Friday, February 19, 2016

"Herodotus’ Histories & David Horowitz: Tales of Hubris, Ancient & Modern"

Jimmy Cantrell used to write for, as I did, until he was banned, as I was. I never asked him why he was banned, but it happened to me for pointing out differences between races and religions and ethnic groups on another site. All I remember is that some homosexual, whose name I cannot remember, brought the post to Lew's attention, and I was gone. It didn't bother me because I was on the verge of ceasing to write for Lew anyway.

Not surprisingly, Lew's site isn't all that popular anymore. I wonder why?

I've written about Hubris/Nemesis a lot. I still remember clearly Bush's nearly insane, arrogant, deluded attack on Iraq - a country we supported and armed in its war with Iran. Then suddenly a third-rate tinhorn dictator like Saddam Hussein (when Iraq had an economy about the size of North Carolina) is going to attack the United States with nuclear weapons? What the hell kind of nut could believe that?

Of course, I and many other people predicted what would happen, including the mess of problems we have today. But then, I'm not blinded by stupidity and hubris.

This article is a bit dated but still very useful. It is from the Patiotist (I've had this on my hard drive for years but is apparently no longer available online).

Back when the elder Bush [a common moderate cultural-liberal Yankee Imperial Conservative badly playing at Texan] was leading us into the First Gulf War I asserted my belief that the Classics provided instruction applicable to every life and set of circumstances was not a bunch of nonsense.

Contrary to my student [and the vast majority of his peers - and of two generations of academics who eliminated both many of the dead-white-men from the curriculum and most of the live ones who would teach the dead ones properly, eliminations required to secure pedagogic prominence for various non-whites and non-Christians,] some unmentionable racist-sexist dead-white-man was correct in asserting that to remain ignorant of what transpired before you were born is to remain forever a child.

Thanks especially to the liberalizing educrats and their legal system creations, the intellectually lazy, tantrum-tossing, short-attention-span, Western Christian Civilization denigrating children of diverse hues, religions, and sexual preferences are now in charge. If you think MTV is the extent of the problem, spend time with the National Review according to Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg.

As we are about to step once more, big guns blazing, into the cesspool of post-British imperialism that is not merely Iraq but the whole of the Middle East, we should learn from the ancients anything they can teach us about such adventuring, particularly in that region. Herodotus has been labeled both the Father of History and the Father of Lies. Considering contemporary historiography, both what is published today as scholarship and what is generally pontificated in classes to gullible and/or apathetic students, those contradictory titles make even more sense than they did in Antiquity. Herodotus, of course, was not a historian in our sense, which discipline derives specifically from the work of Thukydides. Rather, Herodotus’s work is what its title means most literally in ancient Greek: inquiries, investigations, studies, or researches.

The Histories is a complex, digression-filled narrative examination of the wars against the Greeks waged by the Persian Empire: a multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-religious behemoth that had swallowed the whole of the ancient Near East and could not rest until it ruled, either as one of its satrapies or through a puppet tyrant, the whole of the world seen by ancient Persians as potentially harmful to Persian power and wealth. If that reminds you of Pharaonic Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, the Macedonian Empire, Rome, the Arabic Empire, The Mongol Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Aztec Empire, the British Empire, the USSR, the Third Reich, Marxist China, and, increasingly, post-1860 Washington DC, then you ain’t brain dead.

Herodotus was a combination of investigative journalist, antiquarian, geographer, anthropologist, ethnologist, folklorist, and moralist. His work originally was presented orally, as were the ancient epics. The massive scope of The Histories is held together by the theme: the hybris [excessive pride or arrogance] that leads to overreaching [including ignoring good advice] and brutality, which guarantee nemesis [destruction, especially that which is retributive justice.]

Surely Herodotus’s Greek audiences would have considered the repulses of Persian onslaughts as morally good for the whole world and not simply because it was the freedom of various independent Greek city-states that was at stake. The Persian Empire exemplified hybris like no nation the Greeks of the Fifth Century B.C. had known and feared.

Before proceeding with a discussion of a few lessons from The Histories applicable to us, I need to emphasize that to ancient Greeks, hybris was not something exact for which each man was guilty. As men are inevitably unequal in abilities, intellectual and physical, that which is hybris for one man may be justified, even expected or demanded, of another man. What is hybris in you or me may be almost a requirement for another.

The best presentation of that may be found in The Iliad. Patroklus is at least on the verge of hybris [from his desire to overreach to do good] in wearing Akhilleus’s armor and attempting to stand in for the greatest hero; he is guilty of hybris in failing to adhere strictly to Akhilleus’s directions. And the rightful wages of sin is death. Akhilleus is not guilty of hybris at any time, even though he refuses to humble himself before the older, richer king of men Agamemnon: who is wrong and thus in harming his men is himself guilty of hybris to serve his vanity and his grip on power.

That is not a denial of absolute right and wrong; it is a realistic understanding of the nature of man. We know it instinctively and judge according to it when neither our hybris nor modern prejudice gets in the way. For example, we know it would be hybris for a 200-pound man to strut and boast that he can play left tackle against any defensive end in the NFL. We know that his demanding to do so is ludicrous at best and that defeat for his team is all but assured if he gets his way. We also recognize the hybris of the head coach who flaunts his position and its authority, who pounds his chest and chimes his experience as both player and coach, as he rejects the good advice of the offensive line coach and the other lineman to keep the wannabe tackle on the bench.

