Friedrich Nietzsche not only loved Greek art and culture per se but he was also, as we discussed the other day, always searching for timeless lessons from the Greeks to help us understand modernity and ourselves.
He found one such lesson in an apparent duality that ran through all of Greek art: the tension between two gods who were also two archetypes and half-brothers: Apollo and Dionysus.
Think of them as a Greek Yin and Yang.
Apollo, the god of the sun and wisdom, as well as poetry and music, would be the equivalent of the Chinese yang (ie, the bright, masculine sun).
Dionysus, the god of wine, intoxication, ecstasy, passion and instinct, would be the equivalent of the Chinese yin (ie, the dark, feminine moon).
Obviously, I am stretching that analogy, so don’t get too wound up about it. If you prefer, you can think of them in our contemporary pop-psychology terms of left brain (Apollo) and right brain (Dionysus).
So why should this duality be so interesting, for the Greeks or for us?
From Homer to John Wayne: The Apollonian
Nietzsche saw in these two archetypes two approaches to art, and indeed life.
Homer, for example, followed his Apollonian instinct in writing the Iliad and Odyssey in the 8th century BCE. How so? Because he glorified the war against Troy and the subsequent nostos (homecoming) of Odysseus. He made these stories beautiful, as Apollo was. He gave the Greeks and us role models.
He made the Greeks proud to be Greeks, proud to descend from whichever hero in the long catalogue of ships they traced their lineage to. He made them aware of their individuality, of the structures of society, of its fundamental order to which, after intervening episodes of wrath (see: Achilles), everything must return.
Julian Young in his biography of Nietzsche compares this to, for example, our Westerns (the ones with John Wayne more than those with Clint Eastwood). There, too, you see people dying, but they die in a stylized, Homeric way: The bullet hits and they tumble from their horses, looking good as they do so. They are our heroes, beyond the sordidness of reality.
Young gives another modern example: women’s magazines. Those are full of celebrities (our goddesses?) with their tales of disease, divorce, death and drugs. The subtext is ugly, and yet it is presented to us as glamour.
Nietzsche calls this being “superficial out of profundity.” Apollonian art does not censor facts (such as death) but perspectives. It involves a certain amount of self-deception, but it is uplifting. It deifies everything human, whether good or bad. And so it is, yes, religion.
From Sophocles to the rock concert: The Dionysian
By contrast, Aeschylus and Sophocles (but not Euripides, see below) followed their Dionysian instincts in the tragedies they created the fifth century BCE. This might have been expected: Those tragedies were, after all, performed once a year at the festival of Dionysus.
Dionysian art is about the abandonment of order, or ecstasy (ex-stasis = standing out of everyday consciousness). It transcends words or concepts. This is why it tends to involve visuals and music.
Music was in fact an important part of Sophocles’ and Aeschylus’ tragedies (we just don’t know how it sounded, what a pity!). Apparently, the audience sang along with the chorus and became one with it.
The individuals there would have become hypnotized by the sound (rather as yogis feel a certain ‘vibe’ when chanting Om with others). In fact, they would have, as one says, lost themselves in the crowd. They would have stopped feeling separate and individual, Athenian or Greek. They would have had (Freud’s) oceanic feeling.
Young compares this to our rock concerts or raves, to our football and soccer stadiums. Dionysian art is a trance and a trip, usually good, sometimes bad.
It is, in contrast to some Apollonian art, apolitical and devoid of any message. The Athenians participating in Sophocles’ tragedies stopped caring about worldly affairs. They became almost apathetic.
This was the only way they could bear to see their heroes — those same Apollonian heroes — torn down and devastated, knowing that they themselves might meet the same fate, understanding that reality was sordid, that it was primal and dark, and that it demanded to be accepted in that way. And they found a beauty in that feeling, too. So it, too, was a form of religion.
From Socrates to Princess Diana: What Nietzsche decried
Nietzsche loved both the Apollonian and the Dionysian, understanding that, like yin and yang, neither can ever be denied.
What he did not like, however, might surprise you: Socrates.
Why? Because Socrates represented, to Nietzsche, the religion of reason — not Apollonian wisdom but cold, methodical logic. In that sense, Nietzsche believed that Socrates “killed” Attic tragedy and Homeric poetry, and the playwright who represented that trend (to Nietzsche) was Euripides, the youngest of the three great tragedians.
Our own age, Nietzsche might say, is “Socratic” in the sense of scientific and myth-less, neither Apollonian nor Dionysian. Because we can’t act out these two instincts, we instead cobble together what Young calls “myth fragments”. We don’t release urges, as the Greeks did, but instead look for thrills, for sex and drugs and trips. We sky- and scuba-dive, we get a new app.
We worship neither Dionysus or Apollo but idols like Princess Diana. How appropriate, since Diana was the Roman Artemis, sister of Apollo.
95 thoughts on “Somewhere between Apollo & Dionysus”
I love it when you’re in this mood, but am very very uneasy about the glorification of the primitive.
We cannot deny its existence, of course not, that has its inherent dangers, or necessarily deny ourselves the experience. Yet as a guide to conduct it is poor, and failure to control it means we have not advanced since ancient times
“I love it when you’re in this mood…”
I love it when my readers love it. (What mood am I in, btw?)
If glorification of the primitive makes you uneasy, are you referring to the Apollonian or the Dionysian? Or to specific works of art?
I disagree with your conception of the ancient Greeks as ‘primitive’… They may have been ‘technologically less advanced’ than we are; but they were much more culturally sophisticated and informed than we are today, and much more committed to their cities and social obligations. One of our biggest problems is that we continually forget the lessons taught us by the history of these peoples.
I disagree with your conception of the ancient Greeks as ‘primitive’… They may have been ‘technologically less advanced’ than we are; but they were much more culturally sophisticated and informed than we are today
I would not disagree that the ancient Greeks were not primitive but I would argue that your view of them may have been romanticized by historical interpretations. Some might say they were fractionalized by the concept of city-states. Of course, they eventually united to a degree but some of that was done through war and treachery. Or perhaps you are speaking of a specific period of ancient Greece?
The nature of our moods is something we each have to discover for ourselves. Try Yoga.
The distinction you make is not a valid one.
Douglas, perhaps it’s just my own disillusionment with the modern world where nothing matters more than the Almighty Dollar, to such an extent that we even destroy the planet for the sake of a quick buck, which prompted my statement; but thinking on it further, I’ll stand by it:
I don’t think I have too romaticized a view of the ancient world either; indeed, it is ironic you should use this term in such a manner about these people, who are the ultimate origin of the ‘Romantic’ nations; and the ultimate origin of romanticism itself… their whole culture was about romanticism (not in the ‘Mills’n’Boon’ sense, however!)
But I think it is true to say that the average Spartan, or the average Athenian in the time of Pericles, was more engaged in the functioning of his/her city/state… the same is true of all the other Greek states; cities were still relatively new then and people actually took pride in them; indeed they were seen as holy ground and their inhabitants would suffer no pollution or polluting acts to take place within her boundaries (though their conception of ‘pollution’ was quite different from ours, of course; being more a form of ‘spiritual pollution’ than physical). Nowadays the only use pollies have for their constituents is for their vote; once every three years… and this is rarely honestly won in open and honest debate where all participants are equally well informed, as was the case in Ancient Greece; nowadays pollies try to trick the public into parting with their votes.
They were better educated (relatively speaking) because all the rulers of the ancient city states realized the value of having an educated population; modern politicians think they are better served by keeping the general populace as ignorant as it can; except, of course, for those classes which see themselves as ‘born to rule’ (a bizarre concept in a country which supposedly prides itself on its democracy and egalitarianism!) And the point of their education was the benefit of their state; everyone worked for the benefit of the state; not themselves! Paying tax was not only a privilege; it was the priincipal means of determining status (NB: the Pentacosiomedimnoi!) in some states; you were a big man because you paid more tax than anyone else.
And all our progress amounts to is the ability to kill millions in an instant and threaten the destruction of the human world; we have progressed more in brutality than in civility…
My point is that Imperialism is the traditional means of attempting to unify the world; it is a virtually ubiquitous phenomenon; however, as I also point out, in the same chapter, it is unlikely to achieve its ultimate goal of world unity, however, simply because of the amount of resistance it invariably generates. Only a sodality which people join voluntarily and without coercion has any real chance of doing this… something historians and generals and kings have all missed throughout the whole course of human history… though it may have occurred to a certain Nazarene, but when he tried to tell people there may be a better way of doing things he was nailed to a tree for his impudence!
You say much to agree with and much to disagree with. I would ask what the life expectancy of the ancient Greeks (for example) compared to the first world citizen when discussing our advancements. That is, we have made improvements to life as well as to death dealing. I suspect that the slaves of ancient Greece may well disagree with you about a number of things. The Helots, in particular.
Yes, materialism (chasing the almighty dollar, as you say) is something we see as pervasive and a result of our cultural degradation. Yet, we also do much good with those dollars. The rich long ago bought into the concept of noblesse oblige resulting in charities being started, funded, and run by the rich and powerful.
I think much of our disagreement here has to do with our perspective and our perception of the world around us.
As for romanticism, I thought that grew out of Latin, as in Rome, hence the term.
