Posts Tagged ‘Fighting Spirit’

WHEN DIRECT DEMOCRACY FAILED: ATHENS LOST HER MIND, FIRST, THEN POWER (Fall of Real Democracy I)

June 20, 2018

Hatred is a loving mistress… Let’s thank those nasty enough to advertise the notion (in the USA a famous PC actor suggested to rape the son of the president)… But there is worse than the excesses hatred brings: one could verse in the opposite extreme, and lose passions enough to sink in the morass of mercantilism, while the spirit of the highest passions breaks down (liberty, critical thinking, fraternity, equality).

This collapse of the towering will to liberty, critical thinking, fraternity, equality happened to Athens at a vulnerable point of her history. Thus a dispirited Athens didn’t fight to death, as she had many times before. The Macedonian dictator Antipater, senior general of Philip and Alexander, was able to take advantage (although it required two sea battles). We, humanity, lost Direct Democracy. We haven’t recovered it yet! (Losses on the battlefield of the best Athenians may explain some of the lack of enthusiasm)

In an imaginable history, Athens would have durably installed her empire, as a constellation of allied Direct Democracies all the way to Massalia, and beyond, incorporated later Rome as junior partner… Etc.

However, it’s not too late. We need to recover what the Athenians had, and do it better, and on a planetary scale. It’s like talking to Kim Un Jung, chairman of nuclear armed North Korea: no choice. And much more important.

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Consider how Greece went from democracies to kings: after Thebes won a costly tactical victory at the battle of Mantinea, in 362 BCE, which was a strategic defeat, Thebes and its Boeotian League saw its influence wane, and Athens became supreme again. One would have expected Athens to use the occasion to rebuild vigorously its empire.

 

The power of Athens is overlooked today. Here it is, in picture. Panathenaic stadium by the Athenian statesman Lykourgos (Lycurgus) c. 330 BC, primarily for the Panathenaic Games. It was rebuilt in marble by Herodes Atticus, an Athenian Roman senator, by 144 AD and had a capacity of 50,000 seats. The stadium was used for the relaunch of the Olympic Games by Baron de Coubertin. The Olympic Games, started in 776 BCE continued for nearly 12 centuries, until Catholic thus Super Fascist Roman Emperor Theodosius I decreed in 393 CE that all such “pagan cults” should be banned.

An alternate history where Athens leads civilization is entirely conceivable, and we came very close to that. For example the battle of Chaeronea of Greek city states against the invading Philip of Macedonia, in 338 BCE, could have been won. The battle was in balance for several hours, before the Macedonian crushed both wings of the poleis. Indeed, Sparta was not at Chaeronea. Had it been there, it is likely that Philip and his self-made army would have been extinguished. but, well, Sparta was clearly dispirited, after two defeats at the hands of Thebes (Leuctra and Mantinea).

Athens population (whole of the peninsula of Attikḗ, including women, children) was probably 300,000, and the Delian League also known as the Athenian empire was more than one million (a population comparable to Rome then, and a much greater area, lots of it, sea, and a state which was the world’s most advanced technologically… differently from Rome, which, then, didn’t even have one warship!).

Athens had industry (manned by slaves), its added value products were highly valued in antiquity. She also had a large population with lots of foreign borns. It needed lots of food, but Attica, one of the driest part of Greece, couldn’t produce it. So Athens imported “grain” from the Black Sea shores which came through, thanks to its ally Byzantium. When that occasionally faltered, grain would come from the Greek colony in Cyrenaica (yes, Libya). In any case, long trade routes enabled Athens to exist.

Athens needed an empire to survive. (Differently from the present USA, which is, like Russia, a self-sufficient empire… more so than say China.. However Europe is not self-sufficient, as long as it is fossil fuels dependent… it gets its oil and gas from all around, from Algeria to Siberia…)

There was another problem in the Fourth Century BCE: no Greek polis (= City-State) was powerful enough to dominate Greece, and thus to become sizable enough a power to resist the colossal power of the fascist Persian empire to the east. The Persian empire was a global plutocratic power, a violent hierarchy of tyrannies and mighty governors, all at the mercy of cruel end-of life treatments such as being split by trees slowly, or even more slowly, eaten by worms while entrapped, well fed, between boats). The potentiality of such violence guaranteed its precautionary usage, as soon as possible (the Macedonian courts worked pretty much along the same one, and thus it’s no wonder Macedônia, led by Aléxandros ho Mégas, conquered Persia: qui se ressemble, s’assemble….)

