Metis, Bie and Kerdos: Some Thoughts On Defeating Terrorism

Maybe it’s the presence of Talos in the comments section, or maybe it’s the arrival of the Athens Olympics on my personal horizon, but something this morning is carrying me back to the world of the Greeks, and to some early ideas of how best to secure objectives in the face of adversity.

First metis and bie:

What Does Metis Mean?

The history of the word goes back more than 28 centuries to the time of Homer around, 850BC. To the ancient Greeks, metis represented a particular type of cunning intelligence used if success was to be won in the most diverse fields of action. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Odysseus is the hero most commonly associated with metis. The most famous strategem (metis) is the Trojan Horse, by which the Greeks finally managed to conquer Troy. This is a good example of metis for it represents a solution to a problem not resolvable by conventional means.

Metis is often contrasted with the word, bie, which means brute force. All through the Iliad, the big question is, will Troy fall by metis or bie – by wiliness or brute strength? The answer is by metis.

In the intellectual world of the Greek philosopher, there was a radical dichotomy between being and becoming, between the intelligible and the sensible. On the one hand there is the sphere of being, of the one, the unchanging, of the limited, of true and definite knowledge; on the other hand, the sphere of becoming, of the multiple, the unstable and the unlimited, of oblique and changeable opinion. Metis is characterised by the way it operates by continuously oscillating between the two opposite poles. Within a changing reality with limitless possibilities, a person with metis can achieve.

So metis is a type if intelligence and of thought, a way of knowing; it implies a complex but coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behaviour which combine flair, forethought, resourcefulness, vigilance, pragmatism, opportunism and the wisdom of experience.

When art and science unite, extra possibilities and opportunities are made resulting in innovation that can be driven by creativity. Metis is about finding elegant solutions to difficult problems instead of relying on brute force.

Now are you with me? What is lacking in our war with terrorism today, and all too often woefully lacking, is the component of metis. It is as if 2,000 years or more of history did not lie behind us, as if we had to learn every day anew the painful lessons of yesterday. Why am I saying this now? Well look what happened in Spain yesterday, what is happening today, and what will happen in the elections tomorrow.
Continue reading

Madrid Bombing: Evidence So Far

Ok: it’s just gone half past six, and demonstrations all over Spain are getting ready to go. Meantime I will leave you with the following thoughts:

I think it must be difficult for anyone outside Spain to understand just how complicated this situation here is. As everyone by now knows, the Spanish police are following two leads: one that of Eta, and the other that of Al Qaeda. On the one hand the difference between the two – since in either case the question is one of terrorism – is minimal, on the other it couldn’t be greater.

In assessing the impact and consequences of the attack, perhaps the first of the major questions which strikes you is the quantity of immigrants – both documented and undocumented – who were involved. Just looking for five minutes at the TV images of the relatives filing past the cameras in the hospitals and mortuaries makes this abundantly clear. There are in fact victims from 11 countries, many of these countries surely being in Latin America. In fact so important is this question that Jos? Maria Aznar spent a significant part of his public appearance this morning underlining that any person among the victims who was found to be ‘undocumented’ would automatically be ‘regularised’. In addition any immigrants who have died in the attack and who had not been naturalised are automatically to be conceded the status of Spanish citizens, for themselves (posthumously) and for their families. What this decision highlights is the quantity of recently arrived immigrants that there are now here in Spain, and confronting some of the all too evident implications of this reality will undoubtedly now be one of the first priorities of the incoming government.

This brings me to my first ‘correction’: yesterday morning I said.. “and the victims are a total cross-section of Spanish society: from executives to recently arrived illegal immigrants”….. in fact this is wrong. There are relatively few executives, the majority of the victims it is now obvious come from poor families.
Continue reading