I can’t give you figures on life expenctancy; and I wasn’t really saying they were ahead of us in every respect; I was really just objecting to having them called ‘primitive’, when our own level of and willingness to use brutality is right off their scale! Also, I must confess that I was just talking about citizens, rather than slaves; of course, many of the slaves would be well educated as citizens in their own city-state before being captured and enslaved; bred slaves, of course, would be a different matter… but there are people who live and work in comparable conditions even today; slavery is not dead, merely disguised…
I recognise that money can also do good and that materialism has its benefits; my question is are they worth the long-term costs? Even when these costs include the destruction of the human world? As for charity; from some perspectives this can be seen as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution… insofar as it helps maintain existing hierarchical structures as well as creating a hierarchical relationship between the ‘giver’ and the ‘receiver’, and in most cases merely serves to maintain the poor in their poverty…
Certainly our differing life histories, education, etc will be reflected in different attitudes; this does not mean either of us is ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’; merely that we look at things from different angles.
As for romanticism, the Romans traced their descent from Aeneas after the fall of Troy; and they copied virtually their whole culture from the ancient Greeks.
I can’t give you figures on life expenctancy; and I wasn’t really saying they were ahead of us in every respect; I was really just objecting to having them called ‘primitive’, when our own level of and willingness to use brutality is right off their scale!
Let me start with this. The life expectancy question had to do with our advancement as cultures; our progress, if you will. Who would you define as “our” in your objection? Iranian? Iraqi? The Soviets of the Cold War era? China under Mao? Pol Pot’s regime? Or the US, GB, Canada, Most of modern Europe since the mid-20th Century?
You use “we” and “our” in a collective sense, as if all the various cultures and societies that exist today are one entity. Yet, you exclude the Spartans when you speak of Ancient Greece, ignore Alexander, his father Philip, Pericles, and others.
I would say the Romans (and I admit I am speculating here) claimed Greek heritage for the purpose of legitimacy for their expansion; for their “manifest destiny”, if you will. Countless societies have done similar, as have individuals seeking legitimacy to take or hold power.
I personally believe in the duality of man. That he is capable of both evil and good. And that this is evident throughout history. I think we cannot rid ourselves of either side, that the existence of both in each of us is what drives our social evolution. Maybe the battle between our good and bad is why we have evolved, socially, as we have. Maybe the existence of the Attilas, the Alexanders, the Hitlers, the Stalins, the Maos, and the Pol Pots, et al; and the Socrates, the Aristotles, the Curies, the Pasteurs, the Einsteins, the Carnegies, the Mother Teresas, et al and the countless others are necessary to our advancement. This constant battle between good and evil may be what drives us forward. That , without evil, there would be no good?
But I am only a simple man with a limited education.
Douglas, whatever the truth of your claim that the Romans used their ‘Greek’ heritage (actually Troy was an ‘Asian’ city) it is certainly true that the Romans valued all things Greek in much the same way as Australians value all things American… and copied their whole culture; from their pantheon, which merely gave Greek gods Roman names, to their love of circuses were based on their adoption of the Greek way of living.
Where did I exclude Sparta? And from what? Nor did I ignore Alexander; indeed I have indicated in my book that his dream of world-conquest is in fact, paradigmatic of violent societies. That I didn’t mention him earlier on this blog is simply because one can’t say everything all at the same time!
Your discussion on good and evil are interesting, and indeed from my understanding of Taoist cosmology, I am aware of their inseparability; indeed, these are relative terms which exist in a state of mutual complementarity and depend on each other for their existence in exactly the same way that ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’ do; hence I agree with you that one cannot ‘separate out’ the good from the evil in men. This also adds to the impossible nature of the ‘problem’ of violence; if ‘problem’ it is…
Perhaps I have been misreading you. But it seems to me that you presented Ancient Greece as model, of sorts, for how societies might be better than they are today. Yet Ancient Greece had its share of violence, oppression, and inequality (as in slavery). It also had rich and poor and all the problems that come with a stratified social system. But if I misread you, my apologies.
Troy would have been as much European as Asian, being situated in what is now Turkey. But, yes, seen as part of the Orient. And you have acknowledged that Rome adopted, and adapted, much of Greek culture. I think that was to give them a more legitimate foundation for their “right to rule” the world… as natural successors to the esteemed Greek culture. It does not mean that is why, it is only my belief.
I think you have been misreading me, Douglas. I was bascially merely lamenting the loss of the values of civic duty for which we owe the Greeks such a great debt. I wasn’t saying these ancient societies were ‘better’ than our own; merely that we had forgotten some of those values which go to making a society ‘great’, and this very much to our cost. However, I’m very well aware of the violent nature of these societies; indeed that is the very reason I chose them as ‘paradigmatic’ of violent societies.
When I say that Troy was an ‘Asian’ city, I put it into inverted commas deliberately, because the ‘Asia’ referred to is not the ‘Asia’ we all know today, but rather, the ‘Asia’ which was called such by the people of that time; it would perhaps correspond to what we now call the ‘middle east’, which we once used to call ‘Asia Minor’…
Your idea about why the Romans insisited upon a mythologically Greek heritage is interesting and I do not necessarily disagree with it. The only point I was trying to make by reference to this heritage is that the beginnings of ‘romanticism’ are Greek, rather than Roman… however, I am prepared to grant that the Romans took Greek romanticism to new heights… or depths!
I think you have been misreading me, Douglas. I was bascially merely lamenting the loss of the values of civic duty for which we owe the Greeks such a great debt.
Then, yes, my apologies for misreading you. Could you then clarify why you feel that we have lost the “values of civic duty”? I see many people volunteering for military duty, to work as missionaries, to work in depressed and impoverished areas, to assist in political life as campaign volunteers, to spend the fortunes they have made to attain and serve in public office (though I question the motives of these last fairly often), and neighbors helping neighbors everywhere I have lived.
And, maybe, you could elaborate on just who is the “we” of which you speak?
You see, that last question is important to me. It’s why I keep asking it.
I should have been more specific about the ‘loss of civic values’; I was talking about ‘corporate’ America, rather than individuals. When coporations like Enron, Goldman and Sachs, etc indulge their greed at the expense not only of the American nation, but the rest of the world, I would say that ‘corporate culture’ had lost its sense of ‘civic duty’…
Elsewhere, in an essay on unemployment I wrote many years ago, I pointed out the problem with what I call ‘volunteerism’, which I distinguish from ‘voluntarism’ thus: ‘Voluntarism’ describes people who volunteer to help with projects in their local neighbourhood etc. ‘Volunteerism’ is the eagerness of employers to make use of that ‘volunteer spirit’, and exploit it for all its worth, not even caring to consider that such ‘volunteers’ are often among the poorest members of society and need to eat. But I digress.
And the ‘we’ I speak about are our ‘modern, western, capitalist-colonial-imperialist’ societies, which now have so little understanding of the word ‘democracy’ that we think it can be imposed at gunpoint!
And the ‘we’ I speak about are our ‘modern, western, capitalist-colonial-imperialist’ societies, which now have so little understanding of the word ‘democracy’ that we think it can be imposed at gunpoint!
I suspected as much. You really mean “they”, not “we” because you appear to set yourself apart from them. Maybe above them.
We have, indeed, imposed democracy at gunpoint. Two of the most successful places where we have done this is Japan and Germany. You do recall why we did that, don’t you?
Other than that, there is Iraq which may or may not be successful. I am wondering what other instances you know of that we attempted to impose democracy by gunpoint?
You see, imperialism and colonialism in the West began to fall out of favor after the Spanish-American War (for the US) and after World War I for the European powers. Something I like to call (when I am being less than complimentary) “economic imperialism” emerged to take its place. This is where the exploiting of the resources of third world countries was done by businesses, not armies. The jury is still out on this method though I think it is in great decline of late since it, too, has had some terrible consequences.
I have have known a number of rich and successful people. These are the people who started, created, expanded, and evolved those corporations and then created our largest charities, endowed them, and ran them. Maybe they did this out of guilt or because of some ulterior motive such as gaining more influence or presenting a kind face behind which they could hide their more evil deeds. Still, they have made this country (the US) into arguably the wealthiest and most successful nation in history. So wealthy and successful that we are the first to be called upon, and the first to answer, when disaster strikes in the form of war, or tsunami, earthquake, and other acts of nature. And we are quickly followed by those other, also wealthy and successful, countries of the West.
Sorry, not into the vilifying of capitalism. I support it, believing it has done more to improve people’s lives than it has damaged them.
I do agree with you about the wrongness of colonialism. But we live in a post-colonial world now, for the most part. Russia seems interested in re-establishing its empire, though, which worries me. Iraq, that other nation I mentioned earlier, was interested in expansion… laying claim to (and invading) Kuwait which, eventually, led to its own invasion and occupation. An occupation which is ending instead of creating a colony.
No, Douglas, I do not mean ‘they’… I deliberately use ‘we’ because I do not seek to place myself above anyone nor to claim any moral superiority; I recognise my own violent tendencies, though I like to think I have learned to control them… and I’m an anthropologist, not a politician. All I have done is to analyse and compare the nature of the social relationships involved in the construction of several societies (and, of course, also, to some extent, the social construction of the individual within those societies).
What you say about Imperialism falling out of favour after the Spanish-American War is true; however, I would venture to suggest firstly that economic colonial exploitation is barely less nasty than war; and is/was often backed up with at least the threat of violence; and indeed, with Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan I’d say Imperialism is back with a vengeance…
My analysis of violence is not a diatribe against the rich and I don’t know why you appear to have taken it as such… Nor was it a critique of ‘Capitalism’, let alone vilification of it; rather it was specifically Imperialism (in all its forms, of which capitalist-colonial-imperialism is merely one) that I was critiquing; and that only insofar as it relates to the social reproduction and amplification of violence, which is, after all, the object of my analysis.