Folks galore guilty of the worst intellectual and/or moral hybris are now running our schools, governments, publication enterprises, and churches. The pressing need for warnings concerning men of war and hybris is readily apparent today. Consider David Horowitz’s blog attack on The American Conservative and through that magazine on the whole of the surviving American Old Right, which, following particularly the wisdom of George Washington, knows that if Romans could not maintain a true Republic while creating an Empire [which necessarily promoted a type of multiculturalism that led directly to both loss of freedoms for Roman citizens and moral degradation,] then neither can Americans.

Horowitz, just as he would have written of leftists who disagreed with Marxist approaches when he was a New Left Marxist, writes of the need to ‘re-evaluate’ the conservative status of those who do not support neo-conservative imperial warmongering:

“I’m talking about a fundamental alienation from the realities of this country in favor of one theory or another, which leads to a dissociation from the primary obligation which is to defend your community. If you are willing to attack your own country when it has been attacked by foreign adversaries, you are no longer a critic but an adversary yourself.”

First, to warn your country about the poisonous fruits of its policies is no more to attack it than it is for the physician to attack his patient by telling him he must kick heroin or die. And only a child or someone in denial, and/or up to his hairline in decadence, would believe so. Second, to Horowitz [who ignores the facts that the monster Hussein did not attack America and that Al Qaeda has little support among pro-Saddam Iraqis,] the Old Right warning about foreign entanglements equals, at least when Israel is involved, Leftist denunciations of these United States as a racist, sexist, homophobic oppressor. Our communities are being ravaged culturally, morally, and politically by: illegal immigrants; non-assimilating legal immigrants; anti-white and/or anti-Christian special interest groups; centralized-government-worshiping bureaucrats and the excessive taxation required to fund them and their programs; and Leftist professors, journalists, and lawyers. In response, David Horowitz, who threatens the anti-Semite charge about as freely as Amiri Baraka slings the racist charge, calls for another neo-con purge of paleoconservatives. The issue is, depending on the individual neo-con [who like the leftist tends to ooze contempt for fly-over country and the many local traditions, folkways, and especially allegiances that manage to survive among the white Gentile rubes,] either one of essentially mindless acceptance of foreign adventuring [unless Bill Clinton is President and wants such military use for ‘liberal’ goals] or one of aggressive pursuit of Israeli hawk positions: Uncle Sam’s Empire must spill the blood of Americans and spend several billion dollars to rid Israel of its enemies so the socialist Jewish state may thrive as a Jewish nation whose existence proves the worth of multicultural democracy and free enterprise.

As strange as the claim may sound initially, the extreme of neoconservatism is not Horowitz’s desire to purge from the Beltway/NYC inner sanctum of ‘respectable’ Martin-Luther-King-loving, multicultural ‘conservatism’ the Old Right ‘heretics’ who doubt the wisdom of imperial warring against Iraq. Norman Podhoretz [the Godfather of the neocon view of American Empire significantly of, for, and by Jewish interests who is particularly adept at denouncing paleoconservatives as anti-Semites] actually calls for World War to be waged against most of the Islamic Middle East.

In such a political, social climate, wisdom from Antiquity is sorely needed. Kroesus, king of Lydia, conquered the ‘Asiatic Greeks:’ Greek city-states in Asia Minor [the western coast of what is today Turkey.] When he learned that the Persians had conquered the closely related Medes [who had led the resistance of Iranian tribes to the routine incursions of the expansionist Semitic Assyrians and Babylonians] and appeared set to attempt their own expansion, Kroesus decided he was the man to swat the Persians right back into the backwater of the Aryan tribes [Iran.]

Of course, success in such a venture would pave the way for Kroesus, already steeped in imperial blood, to move eastward and perhaps rule an empire larger than any ever held by Assyrians or Babylonians.

Being a cautious, perhaps even pious, ruler, Kroesus consulted oracles concerning his plans. He was told that if he attacked the Persians, a great empire would be destroyed. Perhaps because the same answer instructed him to make alliance with the most powerful Greek city-states, perhaps because he was willing to hear only what he desired, Kroesus interpreted the oracle to mean that he would destroy Persia. Ignoring the unambiguous warning of a Lydian named Sandanis, Kroesus pressed on, and his hybris destroyed the Lydian Empire. The Persian Emperor Cyrus, puffed with his successes against Lydia and Babylon, then took hybris to a level beyond that of Kroesus. He set his sights on ruling the land of the Massagetae: east of the Caspian Sea and thus a necessary step toward reaching beyond the known world.

As Cyrus’s men built bridges to cross into the territory ruled by widowed Queen Tomyris, she sent the Persian emperor a note advising him to return to his home to rule his own people and manage to suffer the sight of her ruling her own people. The queen’s note underscores the covetousness, for power to deny others self-rule more than for material wealth, that trusses all empire building, even those empires that truly expand in order to do good: such as free slaves or save the union or force equal rights for women or end religious or ethnic persecution or guarantee rights for the poor or terminate child sacrifice or make the world safe for democracy. Emperors are inevitably guilty of what the prophet Nathan condemns in King David, himself a small-time empire builder whose hands, though constantly folded in repentant prayer, were so bloody that Yahweh rejected him as builder of the Temple.

Not only was the Persian army defeated by the nomadic Massagetae, but Cyrus lost his life. Tomyris placed his head in a bag filled with human blood, giving the great emperor his fill of the thing for which he lusted. Of course, considering that Cyrus allowed certain Jews in Babylonian captivity to return to Jerusalem a year after he conquered lower Mesopotamia, our intrepid neocons could brush this all away by asserting that Herodotus was just another anti-Semite who hated any friend of the Jews. It would be far from the first time they revealed their ignorance and reflexive smearing designed to silence opposition.

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