Saturday, March 23, 2013

Playing the "Greek defence" - a review of Thornton

Overall the author's strong defense makes a valuable
counter to EXTREME anti-Greek positions, but in
turn he overstates his case, almost blowing the Greeks
up into virtual supermen who invented critical
thinking or "consciousness". On these counts, the
flattering pro-Greek picture in not as it seems.

March 10, 2005
Defending the Greeks, by Bruce S. Thornton

[b]Thus, while all ancient societies kept slaves and viewed slavery as a natural, unexceptional practice, only the Greeks made slavery an object of thought. This thinking could lead to a theoretical justification of slavery, as in Aristotle's view of the "natural" slave, the person who by a deficiency of rational self-control could be justly owned and controlled by another. But thinking critically about slavery could also lead to questioning the justice of such an institution, as the early 4th century BC rhetorician Alcidamas did when he said, "The god gave freedom to all men, and nature created no one a slave." [/b]

All well and good, but if there was all this so-called
“critical thinking” about slavery, it did not lead the Greeks
to abolish slavery. To the contrary, they embraced slavery
and even the mighty Spartans kept the bulk of their population
the helots, in semi-slavery. The author is overstating his case.

He says: [i]“all ancient societies kept slaves and viewed slavery as a natural, unexceptional practice..” [/i] Sure, but so did the Greeks. An obscure rhetorician saying men should be free means little. What counts is actual practice on the ground. In this, the Greeks are nothing special. They embraced slavery, and the domination of others. Trying to make them out as ancient “abolitionists” by insinuation is a dubious exercise.

[b]Or consider war. All ancient peoples made war on their neighbors, competing violently for territory and wealth and honor. So too the Greeks. But to an extent unthinkable for any other ancient people, they thought and wrote about war analytically, so to speak, pondering its meaning and consequences, its complexities and horrors. Nowhere else in the ancient world can one find a work of literature like Aeschylus's Persians, about the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, when the mighty Persian invading armada was destroyed by the coalition of Greek city-states. Although performed a mere eight years later in the very city, Athens, burned by the invaders, in front of an audience of veterans and those who had lost friends and family, the play sympathetically depicts the effects of the defeat on the Persians.[/b]

Again, the case is overstated. The Greeks thought and wrote about war “analytically” but so did numerous other peoples, like the Chinese or the Byzantines or the Hebrews- some of which included the effects of defeat on an enemy. In the Book of Judges for example, the mother of a defeated enemy commander is depicted, not unsympathetically, as weeping. The author is creating a false Eurocentric standard- that in essence insinuates- if other peoples did not frame their writings like the Greeks, then they were not really engaging in “critical thought” or “critical thinking."

Not all he seems..

[b]Not only could the Greeks be generous to an enemy, but they could examine critically their own wartime behavior. During the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, Euripides produced plays that sympathetically portrayed the disastrous effects of Athenian policies, and laid bare the suffering, moral corruption, and dehumanizing passions unleashed by war. A mere nine months after the Athenians massacred the males of the Greek island Melos and enslaved the women and children, Euripides staged The Trojan Women (415 BC). In that play he used the brutal aftermath of the mythic Trojan War and the suffering of the surviving women to comment on recent Athenian behavior[/b]

^Greek practice here is nothing special. As regards generosity for example ancient Chinese writings speak of allowing an enemy an honorable avenue of retreat to facilitate conciliation later (see Sun Tzu for example). As for critical reflection, Greeks are not "inventors" thee either- Chinese texts critically examining wartime behavior, or bewailing the disasters wrought by Mongol or other “Barbarian” invasions, etc are long in place and independently developed. Re general or philosophical reflection- how are they fundamentally different from the themes on war seen in Ancient Egyptian literature or the numerous stories, dialogs, themes and discourses, etc seen therein? They covered irony, lament, and a host of other thing, as well as all the classic questions of life and death in religious writings.  Again, the Greeks are nothing special fundamentally on these matters.

[b]The princess Cassandra movingly describes this price of war—the sons never returning home, the children left orphaned, the wives bereft of protection and support—and with bitter irony finishes, "For such success as this congratulate the Greeks." How could any Athenian in the audience not think of the Melian wives and children they had sold into slavery less than a year earlier?[/b]

If the Greeks were so concerned about slavery, why did they continue slavery unabated throughout their “golden age”? In fact as one historian notes- the Greeks more than liked slavery particularly if OTHER people could be enslaved. Far from being proto “abolitionists” the Greeks had a clear sense of ethnic superiority that explicitly justified the enslavement of other peoples. Quote:

[i]"there was a widespread belief, probably originating in
the years following the defeat of the Persian expeditionary
force in the years 280-479 that Asiatic races in particularly
(but also more northerly peoples like the Thracians and the
Scythians) were intellectually and morally inferior to Greeks
and ideally suited to slavery." [/i]
-- J. Dillon 2004. Morality and custom in ancient Greece

According to passages within the Hippocratic treatise, (
Air, Water, Places, a Greek 5th century work:

[i]”The small variations of climate to which the Asiatics are subject, extremes both of heart and cold being avoided, account for mental flabbiness and cowardice as well. They are less warlike than and tamer of spirit, for they are not subject to those physical changes and the mental stimulation which sharpens, tempers and induces recklessness.. Instead they live under unvarying conditions." [/i]
-- Dillon 2004).