Persia ruled from the Mediterranean all the way to modern Afghanistan and Pakistan. On the Mediterranean shores,  Persia was occupying and terrorizing the Greek democracies spread along what is now the Turkish coast.

Persia was a superpower, but it was a fascist plutocracy, somewhat malevolent, civilizationally and spiritually opposed to the Greek poleis. Plutocracy (Persia) is antagonistic to direct democracy and a mentally creative civilization (as found in the greatest Greek cities).

Hence the war between Persia and (mostly) Athens: it was directly related to the mental creativity of Athens. By the third quarter of the Fourth Century (after circa 350 CE), Athens and Persia had been at war for 150 years, much of it with Persia using its gold to launch other Greek city states against Athens (such as Sparta, which won the Peloponnesian war against Athens in the end because Persia bought it a fleet so big and good, it destroyed the Athenian navy, by surprise).

The war between Greece and Persia had been caused fundamentally by the irremediable antagonism between intellectual fascism (Persia) and mental creativity (Athens).

However, by 360 BCE, Athens’ creativity and mental exuberance had been broken. Meeting of the Ecclesia were more like shareholders meetings (it was written at the time). Instead of writing new, rash literary works. “Classics” became an obsession, and the “classical” mood paralysed new mental creation: none of the writings then have survived, or then they care more about gossip than grand conceptions. The art, even in simple pottery, also decayed, going from manly themes to superficial stuff. Some “feminists” and PC or New Age imbeciles may object to what I just said, and would call be names (that’s what they do best). However, they don’t understand that it’s brute force which enables them to exist.

(Canadians, for example, love to pose as pacifists, equal opportunity, wealthy from honest work. But their wealth and peace comes from having massacred the Natives and the environment, and also the French… In general European colonies of the Anglo-Saxon type find easy to give moral lessons, as they eradicated, annihilated and holocausted their potential opposition, prior… Some will scoff: but watch Trudeau: he speaks PC, while exploiting the dirtiest oil on the planet. Money speaks best, when it makes its victim believe its lies)

Indeed, when you are surrounded by barbarians, and, even worse, Persians, half-civilized, half-savage, horrendously efficient in war, the military aspect of civilization has to be prime (something the USA has understood very well… for centuries, and France, for 17 centuries, clearly: the Frankish confederation was primarily a military organization, and succeeded to do, on a much grander scale what the Greeks tried to do: consider the Athenian empires, and the Boeotian federation).

Some will object that I called the Persians, “savage” (and that’s not PC! And Phocion started it, and he was a very good man). But they were. Savage. The Persians. It’s not just about Persians. The Athenian general Phocion, learning that the Ecclesia was going to take measures against Macedonia, exclaimed:”Why would you provoke that savage man?” The “savage man” was the twenty year old Alexander (soon to be “the Great”). Alexander (with Antipater, and thousands of Athenian prisoners just liberated) had visited Athens. The Athenians met Alexander in person. Alexander had crushed them in battle with his cavalry. Phocion was right. Soon Alexander annihilated Thebes: killing all men, and boys, selling surviving women and children into slavery. A sort of warning to Athens, and everybody else, no doubt.  

Plutocracy has imposed itself, worldwide, by disguising its existence. The massive and crucial support of US plutocracy, between 1914 and 1945 to the worst animus in Germany, has been successfully obliterated from the official version of history.

These propaganda coups and massive distortions of real history can be sleekly done, because we don’t have Direct Democracy anymore: after all, we don’t have an ecclesia, an assembly of We the People, where everybody can debate. Raucous disagreement, as Athens had, has disappeared!