You say democracy was successfully imposed at gunpoint in Japan; I just don’t think I could call it ‘democracy’… But is ‘democratic’ Japan really any better than ‘Imperial Japan’? If so, why? Could it have anything to do with their renunciation of violence? (Though sadly I understand they are currently rethinking that policy in any case…)
The USA may have “…made this country (the US) into arguably the wealthiest and most successful nation in history.” But what state has it left the rest of the world in? No, I don’t mean to imply that it’s all America’s fault; or that the USA was any more ‘guilty’ of imperialism than anyone else; the blame really lies within the history ALL of the previous Imperial powers, if it is at all reasonable or rational to ‘blame’ socio-historical processes (and, no, I don’t think it is!). To that extent, we are all victims of history…
Please understand, as an anthropologist it is my duty to analyse this sort of stuff; and analysis implies critique… but critique should not be mistaken for attack. It is my sincere belief that ‘our’ modus vivendi has thus far led us to the brink of imminent extinction from a number of possible causes unless we learn, somehow, to do things differently… As I’ve said, I don’t even know if this is possible, given what I have discovered from my study of violence.
No, Douglas, I do not mean ‘they’… I deliberately use ‘we’ because I do not seek to place myself above anyone nor to claim any moral superiority; I recognise my own violent tendencies, though I like to think I have learned to control them… and I’m an anthropologist, not a politician.
Indulge me for a moment… Let me explain what I meant by that. There are those who argue that “we” must do more for the poor and the downtrodden, that “we” must provide more, share more wealth, help more. But they mean that government should do more and the rest of us should pay more so government can do this. They may even include themselves among the “we” and sincerely believe it. But, in my years and experience, they actually want others, especially those that have more than they do, to do more; to pay higher taxes, to give up more of their wealth. Your words are very similar, seem to address the same issues, are formed of the same cliches, if you will. Forgive me if I misjudge you but I ask you to do a bit of honest self-analysis regarding your motives and beliefs. Consider your words, consider where you picked up your knowledge, how you arrived at your conclusions…
Japan is a very democratic state. It is less free than one might think but it is democratic. It elects its political leaders, it un-elects those who fail to follow the public will. It does not impose or remove political leaders by force. It is a multi-party political system so there is choice. Its citizens have rights guaranteed by law and restrictions acceptable to the majority. It is quite democratic. I say “less free” because tradition and custom of its culture also imposes restrictions beyond those adapted by the political system. I do not confuse “freedom” with “democracy”. China is certainly democratic in form, as was the Soviet Union. People vote, they have representatives, but they have no power, that is all in the hands of the only legitimate political party.
Japan is re-thinking its renunciation of violence (by which I assume you mean it is becoming willing to expand its military beyond its current defensive capability) primarily because of the perceived threat from China. China, of course, has not renounced the use of force and is constantly expanding and improving upon its military capability. One asks why? What is the threat to China?
however, I would venture to suggest firstly that economic colonial exploitation is barely less nasty than war; and is/was often backed up with at least the threat of violence; and indeed, with Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan I’d say Imperialism is back with a vengeance…
“economic colonial exploitation”… a phrase I often heard back in the 60’s. We did not invade Vietnam. We did not make it a colony. That was the French (it seems that former French colonies seem to turn into problem areas) that did that. We merely offered support for the non-communist South. We then expanded that support until we were enmeshed in a war that was virtually impossible to win. There were many dynamics involved that added to the problem but there were no resources there that were of great importance to us, we had other sources. If you want to get into a long philosophical discussion about the history and problems of the old French Indochina, I would be happy to exchange emails with you.
Iraq is a special case, its problems and our involvement sprang from two areas: the Cold War and its dictator’s desire for expansion to increase his control of oil supplies. We tried the simply “defend and push back” method to deal with him (Saddam Hussein) and were left with an ongoing problem that could only worsen (and did) while he or his sons retained power. That does not justify invasion, it just explains it to some degree.
Afghanistan was, in my opinion, “fair game”. Its Taliban regime was brutal, repressive, and offensive. It quartered and supported terrorism. That regime was given time to give up the terrorists and refused. It thereby allied itself with terrorist groups and the acts committed.
There is nothing there, in terms of resources, that western nations need. It is just a place where disruptive violent elements can find shelter and support. Withdrawing from there will not decrease violence and may even encourage it.
As an anthropologist, you should analyze this from an objective viewpoint. As my mother used to say “It takes two to tango”. Neither side is blameless and neither side acts alone. A true analysis does not see victims and predators, it sees human interaction in all its forms, both insidious and benign. Each can be harmful, each can result in good.
Colonialism is not always bad, just ask Canada and Australia. But it certainly can be. People do not like to have their self-determination removed, do not like to have external powers control them, even in a benign form. There is, generally, a dynamic to colonialism that foments unrest and eventually revolution. Most of the problems that arise after external power is thrown off (or the colony is granted self rule peaceably) are caused by the struggle for power within the former colony. To paraphrase The Who… “meet the new boss, worse than the old boss.”
Thanks! Lots of food for thought here–I’d never thought about the Socrates to Princess Diana path, having always linked the irrrational to the Dionysian, but this view is much richer.
I’m just thinking out loud, but is the Princess Diana track a way to look at at problems with modern democracy vis a vis that envisaged by the Apollonian Founding Fathers?
You realize the only link between Socrates and Princess D is — or so I interpret Nietzsche — that the former made us so “reasonable” that we can no longer properly indulge in either Apollonian or Dionysian revelry, thus grasping for far inferior proxies in pop culture.
The Founding Fathers would have been Socratics in this context, no?
Yes, when you put in the context of the religion of reason. But what I latched onto was the idea of “myth fragments,” where we try to elevate our leaders above mere mortals and forget about the more simple “reason” of the FF.
The more I think about it, the more complicated it gets.
should i have sex with a stranger, go skydiving, or gamble away a bunch of money in vegas… hmm? — no, i think i’ll get a new app for my iphone.
i suppose some of us are more “socratic” than others?
I thought that line might get some of you. 😉
Absolutely, some of us are more Socratic (Dionysian/Apollonian) than others.
Now that you force me to think it through: Aren’t Sufis “Dionysian” Muslims, aren’t Pentecostals “Dionysian” Christians, arent’ Republican and Democratic Conventions “Apollonian” productions,….. ?
It seems we are always at war within ourselves, doesn’t it?
In my case, yes, and i always lose.
The Greeks strived to create and maintain harmony, would you agree? And they thought harmony the truth of everything. I wonder if they thought, in their day, they met their own ideals, excluding outside forces-Sparta? If not,they have transferred this goal to our time. How beautiful to have a people in history still transferring hope. It compares to receiving light from a distance star that is long dead. Somehow,this weakens violence.
Great discussion. I’m glad I tuned in.
Very interesting perspective: “The Greeks strived to create and maintain harmony…”
I associate harmony as a goal more with the Eastern philosophies. The Greeks, as I said in some other post, were all about AGON, competition, which is at least superficially the opposite of harmony. But they did try to sublimate that so that the energies of agon had better places to go than violence. Hence art.
But they did, for sure, “transfer hope” to us. That’s indeed a major point of the myth of Pandora: The last thing out of her box, after all the evils and ills, was … hope.
Interesting article, Andreas; indeed there is a connection between the Taoism of the far East and the Apollo/Dionysos dichotomy, and the link is Zoroaster. According to the Baha’i Faith, Zoroastrianism is the root of all the worlds major modern religions; both Lao Tzu and Pythagoras are reported by them as having studied under the Persian master, Zoroaster.
Now, I’m pretty sure you will have read Claude Levi-Strauss’, “The Savage Mind”?
In it Levi Strauss says that the nature of the human mind is like the methodology of a ‘bricoleur’ (a french ‘handyman’) who has an interesting toolkit, made up of all kinds of odds and ends of tools, sometimes not exactly appropriate, but with which he must perforce make do. The point about this is that this ‘toolkit’ is a metaphor for the human mind; there was always some kind of system, which was constantly being adapted to circumstances; but this simply meant that old tools have to be used in new ways to meet new circumstances… The ‘gods’ are an example of such social ‘tools’, and interestingly also, the Dionysos/Apollo dichotomy also has its expression in a much earlier, pre-Zoroastrian religion which personified the Light/Darkness dichotomy of an even earlier religion into the twin gods, Ea and Enlil (whose character is, I must confess, not properly represented in my historical novel, “Cyrus”; in this book, for my own reasons, I have given these two gods complementary genders and an easily recognizable ‘King and Queen of Heaven’ role, together with their son, Merodach; indeed I believe this perception may have been current at some stage of Medo-Persian history; as, since its first Egyptian or Persian origins, this pattern has become virtually ubiquitous)
But ultimately I’m not sure of the utility of attempting to interpret ancient psychologies through the medium of modern pop psychology… rather, the reverse tends to be true; it is through an understanding of the meaning of Greek myths that we come to understand our own modern psychology, because it is in these Greek myths that the archetypes; and the archetypal value systems, are set… But to think we can understand the Greeks in say, Freudian or Jungian terms is erroneous.
Also, I must confess, it always worries me when people start quoting Neitsche; his philosophies were always questionable at best and we must not forget the contribution they made to Hitler’s worldview (weltanshauung); their plausibility makes them only all the more dangerous. As Euripides says in ‘Iphigenia in Aulis’, “How I despise plausible men! How odious it is to have a black heart a glib tongue!”
If you are right and Zoroaster is indeed the link between all these philosophies, then how fitting that Nietzsche projected himself, in one of his books, as a protagonist by the name of Zarathustra, another version of Zoroaster.