Such a statement is similar to the racist statements by not only 18, or 19th century Aryanists, but 20th /21st century ones as well including numerous right-wing "biodiversity" and "heridiatarian" scholars like JP Rushton. Richard Lynn, Tatu Vanhaven and associated supporters. Father of Westgwrn philosophy Aristotle also stands in the mix:  In one notable example, he urges Alexander to be 'a leader to the Greeks and a despot to the barbarians, to look after the former as after friends and relatives, and to deal with the latter as with beasts or plants'. (Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, 1991 Univ of California Press p.58-59) Such sentiments, slightly modified to fit modern racial narratives-where blacks would replace the Persian 'barbarians' would be quite welcome to many of today's day racialist scholars and right wing pundits - from Bell Curve author Charles Murray, to certain libertarians who still lament such dastardly "impositions on liberty" as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (damn shame a black man can eat his hamburger in peace next to some white people) to numerous others funded by heriditarian think tanks like the Pioneer Fund. Critics of the Greeks who accuse them of setting the stage for Western racism can thus point to some documented strands of Greek thought and writing in partial support of this thesis. The author conveniently avoids this less than flattering information about the Greeks.

[b]These generous and self-critical attitudes—unprecedented in the ancient world—are a dividend of critical consciousness, the ability to step back from the passions and prejudices of the moment and look at events from a larger perspective that illuminates the common human condition, the way even an enemy suffers and grieves just as we do.[/b]

Again, dubious if based on cherry-picked quotes from ancient writings. Other quotes show the Greeks didn't care much about others suffering and indeed welcomed the opportunity to enslave them.

Indeed as historians show- the Greek attitude towards slaves as shown in their theatrical productions were callous and unsympathetic, a far cry from the “proto-abolitionism” the author seems to insinuate: - quote:

[i]” "What is more relevant to our present purpose though,
is the remarkable callousness, from our point of view, which
characterizes the portrayal of slave existence and the slave
mentality in Greek comedy." [/i]
--Dillon 2004

[b]As the Greek examination of war and slavery shows, critical consciousness can lead to the improvement and reform of human institutions and behavior, for once the mind is liberated from the authority of tradition or the supernatural, it can criticize the ways things are done and consider alternatives.[/b]

^^Again dubious. Why didn't this so called “critical
consciousness” lead to abolition of slavery, why did the
Spartan helots remain in miserable conditions, and why
don’t we hear about how much better enslaved people were
doing in Greece, versus eras supposedly lacking this “enlightened”
“critical consciousness”? And cultures "bound by authority and tradition"
have had plenty of reflection, analysis and criticism to offer
as regards improvement and reform- the ancient Hebrews for example.

[b]In addition, the evidence of experience can then take on a greater importance, trumping the petrified dogmas sanctioned by mere authority or even sheer mental inertia, and so foster a scientific rather than a supernatural view of nature. [/b]

Again overstated. SOME Greek philosophers examined
modes of rational expression, for which they deserve credit.
Most however still cleaved to superstitions about gods,
goddesses, and other mythic elements. Even the so-called
"rationalists" sometimes mixed and matched both at the same time.

[b]This novel way of looking at the world, however, was creative of new improvements as well as being destructive of the old ways. The most obvious example of the improving power of critical consciousness when systematized into a science can be found in ancient Greek medicine. Numerous medical writings from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia do survive, but their detailed observations are subordinated to irrational superstition: they are, as historian of medicine Roy Porter puts it, "sorcery systematized," for all disease is thought to be caused by demons. The Greek medical writers, on the other hand, for the most part ignored supernatural explanations and focused instead on their own observations and the consistent patterns of nature. That's why our word "physician" derives from the Greek word for nature, phusis. The following statement, from a Hippocratic work called On the Sacred Disease, a treatise on epilepsy, is unique in the ancient world outside Greece. "It [epilepsy] is not," the author says, "in my opinion, any more divine or more sacred than other diseases, but has a natural cause, and its supposed divine origin is due to men's inexperience, and to their wonder at its peculiar character."[/b]

Actually the Greek defense is not telling readers the whole story here. Greek “rationality” is again overblown. Let’s consider their record as far as the medicinal arts according to another historian:


[i]"Drugs were applied not because of a belief that they had natural healing properties, but following the tenets of primitive medicine, because they had magical powers. he Greek word pharmakon, usually translated as "drug: originally designated a substance with magic powers. These powers, however, did not need to be therapeutic, (a pharmakon could be a poison or could turn humans into animals) but were originally considered to me magic..