I cannot go out there, as many a philosopher in Athens did, and open up on the powers that be, for all the people to see (Socrates didn’t do this, instead his students established a dictatorship in Athens; but Socrates’ present repute is much exaggerated; other philosophers, including several close friend or married to Pericles, played a much more important role than Socrates, in the evolution of civilization; for example Pericles’ second wife, from the Ionian coast, established the notion of “Open Society” which Pericles advertised in his famous Funeral Oration…) Instead, here I am writing hopefully for the future…

In theory we could adapt the political structures to the new technology, and relaunch Direct Democracy: human beings have adapted to new technological possibilities for more than two million years.

We could go out there, and make our opinion known: after all, the Internet gives us those powers, at least, potentially. Those powers of debate. We need Athenian Direct Democracy back. After all, we now have robots to do most of the work (overruling an objection of Aristotle who correctly pointed out that Athens couldn’t do without slaves as the Greeks didn’t have machines for everything). We, We The People, can concentrate on the work Athenian philosophers used to do: thinking right, or, at least, better!

Patrice Ayme

Fighting Spirit Defines Humans

February 6, 2016

What does reality consist of? A caste of Lords overlooking devoted Samurai can afford to affect a Zen attitude (and that’s why Zen blossomed in Middle-Age Japan). However “The  Revenant“, the movie, depicts North America when many of the moods which have characterized that continent, ever since, were institutionalized. The violence is unrelenting… And, with the ‘right’ perspective, that violence, even if not justified, is well deserved. Even more important, the violence is realistic. Against violence like that, prayer is impractical, as it is always time for something more practical, such as reloading.

Hence an American meta-morality: guns are good, because, whoever survived, and had descendants, that person had got to have been right, having survived, and, thus, having fought the good fight! Life is the right of survivorship, all the might that can be right. This is a (seemingly little) detail of the American meta-morality which could have important consequences… And did have important consequences in World War Two: then the Americans behaved and fought pretty much as the characters in “The Revenant”. Relentlessly. Ferociously. That was shown clearly in the Battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, and the Iron Bottom Sound. All of these battles were fought with poor odds on the American side, and all of them were won because of innovative, creative American heroism. “Revenant” style. The fascist Japanese admirals could not believe the ferocity of the revenants they were facing. And precisely because, they could believe them, they did not anticipate their actions.

Give A man A Stick, And He Can Fight A Lion, Exacting At Least A Lesson

Give A man A Stick, And He Can Fight A Lion, Exacting At Least A Lesson

“The Revenant” is driven by love: the old Native American chief wants to recover his (adult) daughter, who has been kidnapped (and raped) by white men. This brings massive mayhem. Love can be a villain. So can be a white man who is thief, a racist, a murderer and a consummate liar. One may wonder why so many negative characteristics could pile up on just one. But precisely: when one has risked one’s reputation with one, why not another? When one has discovered that the Dark Side is efficient, where, and why to stop?

Thus the Dark Side acts like a psychological attractor. That is true also with entire countries. In the Second World War, Norway chose heroism, Sweden, the sister country, which long occupied Norway, chose Hitler, that is abjection.

On 16 December 1939 Prime Minister Churchill issued a memo to his cabinet:

It must be understood that an adequate supply of Swedish iron ore is vital to Germany…the effectual stoppage of the Norwegian ore supplies to Germany ranks as a major offensive operation of the war. No other measure is open to us for many months to come which gives so good a chance of abridging the waste and destruction of the conflict, or of perhaps preventing the vast slaughters which will attend the grapple of the main armies… The ore from Narvik must be stopped by laying successively a series of small minefields in Norwegian territorial waters at the two or three suitable points on the coast, which will force the ships carrying ore to Germany to quit territorial waters and come on to the high seas, where, if German, they will be taken as prize, or, if neutral, subjected to our contraband control.”

Great Britain and France informed Norway and Sweden that the exportation of ten million metric tons of high grade iron ore to the Nazis had to stop. Now. Britain told Norway it intended to mine the 1,600 kilometers long Norwegian inner sea corridor between the continent and 50,000 islands. That’s where the German ships full of ore sailed, well protected by the island from the Royal Navy.

