Friday, March 11, 2011

Hell is for Heroes Without Virtue

In canto XXVI, Dante meet Ulysses, whose heroism in this world apparently counts for nothing. For although he "worked for victory over Troy," he could only accomplish it through a ruthless combination of fraud and unjust violence (Upton).

It always strikes me how antiquity is still idealized by scholars, even though for most people the pre-Christian world was a kind of hell on earth (and indeed, one reason why it is idealized is because it was not Christian; conversely, it is why the Jews will always be hated for having brought the Absolute into the world, which is a major inconvenience to tyrants).

I briefly addressed this in the tome version, but it is impossible in such a short space to bring to life the horror, cruelty, and barbarism of the ancient world. Actually, it's impossible in principle, because horror cannot exceed a certain limit -- let us call it 1.0

A horror of 1.0 would be, say, being eaten by wild animals in the Coliseum, or helplessly watching your wife be raped, or watching your child be crucified. It doesn't matter if it happens to a million people, because it still cannot exceed 1.0. And in fact, Stalin was more than half-correct when he said that one death is a tragedy but a million deaths is a statistic. (Actually, for Stalin a single death wasn't a tragedy at all, but just laziness or fatigue.)

A single murder or even untimely death is such a horror to both victim and loved ones that we either don't or can't "go there." It is literally unthinkable until it happens. Multiply it times a million, and the effect might even be diminished, because we don't experience it terms of the single soul, which is the only medium of experience. (Bolton discusses the same principle in one of his books, but I don't recall which one off the top of my head.)

The recorded voice of a single terrified person at the top of the World Trade Center, about to burn or suffocate, frantically imploring the helpless 911 operator for assistance, penetrates more deeply than the image of the plane going into the tower.

Note how the collaborationist media will show us image after image of the pranks at Abu Ghraib, but not the horror of an Islamist beheading another innocent victim. Why not? Because it might make Americans want to win this war against the enemies of civilization.

I recently read two books about the last year of World War II (Armageddon and Retribution), and the author was careful to balance the macro and micro in such a way that it was often quite painful to read.

It's one thing to hear that x number of men died in the war, but another thing altogether to read the explicit details of what a single soldier endured, say, in a Japanese prison camp. I mean, how about experimental surgeries without anesthesia performed on captured pilots before an audience of physicians? How does one even imagine such an experience? It is beyond the pale.

I suppose I'm thinking of the footage I've seen of Japan. Have you ever tried to imagine what it would be like to drown? Again, that is terror 1.0.

Note that the Christian religion is centered around just such a single instance of terror 1.0. In fact, this is arguably the only instance of something "beyond" 1.0, since it is not only man, but God, who is being tortured to death.

Christians cannot forget that man is not only capable of murder, but that if given half a chance, he will murder God. Every time. Orthoparadoxically, this is a bug but also a feature, given the potentially diabolical combination of free will and a misguided deiformity -- when man's relative centrality becomes detached from the absolute Center and he makes a god of himself.

Upton touches on this important point, noting that there were countless instances of "godmen" prior to -- and since -- Jesus. For example, most of the various pharoahs and caesars of antiquity were regarded as divine beings (or, think of Kim in North Korea, not to mention Hirohito in imperial Japan).

But as Upton explains, "Christ is true man and true God, not part man and part God, like a centaur or some other mythological monster." In contrast, "the deepest evil, the evil of the Antichrist, will be based on just this kind of parody of the hypostatic union." And in an increasingly de-Christianized West, people will not only be unable to recognize such a beast, but will long for him.

This longing will always be intrinsic to the left, since it represents an inverted version of Christian truth. For just as the Christian's ultimate allegiance is not to a doctrine but to a person, leftism always ends in the cult of personality, the strong man, the national savior, the dictator of the proletariat, the superman who is beyond good and evil, for "When spiritual Guidance is repressed, it still attracts -- but darkly" (Upton).

Yes, it would be so much easier -- and more natural -- to be America's dictator.

Upton notes that in this canto "Dante prays that his talent not exceed the bounds of virtue." Otherwise, he might be tempted to "take the story of Ulysses on the level of foolish hero-worship and forget that this hero is damned."

In the contemporary world, people have replaced the ultimate significance of being "known by God" with being known by the anonymous masses. In other words, the quest for fame and celebrity have replaced the spiritual quest. But fame without virtue is a shameful and humiliating dishonor.

Dante and Virgil peer down into the valley of heroic public employee union leaders.

17 Comments:

Blogger katzxy said...

"Jews will always be hated for having brought the Absolute into the world, which is a major inconvenience to tyrants"

I remember thinking that back a few years. This seems to me to be the major reason for antisemitism. And why antisemitism is such a good indicator of cultural rot.

3/11/2011 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

From the NYT article..sorta indirectly linked:

"Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China."

Imagine what he would do to us then. I mean, if that does not mean he feels in conflict with his sworn role as POTUS...

"There is a desire for Obama — not the American president, but Obama — to speak to their aspirations,"

What?

"But ultimately, what’s most important is achieving outcomes that are consistent with our values"

I wonder who he means when he says "our".

Most of this sounds like grounds for impeachment. Especially the first one.

3/11/2011 08:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Metionas the Meek said...

I forgive the ancients their violent foibles.

Because of rebirth, many of the atrocities were committed by souls walking about today.

Perhaps we are complicit; you would have to access the Akashic records to check on it. I don't have time for such research now.