Supernaturalistic medicine is characterized by a multiplicity of powers that can heal and kill. Primitive Greek medicine was no exception and many Greek gods had healing functions: Apollo, the first deity invoked in the Hippocratic oath; Vulcan, worshipped in Lemnos, gave his healing powers to terra lemmnia, Juno, Jupiter's wife assisted women in childbirth.. In addition some of the gods could cause sudden death: for example, both Apollo and Diana could shoot lethal darts at humans.." [/i]
(--A history of medicine by Plinio Priorescho 2004)

In the realm of geometrical astronomy, credible studies show that peoples of the Middle East were using sophisticated methods to calculate planetary orbits such as that of Jupiter, as early as 350BC, over a thousand years before similar calculations were accurately done in Europe. This again shows the broad sweep of knowledge in the non-European zone - and debunks simplistic claims seeing Greece as the fount of all wisdom, or knowledge. To the contrary, the Greeks borrowed heavily from other cultures of North Africa and the Middle East. See: Joel Achenbach. 2016. Clay tablets reveal Babylonians discovered astronomical geometry 1,400 years before Europeans. Washington Post January 28, 2016.

[b]Critical consciousness defines the Greek achievement, and its most obvious manifestation is that uniquely Greek invention, philosophy, which can be defined as critical consciousness systematized. [/b]

^Dubious, for the reasons given above. One can make a case for unique Greek articulation of some things, but in terms of GREEK ARTICULATION. The Greeks invented THEIR own way of analyzing the issues. But “critical consciousness”, in a universal sense, is old news in other cultures. It was not “invented” by the Greeks, nor were the Greeks the first to systematize thinking about such things. As shown in earlier posts about teh "Axial Age" systematic thinking about the essential elements was in place in Egypt centuries before any Greeks showed up, or indeed before the so-called Axial Age began. The Egyptians framed their take in reigious formats especially, such as n conceptions of self-critical, self-reflective piety and mediation. The Greek version is a local variant framed in their ocal terms, not some unique, universal discovery.

[b]Of all the Greek philosophers, the spirit of critical consciousness is best embodied in the late 5th century BC philosopher Socrates, Plato's mentor, who was executed by Athens in 399 BC. Socrates's famous method was the "dialectic," from the Greek word that suggests both "discussion" and "analytical sorting." [/b]

^Fine. Socrates used a dialectical format. But his particular format does not fundamentally constitute or embody “critical consciousness” in humans, nor is it necessarily the "best" for the rest outside of Greece.

[b] Most important, Socrates saw this activity of rational examination and pursuit of truth and virtue as the essence of what a human being is and the highest expression of human nature. That is why he chose to die rather than to give it up: "The unexamined life," he said in his defense speech, "is no life worth living for a human being."[/b]

^^Fine, and Socrates deserves credit for his insights. But when the author leaps to make a blanket claim that this represents some paragon of “critical consciousness” in humanity, then it is dubiously overblown. Socrates also hewed to several old beliefs about the gods too, and superstitious Greek religion that he did not cast off. He may have examined them, but he still cleaved to “superstitious” elements. Ironically it was "superstitious elements" in part that condemned Socrates to death- charging that he failed to pay due homage to the city's gods and corrupted youth along the same lines, among other things.

[b]The invention of philosophy formalized the Greek habit of critical consciousness. Such an achievement is remarkable enough. Yet true to their drive to question and criticize everything, the Greeks turned critical consciousness not just on nature and other peoples, but, as we've already seen in their willingness to scrutinize their own beliefs about slavery or their behavior in war, they criticized their own culture and even rationalism itself. [/b]

^^All well and good, but as shown above, such self-criticism is nothing new among Chinese, Egyptians, etc. And the Greeks did not "invent" philosophy. Such a claim is itself an invention of Western academics and writers.

One cardinal weakness of such claims is to confuse a particular Western version, "spin" or "take" on some universal process as if that were the fundamental process itself. The classic example is the inflated claim
sometimes seen in popular culture or the academy that "reason" was "invented" by "the West." One need only look at the end of the movie "300" which advances the laughable notion of Greek "rationality" versus Persian "superstition", as if somehow the Persians lacked rational thought. At the end of the movie, the noble Greeks charge forth in the name of "rationality" and "freedom" against "superstition" and "tyranny."

However, as the historical record shows, the Greeks themselves were highly "superstitious" - including people like Aristotle and Socrates who believed in mysterious "gods" and enjoyed inflicting plenty of tyranny both at home and abroad. A second weaknesses is the practice of "back-pacing" - reading into ancient Greece for example, things that are not significantly there as a way of demonstrating the ancient roots of some modern theme or agenda.