You’ll be disappointed: I have not read Levi-Strauss. Clearly, something to catch up on.
Andreas, I’m afraid I must disagree with you; it is far from appropriate that Neitzsche should adopt the name of Zoroaster: Zoroaster was perhaps the world’s first holy man… Now Nietsche can be called many things, but, in spite of his own fantasies to the contrary, of which ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ is a prime example, ‘holy’ is not one of them!
I think you’ll enjoy Levi-Strauss if you read him… From the nature of your blog I thought you were either an historian or an athropologist; Levi-Strauss is the latter; as am I, though in a much humbler capacity. Another author you might find interesting is Michel Foucault; he’s one of my favorites…
Excuse me, but condemning Nietzsche because his ideas contributed to Hitler’s world view is like condemning sex because Hitler was conceived via intercourse.
I might submit also that Foucault and Levi-Strauss have unleashed their own version of totalitarianism with respect to creative thought. Fortunately, their predations have mostly been limited to academe.
Sorry if you thought I was slinging mud at one of your heroes, Thomas… but you know, the tendency towards totalitarianism is inherent in the very notion of ‘society’ itself; as Foucault himself pointed out; it is almost inescapable. We humans are control freaks; and I have not exactly ‘condemned’ Neitzsche… I merely worry when people start thinking along the lines suggested in his ‘Will to Power’ or ‘Man and Superman’, in which he provides a rationale which Hitler used as a justification for the worst forms of human depravity; now this is to say that I’m worried about where taking up such a line of reasoning will lead; and why take that path in the first place, when there are other possibilities. I think too, that modern psychologists would probably have much to say about his religious fantasies and his adoption of the name of a ‘messiah’.
Thomas, I’d be interested to hear why you think, “…Foucault and Levi-Strauss have unleashed their own version of totalitarianism with respect to creative thought.”
Nietzsche’s view that Socrates/Plato marked the beginning of the end is one of the things Heidegger took from Nietzsche and which shaped his philosophy, including his views on technology, right through to the 1970s. Because H was so influential, and his ideas are shaping us today (even though we may not recognise them), you could say Nietzsche is also with us today.
@astyages, Nietzsche had also got the link to Zoroaster (Zarathustra); he wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Ooops, sorry, Solid Gold: You beat me to it. I brought up Zarathustra before reading your comment.
BTW, I had no idea that Heidegger’s “ideas are shaping us today”. I confess I have bad associations with the man, so you’re right that I don’t recognise the ideas. Are they bullet-pointable?
Yes, Gold, I do understand that Neitsche had some understanding of Zoroastrianism; but one may question how accurate a reconstruction it was of this ancient philosophy. There is also a certain amount of linguistic evidence; primarily the fact that the Chinese character for ‘shamanism’ is identical to the Zoroastrian cross… (the cross was a potent symbol long before christianity!)
Like Andreas, I’m unfamiliar with Heidegger (to be honest, I’m more ‘at home’ with the ancient philosophers than the modern ones!); could you ‘bullet-point’ his most important contributions to our modern world?
It’s all so two dimensional. Spin black and white together to get colour. Merge masculine and feminine to create.
The implied glorification, or sublimation, of war is not so innocent either. It is so easy to cross the critical line. Don’t get carried away. Submit it all to reason. That’s a hard thing to do.
Our condition is multi-dimensional, as is peace.
My God! We have our work cut out fighting Nature, or our natures, let alone each other – actually or symbolically.
I agree that, “…we have our work cut out fighting Nature, or our natures, let alone each other – actually or symbolically.”
But that is all the more reason to study and learn from cultures of violence! One must understand the nature of a problem if one is ever to solve it or prevent it from repeating itself ad infinitum, ad nauseau… But this is why I wrote my first book, ‘Aesthetics of Violence’; in an effort to understand the phenomenon from a scientific perspective. If you wish, you may read it, and all my other work for free on my blog:
Please feel free to leave comments and/or questions… Registration and subscription are free and there is absolutely no obligation whatsoever…
I have read chapter 5 of “The Aesthetics” of violence once, following your kind reference. It is, of course, vastly interesting and informative.
Is it possible to take a position on this chapter alone? If so, I shall study it more closely, since there are questions from my narrow perspective which, initially, are not answered.
In particular I seek a justification of your assertion here how the chapter will assist to solve or prevent [violence]…. I also seek the particular scientific reasoning to which you refer.
Thank you for your interest in my work, Richard.
Of course, Chapter 5 represents the culmination of a line of reasoning which starts in Chapter 1 with an analysis of the phenomenology of the nature of ‘aesthetic experience’, and, as I argue, lived experience itself; with particular reference to the externalization of internality and the internalization of externality. The following chapters look at and analyse the peculiar cultural idioms of violence in a variety of cultural settings, showing how violent meanings are constructed and articulated; in short, demonstrating that it is a ‘language’, of sorts; leading up to Chapter 4, in which I show how, when violence is used as a political methodology it shows a strong tendency to become an inescapable trap which locks one into a never-ending cycle of violence.
Chapter 5 is my attempt, by looking at violence in its earliest possible, and most archetypal of social contexts, to describe what may be called, ‘the grammatical structure’ of the ‘language’ of violence; for that is what it is, ultimately; if properly understood; although I do appreciate one does not always appreciate such forms of ‘communication’. Such ‘grammatical structures’ are things like: cannibalism, human sacrifice, torture, war, treacherous feasting, whipping boys etc… all of which embody very particular and highly significant cultural meanings, which must be understood, ultimately as ‘stategies of social reproduction’.
I do not pretend to have made any attempt to solve the problem of violence in this chapter; however, I do believe that I have looked at and analysed the phenomenon (scientifically, since anthropology is a science, for all that it is considered one of the ‘humanities’ subjects and thus an ‘art’!) in its most archetypal forms; forms which still persist, though transformed into other social processes over centuries of our violent history.
In fact what I have done, is effectively to describe a paradigm for the understanding of violence as a form of human self-expression. If nothing else, this is a contribution to an incredibly sparse ‘conversation’ (ie. anthropological debate) on the subject; remarkably sparse in fact; although ethnographic data is plentiful, analysis and understanding is rare. My book has a tendency to let cats out of bags; scapegoating, human sacrifice, cannibalism and all the most ‘barbaric’ practices of the ancients are still practiced today in our so-called ‘civilized’ society. ‘Progress’ in our ‘civilization’ amounts ulimately to the ability to kill people now by the millions with a push of a single button… I do not expect people to like what I’m saying, but I do hope they’ll think about it!
I do hope this very brief summary helps your understanding of my book; however, since I intended it as the starting point (and not the end point) in a discussion, I’d rather you ‘discussed’ any points you find questionable, rather than ‘taking a stand’ per se…
If you are wondering about my own personal opinions on violence; I’m agin’ it! (Though I DO reserve the right to self-defense, which, as a matter of personal honour, for me, does not include ‘pre-emptive’ strikes, which I would simply call ‘naked aggression’).
And, as I have already said, learning to understand the nature of a problem is the first step to overcoming it; but this is something which is so deeply embedded in our cultural histories that it appears, at least initially, to defy any solution other than the hope of the human species evolving past this stage of its evolution into a more peaceful critter entirely; though I don’t plan on holding my breath ’til that happens.
Thank you. You certainly justify your work and it obviously deserves more intelligence than I am capable of devoting to it.
I should, however, and with your indulgence, just like to ask one minor question. You speak much of unconscious and archetypal processes in the “language” of violence (a concept, incidentally which I readily accept) yet is it not choice, one of the fundamental and most mysterious qualities of consciousness that needs to be cultivated if we are to eschew violence?
“… is it not choice, one of the fundamental and most mysterious qualities of consciousness that needs to be cultivated if we are to eschew violence?”
I think that ultimately the purpose of my book is to bring people to that very realization, Richard. However, it is not an easy choice to make; and it must be made not only by an individual, but by every human being on the planet if it is not to start the whole cycle off again. Furthermore, it would involve resisting one of our oldest and most ubiquitous cultural traits; indeed, one which forms the very basis of our society… And I do not pretend that I can say for sure whether or not a truly peaceful culture is even possible… there is too little data to make any prediction; indeed if I think about any kind of predictions at all, it would be for more of the same; my personal opinion on the future of our species is not an optimistic one, I’m afraid…
You guys are ‘having a larf … bullet pointing Heidegger!!! Wise guys, huh? However, seeing I once tried that very thing (see link below), I would say Heidegger’s influence can be found in:
* the “slow movements,” eg, slow food, local produce movements, slow reading, etc
* the view that runs parallel with the boosterism of modern technology which is anti-technology, sort of Ludditism
* artificial intelligence
* the identification, and anxiety about the endless growth paradigm, growth for growths’ sake
* all of so-called Continental philosophy, and general philosophizing about post-modernism
* being the grit in the oyster shell of Anglo-US philosophy.
Thanks Solid Gold! For someone who started off by saying she couldn’t ‘bullet-point’ Heidegger, you didn’t make a bad fist of it!
He sounds like a man after my own heart… to some extent, at least!
Can we “eschew violence”, as Richard implies we should? And, if we do, would we not also remove passion from our lives?
I’m not sure we can, Douglas. There is much more passion in life than violence, which, in fact, it reduces and destroys. So I think we should at least try to eschew violence; this means dealing with it at a conscious level. It is, apparently, established that violence – and, I would venture to suggest, its analogy, sublimated violence – is a force arising from the unconscious.
