I am deeply honoured to receive this degree from Aristotle University. I have always felt a strong attachment to Greece and a great respect for the Greek people.
You have asked me to say a few words and I intend to take the term "a few words" literally.
The other day I came across a letter I wrote to a theatrical magazine in 1958. It included the following sentences: "There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false."
I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?
There are certain facts which more or less everyone knows to be true but which few people actually talk about, although there is, I believe, a growing surge in the world, an oceanic nausea, if you like, to which more and more people subscribe.
What is the relationship of military might to "market forces"?
The United States has made quite clear - many times - that it will protect its own economic and strategic interests with the use of military might at the drop of a hat, without compunction, whenever it feels like it. And the government of Great Britain follows suit - with an eagerness which can only merit our disgust.
I contend that the bombing of Serbia had nothing whatsoever to do with "humanitarian intervention". It was a blatant assertion of US power. That and the continuing bombing of Iraq are illegal, immoral, illegitimate acts, against all understood criteria of international law, holding both international law and the United Nations in contempt. As for the sanctions upon Iraq and their toll of death - there are really no words which can properly describe the cynicism, the indifference and - as someone else has said - the casual sadism which inspires them.
The United States constantly refers to its belief in "civilised values" and its concern for "human rights". Its own penal system - two million people in prison, mental deficients executed, children under eighteen incarcerated in adult prisons where they are systematically raped and assaulted, the use of "restraint chairs" where the prisoner is padlocked and his legs secured in metal shackles and where he is left for extended periods in his own excrement, the use of the "stun gun" which emits an electrical shock of roughly 50,000 volts and causes severe pain and instant incapacitation - torture by remote control - and of course the employment of the death penalty in thirty-eight states - lethal injection, electrocution, the gas chamber, hanging - take your pick - are facts which speak for themselves and render the term "civilised values" laughable.
President Clinton said at the end of last year "We Americans have given freedom to the world". There will undoubtedly be more of the same language used this year, more "moral outrage", more "humanitarian intervention", more lies, more bombs, more destruction, more grinding of millions of people into the dust - that kind of freedom.
There is also, in my view and in the view of many others, serious danger of a nuclear catastrophe - stemming not from "rogue states" - as defined by the United States - but from the United States itself.
We are confronted by a vast, brutal, malignant machine.
This machine must be recognised for what it is and resisted.
Harold Pinter