[b]This impulse to self-examination, however, can perhaps best be illustrated by the critical questions raised about two of the Greeks' most important inventions, rationalism and democratic freedom.[/b]

Dubious. The Greeks did not invent “Rationalism” nor did they invent democratic freedom. In Greece, the bulk of the population had no democratic freedom. Only a few did. They may have been defined as “citizens” but outside the “citizens” a bigger group of slaves and serfs without democratic rights toiled away. The Spartan helots and assorted slaves experienced very little so-called “democracy.”

And “Democracy” in terms of freely elected representatives of a defined polity is seen among various African tribes, before the coming of European colonialism. The Galla of East Africa for example, with their “gada” system, freely elected leaders based on age grades, producing a republican system of orderly rotating government and functioning, based on free elections and defined rights and responsibilities. Some may say the gada was tribally bound, but so was Greek "democracy." The "democracy" of Sparta for example did not extend to the bulk of the population, the helots. Of the vaunted Athenians, only about 10% of the population were eligible for any democratic privileges.

In nearby Rome, members of the Senate came from connected wealthy and noble families- they were rooted in the particular tribal customs or emphases of Roman culture. In short, ancient "democracy" was closely linked with the particular tribal background culture of its practitioners. Furthermore as in the gada, age and gender were also controlling factors on that "democracy."

And any notion of Greek democracy raises the question- "which Greek 'democracy' and why would said 'democracy' be considered the exemplar of what is defined as "Greek"? Sparta is one of the key polities of Greece. Is its "democracy" which was a system of domination of the majority of the population in semi-slavery the "correct" version of "democracy"? Why are virtuous Athenians the point of comparison, rather than the whole Greek picture? And in any event- as we see below with the Delian league, the virtuous Athenians were not all that virtuous when the bigger picture is scrutinized.

This is one of the key weaknesses of writers like Thornton and others is pushing a "Western" model as some sort of paragon. As Kenneth Pomeranz notes in The Great Divergence (2000), a typical dodge is to compare modern Britain (the most developed part of Europe) at its height to say ALL of vast China, so as to make for an unfavorable comparison, when a more balanced procedure is to compare apples to apples- the most developed parts of China (like the Yangtze Valley) to Britain's most developed region/zone, at various development points in time. Then the comparison looks a lot different and often not in Britain's favor.

Defining “rationalism” in terms of what the Greeks did, or the particular label claimed or made by Western academics or pop-culture makers is attempting to impose a European vise on the concept. [i]Only we get to make the definitions, we get to set the parameters, and only we get to spin the results. [/i]  Sorry. It no longer works that way.

Vaunted Greek democracy is likewise not all it is cracked up to be. Aside from mass institution of slavery, or semi-slavery (see the Helot's treatment for example), the poor had little time on their hands to make sustained forays into democracy, this effectively meant that only free, adult, and relatively well-off males born in Athens were able to participate. Says one credible history of Greece:

"Elections in ancient Greece always counted as undemocratic for the simple reason that the rich and famous Sparta and Athens during the Pentecontaetia 193 could and did manipulate them. Securing election to a generalship required money and organization. Moreover, unlike with other offices in Athens, there was here no prohibition against serving more than one year in a row. The politically ambitious and wealthy Athenian aristocrats concentrated on the generalship and spurned the other offices which could be held for just one year and were filled by lot. As a consequence the generalship was the most important office in Athens from the mid-fifth century on, and the aristocrat Pericles held this office again and again (Plut. Per. 18sqq.). It functioned as the concrete base of his power and allowed him to dominate politics in Athens to such an extent that Thucydides could later write that under Pericles “what was in name a democracy was in reality rule by the best man” – Athens under Pericles was practically a monarchy (Thuc. II 65). No matter how hyperbolical Thucydides’ comment may be, the dominance of the generalship by the wealthy made for a strong antidemocratic element in the Athenian constitution during the fifth century."
-- Victor Parker 2014. A History of Greece: 1300 to 30 BC

Even conservatives note Greek flaws. Ex-felon and popular right wing intellectual Dinesh Dsouza  notes that scholar Benjamin Constant in the essay "The Liberty of the Ancients compared with that of the modern" says that the Greeks had direct democracy and citizens could show up and debate an issue and vote in that venue. However, all private actions were under severe public surveillance. The individual Greek did not have a right to his labor, did not have a right to choose his religion, did not have her right to choose many other things. The individual was sovereign and public affairs, but a slave in private relations. Athens allowed a bit more liberty- sure, - that's because of its massive slave population (but  liberty for a select group) and it too imposed strict public surveillance- what could be considered a form of "politically correct thought control" in modern parlance.. Every year citizens would be asked to write on the ballot the names of people who should be expelled from the city- sometimes permanently. They voted to expel one of the best men, Aristides the Just - the explanation given by the citizens was that they were tired of hearing him called the Just. In contrast the modern idea of freedom is not direct democracy but the idea of rights- the right to express your opinion, right to choose a career, the right to buy and sell property, the right to own your own personal space, your right to live your own life. (pg 76-77) And right-wing author Dsouza notes other unflattering details in his book "What's So Great About Christianity:"

