Monday, October 10, 2011

The Loss of Our Ancient Wisdom

The human race possesses knowledge but little wisdom; what little we possess we ignore, because we think we know so much. It’s what comes from self-delusion and arrogance, the two main flaws that create the blind leading the blind.

Much of that wisdom is contained in mythology, the painfully distilled experiences of the joys and horrors inherent in being human, in the form of stories that entertain and educate.

We’re in the process of forgetting those stories. We’re already regretting it.

At one time in the not-so-distant past, Americans know their Greco-Roman myths, because they were aware these stories were one of the foundations of Western culture. These days, with these stories so unknown, many Americans don’t even know where they came from.

Let’s use, for an example. Hermes. Hermes was the original name of the Greek god, although most people today know him by his Roman name, Mercury.

Hermes was, paradoxically, the patron of both merchants and thieves. Some might argue merchants are thieves, but it’s not that simple.

None of the Greek gods were simple. They were as complex and contradictory as people, which isn’t surprising, considering that while the Greeks gods don’t exist, people certainly do. The Greek gods are just illustrations (or archetypes) of kinds of people and their relationships.

Hermes, in his not-so-admirable aspects, although likeable and charming, was a liar and a thief. What does that tell us? Although someone may be charming (which means "to cast a spell") it doesn't mean he is a moral person -- think of the charming, likeable rogue Bill Clinton.

Hermes did something very note-worthy and very disturbing -- he broke Ares (Roman: Mars) out of a bronze vessel he had been imprisoned in for a year.

Ares, the Greek god of war, was a coward, a whiner, and a mass slaughterer who loved death and destruction (two of his offspring were named Panic and Terror). He was also incompetent, as war-lovers are always incompetent -- Saddam Hussein, for a good example, ordered his generals to capture hundreds of American soldiers and tie them to the front of Iraqi tanks.

Hermes, in his better aspects, was the protector of merchants. Zeus, law-giver and enforcer of oaths, who ruled not only through force but also through wisdom and justice, ordered Hermes to clean up his act and not only protect merchants, but also travelers. He was also charged with promoting trade and negotiating treaties.

The story of Hermes is a profound myth. There is a saying by Bastiat (and it's a mighty important one): "If goods do not cross borders, armies will."

Hermes, when a liar and a thief - and when he protected thieves - unleases war on the world. In other words, when ther is no just, fair, free-market trade, war is very likely to erupt.

When there is just, fair, free-market trade, Ares ends up bottled for years. When merchants and traders are liars and thieves, Ares is let loose to walk to and fro up and down in the world.

Unfortunately the United States does not have just, fair free-market trade. It has instead globalization -- managed trade -- which enriches a vanishingly small minority at the expense of everyone else.

Many "merchants" have turned into liars and thieves, and the court intellectuals who support them (and banksters) haven't turned into liars -- they always have been liars, in addition to being whores.

The United States considers itself to be Zeus -- the fair and just lawgiver imposing order on the world. Since the West is Christian -- even if nominally -- the United States perceives itself as the indispensible nation, the shining city on the hill, chosen by God.

Yet Zeus punished blindness and arrogance -- what the Greeks called Hubris. It was always followed by Nemesis.

For that matter, Pride, (the worst sin in Christianity and the same as Hubris) is always followed by some kind of destruction: "Pride goes before a fall, and a haughy spirit before destruction."

The ancient Greeks believed in prophecy. (Apollo, the first person Hermes stole from and lied to) was among his many talents the god of prophecy.

It's no wonder the Greeks believed in prediction. The future -- if you have some understanding of human nature -- isn't that hard to foresee.

The international merchants of today (I call them Cosmodemonic Transnational Megacorporations), with their stealing and lying, are going to again unleash Ares. As to whether or not this unleashing will be in the U.S. or without, that remains to be to seen. Perhaps, it will be both inside and outside.

But he will be unleashed, in one degree or another, as lying, stealing and Hubris always does.

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