Thursday, July 12, 2012
Myths as Power over Evil
I’ve read several stories and articles claiming that naming something gives you power over it. I never paid much attention to this contention because I never really understood it. Then a few years ago it dawned on me what it meant.
For example, this “naming of names” gives an identity to evil. And if you don’t know what evil is, how can you combat it? Naming something does give you some power over it.
Let’s use the Greek god of war, Ares, as an example. Ares is a lover of war, but incompetent and a coward. All the stories involving Ares say the same thing: all wars are always waged incompetently, and are generally started by cowards.
Ares would have never been created if the Greeks hadn’t noticed people and events that generated the internal presentation of “Ares” in their minds. The myths about Ares are just short stories that entertain and educate people about the universal truths of life.
Americans have experienced the same people and events that generate “Ares” in their minds, too. Only the name that some people have given him these days is “Chickenhawk.” Our modern-day Chickenhawks are the war-loving, cowardly incompetents who have generated “Chickenhawk” in Americans’ minds just as Ares was generated in the minds of the Greeks.
Same monster, just a different name. By naming the monster, people – at least some people – know who the monster is. Imagine what is would be like not to be able to identify your enemies!
Ares was married to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Now what could that possibly mean? Love and war?
There are people who love war. They don’t feel totally alive unless they are in a war zone. These are the kinds who become mercenaries, and fortunately there aren’t many of them.
Mercenaries aren’t the problem, though. Those who love war from a distance, and get their thrills from it, are a bit more of a problem. At their worst they are the nationalists who prattle about our “best-trained, best-equipped” military that is “the greatest force for good in the world today.”
The real problem is the Chickenhawks who rabidly support wars, start them, but have no intention whatsoever of making their way to the front. Or even the rear, to peel potatoes.
Some of these people have been so incensed about being called Chickenhawks they have claimed the word should be banned. This only shows how powerful the naming of names – identifying your enemies – really is.
As Rudyard Kipling so perceptively noted, “Words are the most powerful drug ever invented.”
These Chickenhawks show why Ares is married to Aphrodite – they love war. Chris Hedges, in his book, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, identified this as what the Bible warns against as “the lust of the eye.”
I think, more accurately, that Ares should be married to Lust, not Aphrodite. Chickenhawks are wedded to Lust. That’s a pretty good fit. Chickenhawks are wedded to the lust to start wars.
Standing against Ares is Athena, who is the goddess not only of wisdom, but war. In that way she overlaps with Ares, which is one of the reasons they were always at odds.
Ares and Athena show there are at least two ways to wage war – the mindless slaughter of Ares, or the wise way of Athena. That is, if you are going to go to war, it should be done wisely.
However, I can think of no time in the history of the world in which Athena was followed instead of Ares. We’re lucky enough if one combatant is tipped slightly more toward Athena than Ares.
Now here’s the rub: Americans have identified Ares and renamed him the Chickenhawk. But we still have not identified Aphrodite and Athena, and having not yet named them, our enemies still have power over us, because we have no defense, in the form of entertaining and educating stories, against them.
I’m going to repeat that in a different way: because we have not identified wisdom and love – again, more accurately, lust – we have no defense against war-mongers, since they always portray themselves as patriots, even though they are the exact opposite.
During the Bush administration these traitorous Chickenhawks were known as neocons, who were as gung-ho as possible about starting Holy World War I in the Middle East. Again, none of them had, and has, no intention whatsoever of risking their own miserable hides in combat.
Americans have fortunately identified another mythological archetype – that of the Sheeple, those sleep-walking, brain-dead zombies who follow leaders to their destruction in meaningless wars.
The easiest way to identify the Sheeple is that they follow Ares instead of Athena, and the fact they don’t recognize Ares as Ares, and instead think he’s Athena. Not that they know who Ares and Athena are.
It’s a good thing Americans have identified the Chickenhawk and the Sheeple. But it’s a bad thing we otherwise have not generated our own concise short stories – mythology -- as a defense against the Vladimir Harkonnens (who worshipped Ares) in our own nation.
At one time the Greek myths were taught in schools, since they had so greatly influenced Christianity. Those days are over and I doubt they ever come back.
Until we come up with some way to represent Athena and Aphrodite in our modern world, Ares is always going to work his way to the top of political heap.