"[homosexuality] was common in Athens, but the Spartans were specially notorious for it, encouraging it in their gymnasiums and using homosexual attachments to build solidarity among soldiers in war. Historian Michael Grant writes that Eros was also the basis for the practice of pederasty. He notes that sexual relations between men and boys were far more favored than homosexual relations between men of the same age. The ancients also erected an educational philosophy based on pederasty. As historian KJ Dover describes it, the man always play the active role and the boy the passive role. The whole project was conceived of in terms of an exchange; the young boy agrees to sexual relations with an older man and in return he receives knowledge and tutoring. We may worry that the younger boy might be exploited in such a relationship, while the ancients did not. Many of them felt like Pausanius, [(a sophisticated 2nd century traveler and geographer- esteemed for his honesty by some modern historians)] in Plato's symposium, who frets that the arrangements are unfair to older men because young boys, once they receive their mentoring, casually move on to other partners their own age." Pg 58 Dsouza

"... exaltation of the low man, the common man, and the underdog. These groups were not favorites in the ancient world of ancient Greece and Rome. Homer ignored them in his epics, concentrating entirely on life among the ruling class. Lesser man appeared if at all as servants. Aristotle [is said] to have a job for low men: slavery. Aristotle argued that with low men in servitude, superior men would have leisure to think and participate in the governance of the community. Aristotle cherished the "great souled man" who was proud, honorable, aristocratic, rich, and if they were not enough, spoke in a low and measured voice." Pg 56

"The family was not very important in ancient Greece. In fact, Plato proposed an abolition of marriage and the family, envisioning a republic in which the whole business of procreation and care of the young was turned over to the state. Marriage and the family was exclusively a vehicle for procreation and most marriages were arranged, and the husband and wife we're not even expected to be friends. Aristotle, while less extreme than Plato, saw and thought that women were largely incapable of friendship. He certainly did not expect women to relate to husbands on the plane of equality."

Alas poor Pausinaus, we feel for him- how unfair that adult men should no longer enjoy homosexual pleasures with teens, when these teens move on to homosexual relations with their teenage peers. But hey, at least they are not women, who are not viewed too highly among the Greeks. Apparently their best hope of improvement was to come back in later life as a man according to Greek purveyors of "critical consciousness." Here is a quote from Plato's Timaeus about his opinions on woman- the best a female could hope for was to be reborn as a man::

 “It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls. Those who live rightly return to the stars, but those who are ‘cowards or [lead unrighteous lives] may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation’. This downward progress may continue through successive reincarnations unless reversed. In this situation, obviously it is only men who are complete human beings and can hope for ultimate fulfilment; the best a woman can hope for is to become a man”

-- (Plato, Timaeus 90e).

[b]At the moment in the mid-5th century BC when philosophy was being born and formalizing the rational pursuit of knowledge, the tragic poets were questioning the power of reason to acquire significant knowledge about the human condition. [/b]

Insight and writing on the human condition is an old theme and old news among other peoples, besides Greeks. They deserve credit for their own unique articulation of various concepts but other ancient peoples from Egypt, to Mesopotamia, to China had no lack of "philosophy" and other things. Merely because they didn't articulate their views like the Greeks does not change this fundamental reality.

Greeks borrowed heavily from their neighbors, a point often downplayed by exercises in glamorization. As some scholars note as to some Greek technology for example:

"These technical treatises exhibit one remarkable characteristic: they include little or nothing concerning the most vital basic techniques- nothing about roofing, pottery, textiles, or agricultural work. The texts frequently describe apparatuses without any practical, everyday use: automata for theater, complex toys, gear systems that are probably unworkable and entirely theoretical, distorting mirrors for the amusement of princesses, stills for a chimerical transmutation of metals. The only apparatuses of any real importance in these texts are war machines: assault engines, tortoise-shell shields, watchtowers, mines and catapults."

--From: The Greek pursuit of knowledge. 2003 - Page 40

"Yet it remained true that Greek technology, however you measure its achievement, never explored and applied more than a small fraction of what Greek science might have made possible. It did not run machines, relieve labor of its burdens, increase man's productive capacity greatly, build a powerful industrial civilization. Why.. the heart of the matter is less in the failure of science to develop fully than in its failure to make the transition to technology. The thinking of the Greeks was done by free men and citizens; the work was done by foreigners and slaves.."
...Science, technology, and society 1997

[b]Critical consciousness is the precious legacy the West received from the Greeks, a way of looking at the world that generates the cultural, intellectual, and political ideas--free speech, rationalism, consensual government, individualism, human rights--we all cherish today.[/b]

