Militarism and the US
That the Founding Fathers of the US and their descendents respected and admired the classical Greek civilization is easy for present-day ordinary Americans to verify. All they have to do is walk to the center of their home town and observe that the most important buildings of the town, the City Hall, the Courthouse, the Church, etc, in their facade they have Grecian columns. This has being going on for centuries. Also, rich Americans used to build their mansions with Parthenon-like columns in their prominent front views.
Now, these columns are not made of white marble, as the original Greek ones, but they are rather "phony" as they are made of plaster, or wood, or even concrete (in more modern times).
This brings to mind the "strange" little book with the title "On Bullshit" written by Harry G.Frankfurt, the "renowned moral philosopher [who] is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University". (Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2005).
On page 47 of this little book we read: "... For the essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony. In order to appreciate this distinction, one must recognize that a fake or a phony need not be in any respect (apart from authenticity itself) inferior to the real thing. What is not genuine need not also be defective in some other way. It may be, after all, an exact copy".
So, one cannot blame the Founding Fathers and their descendents for admiring the Grecian columns and making copies of them. Although, judging from the reaction of a 17-year-old son of a Greek-American relative of mine, there are dissenting opinions about this, as his reaction after seeing the Parthenon was anger at losing his time on a trip to the Acropolis for, according to him, it was "just a pile of rocks"!
[ Note: Talking about "authenticity", here is an interesting case: About 800 yards up the road from my place in Halandri, an Athens neighborhood, there is a vacant lot that was excavated a few years ago for the foundations of a future apartment building. What was found there was a 25 yards-long section of an "authentic" flagstone road that 25 centuries ago was used to transport on wooden wagons from quarries a few miles uphill on the adjacent Pendeli Mountain, the half-finished marble parts of the Parthenon columns, each part weighing about 12 tons. The back-and-forth trips of those wooden wagons lasted for decades. Now, this road followed the left bank of a ravine, the "Halandri Ravine", that runs towards the direction of the Acropolis. (For the millions of people that have visited the Acropolis, there is a very interesting book, "From Pentelicon to the Parthenon", by Manolis Korres, an engineering colleague of mine, that reconstructs the "saga" of quarrying the marble at Pendeli Mt. and moving it to the Acropolis, and in the book the route followed by the wagons is quite accurately depicted.) Today, both banks of the ravine have been densely built with 7-story apartment buildings, mostly during the 7-year long US-supported military dictatorship of 1967, up to almost the edge of the ravine bank. Do not forget that the US troops showed the same respect for human history in Mesopotamia.
One cannot avoid thinking that in the foundations of these hundreds of buildings, sections of this "authentic" flagstone road were found, but never reported. Gone is a very precious part of human history! Also, one can imagine the frustration and the anger of the "unlucky" owner of the above lot, where the flagroad was discovered, as he cannot build and make a profit. By the way, when Greeks are that angry, they use, as a curse, the f-word against Jesus and his (virgin) Mother. Even Orthodox Christian priests have been heard by me to commit that unbelievable sin. It seems that the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith did not rescue the "poor" owner of the lot. End of Note.]
So, did the Americans, so great admirers of the classical Greeks and especially of the Athenian democracy, follow the example of their "heroes"? Let us try to examine that:
"Thucydides, the greatest of Greek historians, was perhaps the first person to apply a highly refined intellect to a large-scale examination of the nature of political power and the way state policies are made... His authority is hardly equaled by that of any other historian... His was the first recorded political and moral analysis of a nation's war policies". (The Britannica).
Thucydides writes: "The Athenians were the first to lay aside their weapons, and to adopt an easier and more luxurious mode of life..." ( "The History of the Peloponnesian War",The First Book, Chapter I, )
The key-word in the original Greek text of Thucydides is the word "tryferoteron" which is the comparative of the adjective "tryferon". The translators of the above excerpt, Richard Crawley and R. Feetham, rendered in English the word "tryferoteron" as: "easier and more luxurious".
The word "tryferos" ( neuter: "tryferon"), pronounced "treefero's", has survived the millennia and is part of the modern Greek language and today it means "tender" (gentle, kind, friendly, loving, soft).
In the western (mostly Oxford) scholarship the word "tryferos" when referring "to persons, their life and habits [it means], 'effeminate, 'luxurious', 'voluptuous' " [Liddell, Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon"]. This is the meaning that the translators chose to adopt for Thucydides' passage, on the basis of existing classical Greek texts. Even if that is technically accurate, one cannot ignore that the word "tryferos", also in classical times, incorporated the meaning of "tenderness" and "gentleness".
In fact, Thucydides in his text aims to depict the Athenian "gentleness" in contrast to the Spartan "militarism". What was the end result of this contrast is part of human history; the Athenian culture, admired by the US Founding Fathers, versus the brutal militarism of the Spartans, copied accurately by the Nazis.
[Parenthesis: The word that Thucydides uses to refer to the Athenian "weapons" is the Greek word "sideros" which means "iron" (in English used as a prefix to denote the metal). It so happens, that the US "macho" males, since about 1835, use the word "iron" to denote a hand-gun, especially a pistol or a revolver. Since then the NRA has promoted the "iron" to become part of the US Christian religion. The latest saintly Mass having been held in Tucson, Arizona.]
