Athens, Sparta, And The Division And Decline of The West

The West has long been split into two. “While Athens is justly credited with phenomenal achievements in visual art, architecture, theater, philosophy and democratic politics,” writes Paul Cartledge in The Spartans, “the ideals and traditions of its greatest rival, Sparta, are equally potent and enduring: duty, discipline, the nobility of arms in a cause worth dying for, the sacrifice of the individual for the greater good of the community and the triumph of will over seeming insuperable obstacles.”

Cartledge believes that the ethos of ancient Greece influenced, and to some degree came to reside in the Roman and British empires. Yet these too have gone. Rome remains, and Britain remains, though the latter is still battling to have relevance in the world — especially, perhaps, moral relevance. With the traditional religion of the country collapsed, its politicians — like the politicians of most Western European nations — believe less in representing the public than in educating and molding them morally, as priests would once have attempted. Continue reading “Athens, Sparta, And The Division And Decline of The West”

The Optimism of the Will

The intellect is a curious thing. We talk about ideas spreading like viruses throughout society, or even across societies. (And note how, every few months, we see a sudden burst of moral outrage — around some antiquated symbol — flaring up in different states and countries only to die out like so many health scares. The moral outrage, the idea, literally spreads.)

But, although marketers and social media campaigners want to spread their particular “idea virus,” typically, we try to avoid catching actual viruses. But the term is a good one. Ideas not only grab hold of societies, they can become malignant in individuals themselves. Good intentions can pave the road to hell, to paraphrase a well-known proverb. Ideas can metastasize. Continue reading “The Optimism of the Will”

Self-Actualization Through Hierarchy: Risks and Rewards

I find myself caught between the tension of rejecting top-down societal constraints imposed by an old, privileged classes bent on control and the desire to preserve ancient principles grown up out of cultural traditions that have a long track record for developing notable individual achievement.

Hierarchy and regimentation is not something I’m a big fan of in most cases. In fact, playing by the rules and being obedient are concepts I have spent my entire life rebelling against. The thought of bowing down to an authority figure gives me the creeps. Nowhere do I feel more strongly about this dynamic of human interaction more so then in the realm of politics. The very notion of an individual or small group of powerful elites enacting a monolithic standard of ethics and moral law is the epitome of unnatural subversion against free people. It truly makes my stomach churn. These abusive and liberty corroding control systems play out in any number of other social arenas such as can be found in education, law enforcement, workplaces and within the family unit. Continue reading “Self-Actualization Through Hierarchy: Risks and Rewards”