A’ — The Family, the source of Human Tragedy (the common secret)

I  want to dedicate this text  to my friend  Christina, who I  have known for more than 50 years, and to my sister  Martha, younger by 3  years. Christina has lived almost all of her life in Montreal , Canada, while my sister has spent her youth in Montreal, Canada, before moving to Athens in 1971, with her mother and our younger sister.

Christina and Martha are in their 60s , they are mothers and grandmothers , they are educated and dynamic, and in theory they are progressive with liberal values.

From a very young age, growing up in Egypt, and after in Montreal, Canada, disposing of great sensibilities and an astute mind, I tried to comprehend the reasons why the majority of the people I knew, were so alienated and distant from feelings of love, eroticism and their imagination.

I tried to understand why the people around me, starting from my own family, my relatives and acquaintances , seemed so repressed and one-dimensional, not able to express their real self freely and creatively. They were all making their life difficult and miserable, accepting passively society’s  life priorities which had very little in common with the complex nature of  their own being.

A human nature which is based on the free expression of feeling and preferences , on a creative adventure to free knowledge and self-knowledge, meaning our own truth.

From a very young age , I was an intensely thinking individual with a highly developed sense of the human identity and its creative abilities. I recognized my freedom to live out my own reality through my thinking process , through my imagination and through my sense of the metaphysical dimensions of everyday existence.

I was and still am in close proximity to the phantasmagoric aspects and the mosaic of human existence, where the real creative initiatives come from the human instinct , a well- balanced dialectic and  an intense need to live a mortal reality dynamically and serenely.

All societal forces  around me did their utmost to impose barriers in order to limit my freedoms and my proclivities , especially my family. The family which is the pillar of society, the pillar of a decadent , destructive and inhumane social edifice.

They pressed upon me enormously and forcefully to follow and acquiesce to society’s prerogatives which were based on existential insecurity and personal fear, on despotism and human guilt , with its prime goal to dominate and exploit ‘’the other’’ , using every method and any means.

This is the reason why all of these established societal components with architect the ‘’family’’ as a permanent social institution, have made great efforts during human civilization and human development, to restrict human creativity, the freedom of human expression and spiritual oneness.

They reinforced a societal dystopia where everything evolves through blind faith and a passive human stance, through artificial and unnatural set of life’s  priorities , through mimicry of virtual reality and through human ignorance and insecurity.

Because practically and pragmatically I  act upon utilizing my primitive instinct which has no reference or connection to societal parameters which negate my abilities to think for myself and apply my creative potentials, I decided very early in life that this faulty social construct of the absurd to just completely write it off and ignore.

Diplomatically and with a smile , I distanced myself from this artificial and totalitarian societal edifice.

Using this strategy and social stance, I was able to preserve my sanity and persevere, and live out real and magical moments, which I am sure very few people have experienced in their lives. Similarly , very lucky are my students and my close acquaintances who have shared with me these spontaneous and authentic moments.

I have never taken seriously the canons which society has tried to impose on me and the labels they have assigned to me. For me society in its entirety represents an imperfect existential setting , made up of cowardly, venomous and mediocre actors, who have chosen to sacrifice their own personality and identity in order to be compliant with the social establishment.

This easy existential formula by the large  majority of people, I absolutely rejected, respecting my own person and the creative adventure which life has bestowed on me , an adventure that no mortal being  can predict because it comes from nature’s dialectic procession.

Before I  address myself to the main theme of my article which is ‘’the family’’, I would like to refer to the  postulates of the ‘’pre-Socratic  philosopher’’ Empedocles (495B.C.- 435B.C.) , who wrote a philosophical text where he analyses the human elements which determine the concept of what a human being(το όν) really is. The title of this text is ‘’in reference to the nature of humans’’ (περί φύσεως των όντων).

In one of his lectures, one of his students asked Empedocles about the nature of the ‘’non-human’’ (μη –όν). The teacher answered simply by saying that the (non-human) is someone someone who does not live out his or her own reality. In his answer he did not refer to adhering to society’s social maxims or respecting the laws of the city-state. A real human being had to make personal choices in defining his or her life priorities, without any external intervention.

