“Socrates: ... Do you intend then to avoid well-governed states and the higher forms of civilised society? And if you do will life be worth living?...” Crito 51D-52EThere's a fleeting picture of momentary headlines, seen in a bookshop in Inverness, while above is a snippet of timeless conversation, transcribed and to some extent imagined later by Plato, between Socrates and his friend Crito, as the latter tries to persuade him - for his children’s and his friends’ sake - to get out of Athens and escape the death penalty imposed on him by the democratic government of Athens. All this hardly 2500 years ago. I’m reminded of the biblical riddle in Judges “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. Wild bees had made a hive inside the carcass of a lion killed by Samson (as a child I used to see the image on Tate & Lyle treacle tins at home). It is customary to criticise Socrates, and especially Plato, for anti-democratic values, as opposed to impulses, but it seems to me, as I study ‘The Last Days of Socrates’, having re-read the Meno, that Socrates died for an ideal of democracy as do most of those who fight for it, respecting the debated and questionable decision – 221 for acquittal and 280 against – to condemn him for heresy and corrupting the minds of the young. It is this paradox - that this form of government, which killed Socrates because he obeyed its decision, is more or less the same troublesome thing we allow to rule us now – messy, volatile, inconsistent and cruel, and occasionally sublime through the words and actions of exceptional people and events. Out of corruption, integrity? * * * A good letter from a Greek academic friend about my search on behalf of Thannassis and Kostas from somewhere in Europe arrived this morning:
Hello my friend! The truth is that my previous laptop got damaged and I lost all contacts (and the laptop). I am really glad that you e-mailed me. As a matter of fact, I will be off school this Thursday and I will be going to Greece on Friday, the same old way via Venice. I will stay in Corfu for two weeks, so we will be able to meet there. I have a two-day interview in xxx for a post in the xxx in Athens, but I will be there. I will have to come back to work in xxx on April 5th, but then I will take 4 days Easter (Greek) break and I will fly to Corfu. As far as the document goes, you know that perhaps some local(s) might have it stored somewhere without even knowing what it is all about. We can talk to some of them if you wish. Panagiotis Metallinos must be the tavern (XRYSOMALLIS) owner's grandfather. I have heard that as well about Corfiots wanting British influence on the island for many different reasons, security, ease in transport as British subjects and more. My uncle xxx xxxx (a great lawyer) told me the story. I also have a cousin who is a history expert that we could talk to him. Looking forward to our meeting, All the best! AMy delighted reply to A - a philosopher by the way:
Dear A. Your reply is an example of that makes historical research - or indeed any research - so exciting and pleasurable. Apart from that it's good to hear from you and I'm glad we are on line again. I will make a special note of your addresses. By the way I'm reading 'The Last Days of Socrates' again. Now I'm 66 it makes so much more sense than when it was required reading at school. What an irritating old man he must have been and how people - some people (including me I hope) - would have loved his company, and - I regret to say - got sadistic pleasure at watching Socrates running argumentative circles around over-opiniated and unperplexed people. I look forward to meeting in Corfu. Xerete, Simon* * * Meanwhile back to the problem of the Victoria Jubilee Allotments and the prolonged delay in implementing the planning gain agreement with Birmingham City Council on the site.
Dear Cllr. Brom, VICTORIA JUBILEE ALLOTMENTS: DELAYED 106A IMPLEMENTATION My apologies for not being able to attend the forthcoming Ward Committee. I am visiting my mother in Scotland, and I have asked someone to raise this under matters of urgent local concern on Tuesday evening. The planning application - N/01514/03/FUL - to build on the VJA site with its accompanying Section 106A was determined in early 2004. In the Evening mail of 8 May 2005, Paul Flannery, technical director for Westbury Homes, said: "Westbury is legally obliged to comply with the terms of the 106 planning agreement and as part of this we will be fulfilling our plan to provide the allotments and playing fields as stipulated in this agreement. Existing hedgerows and trees required to be retained will be in accordance with our planning consent." It is now Spring 2008, a new developer has taken over from Westbury, and we see no signs of progress on the planning gain agreement to provide a cricket ground, football fields, changing rooms, allotments and gardeners' storage buildings, laid out and transferred to the city council and integrated into Handsworth Park. We have repeatedly heard that the developer cannot proceed until a given number of homes have been occupied but the local community were never informed of this clause in the consent at the time it was agreed. In the meantime Handsworth is missing needed spaces for leisure and recreation with all that such resources contribute to the area's social resilience. This matter was discussed at the last meeting of the Handsworth Park Association and I was asked by the committee to write to you to ask if you with other Ward Councillors, could arrange, as a matter of urgency, a meeting with representatives of Charles Church, the developer. It was hoped that this meeting could include our Community Planning Officer Alan Orr, the Chair of Handsworth Cricket Club, (Mr Basil Hylton on xxx & xxx), a member or members of the City Council's executive (Cllr Len Gregory? Cllr Ray Hassall?) with allotments and sport in their portfolio, the relevant Scrutiny Chair (Cllr.John Alden?), the Chair of the Handsworth Park Association Graham Winfield, hopefully myself, and Peter Short (and possibly Penny Smith, Asst. Director Leisure & Support Services) for Handsworth Park, and anyone else you judge appropriate. Thanking you as always for your continued concern and support. Yours sincerely Simon Baddeley, Handsworth Allotments Information Group * * * Obama's speech in Philadelphia - 37 minutes.