I do not hold that exploration of individual psychological censorship is necessarily a healthy exercise. Freud’s narratives are too plausible. Maybe repression causes neurosis, but why do we assume that repressing violence, or avoiding the emotions associated with it, will cause violence? That is the challenge, and the choice, for us as human beings which chimpanzees are not equipped to face. Better neurosis (if indeed that is the result) than the devastation of violence.
Self-indulgence is not the answer to all ills.
That’s a very good question Douglas; can we? I don’t really know; but I have a feeling the human species will not last very much longer if we don’t actually make the attempt to try doing something differently; the hierarchical nature of our global society is what underlies all the major problems the human world is facing today other than natural catastrophes… and it’s even responsible for increasing the damage caused by these!
It seems to me that the world NEEDS to unify now, or never; and it MUST be done by choice; not forced… a big ask… Can we do it? Has the whole world EVER agreed on any single issue?
We live in interesting times!
I think it is difficult to separate violence from passion. I am, of course, speaking of passion in a general sense, not a sexual one. Passions are raised and encouraged in order to build armies needed to defend against external threats. We can, and I think we’ve discussed this before, channel violent impulses though the methods are not 100% effective. We know that affluence reduces incidents of individual violence while poverty appears to exacerbate violence. So, perhaps one way to reduce violence would be to increase affluence. Not simply provide creature comforts or reduce the difference between rich and poor but something more, something I can’t quite define yet. Suppressing passion does, I think, lead to more violence. A theme effectively portrayed in the movie “Falling Down”.
We do, indeed, live in interesting times. I think there is a difference between collective violence (that which is initiated by governments or large organizations such as terror groups) and individual violence (that which we see in our streets and homes). And I think that they are linked in that they are both an outgrowth of human nature. Perhaps one is due to evolution of social interaction while the other is a lack of evolution.
In fact the only difference between individual and collective violence is that the state attempts to monopolise violence to maintain order. Essentially the phenomenon is identical, though collective violence does also take on other qualities, not least of which is increasing dimensions; but essentially they make the same ‘statement’: “I’m better than you and don’t you forget it!” (though, as explained in the other chapters of my book, more individual and contextual meanings are created on top of this message, which is ubiquitous in all expressions of violence. We are not violent as a result of ‘human nature’; violence is taught; our whole culture is all about violence; look at our stories; all of our stories are about violence in one form or another, in fact it is axiomatic in any drama-school or writing course, that the essence of drama is conflict. And where would our society be today without ‘drama’?
In fact the only difference between individual and collective violence is that the state attempts to monopolise violence to maintain order.
I do not see that difference. Does the criminal not use violence to create a sort of order, to maintain control over his immediate situation? Does not the abusive husband not use violence to maintain what he sees as order in his house? Violence has always been used for that purpose, at both the personal and collective levels.
The difference I see is one of conscious control of violence, maybe what we might call the “sophistication” of violence. Personal violence seems more reactive than collective violence. In both cases, it is a tool to achieve a goal. Maybe the distinction I see is illusory, maybe I am wrong in differentiating between the two; that it is merely a matter of scale and dynamics.
Is the purpose of the State to control or serve its people? Can one be done without the other? Can a State protect (serve) its people without violence either by its own power or the power of its allies?
My philosophical approach is to be constantly in flux. And this discussion gives me much to consider. I am examining/challenging my assumptions as I write and read. So forgive me if I tend to get contradictory.
But let me take particular issue with this:
We are not violent as a result of ‘human nature’; violence is taught
Methods of violence are, indeed, taught. The use of violence is taught but violence itself? I think not. That is a “chicken/egg” question. I think violence is a natural trait of all animals. It is both a defensive tool and an offensive one. As we use our intellect; another tool. Intellect is neither violent nor non-violent. It can be used to advance violence or prevent/forestall it. Weapons of mass destruction can be used to conquer or to deter conquest.
To go a bit further, I might posit that violence is part of nature, not simply a part of animal nature. Storms and fires are violent yet they cleanse the land and promote growth.
Douglas, of course, the state uses violence to ‘maintain order’; and I’m quite sure the abusive husband imagines he is doing the same thing when he resorts to violence to impose his will. But this is exactly what I’ve said in my book; that the particular ‘magic’ of violence is its ability to turn ‘equals’ into ‘subordinates’… and it does so my making an unmistakable pyhysical ‘statement’ to the effect that, ‘I’m better than you, and don’t you forget it!” This is true in either case.
Of course the state cannot control its population without the threat of violence; or at least this is true in our modern western post-induastrial, capitalist-colonialist-imperialist global culture (which is what I mean when I use the term ‘we’ in a global sense!) This is why I say that violence is inherent in the nature of society; along with a concommitant tendency to totalitarianism… all societies are ‘more or less’ totalitarian in that they seek to control the daily lives of their constituents; they differ, however, in the degree, and ‘tightness’ of that control.
Of course, as you have indicated, ‘violence’ per se, is an existential possibility in the physical world anyway, quite separate and apart from humankind; which is why, conceptually, when I use the word ‘violence’ I am usually talkin specifically about HUMAN violence, which is, as I have shown, a trait which is cultivated in most, if not all, global societies. The difference between ‘natural’ and ‘human’ violence is that where natural violence is ‘accidental’, human violence is usually quite deliberate.
I appreciate that you constantly challenge your own viewpoints; indeed, this is one of the main reasons why I posted my work online as the ‘starting point’ of a discussion about humanity’s violent nature and what, if anything, can be done to remedy something which may well have been the catalyst to what we imagine is our ‘evolutionary progress’, but which is now quite apparently threatening to eradicate our own species. This is how I have ‘challenged’ my own ideas…
Finally, it is true that violence is part of nature; but so is peace…
It is up to humans to choose which way they want to live, but we know now, and indeed, have known and predicted for millenia, exactly where violence is likely to lead; given that history shows that the tendency has always been towards having larger and larger armies fighting with ever more deadly and ever-increasingly devastating weapons, the biblical prophecies of ‘Armageddon’ are not necessarily the ravings of demented religious prophets, but rather the logical outcome of known and readily observable trends using a very simple and direct form of logic.
As for ‘intelligence’ or ‘intellect’ as you call it, this is simply an evolutionary experiment, and one whose outcome is thus far unknown… though I would suggest it’s course is predictable; and indeed that it has been predicted; the question is, do we take this as ‘prophecy’ and simply act out the parts demanded of us in order to ‘fulfil the prophecy’? Or do we take it as a warning and start to do something about the violent (for which read, ‘hierarchical’) nature of our society, or do we, for perhaps the first time in history, look towards the creation of a global culture of equality?
Is such a thing even possible? I don’t know… that’s why this is the starting point of the debate; not the end! And I must say that I’m developing more and more sympathy with the Trojan princess, Cassandra, every day…
Of course the state cannot control its population without the threat of violence; or at least this is true in our modern western post-induastrial, capitalist-colonialist-imperialist global culture (which is what I mean when I use the term ‘we’ in a global sense!)
I would disagree. At least as you apply it to “modern western post-industrial” culture. Throughout history, societies have been held together by the threat of violence both from within and without. Even within the family unit there is some measure of implied violence as a control factor. It is a violent world, regardless of our goal of eradicating that violence. Interestingly enough, the allure of dictatorial regimes is that they provide an atmosphere of safety and security. And, ironically, do this through violent means.
But let’s examine the emergence of the United States. It is not based upon the rule of might but the rule of law. True, that rule is reinforced through the implied (or overt) threat of violence. But what other methods are available? I would offer that there is no viable alternative. And we have been an example of non-authoritarian rule. The threat of implied violence was less in that society than in any other at the time of its inception. Yet it was born in violence (revolution). Many other societies have since followed that example, many more have not.
I think the concept of equality is much over-rated and over-stated. Few seem to actually believe in it though it is given much power and is trotted out by those who actually believe they are the elite, the ones who should be in charge because of their superior intellect and great compassion and wisdom.
We are not equal. Some are smart, some are stupid, some are strong, some are weak, some are multi-talented, some are inept. We can only be equal in terms of treatment by the state. Usually stated as “equal under the law”. And that concept is a modern one, one which succeeded the concept of aristocracy. The Greeks did not believe in equality, they believed in their own superiority. I would offer that all peoples, all ethnic groups, believe in their own superiority to all others. Even those enslaved likely see themselves in that image.
Again, though, you return to this “we” concept and I am puzzled. Who is this “we”? We are not monolithic. We are many different groups, societies, cultures, and each of those have their own vision of what is just, right, and wrong. We, meaning the west, might work very hard to reduce inter-societal violence (war) while others work very hard to take advantage of what they see as our “weakness.” It is a complex world and still very violent. We cannot ignore that.
Douglas, there are so many contradictions in your post it’s difficult to know where to start: The first sentence or two in the first paragraph are contradicted by the rest of the para.
You say that the USA was based not upon the rule of might but the rule of law… For the time being we’ll forget that ‘Law’ itself ultimately rests upon the ability of the state to monopolise the use of violence and just concentrate on the fact that the USA has the largest defence force in the world and that it’s not above invading sovereign countries to rob them of their resources, under the pretence of ‘liberating’ them. And I do not see the USA as being an example of ‘non-authoritarian rule’… under which president are you suggesting this happened? You say, “The threat of implied violence was less in that society than in any other at the time of its inception.” But what about all those stories of the ‘Wild West’? Was the gun-slinging ethos of the Wild West a lessened threat of implied violence? Or the willingness to hang people with or without the benefit of a trial? Not to mention the authoritarianism of the Puritan ‘founding fathers and the infamous ‘witch trials’ at Salem; a more exemplary instance of the practice of ‘social scapegoating’ would be hard to find. We all like to think we are living in a ‘civilised’ society, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s so…
There was a time when I would have agreed with you on the subject of ‘equality’; now, I’m not speaking in terms of ideology here, but the concept of ‘equality’, most particularly before the law, is the most fundamental concept upon which democracy is based. I have suggested that we need to at least start thinking in this direction simply because of the intimacy of the relationship between violence and hierarchy; as I have said these two phenomena are born in the same instant; violence creates hierarchy; and hierarchy IS itself a form of violence. Because of this it seems to me that it is impossible to ‘eschew violence’ as Richard suggests, in an hierarchical system without some way to ‘equalise’ the situation.