Again overstated, and notice how this picture flows with sweetness and light, and all good things, courtesy of the Greeks. The record of history however gives an additional side. Racism, ethnocentrism, brutal military conquest, etc can also be said to be a legacy of the Greeks, if one is willing to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and interpret Greek writings and practice from that negative end. But it does not take modern criticism to establish this. Ancient people who lived in the time of Athens testify to a much less flattering picture. The touted Athenian democracy for example engaged in a ruthless imperialism- exploiting several subject polities for the benefit of Athenian hegemons. As some scholars note:

"The Athenians, seeing no contradiction between imperialism and democracy, also manipulated the league for their own economic advantage. They believed that their freedom and prosperity required subduing, exploiting, and enslaving others, and they adhered to the principle that strong states had a natural right to dominate weaker ones. They relished the empire that gave them wealth, power and glory. Moreover, the Athenians claimed that other city-states benefited from Athenian hegemony. Athens forbade member states to withdraw [from the Delian League], crushed revolts, and stationed garrisons on the territory of  confederate states. It used both tribute from members and the league's treasury to finance public works in Athens.. As the Persian theat subsided, hatred for Athenian imperialism grew. In converting the Delian League into an instrument of Athenian imperialism, Athens may have lost an opportunity to perform a great 
creative act- forming a broad voluntary confederation that might have forestalled the intercity warfare that gravely weakened Hellenic civilization."

--Perry et al. 2009. Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society. p. 61

Greek glamorization not confined to Thornton but can be seen in popular media treatments such as the Hollywood movie "300" - itself based on the Marvel Comic of the same name by Frank Miller. But many such popular treatments peddle bogus history. It is not "political correctness" to point out the actual facts, amidst such blatant distortions. Too often charges of "political correctness" are a smokescreen used by conservatives to avoid inconvenient truths.

One recent, and very profitable and popular popular distortion is in the 2006 movie "300", where the Persians are represented as bestial "enemies of freedom" while the white Spartans fight for "freedom, "reason" and "justice." This is ludicrous even by Hollywood standards, but it is effective propaganda. In reality the Spartans were brutal imperialists that themselves crushed "freedom" time and time again in Greece when it suited their own imperialistic ends. One of the most laughable lines in the movie is "The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant." - this from the mouth of the depicted leader of one of the most tyrannical people in the ancient world- the Spartans, whose society was maintained by a form of slavery on the helots, a subjugated class that in addition to the "usual" abuses of violence and exploitation, could be killed with impunity.

Allegedly noble Greek "fighters against tyranny" actually collaborated plenty with the "superstitious" Persian tyrants. And as regards the supposed Spartan partisans of "freedom"- many Greek cities actually cheered when the Spartans were defeated by the Persians at Cnidus (circa 294BC), with Persian tribute impositions being seen as less onerous than those imposed by Sparta, as credible histories note. The Aegean cities expelled the Spartan garrisons afterwards and accepted more palatable Persian rule. Even more ironic, the alleged "defenders of freedom" concluded with Persian ruler Artaxerxes II the humiliating Peace of Antalcidas in 387 BC, by which they surrendered to the Great King of the Greek cities of the Asia Minor coast and of Cyprus, and stipulated for the autonomy of all other Greek cities. Sparta and Persia were given the right to make war on those who did not respect the terms of the treaty. Afterwards, the alleged "defenders against tyranny" themselves faced a coalition of leading Greek states: Thebes, Athens Corinth, and Argos in the Corinthian war, and were humiliated at sea by a mercenary fleet furbished to Athens by the "tyrannical" Persians.Indeed the Spartans at one time maintained negotiations with the Persians to secure their hegemony in Greece and offered to hand over all Greek cities in Anatolia to them. Naturally neither the comic book or Hollywood versions mentions such facts since they would undermine the false Eurocentric propaganda construct pushed throughout the movie. But to point out such things as simple historical accuracy is horrid "political correctness."

Greeks were quite active at hindquarters. In the movie "300", Persian leaders are also depicted as somewhat effeminate and homosexual leaning. Persian King Xerxes for example shows up with mincing, bejeweled delicacy, and slowly massages the shoulders of heroic he-man Spartan Leonidas during a parley. Even his tall physical dimensions convey awkwardness. The "message" of course (among others) is to contrast "gay" Persia with "virile" Sparta. And in a conversation, the Athenians are dismissed as "boy lovers." But in reality the Spartans themselves were deeply involved in "boy loving" and indulged in homosexual activity as part of their military culture. They were not the hetero "role models" touted by many. Said "role models" routinely indulged at hindquarters- from their system of pairing youths with older men for homosexual sex while training, to initiatory pederasty, to the common lesbian scenarios where older Spartan women used young girls for their pleasure. Indeed to illustrate just how "gay" the mighty Spartans were, it was not uncommon for brides to dress as young boys on their wedding nights- the "stimulas" perhaps moving their husbands to greater Spartan efforts in bed duty. As one scholar notes:

"..young boys between the ages of 6 and 16 were organized in 'packs' and 'herds' and placed under the supervision of young adult Spartans. This supervision was sometimes seen as surrogate fathering and one marker of its activity ".. was the institution of institutionalized pederasty. After the age of twelve, each Spartan teenager was expected to receive a young adult warrior as his lover."
--From: The Spartans: the world of the warrior-heroes of ancient Greece, from utopia to crisis and collapse Paul Cartledge, 69-70

As for the allegedly more rational" Athenians- how did they make out on the "freedom" front? Turns out the Athenians were grasping, predatory imperialists as well- as noted earlier above with the example of Athenians grasping hegemony and domination of the Delian League. In fact this intercity warfare, so much part of the Greek landscape, weakened Hellinic civilization (Perry et al. 2009. Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society. p. 61) And as noted above, the ancient Greeks were quite bigoted, even racist as regards outsiders. A subtle subtext along these lines plays out in the movie- and numerous setups are used to portray the non-Greeks is a distorted way. These include the "dark" emissaries of the Persian king, or portrayal of the Persian elite fighting force- the "Immortals" as half-man, half beast with filed-down fang-like teeth- whom the narrator in the film calls "soulless", and rabid animal-like "beserker" fighter in their midst whom they keep chained. The "message" is "Other" as wild beast, the untamed, the abnormal.  Contrast against the nice "normal," virtuous "rational" white fighters for "freedom"... Now where have we seen such propaganda before?  This excursus is meant to show that some of what is consumed by the Western public as regards "the glory that was Greece" is in fact bogus or distorted, and serves several propaganda ends.

On a side note the celebrated Plato advocated an education scheme similar to what we are told "the liberals" are pushing in the public schools- more control and domination by government over parents. In Plato’s ideal world, children should be separated from their parents and placed in state nurseries until the age of six. Plato believed that parents were too often a corrupting influence on the lives of their children. Prejudice and ignorance would necessarily be passed on to the children by too much time being spent with parents. During this time, boys and girls would play supervised educational games in a type of kindergarten environment (Plato's Law, I, 643bc).

It is quite convenient form some writers to see only nice things as the legacy of the Greeks. What else could be expected from someone offering a Greek defence? All the nice things above are arguably PARTIALLY a legacy of the Greeks. But there are other important items in the picture, besides the hagiography above. One large portion missing is the influence of the Near Eastern strands, and Judaism and later on Christianity that played a key role in human rights, consensual government, etc. All the nice things mentioned above did not lead to the Greeks abolishing slavery for example, or extending the democratic ballot to serfs, slaves and all residents of their territories, nor did they prevent ruthless exploitation of others. In addition, the Greeks borrowed heavily from other North African and Middle Eastern cultures.

And "Greece" is not only the Athens of romantic "democracy" but the brutal Spartans and others. Athens itself was a brutal imperialist at times and that blunt reality too must go alongside all the glamorization. Aside from Athenian oppressiveness, Athens itself varied depending on the era examined. The "Thirty Tyrants" era for example saw the killing of some 5% of the city's population by the strongmen, the confiscation of citizens' property, and the exile of numerous dissidents (Wolpert 2001)..

The central failing of Thornton's piece is glamorization of certain things Greek, and attempting to define things like “critical consciousness” according to a self-serving, flattering standard, that while fine in terms of Greek ARTICULATION, do not necessarily apply to or represent other parts of humanity. Do some critics of the Greeks overstate their case, boiling down the details to simplistic screeds of “isms”? Of course, and they deserve correction. But let us not go to the other extreme of self-serving Greek glamorization.

I have no problem with the author pointing out various unique elements of the Greeks, as inherited and applied by other Western nations. It is clear that the Greeks, like others, have made their own unique contribution to the world's culture. But the notion that the Greeks created "critical consciousness" (among other things) is seriously open to question.

Joint products of "racial evolution"...


Sowell 3- new data shows backward tropical evolution? Wealth and Poverty- An International Perspective in Trump era

Sowell 2- Wealth, Poverty and Politics- International Perspective - Trump era to bring these issues into sharper focus?

Sowell- Liberal intellectuals and hard questions about race differences- Trump era may force them to focus?

Trump properties discriminated against black tenants lawsuit finds

Stealing credibility- Dinesh D'souza has prison epiphany- after hanging with the homies- Hallelujah Hilary!

Shame on you, and your guilt too- A review of Shelby Steele's 'Shame'

Go with the flow 3- more DNA and cranial studies show ancient African migration to, or African presence in ancient Europe

Go with the flow 2- African gene flow into Europe in various eras
DNA studies show African movement to Europe from very ancient times

Guilt3- Why the "white privilege industry" is not all there

Guilt2- Media collaborates with guilt mongers - or how to play the white victim card

How Obama plays on white guilt- Hilary capitalizes

Hands off the Confederate flag

Despite much more wealth than blacks, whites collect about the same rate of welfare and are treated more generously

African "boat people" ushering in European demographic decline

The forgotten Holocaust- King Leopold's "Congo Free State" - 10 million victims

Are violent minorities taking over California and the West?

