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Perì KunismoûPhálerás te~ On Cynicism and Phalera

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Tuesday, October 2, 2001, 4:47
So, after our late discussion about lyric poetry,
I somehow got to wondering:  if Phalera had a
Homeric epithet, what would it be? _polukunikòs
Phálera_, "Phalera of many cynics", I thought, seems
to serve nicely (it's also almost legitimate hexameter,
too! Just lengthen /ku/ to /ku:/ and /pha/ to /pha:/
and there you go).  But why would Phalera be so cynical
in verse? All governments in this time-frame are to
varying extents oppressive ones, so it couldn't just
be a comment on a poet's political beliefs, since
pogroms, class-conflict and like things associated with
the _Ancien Régime_ wouldn't strike them as weird.
Then, I thought, what else do intellectuals do but
feed on each other's ivory-tower disputes? So, the
natural answer is: Phalera is reknowned for its cynicism
because its *philosophical* systems are fundamentally
cynical. These furthermore are an indirect result of the
several Decades of Terror after rebels smashed several
large asteroids into Earth. This is also thus enshrined
in their vocabulary, the which I herewith describe.

Phaleran ethical philosophers are divided into three
sorts, varying along a continuum that ranges from
ultramystical to ultrarationalist.  The Ultramystical
groups (_Meismarna_) hold that mankind is basically, and
fundamentally bad, evil, not good (_elledi_).  Arguments
wouldn't be very interesting if it stayed there, so they
have to liven things up by creating vast metaphysical
systems to muddy the waters. Men live in a certain ethical
space, or _tlelma_, which is kind of a force that inheres
in space-time.  This _tlelma_ exists in constant motion,
and gives rise spontaneously to life and death, existence
and nonbeing, sentience and obliviousness etc. by the
various contortions in which it winds itself.  The problem
from the human perspective is that because people crave
stability and knowledge, they are in a constant struggle
against _tlelma_.  This struggle is called _woþti_. The
struggle always results in effect with a fleeing from _tlelma_,
which causes men to commit wrong-doing (_morgai_), which
is defined very broadly, and includes everything from
indiscretions of taste to systematic genocide.  Unlike,
say, Buddhism or Christianity, though, there is no route
to "salvation"; human beings are, like Sisyphus, trapped
into this cycle of _woþti_, and can't get out. To avoid
suffering, keep contemplating that fact until you die.
Commiting suicide (_c|empeotla_, lit. "effacing _tlelma_")
is also an acceptable way out.  (This is amazingly popular
in some parts of Phalera.)

The Politico-Hegemonists (_Phrâseiokalyana_) is a midling
group, between the two extremes of total belief in and denial
of ideas and abstractions. Methodologically, this tends
to make them like empiricism and and what is known to
work rather than what might work. Therefore, while they feel
that ethical theories about right and wrong are simply social
constructs (_šatþaina_), they usually think these are useful
social constructs; they don't worry about inconsistency too
much. They tend to look at most questions from a position of
interhuman relations. How does the state (_c'apyaru_) exist?
Why does it exist? Their answer is similar to the one given
in most of our own philosophies, in that states are necessary
for the welfare of the people. Without it, people's basically
selfish instincts (or _ageina_) drive them to extend their
power over others, which leads to anarchy and mass loss of
life. Unlike liberal political theorists, who eschew elitism and
assume that all people are more or less equally capable of
participating in government, the Politico-Hegemonists are
intensely elitist:  there are only a few who have the ability
(_pšunte_) to make decisions necessary to impose order
(_fenaril_) on the masses who, they say, are always ready to
fly apart at the seams.  And who is the currently most suitable
person to fulfill that role? Surprise! It's the Governor of
Twolyeo. This status is naturally reconfirmed at every coronation.

The third major grouping are the biologico-physicists (_Weit'ouna_).
They are philosophical materialists and also usually atheists. They
believe that the basic problem in human existence is that every
individual is biologically predisposed to see the world from his
or her point of view, rather than others. They claim that all the
theorizing about right and wrong (_k'ina_, _hlaika_), about ontology
(_thârþoia_) and epistemology (_sitoia_), and all the ethical and
legal systems of the world are failed attempts to address this
fundamentally genetic issue. (Ironically, it is they who usually
produce the most literature about these subjects.) This leads them
to favor a form of eugenics (_geltrantoia_), which they have never
quite been able to get off the ground due to the usually violent
opposition of the Meismarna, for whom the Weit'ouna have intense
disdain, and the Phrâseiokalyana, for whom it would lead to a mass
disruption of the social caste system.

So, each of these major schools basically all mutually can't stand
the other two. It is actually possible, though, if one is skeptical
enough of the movement, to consider oneself to belong to more than
one movement. Most of the elite classes, either of the Inveterate
or the Noviate nobility, tend to favor the Phrâseiokalyana, for
obvious reasons, but many also tend to one of the two more extreme

(Need it be said that I don't personally endorse any of the beliefs
of this society?)

Thomas Wier <trwier@...>

"If a man demands justice, not merely as an abstract concept,
but in setting up the life of a society, and if he holds, further,
that within that society (however defined) all men have equal rights,
then the odds are that his views, sooner rather than later, are going
to set something or someone on fire." Peter Green, in _From Alexander
to Actium_, on Spartan king Cleomenes III