As I also said, I do not even know if this is possible. Anthropologists have found a few ‘peaceful’ societies, eg. The Nuer and the Bushmen of the Kalahari, and these are of course egalitarian societies, which have only a ‘functional hierarchy’ which amounts basically to a simple deference to age and experience; however contact with the west usually cures them of that. Now, while I see it as very easy for such egalitarian societies to become hierarchic and violent, I do not see any means of reversing the process; although I may see equality as ‘desirable’ if the human race is to survive, I do not necessarily think it’s possible. But then, neither was going to the moon a century ago…
I stated that the implied threat of violence is there in the US. I asked for alternatives. Do you have any? I believe that as long as individuals believe in the role of force then force will be needed to control them. It is, shall we say, the imposition of an external conscience. In most cases, but not all, it imposes the will of a ruler or ruling body. The basic concept of the US system is that the law is derived from the citizenry and then that law is enforced by the state. If we dislike a law then we can remove it or nullify it. A prime example of this was Prohibition and its cessation.
I would like you to name the sovereign nations we have invaded “under the pretence of ‘liberating’ them.”
You have a good point about the Wild West. Unfortunately, I suspect that reinforces my point above about states having to use force to impose order and compliance. You see, the Wild West was wild because there was no law. Individuals had to impose order and you can see what a mess it was. However, eventually civilization entered the picture, towns grew up, order became the norm because people wanted to live in peace and unafraid of the individuals who exploited the anarchy they created.
The Salem witch trials were very bad. Nothing compared to what happened in Europe previous to and during this period (during our colonial days, not as a sovereign nation), of course, but still very bad. We also ended such things. We also enslaved people, even made an industry out of it. Then we fought a Civil War to put an end to that. We are still battling the vestiges of that struggle. Would you say that the invasion of the South (which, at the time, considered itself a “sovereign nation”) was the wrong thing to do? Or should we have allowed the southern states to secede?
You end on an interesting, but contradictory, note. People envisioned going to the moon for centuries before we did it. And, of course, we have made much progress in the last century. Our history of mistakes has led us to repudiate those mistakes and try to rectify them. Just as we have made advances that allowed us to reach the moon in vehicles that were, at one time, built solely for the destruction of cities in war.
Man progresses slowly, fighting his nature of violence all the way. We have progressed quite a bit. We have made great strides in the Western countries in terms of human rights, living standards, and personal freedom. There are those who would impose these advances on other nations, ones still mired in authoritarian rule. This is true but we tend to hold these people in check in the West.
I think you are impatient to achieve a utopia that may well be impossible. Well, unless we all become automatons, ruled by a kind and benevolent State.
No, Douglas, as I’ve already admitted, I don’t even know whether or not alternative forms of society are possible; my purpose in writing AOV was to describe and understand the ‘language of violence’; finding ‘solutions’ to the ‘problem’ of violence would require much more work, for which I have no funding in order to do the necessary research.
What makes me think it is impossible?
Dingane would have understood: Dingane was Shaka’s (ie. Shaka Zulu) half-brother, murderer and successor. He assassinated Shaka in response to the incredibly harsh conditions of mourning Shaka had imposed upon the Zulus upon the death of his mother, Nandi… the reasons he assassinated his half-brother was because he wanted to return the Zulus to their earlier, more peaceful mode of existence, before the emergence of the Mtwetwa confederacy or the rise of the Zulu nation.
You see, expansion and encroachment on native lands by Europeans in the north from Delagoa bay and from the south at Cape Town pushed all the tribes together, causing lots of inter-tribal warfare.
But traditional tribal warfare at the time consisted merely people standing fifty metres apart and hurling spears, while the women looked on, cheered their side and mocked the enemy; most of the time there was relatively little bloodshed, though occasionally someone was killed.
But when Shaka met Dingiswayo, the paramount king of the Mtwetwa, he transformed the whole nature of warfare, introducing the new concept of ‘total war’. It was necessary for Shaka to do this in order to unify the tribes into an effective fighting force if they were to have any kind of negotiating power with the European colonisers. But Shaka had started the Zulus on a pathway from which there is apparently no turning back; Dingane discovered this when, after only three months of his ‘new’ rule, he was obliged to use methods as every bit as excessively violent as those of Shaka in order to prevent the ‘Zulu Nation’ from falling apart along the old tribal lines of cleavage. As Shaka had explained to the ‘Swallows’, “You can only rule the Zulus by killing them!”
What you say about the state using violence to enforce order is actually exactly what I’m saying when I talk about the state ‘monopolizing the use of violence’; this is the reason WHY it monopolizes violence; and of course, my book also examines the historical process of the emergence of Law in the context of the emergence of cities, and the emergence of ‘law’ from the oldest of tribal laws; indeed, the oldest of ALL laws: the Law of Revenge… which made it a DUTY, not merely a ‘right’, in ancient times, to revenge oneself or one’s kin for wrongs… Also, what you say about the ‘wild west’ and the enforcement of law echoes my own thoughts on the subject, as expressed in Chapter 5.
As you say, the Salem witch trials were nothing to what went on in Medieval Europe; but that is beside the point, which is that even in modern times ‘we’ still practice all the old barbarities the Greeks can be critiqued for, including cannibalism; whipping boys; messenger killing; the kryptaeon, and the two practices which, above all are paradigmatic of violence, human sacrifice and scapegoating.
We perhaps do not engage in them in the same way; they have been sublimated by the veneer of ‘civilization’ (Which incidentally merely means ‘those who live in cities’!) and transformed into social practices which are similar in essence (I’m not saying that ‘we’, as a whole society eat human flesh, for example, but rather that our exploitation of others is cannibalistic… and I have had personal experience of being made a scapegoat…)
Much of history represents the tension between the natural, democratic and even communistic ethos of tribal societies and the hierarchical nature of ‘civilised’ societies; the struggle between these two ontologies, I think, has been the driving force of history, ever since the Ancient Sumerians…
Look, I wasn’t trying to have a dig at the US specifically; I think the European nations are just as… troublesome. But I’ve already named the countries I think the US has invaded in the name of ‘liberating’ them; I recognize it’s not alone in this kind of practice… So?
“Our history of mistakes has led us to repudiate those mistakes and try to rectify them. Just as we have made advances that allowed us to reach the moon in vehicles that were, at one time, built solely for the destruction of cities in war.”
Why do you think I ended with a reminder of the moonshot? It was an attempt to be optimistic. As you also say, “Man progresses slowly, fighting his nature of violence all the way. We have progressed quite a bit. We have made great strides in the Western countries in terms of human rights, living standards, and personal freedom. There are those who would impose these advances on other nations, ones still mired in authoritarian rule. This is true but we tend to hold these people in check in the West.”
The question is, “Have we made enough progress to learn from our history (remembering that Plutarch was not optimistic on this point!) and change the way we do things before we exterminate our own species?” On this point, personally, I’m not optimistic; I’d like to hope… but hope itself is but the recognition of despair.
I’m sorry if some of my statements re the USA offend you; that was not my intention; believe me, I’m just as critical of the Australian govt; and the Brits too.
You know, as a kid I was bullied a lot and I could never understand why; this, I think, is what motivated me to study violence; in order to understand it; but because violence was thus a ‘problem’ for me this has left me with a predisposition to think of it as such; perhaps it’s not; perhaps after all it’s our ‘destiny’ as per biblical prophecy to wipe ourselves out… Perhaps our much-vaunted ‘intelligence’ is really just one more failed evolutionary experiment, like the dinosaurs… I don’t know; but I for one don’t like the thought of going down without at least some kind of a struggle… That’s why I wrote AOV; I hope you understand me a bit better now.
Impatient? Perhaps; but the need is urgent. Tell me, would you rather be an automaton ruled by a kind and benevolent state, or a an automaton ruled by a ruthlessly murderous fascist State?
Lonnie Athens argues that there are four steps in the process of “violentization”. They are summarized here:
“Lonnie Athens has worked for many years on understanding how some people become violent while others do not. He describes this process as one of violentization …”
Thanks for your interest, Jim…
I dislike the invention of words like ‘violentization’; he might just as easily, and just as sensibly said, ‘violence begets violence’, or putting it in a more modern idiom, ‘the abused have a strong tendency to become abusers’; however, Lonnie Athens’ report is similar to those of several criminologists whose work I studied while looking at violence in the modern context; though my approach is anthropological rather than psychological.
Mr Athens’ report is a criminological one and is based on psychological profiling; yet it does acknowledge the role of society in the ‘social construction’ of the violent individual: the ‘coach’ the ‘brutalizer’ etc together all play important parts in this social reproduction (and amplification) of violence… Violence is taught; it does not just ‘happen’; on this we are agreed. My analysis may look different initially because it looks at the problem primarily from the sociological perspective and because it is intended to serve a different purpose; Mr Athens wants to catch criminals; I seek to understand the meaning of violence in a social context within which the individual psyche is largely the construction of its social environment. However, I do not believe these two pieces of work are contradictory, but in fact if anything, mutually supportive.