So, why do not the Americans follow their classical Greek heroes and "lay aside their weapons"?
Why do they not turn the Pentagon into a library or turn the CIA buildings, at Langley, into a University?
Let us go to the roots of the Americans. Noam Chomsky writes: "By the term 'Europe', we include the European-settled colonies, one of which [the US] now leads the crusade [to conquer the world]..." Chomsky goes on: "[Geoffrey] Parker writes: 'It was thanks to their military superiority, rather than any social, moral or natural advantage, that the white peoples of the world managed to create and control, however briefly, the first global hegemony in History.' The temporal qualification is open to question." ("Year 501", Black Rose Books, 1993, p. 3 and 8).
Going even deeper in European history we find that: "The early twelfth century saw the invention of the lethal crossbow (which is the bow we usually see in William Tell films). Pope Innocent II, while prohibiting under threat of anathema its use against Christians, did allow, though, its use against the Muslims and other infidels." [Nikos Raptis, "Technology: Past, Present, (Future?)", Democracy & Nature, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1998, p. 6]
"Muslims and other infidels"! Pope Innocent II [!!!], should feel happy in his comfortable grave or the Christian Paradise [or wherever innocent Popes go after they die]. The US Christians follow his edict! Only, today the crossbow is not "de rigueur", it has been supplanted by the drones of Barack [Thomas] Obama, operated by young American Christian assholes in Nevada who dismember innocent women and children as a computer game.
Is it then true that the US elites instead of following the ideas of the Founding Fathers who [supposedly] were for the "tender" or "gentle" Athenians ended up following the brutal militaristic Spartans; the enemies of the Athenians? It is more than true. It is a US religious truth. Ask that "tender" and "gentle" lady, Sarah Palin. She will attest to that, after she "reloads" [with hate].
Also, one should ask the modern-times "Spartans" themselves, the US Marines, the inheritors of the Nazi Wehrmacht. Or, is it the other way around? Was the Wehrmacht the inheritor of the US Marines?
Ask the US Marines? A difficult task! I wonder if the top brass of the Marines were ever allowed to know who was the "Old Gimlet Eye", the greatest Marine ever born, according to the Marines of yore themselves and according to the majority of the Americans at that time. The Marine, who started his career in killing for the benefit of the US elites in Guantanamo 1897, at the age of 16, and then served his pious and wealthy US "masters" in the Philippines, in China, in the Honduras, in Nicaragua, in Panama, in Mexico, in Haiti, etc, during the first decades of the 20th century.
However, Old Gimlet Eye became a... whistle-blower! In 1935 he wrote a little book with the title: "War is a Racket". Which, obviously, makes his "masters", the US elites, racketeers and himself their errand-boy. Nevertheless, he closes his book with these sentences:
"But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists ... So ... I say, 'TO HELL WITH WAR!"
The name of the "Old Gimlet Eye": Smedley D. Butler, Major General, United States Marines.
As expected, Butler has been erased from the US History, although he pointed to Ike's "military-industrial complex" decades before Ike.
Inevitably, we arrive at the ultimate [and crucial for the survival of the planet] question: Can the US society be transformed from a militaristic society to a "tender" and "gentle" society?
The answer is: Yes!
The majority of Americans, as most humans, are decent and "gentle" people. My estimate for that majority is about 2/3 of the US population [which holds also for any other population]. However, this majority has to deal with a minority of 1/3 of rather problematic humans that the US elites use as a foundation for building their militaristic edifice of incomprehensive evil and cruelty. Incomprehensive, because one can wonder: what is the purpose of using drones, KNOWING that kids, mostly kids, will be blown to pieces? Is this based on a cost-benefit analysis that offsets the dismembered kids against cheap gas for the US middle class in Peoria?
[One more Parenthesis: One can argue that the 1/3, that is millions of "problematic" people, is an exaggeration. So, we have to clarify a bit the term "problematic". Take the mass of people that listen and "enjoy" the "sermons" of Glenn Beck. Or, take those that listen, or follow, or like, etc, Sarah Palin, Rahm Emanuel, Joe Lieberman, Newt Gingrich, et al. Or, take the "patriots" who go to tea parties, and so on. They constitute a significant multitude. Why these people are "problematic" is a rather complex... problem.]
All through History, Emperors, Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Dictators, and assorted assholes that "reigned" (and "reign") over ordinary humans, deep in them were (and are) scared to death. When they sensed (and sense) the anger of the 2/3 they had (and they have) the shit scared out of them. And it is not only the assorted "leaders" it is, also, the "master torturer" and the "master propagandist" of the regime that suffer this indignity together with their "leader".
The catalyst for this to happen is that this ANGER of the 2/3 becomes KNOWN to these assorted "leaders".
This happened in Tunisia, a few days ago.
This happened in Albania, also, a few days ago.
This happened in Egypt, today (January 25, 2011).
Therefore, if the ordinary Americans of the 2/3 wish to live in a "tender" and "gentle" society and not in a militaristic regime that spreads death and violence on the planet they should make it KNOWN to their "leaders", or better to the US elites.
In contrast to the above peoples, the Tunisians, the Albanians, and the Egyptians, the ordinary Americans are privileged. They do not need violence to make this known to the elites. How? The answer rests in the 2/3 fraction.