Presidential hopeful Ben Carson meets and Greeks

Contra "ISIS" partisans, there have been some beneficial effects of Christianity

The social construction of race, compared to biology- Graves

 Why HBD or hereditarianism lacks credibility

Leading Scientists criticize hereditarian claims

Thai me down - Thais fall behind genetically related southern Chinese, Tibetans below genetically related East Asians like Koreans and other Chinese

Time for liberals to respect "the south" ... in a way of speaking.. the south of Egypt that is..

Irony 2: touted High IQ "G-men" cannot reproduce themselves

Unz and Sowell: Unz debunking Lynn's IQ and Wealth of Nations. Sowell debunking the Bell Curve

Irony 1: touted High IQ types are more homosexual, more atheist, and more liberal (HAL)

Elite white universities discriminate against Asians using reverse "affirmative action"

Deteriorating state of white America

Racial Cartels (The Affirmative Action Propaganda machine- part 2

Hereditarian's/HBD's "Great Black Hope"

Exploding nonsense: the 10,000 Year Explosion

We need "rational racism"? Proponent Dinesh D;Souza becomes his own test case

The Affirmative Action Propaganda Machine- part 1

Two rules for being "really" black- no white wimmen, no Republican

The Axial age reconsidered - or latitude not attitide

Cannibal seasonings: dark meat on white

"Affirmative Action" in the form of court remedies has been around a long time- since the 1930s- benefiting white union workers against discrimination by employers

Mugged by reality 1: White quotas, special preferences and government jobs

Lightweight enforcement of EEO laws contradicts claims of "flood" of minorities "taking jobs"

Railroaded 3: white violence and intimidation imposed quotas

Railroaded 2: how white quotas and special preferences blockade black progress...

Railroaded 1: How white affirmative action and white special preferences destroyed black railroad employment...

Affirmative action: primary beneficiaries are white women...

7 reasons certain libertarians and right-wingers are wrong about the Civil Right Act

Social philosophy of Thomas Sowell

Bogus "biodiversity" theories of Kanazawa, Ruston, Lynn debunked

JP Rushton, Michael Levin, Richard Lynn debunked. Weaknesses of Jared Diamond's approach.

In the Blood- debunking "HBD" and Neo-Nazi appropriation of ancient Egypt

early Europeans and middle Easterners looked like Africans. Peoples returning or "backflowing" to Africa would already be looking like Africans

 Ancient Egypt: one of the world's most advanced civilizations- created by tropical peoples

Playing the "Greek defence" -debunking claims of Greeks as paragons of virtue or exemplars of goodness

Quotations from mainstream academic research on the Nile Valley peoples

Assorted data debunking

Evolution, brain size, and the national IQ of peoples ... - Jelte Wicherts 2010

Why national IQs do not support evolutionary theories of intelligence - WIcherts, Borsboom and Dolan 2010
Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 91-96
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Are intelligence tests measurement invariant over time? by JM Wicherts - ?2004
 --Dolan, Wicherts et al 2004. Investigating the nature of the Flynn effect. Intelligence 32 (2004) 509-537

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Race and other misadventures: essays in honor of Ashley Montagu... By Larry T. Reynolds, Leonard Lieberman

Race and intelligence: separating science from myth. By Jefferson M. Fish. Routledge 2002. See Templeton's detailed article referenced above also inside the book
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Oubre, A (2011) Race Genes and Ability: Rethinking Ethnic Differences, vol 1 and 2. BTI Press
For summary see:
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--S OY Keita, R A Kittles, et al. "Conceptualizing human variation," Nature Genetics 36, S17 - S20 (2004)

--S.O.Y. Keita and Rick Kittles. (1997) *The Persistence ofRacial Thinking and the Myth of Racial Divergence. AJPA, 99:3
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Alan Templeton. "The Genetic and Evolutionary significnce oF Human Races." pp 31-56. IN: J. FiSh (2002) Race and Intelligence: Separating scinnce from myth.

 J. FiSh (2002) Race and Intelligence: Separating science from myth.


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Oubre, A (2011) Race Genes and Ability: Rethinking Ethnic Differences, vol 1 and 2. BTI Press

Krimsky, S, Sloan.K (2011) Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture

Wicherts and Johnson, 2009. Group differences in the heritability of items and test scores

--Joseph Graves, 2006. What We Know and What We Don’t Know: Human Genetic Variation and the Social Construction of Race

J. Kahn (2013) How a Drug Becomes "Ethnic" - Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics, v4:1

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