Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Iliad


Homer's Iliad plays rather like a David Attenborough nature documentary. There is no redeeming moral teleology or redeeming rationalisation. The strong prey on the weak, men over women and children, gods over men. The more cruel and sadistic a warrior you are the better. There are very minor correctives such as the rights of priests and supplicants or histories of guest-friendship. Honour and status is all. 

Consider the case of bandy-legged Thersites who, given his low status, is bullied by Odysseus and the Achaean troops for raising legitimate gripes against ruler King Agamemnon, almost identical to those of Achilles, but Achilles is high and mighty and the son of a goddess so was not humiliated to the same extent. 


Gods have their favourites and this is never according to how moral the favourites are but according to their status, lineage and how much honour they have given to those gods. Gods sadistically play tricks on humans, such as Athena against Hector in book 22. Zeus has his favourites, such as Athena, and his least favourites such as Ares. Aphrodite, goddess of erotic love, is made fun of at one point by more belligerent and war-focused gods such as Athena. 


Troy finally is burned to the ground (not depicted in the Iliad but predicted as an inevitable outcome and also described in the sequel the Odyssey) and its women and children raped and sold into slavery. 


As Nietzsche fondly noted of Homer, the early Greek tragedians (Aeschylus and Sophocles) and pre-Socratic philosophers (Heraclitus first and foremost, referred to several times on ScruffyOwlet's Tree) is that they depicted in some great detail the horrors of existence, the injustices of men and gods, the suffering of humanity without ever passing moral judgement, just like a David Attenborough in a nature documentary. That is just our lot. In Birth of Tragedy he noted with distaste that this amoral tradition was brought to an end by Socrates and his playwright follower Euripides who did start passing moral judgement.


In fact elites have every reason to favour darwinism as it justifies and supports their power and their special privileged predatory position. The difference with Homer's world is that neoliberal elites use the language of the rule of law and justice but, as Chomsky would argue, in a doctrinal way, far removed from any tangible democratic reality from the viewpoint of ordinary people. 


An example of double-speak I have found in my thoughtful labours is that the term 'economic growth' on closer analysis could read as 'un-economical waste' but it all depends on your intent and perceiving angle. In any event, see post Economics as Domestication.


I will end this array of notes with a quote from French poet Baudelaire

"Il n'a que deux droits qui comptent véritablement ; le droit de se contredire et le droit de s'en aller."
Translation: Only two rights truly matter: the right to contradict oneself and the right to leave (physically by moving or biologically by suicide, either or both could be intended).