Going back now to the subject of our article, which is ‘’the family as a source of human tragedy’’, I would start by emphasizing the fact that the ‘’horrifying’’ and ‘’bloody’’ historical process of humanity is the product or the consequence of the ‘’paranoid’’ and ‘’unnatural’’ values  of the family , the archetype of society, which are based on ‘’artificial maxims’’ and not on a universal value system  as this is recorded in ancient sacred texts of  all  civilizations, great and small.

These are the facsimile or fictitious criteria of the ruling class and the family, which in essence are similar in the history of mankind, because both of them are directly related to ‘’power’’ and ‘’control’’. They don’t reflect on  free human expression and the dialectic, but on ‘’blind compliance’’ to society’s established canons which legitimize and reinforce human inequalities and the exploitation of the weak by those who are powerful and are in a privileged position.

One could say that the main  function of human society and the family as institutions is to restrain , limit and weaken the individual as a dynamic and creative social unit, especially the socially weak individual. It aims at dominating and finally at neutralizing it.

The best historical paradigm of such a policy is ‘’the social institution of war’’, which is initiated by the elite classes and powerful individuals , in order to insure and protect their social privileges , a common social characteristic of all historical epochs and all civilizations. All of these societal entities project war as an ‘’innate human attribute’’ and as a postulate of history, not a peaceful human coexistence.

Nevertheless, the family or the clan which is the ‘’archetype’’ of society, not only espouses war as a necessary and natural social phenomenon, but also glorifies it.

The prototypes of social or human conflict, whether on an individual or collective basis, are clearly described in detail by texts from Ancient Greek Literature , starting from the epics of Homer in the 8th century B.C., and later on by the Greek tragedies of Sophocles , Euripides and Aeschylus in the 6th and 5th century B.C. .

All of these Ancient Greek literary texts have been used as reference by philosophers, historians, sociologists, and even psychologists, in order to define human nature, and to comprehend the psychological and spiritual aspects of  human beings.

In this Ancient Greek Literature the theme which dominates is the ‘’tragic aspects’ of human existence , not the harmonious  and creative ones.

Homer begins his tragic epic of the Iliad by focusing on the ‘’mania’’ of Achilles against the citizens of the Greek city-state of Troy ,  the major cause for initiating the Trojan War. Achilles personifies the highest military officer of the Greek Army, whose aim is to defeat and subjugate Troy , as the main opponent of the Greek city-states.

Basically the Iliad is the epic story of humanity, where the main motive to human activity and initiative is the ‘’human mania’’.

The real meaning of ‘’human mania’’ is ‘’…a state of extreme physical and mental activity, often involving a loss of judgement and periods of euphoria…’’ (dictionary.cambridge.org)

This entails that the dominant and dynamic factor in human nature is not creativity and peaceful coexistence , but that of destruction and self-destruction.

By analyzing these Greek epics and tragedies , we are able to confirm that the protagonists in these conflicts and tragic events, are individuals who to a large extent belong to a specific clan, which means that they are directly or indirectly family related.

The gods participate in these confrontational and tragic events of the clans in order to legitimize the tragic and existential impasse of human existence.

With the more recent tragedies of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. , tragic events occur from the actions and initiatives by individuals who belong to a specific Greek clan who are the Lavdakidens , involving three generations of this clan.

All of ‘’human tragedy’’ emanates from human initiatives by family or clan members, who want to dominate and dictate ‘’human destiny’’ through schemes , murder and conspiracies, and finally through war.

Almost all tragedies originate from within the family, the  actions and ambitions of family members or members of a clan.

We observe these tragic existential characteristics in all civilizations and in all historical epochs, from the Hindu and Assyrian epics, to the written texts of the Old Testament, describing the war conflicts between the  Jewish Kingdoms of Solomon and David.

We could present tens and even hundreds of similar historical examples which involve the founding, the fortification and the dissolution of states, kingdoms, empires and dynasties world wide.  (this article will continue)


Burial ritual by Antigone of her brother Polynices
‘’Antigone’’, tragedy by Sophocles (496B.C. – 406B.C.)