Friday, August 26, 2011

From Pariah to Parrhiases

"Apollo and Marsyas" 1637 by Jusepe de Ribera

Last week I think I was complimented. The organizer of the symposium that I just presented at called me a parrhesiastes. This was before we hit the whiskey and caronas, but after 9 bottles of wine. I was primed. I was after a "discussion." I love to argue and discuss and disagree and talk. But this stumped me. My first thought went to my common retort....I would insult you but you would not understand.

The next morning I received a paper from the interlocutor, Shaun Ewen, that provided a definition of parrhesia.

The Greek definition of parrhesia is the possession of certain moral qualities, and innate proof that they know and speak the truth. The fact that a speaker says something dangerous---different from what the majority believes--is a strong indication that he is a parrhesiastes. The parrhesiastes is always less powerful than the one with whom he or she speaks. The parrhesia comes from "below", as it were, and is directed towards "above".

Only two months ago I was a pariah an outcast and here I was a parrhesiastes. Assuming the duality of life, good and bad, black and white, I thought how variable life is.

Only while writing this blog that it dawned on me that the two terms are inseparable, and not extremes of a continuum. You have to be a pariah to be a parrhesiastes. You cannot be part of the system.

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