We must alwayw hold the Man responsible for the course of history; to do otherwise is to usurp credit (or blame) from its rightful owner, God.

Shalom.

3/11/2011 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"Have you ever tried to imagine what it would be like to drown? Again, that is terror 1.0."

I got about as close as you can get. My first reaction to you writing this was to think, no way, ..my child being crucified... but you are right, can't even go there...

And with my near drowning, it was very very scary but never terrifying because during the whole thing I could see a possible solution - I could reach the boat if I could find the energy. In other words, it wasn't "without hope".

Prayers to the people of Japan.

3/11/2011 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I mean, how about experimental surgeries without anesthesia performed on captured pilots before an audience of physicians? How does one even imagine such an experience? It is beyond the threshold.

I've come to think, in recent weeks that one of the reasons I so dislike the recent crop of torture porn movies (the Saw movies, Hostel, etc.) is that at some point, some one person sat in front of his computer and planned it all out. Fantasized about it, tried to imagine how best to convey the horror, how best to push the minds of others to that 1.0 point short of actually doing those things to someone. Then all the people required to bring that vision to the screen, and basically it's like someone evacuated his murderous mind parasites to everyone willing to participate, either through the production or through watching.

I'm not saying there's no place for a good horror story or scary movie - in fact, I think they are vital, when they serve the purpose of something higher, some form of redemption. But the ones that are an end in themselves. What healthy person spends that much time imagining such things?

As to the tsunami, watching the footage last night and this morning I could only think how hundreds and thousands must have just lost their lives, but the sheer scale of the devastation makes it too abstract. Then in some of the footage of cars, seemingly empty, being washed away, there is just one where you can see what could be - could have been up until that dread moment when the water hit - a someone, and not just a piece of flotsam. And that someone becomes the stand-in for the imagination that makes the horror personal and not an abstraction.

3/11/2011 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Cooncur, Julie - about those horror movies.

"I'm not saying there's no place for a good horror story or scary movie - in fact, I think they are vital, when they serve the purpose of something higher, some form of redemption."

Generally I agree, although many movies these days seem to use the "higher purpose" as an adder to excuse the rest of it. Some it's hard to tell - such as District 9 comes to mind (I think because I just read that idiotic article linked on Ace to Space.com about robot aliens)

But the "good purpose horror movies" are not horror movies. They're stories which require horrific scenes in them.

3/11/2011 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

wv says "basest" - must mean it thinks the schlock appeals to the basest parts of human nature.

Yeah, sometimes I think the "higher purpose" is tossed in there as an afterthought. At least when that's the case there's some sort of tacit acknowledgment that such a fig leaf is needed, no matter how shriveled the fig leaf in question happens to be. It shows that the people involved haven't quite lost their sense of humanity.

3/11/2011 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I'll bet that's true.

Speaking of movies, "Get Low" is on Netflix DVD now.

3/11/2011 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I'd never heard of that one. Sounds interesting, though - thanks, Rick!

3/11/2011 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Your teasing me.
;-)
Well, good news is I guess I didn't talk about it too much when it came out :-)

3/11/2011 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>> . . . the quest for fame and celebrity have replaced the spiritual quest.<<

Likewise, I think, the quest for perfect health, the perfect body - like fame, this provides an ersatz "immortality". Combine the two and you get the steroidal modern-day athlete who by and large is without virtue. But of course many virtually worship today's athletes. (I say this as someone who loved playing sports and who still waits for the super bowl and world series with great anticipation, but I mean, c'mon now)

3/11/2011 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>>Note how the collaborationist media will show us image after image of the pranks at Abu Ghraib, but not the horror of an Islamist beheading another innocent victim<<

There also exists footage of over 200 people leaping to their deaths from the world trade center blg's. Not fifteen or twenty as many people think, but over 200. When asked why such footage has not been seen by the public, some media honcho slime-wagon stated that he - they - didn't want to fan the flames of American war fever.

They had no such compunction about fanning Islamic war fever with their wall-to-wall Abu Graib coverage.

3/11/2011 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Bob says:

"It always strikes me how antiquity is still idealized by scholars, even though for most people the pre-Christian world was a kind of hell on earth."

Yeah. It wasn't fun to be the average slave of Rome. From what I hear, if you were a slave of a city, you were really bad off.

Although I would think that antiquitiy was probably an improvement when compared to the normal hellishness of standard-issue pre-antiquity tribal adventures.

And it was the ground in which the modern world arose. The population, I mean, not the culture per se.

3/11/2011 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

JP, ancient Rome, as bad as it was, was probably vastly preferable to ancient Carthage.

What makes today's tribalist barbarians so very bad is that they are completely out of sync with time, with spiritual/historical progression. At least ancient Rome was up to date with time, so to speak - it was probably the best the ancient world could offer.

wv: "tylas". Yup, tylas in Gaza.

3/11/2011 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I'm certainly glad that Rome won the Punic wars.

Although they didn't need to raize Carthage to the ground. That was a bit unnecessary.

3/11/2011 01:03:00 PM  
Anonymous sehoy said...

There's a reason the Romans salted the earth of Carthage.

3/12/2011 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger phil g said...

JP,
You can't impute today's moral culture on a culture over 2,000 years ago. Rome raized Carthage because that's what winners did in those days to a foe that always returned and created such unending havoc. Losing was a tough proposition back then. There was no concept of 'nation building'.

3/14/2011 02:52:00 AM  

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