Once in Germany, the high-grade Swedish iron was mixed with greater amounts of low-grade German iron ore, to make huge quantities of usable steel for the Nazi war effort.

In January 1940, strident protest by Norway and Sweden delayed the Allied effort (in spite of Churchill’s determination). However, Norway did not resist convincingly a British assault against a Nazi ship holding 299 British sailors as prisoners… in the depths of a Norwegian fjord. By then Hitler had long decided to invade Norway. Probably because he had been advised that France had a mysterious nuclear program in full swing there.

By January 1938, Irène and Frederic Joliot-Curie had told the French war minister of the possibility of making a nuclear bomb. They had jointly been attributed the Chemistry Nobel Prize 1935 (for creating new elements). Irene had discovered Uranium Self-sustaining chain reaction by 1937 (as the Nobel site recognizes!) although the Chemistry Nobel was attributed by the Swedes to Otto Hahn in 1944 for that discovery exactly, although it had taken many letters from Irene to Otto to teach precisely that discovery to Otto, who had claimed for months Irene could only be wrong! (Don’t expect to read the truth on Wikipedia, but I read the original literature, and I am not keen to get in a Wikipedia war about truths Anglophone Wiki fanatics can’t accept.)

The French War Ministry removed all nuclear patents from the public sphere, classifying all of them “Secret défense”. And a nuclear bomb program was started. The Curies had determined that HEAVY WATER (D2O) slowed down neutrons to allow them to fission. (In Heavy Water, the usual protons which make the nuclei of water are replaced by pairs made of one neutron and one proton; so Heavy Water is twice the density). Heisenberg, the top Nazi physicist, did not believe that nuclear bombs were possible, thankfully. However, the fumes that the French were up to no good with a new death energy reached Hitler’s nostrils.

The very day that Hitler launched the invasion of Norway, April 9, 1940, not only did the Norwegians sink a Nazi battleship, but the Deuxième Bureau (French military intelligence) removed 185 kg (408 lb) of heavy water from the plant in Vemork in then-neutral Norway.

Nearly three months later, during a Nazi bombing on ships off Bordeaux harbor, the cargo ostensibly containing the Heavy Water exploded and sank. It had been sabotaged by the french, and the Heavy Water had been transported to another ship, which reached England.

Later the entire nuclear bomb program was transferred to Manhattan and further east, becoming the “Manhattan Project”. Towards the end of the war, Churchill, suspicious of the “Communist” leanings of the French nuclear scientists contemplated jailing them all. However, French top physicists liked neither Stalin nor the French government, and, in the end, helped neither. The French military had to find help from lesser scientists, and, on the way, launched the Israeli and Iranian nuclear programs.The French had no less than 5,000 nuclear workers at Dimona in Israel in the early 1960s. The message was clear: you the Jews shall do like us, the French, and attack evil next time it shows up. That conflated with Hannah Arendt’s message that the “Judenrat”, the Jewish Councils, had been active accomplices to Hitler’s Holocaust.

Isaac Berlin the Jewish-German philosopher, lamented that the founders of Israel had “listened to Hitler, not to us”. Well, if the Jews had listened more carefully to Hitler, as the french government did, in the 1930s, they could have taken measures that would have prevented the Holocaust of most European Jews (let alone more than 50 million other people). So Isaac Berlin was wrong on the most important question, survival, and the French were right to nuclear arm Israel.

History is not made just of long tendrils of surprising connections of facts with each other. It is also made of moods which perdure. And those moods can propagate.

The mood of early America is well anchored in the institutions of the USA, and it even propagated back to France. (French “Coureurs des Bois” are represented in “The Revenant” rather profusely, if not handsomely).

The most basic mood characteristic of the human species is fighting beyond what other species consider reasonable. That ethologically given mood, “The Revenant” depicts very well. A fighting species. Something to remember when contemplating the human condition. To be free means to be capable, and willing, to fight.

Patrice Ayme’