Very good link, Jim M. Fascinating stages in the “learning process” of a violent criminal.
The following is an over-generalization, but here goes:
(Note: the videos below each run a couple minutes, but it only takes a few seconds to get the flavor of “logic”, “order”, and “ecstasy”; this last video earns its “R-rating” for Strong Language at the end.)
Socratic = Euripides = ego = Sherlock Holmes = logic/reason/science
(“logic” video G-rated)
Apollonian = Homer/John Ford = superego = John “The Duke” Wayne = order/laws/religion
(“order” video G-rated)
Dionysian = Aeschylus/Sophocles = id = Lady Gaga = ecstasy/impulses/instinct
(“ecstasy” video R-rated)
Yang = “left-brained” and tends toward the top of the above list.
Yin = “right-brained” and tends toward the bottom of the above list.
(You’ll notice that I’ve dragged Freud into it.)
Wow, Jim M.. You’ve brought it to a point: The trinity in the human psyche.
Freud fits quite well. When I was writing the post, i left him out because I couldn’t decide whether the ego or superego should be Apollonian/Socratic. But the id is definitely Dionysian.
If what Andreas says is so, and I venture this with the highest possible regard and admiration for you both, then I despair. There is, though, so much more to the human psyche that I hope instead.
Thanks Jim. You could package those three videos and call it “Homo Sapiens: The DeEvolution Tryptich.”
Do you consider Alfred Adler in your work, Astyages?
I do not ‘consider’ the violence of particular individuals in my book, Richard; it is not a work on moral philosophy or legal judgment and does not analyse the phenomon of violence from either a legalistic or a moralistic viewpoint, since to do so would involve preconceived notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ which would have a limiting effect on the nature of my analysis due to any such notions’ inevitable ethnocentricity.
Oh, and the appoach I take in my book is anthropological, rather than pyschological; however, the theories of Mr Adler which apparently locate the construction of the human psyche within the individual are, I believe, erroneous; the individual psyche is a social construct; thus any statements Mr Adler might make with regard to an individual’s choice to use or not to use violence are likely to miss the real ’causes’ of any such decision.
An example of this might be the ‘Boys from Columbine’… Is any real understanding of their actions possible without reference to the society and culture they grew up in and which formed their individual personalities?
Apologies, Richard; initially I thought Alfred Adler must be some kind of violent criminal or something of that nature; but when I googled his name and discovered that he was, along with Freud, one of the earliest proponents of ‘personality theory’, which locates the creation of ‘personality’ within the individual psyche, I realized my mistake…
I don’t know what you are apologising for, Astyages, but thank you, all the same.
I only thought that Adler’s identification, I believe, of hierarchy as the motive force of the psyche might be remotely relevant.
It probably is relevant, Richard, and now that I’m aware of it, I shall certainly look more closely at his work, for the benefit of any future writing of mine on this subject…
It’s interesting that although he starts of from the ‘individual’ perspective where I start from the ‘social’ perspective, that we arrive at what are apparently similar conclusions; however I wonder about the extent of our apparent ‘agreement’, as any differences in our understanding of this phenomenon are likely to be highly instructive.
However, I can’t help wondering what Adler would make of certain African societies, eg. the Nuer, who, although being an essentially egalitarian society, practice certain forms of competition (namely in the raising and ownership of cattle) in order to determine status within the group; yet a man who is unusually successful is often accused of witchcraft and executed and his wealth redistributed among the group. This would seem to be a social mechanism for solving the problem of what to do with people who become so wealthy or powerful that their wealth and power itself becomes a threat to the stability of the social group; a situation which has a direct parallel in modern times with the ‘neo-Cons’…
And I was merely apologising for my error. ‘Toujours la politesse’!
Let me think … I know … it’s French, isn’t it?
Richard, I’m not fooled by your pretense of being a ‘simple, undeducated person’; as a lawyer, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in law; as a person past the full flush of youth who is still in a the career he studied at uni, you must be relatively successful; as a successful lawyer in this day and age I find it difficult to believe that you have no post-graduate qualifications…
No degree. No university. Just a hack. Now you make me feel real bad.
Oops! Sorry, it wasn’t my intention to make you feel bad; perhaps I’m mistaking you for Douglas, who it was who claimed to be ‘only a simple, undeducated man’… if so, I do apologise.
I have enjoyed our exchange. And I was not so much offended by your remarks about the US as I was puzzled. We invaded North Africa, Italy, France, and several other places in order to liberate them. It is a Good Thing that we were successful. We did not invade Vietnam at all. We invaded Afghanistan to put an end to a threat, not to liberate it. We failed to completely eliminate the threat, by the way, we just set it back a little. Of the three countries you mentioned, only Iraq comes close to the description. And, in fact, we did liberate it. Many think that we invaded it for its oil. In a sense, we did. But not in the terms one normally considers. We did not take over the oil fields of Iraq and “give” (or sell) them to a private entity. We do not “own”, in any way, the Iraqi resources. So I believe your premise and your understanding of these events is quite wrong.
Personally, I accept the violent nature of human beings. I try to cope with it. I was bullied myself at a young age, mostly by my brother. I learned a number of things from that. How to deal with a bully, how to avoid fighting when possible and how to fight when necessary.
But let’s go back to generic “man” and consider why violence is an important evolutionary tool. Consider very primitive man. He had no natural defenses against animals except his odor. Basically, he did not smell like food. But he needed to eat and grazing was insufficient to supply the “herd” (tribe). So he had to venture among the predators and compete with them. To do so successfully takes a capacity for aggression. You must be violent to kill animals and you must also be violent in order to repel scavengers and other predators away from your prey. So violence (which I actually prefer to call aggression) aided man in development. I believe there are theories that the movement from a vegetarian diet to an omnivore’s diet added much needed protein which improved brain function. I don’t know if that is true. It does seem plausible. If it is true then violence preceded and facilitated our becoming a dominant species. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen, I suppose.
I was always amused by teachers who spoke about how we were superior to dinosaurs because we could adapt and, therefore, unlikely to become extinct like they had. I was amused because I knew how many years dinosaurs were the dominate life on the planet and that we had so few years of existence in comparison. We already had the means at that time (the 50’s) to end civilization and blow ourselves into another Stone Age. And, in fact, constantly threatened to do so. Many people then believed we were on the verge of destruction. They were wrong. Many believed it in the 60’s, the 70’s, the 80’s. It didn’t happen. That does not mean that it cannot happen, of course.
I just do not believe that it is the first world nations that will cause it or precipitate it. If it comes it will be from a rogue state such as North Korea or Iran. And though they will use the First World as their scapegoats, their reason for initiating annihilation, it will be their own ambition and desire for dominance and power that will be behind it.
You might try being critical of those nations and look to the West with more optimism.
And to answer that final question, I would rather not be an automaton at all. I would rather be what I am, an individual. I suppose Patrick Henry expressed it best.
By the way, Astyages, I did bristle a bit at your brief sentences about Northern Ireland and the UK in Chapter 5. They weren’t exactly accurate. I shall not resort to violence, though. 🙂
Instead, Astyages, I shall be as brief as your assertions:
1.The disinterested enforcement of the law in Northern Ireland on behalf of the majority was not war.
2.The UK is not an empire.
Forgive me for straying off the theme.
Douglas, I’m glad you weren’t offended, and that you though our exchanges interesting; though I think we should ‘agree to disagree’ on the subjects of Iraq and Afghanistan, though I’ll concede that Vietnam wasn’t a ‘colonial’ war; though the USA was there in order to ‘protect’ what she considered to be here interests in that region.
1: I believe I DID explain in Ch 5 that the British of course, did not choose to see themselves as ‘at war’ although it is also certainly true that the IRA (and also the UDA!) did! Now, as is also explained in Ch 5, a denial of the true nature of the ritual is essential in any scapegoating ritual.
2: Not anymore it isn’t! That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s given up all forms of imperialism, though… and she was an empire for a long, long time… old habitus, and old memes die hard.
You should know that I agree with you about force and occupation always leading to insurrection. England’s “war” with Northern Ireland is better defined as that, rather than war. The US calls its revolution against the crown a war but, then, we won so I suppose we have that right. We do some funny things with semantics, don’t we?
And I agree with you about former empires never quite getting over that sense of being one.
Where I disagree is in where you appear to think problems or solutions lie. The history of man is one of conquer, assimilate, and expand. Followed by decay and dissolution (or being conquered by an emerging power). Both good and bad come out of these struggles. It (violence) is more than a “language”, it is our collective psyche. I am not sure we could survive its demise.
Both Northern Ireland and the UK were always social contracts, Astyages, so no scapegoat was required.
Now wax eloquent on “Scapegoating”!
“Both Northern Ireland and the UK were always social contracts, Astyages, so no scapegoat was required
“Now wax eloquent on “Scapegoating”!”
I’m not sure what you mean by saying ‘both Northern Ireland and the UK were … ‘social contracts'”, Richard… though I might suggest that contract law can be seen as another form of economic violence. The Matable, for example, speak about ‘the documents that killed us’; a recognition of the part British contract law played in the demise of their nation.
