with the idea, though therein lies the truth of the matter because, unlike genuine intellectuals who spend hours arguing their points of view and do nothing more than talk about change, Flanagan approaches the concept of social growth through his comedy and involves his audience in the process.

So, as we’ve just finished discussing, Micky Flanagan is an Athenian who many believe is a Visigoth. I’m going to spare my imaginary audience the “Don’t judge a book by its cover” speech because I talked about that point of view in an old issue of TheWeeklyReview, the now nonexistent column I used to write (specifically, this article here). What I will say, however, is this: don’t take things at face value, think beyond what you see, and challenge absolutely everything (and especially challenge what I say, and what others tell you). I’m sure many have gotten this talk before, from teachers, parents, and friends, but the common agreement is that, despite the insistence on us challenging everything, we must not challenge authority.

This is in good reason, though the topic of challenging the police, or government officials is far too political for my liking, which is why I’m going to make sure that everyone understands that I when I say “Challenge authority” I don’t mean get into a fistfight with a police officer over the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Instead, I mean that, when reading or listening to others who lecture or try to educate you, pose questions and try to form your own opinion on matters. I can understand the hypocritical nature of my telling you to do so, and if you are challenging my words right now then I’m glad that I’ve gotten somewhere.

I digress, because my point now, as it will always be is that opinion is the most important thing in the world and that, without it, society, culture, science, and so forth, especially what we have today, would not exist. Worse, it would exist, but it would be covered and cluttered with opinions and thoughts from older times. Without opinion, the world as we know it would not be the world as we know it, and the mere fact that this statement is able to be challenged proves my very obvious point.

The opinionated, and Cosmo Kramer like fellow I had a chance to spend an evening with, The Critic, offered me a bit of advice while we discussedThe Tree of Life. After revealing that I had to view the film twice to understand its meaning, the second time with an analysis of the work at my side to help me with the “translation,” The Critic informed me that I mustn’t take a single opinion to use as my base. Quite the contrary, I should take several opinions and form my own and then, and only then, can I truly come to close to beginning the process of understanding. At the time, I challenged him, admittedly unnecessarily, because he was and still is right. We cannot take a single person’s opinions and ideas and use them as our own, not because it’s plagiarism, but because otherwise, we won’t go anywhere.

The reason the Ancient Greeks are so highly regarded is because they provided the basics for almost everything we have today and it’s because of this that one finds that it’s difficult to challenge their opinions. Of course, in the process, we almost always forget that, during their times, the opinions that Greeks such as Plato, Aristotle and Democritus (the three greeks that Postman used in his essay) were challenged to no end specifically because the ideas they were providing were new and previously never thought of (assuming intellectual theft didn’t occur, of course).

My ultimate point is that we must, challenge every new idea, thought and opinion so we can, as an intelligent species, continue to grow and evolve. My ultimate point is that, even though Postman is partially right in his description, not every individual who acts like a Visigoth is a Visigoth. My ultimate point is that opinion is the most important thing we have in this world, next to words to express them. My ultimate point is that we cannot possibly take things at face value when we need to challenge thought to evolve thought. My ultimate point is that Micky Flanagan is an Athenian.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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