In this last week, my honoree is more of a sympathy case than a role model but is still someone I will use as a standard by which to judge new school racists’ future acts, statements, and character to see if I should reject my new school racist opinion of them: the soldier Thersites from Homer’s Iliad. Some might object that Thersites is not a real person but a fictional person. There is no way of knowing if he was a living person, based on one, or simply an analogy for the common soldiers, sailors, and workers that are the pawns of all wars, but it does not matter. As contemplated in http://www.sandpebblespodcast.com, often analogy and honest fiction are often the only way that language allows us to choose truth over illusion and to reach and discuss truths “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”. To me, Thersites is more real than the physically actual yet truly fake, illusionary creations of campaign strategy and marketing that call themselves presidential candidates.
The Iliad in written form dates back to the 7th – 8th Century BC but existed as a memorized oral tradition another at least 4 – 5 centuries before that. It depicts the last period of the ten-year siege of the city of Troy, the Trojan war, by a coalition of Greek city-states. The reasons for the war vary both in the Iliad, in histories, and in historical analyses. It could have been practical, the Trojans were supposedly pirates charging passing Greek ships tolls to avoid being boarded and ransacked or held for ransom. It could have been hormonal; since polygamy was common in that era and rich men took up all the wives they could support (which was a lot), there was always a shortage of wives for the lower class men and thus raids upon other tribes for their women were occasionally organized. The only certainty is that of all wars: for some reason benefitting them, the powers-that-be decided they wanted a war and were able to arrange events so that they got what they wanted.
Theristes had the guts to say so. As the Greek King Agamemnon was rallying the troops for the glory and honor of battle, Thersites scolds the King to his face:
Son of Atreus, … what are you dissatisfied with now? Your huts are full of bronze and plenty of women, the choice spoils we Achaeans give you whenever we take a town. Are you greedy for the gold that the horse-taming Trojans may yet bring you as ransom for a son, whom I or some other Achaean may have taken captive? Or some young girl to sleep with, that you will keep apart for yourself? It is not seemly, … that you, our leader, should bring evil on the sons of the Achacans, …
[then, turning to his fellow soldiers]
… soft fools, base things of shame, ye women of Achaia, and men no more. … leave this fellow here to digest his prizes in his old age and learn whether he can get along without us.
Depending on the translation, the reward for this honesty that even Homer admits stated what all the other soldiers were thinking, including the great Achilles, was either Odysseus or Agamemnon beat Thersites to a bloody mess or beat him to death.
The lesson here is as I have written before in this blog is that social and economic classes, including a ruling class having the only power to force “ought” statements on the classes below them, have always existed in human society and always will. As even the slave morality of Christianity admits, “[f]or the poor always you have with you”; however, it also states an obligation to help the poor that supposedly modern Technological Society has subsumed into its culture. The first step to dealing with this unavoidable classism in human society so that humanity can continue to materially progress thus making being poor less physically miserable is to accept it so that it can be incorporated into social reality. Western Civilization is what it is in large part because of the Roman Republic’s centuries of flourishing through acceptance of classes and thus the creation of such things as the Plebeian Council, Plebeian Assembly, the Conflict of Orders, Hortensian Law, jury trials, and the Plebeian Tribune that served as good marketing for the concept of republican and democratic forms of government into the Renaissance and into our own American Revolution more so than the short life of Athenian democracy. A democracy in which millionaires choose other millionaires to be in control of democracy is not a democracy, it has become a plutocracy; a vote for any candidate or system so chosen is a waste that only gives the powers undeserved credibility.
The problem is Thersites’ demise. Is that the inevitable ending for honesty on this issue of classism? Hopefully not. The Roman Republic was eventually beaten down by the law’s majestic protection of chattel slavery and thus the Patricians’ access to cheap labor. There is a short window of opportunity before wage slavery is permanently entrenched by the majesty of the law and has the same effect upon our American Republic. One good aspect of technology is that “[p]rogress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” — Robert A. Heinlein. Civil disobedience is an option now as it always has been in history and may be easier than ever before in history given our reliance on technology and its necessary requirement that we all must follow orders and do what we are told efficiently and orderly. According to the sociologist Jacques Ellul, “[n]ot even the moral conversion of the technicians could make a difference. At best, they would cease to be good technicians. In the end, technique has only one principle, efficient ordering.”
Time to prove him wrong out of laziness if nothing else. This is an individual decision based on each person’s life and status in life so I can give no specific guidance as to what any individual should do in terms of civil disobedience — just general guidance as in these white history month blogs. One simple and easy act of disobedience would be of your supposed duty as a citizen to vote. One of my sponsors (The Knights of Thermopylae Inn of Court) has a call to action to vote in the November election by writing in your name or voting for any third party as a protest vote against the mainstream candidates and parties — all of which are a joke and are only getting worse. This is an easy protest and disobedience of your civil duty to vote for which you will not get caught (we still have a secret ballot); in which technically you are doing your duty to vote; and that is pragmatically no different then choosing between the mainstream Mutt and Jeff, Beavis and Butthead, since a vote for any of them is a wasted vote anyway.
Along with the acts of my honoree Thersites that resulted in his suffering severe physical abuse if not death, I view such a simple and safe call to action and protest vote as a vote against New School Racism.