Social contract? Does such a thing pertain between a slave and his ‘master’? For that was Ireland’s relationship with England prior to the Easter Uprising. The only ‘contract’ that I’m aware of between these two nations is the treaty which, along with the Irish Free State, is the result of that conflict… (although I suppose there have been other agreements, as well as amendments to this intial treaty anyway). I must say, however, that I’m happy to see that Ireland has finally come to its senses and renounced violence (with the exeption of the so-called ‘real IRA’); it took a lot to bring England to the negotiating table… I always said it was stupid to provide England with a training ground where she could test new recruits under live fire conditions…
Wax eloquent on ‘scapegoating’…? I suppose I could point out that Ireland has been England’s ‘whipping boy’, on and off, ever since the time of Henry IV; and that , of course, a ‘whipping boy’ is just another form of scapegoat; or I could talk about Oliver Cromwell and a level of ethnic cleansing which would make Adolf HItler look like an amateur; or I could talk about England’s response to the Potato Famine; or the Battle of the Boyne; but I doubt it would do any good; you obviously have your own ideas on the subject of Northern Ireland; most likely more than a little influenced by your own governments’ propaganda on that subject… understandable, but not particularly logical.
Douglas, I think you’re right, we do indeed do strange things with semantics; like Bernard Woolley’s ‘irregular verbs’: I ‘defend myself’, you ‘use pre-emptive strikes’ and they are ‘terrorists’ and “use cowardly sneak attacks”…
But you’re wrong if you imagine there is some kind of political motivation behind my writing; I have no political amitions whatsoever; I have never even joined a political party precisely because I appreciate the need as an anthropologist for objectivity; indeed one of the biggest mistakes I ever made was when I was fifteen and refused to join a union. And as an ex-london busker, I have an existentialist personal philsophy which leaves me with no particular craving for more and more wealth and property… I’m happy with my books and my guitar and, if only the world would leave me alone to do it, I could quite happily spend the rest of my days re-telling the classics and just playing the blues…
Now let me see, how does it go?
“I woke up this mornin’
With the unappreciated philosopher blues…”
In ‘E’, of course…
But you’re wrong if you imagine there is some kind of political motivation behind my writing; I have no political amitions whatsoever; I have never even joined a political party precisely because I appreciate the need as an anthropologist for objectivity; indeed one of the biggest mistakes I ever made was when I was fifteen and refused to join a union.
One of the stranger things we do with semantics is fool ourselves. Your examples are excellent but they are not simply designed to fool the followers, they are also reflections of how we view the world. I used the word “designed” but that is wrong, that words employs conscious intent where none exists, it is subconscious intent that is at work in our choice of words.
I am sure you believe you are objective in your study of anthropology. And you may well be. But it is so difficult to be objective in our lives. For example, you acknowledged that one of the reasons why you became interested in studying violence is because, as a child, you were subjected to bullying. As a result, you formed strong feelings about violence by the stronger against the weaker. You viewed it as “bad”. You may have later modified that view to consider that violence may be a necessary part of life. At least, I hope you did. You see, an unwillingness to fight attracts the bully, encourages him, gives him power. Once we form an opinion about something, especially at an early age, it permeates our thinking and taints our judgment. How we got along with our mother affects our relationships with the opposite sex, how we got along with our father affects how we view authority later in life, how we got along with our siblings may well affect how we interact with our peers in all sorts of situations. At least as I see it anyway.
But I also wonder why you thought not joining a union was a mistake. I have joined and then resigned from a union, worked in union shops and non-union shops, over my working life. Joining the union seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I later regretted supporting it. Not because it did “bad” things but because it did “good” things wrongly. And because it was corrupt in my view. But that was only my union, the one you refused to join may have been better. Each faction we come in contact with should be judged on its own. And it is often difficult to judge one properly without becoming involved it it.
As a political philosophy, you should consider examining Individualism. It’s an interesting philosophy, akin to libertarianism.
My proofreader must be asleep…
“that words employs conscious intent”
should read: “that word implies conscious intent”
Hi Douglas, and thanks for an interesting and thoughtful response.
Of course, as you say, it is impossible to be completely objective because one always has an emotional response, even to ‘objects of study’ (though I don’t want you to think that I have somehow ‘reduced’ humanity to ‘merely’ an ‘object of study’!). The best I can do is to aim for objectivity in my thinking, and state my own relevant predispositions so far as I can… and this I have done.
I don’t think I thought of it as ‘bad’ so much as ‘painful’… although this probably amounts to much the same thing; and I’m happy to admit it didn’t seem fair. As an adult, of course, I have modified my views to some extent; and even my book, though it may reflect a certain disapproval of violence which remains with me still, reconizes its reality and the necessity of being prepared to use violence in a violent world. As an adult I have studied martial arts and bullies no longer bother me… except that I still hate to see the ‘little guy’ bullied.
My not joining a union was a strategic error; I lost my job (closed shop) and this started a series of events which led to my becoming homeless. I’m not complaining mind you; I’ve had a full and interesting life: though starting with absolutely nothing, except my guitar, I have travelled considerably, I’ve shaken hands with lords and even kings (well, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, anyway!); I’ve met (even jammed with) celebrities; I’ve migrated to the other side of the planet (oddly enough, the side of the planet, though not the country, that I was born in!), gone back to school and on to university… Now I’ve just published my second book (‘Cyrus’; based on the lifestory of Cyrus the Great); not bad for a street urchin, I reckon.
My views on unions are not ‘political’ however; I don’t feel bound or beholden to any particular ideology; but I see them as a necessary evil from the standpoint of being a worker and needing that collective barganing power; had I joined the union at that time, I’d have gone on to be an upholsterer with a transportable skill in a steady job with one of the UK’s largest upholstery suppliers. My life would have been a lot simpler; maybe a lot happier… but certainly less ‘interesting’!
Frankly I agree with your sentiments about ‘corrupt’ unions… It saddens me to think that a movement which could help the downtrodden allowed itself to be undermined in such an obvious fashion; by allowing themselves to become corrupt such unions rob the whole labour movment of any kind of moral leverage; and that was its greatest tool to start with! Indeed, perhaps its only tool, really…
I’ve always considered myself to be an individual, but as a political philosophy? Would I not then be joining a ‘cult’ or a ‘movement’ or a ‘party’? No thanks Douglas, you can keep your ‘Individualism’, and I’ll keep my individuality!
Too late to the party. Pity, since it is one of my favourite topics.
I meant “Social Contract” in the Rousseau sense, Astyages. Sorry not to make clear.
Leaving aside your comments about Eire, the subject matter was Northern Ireland, for whom the partition was designed.
I take it you no longer assert that the UK is or ever was an empire.
I’ve always considered myself to be an individual, but as a political philosophy? Would I not then be joining a ‘cult’ or a ‘movement’ or a ‘party’? No thanks Douglas, you can keep your ‘Individualism’, and I’ll keep my individuality!
It doesn’t mean joining anything, as far as I can tell. The only political party in the US that comes close to it is the Libertarian Party. I see Individualism as unfettered by formal ties to any party, rather it is a political philosophy that seems to match your expression of “leave me to do what I will so long as it does not harm others.” I actually see it as a common sense philosophy that most agree with until they forget it should apply to all, not just themselves.
If I were you, I would not see your refusal to join that union as a strategic mistake. Instead, I would cherish it as the first step on the path you have taken. A path which has provided you with an interesting and rewarding life.
I am happy to have met you, perhaps a bit enriched, even if it has only been electronically (online).
Douglas, if your description of ‘Individualism’ is accurate, then perhaps I have always been an individualist. I see my ‘strategic error’ as an ‘error’ only the sense that it was not what I was planning… and led to a different course of action, which, as I have said, I do not regret; and I’m happy to have met you too.
Richard, the Rousseauian notion of a ‘social contract’ pertains between the state and the individual members of that state; it does not pertain between two sovereing nations; thus you can’t say that Northern Ireland and the UK were (?) a ‘social contract’… And no, you’re mistaken; I DO still assert that the UK WAS an empire. To do otherwise would be to fly in the face of history!
I’d like to welcome ‘Man of Roma’ to the discussion; although it is a bit late to join in this discussion, MoR, you may still like to read my book, “Aesthetics of Violence”, which can be found at: astyages.wordpress.com
Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have; if the discussion here appears to be drawing to a close, it has yet to start on my own blog… Hope to see you there sometime.
I slink away, battle-worn, though not without a sense of injustice and unfinished business, noting that you also make for home.
Perhaps, one day, we shall resume and compare our understanding of Rousseau and how he relates to Northern Ireland. A mere assertion does not embody truth.
Thanks for the invitation. I will surely visit your site. I was referring to the Dionysian element in antiquity – so pervading for example in Greek and Roman art – and to Nietzsche who had the merit to bring its importance to the foreground. Knowing better antiquity means knowing better ourselves after all. Generally I never consider a thread concluded. The reason I didn’t comment is I am in a sort of break and when a topic excites me like this one I have the bad habit of commenting in ways time consuming for everybody 🙂
Richard, I would not like you, nor anyone else to think that I’m ‘slinking away from the fray’; far from it, vis-a-vis yourself I consider myself the ‘victor’. I think that had you really been interested in debating me you would not leave me with such a weak and obviously untrue accusation of having made a mere assertion with nothing to back it up; I gave you several historical references which could, if read, speak volumes in favour of my argument.
Remember though, that should you ever be interested enough to continue our debate, I’m always just down the road at astyages.wordpress.com ready and waiting for the fray!
I’m very happy for you that you are the victor, Astyages. Now we can both get on with the things that matter.
I’ll drink to that, Richard! Here, I’ve brought you a pint of Trotters’ Ale from the Pigs’ Arms!
Slurp …. ….. AAH. Cheers!
Agree quickly with your adversary …
[JC – sermon on the mount]