Hell is for Heroes Without Virtue
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.