by Dr. Jack Wheeler
August 31, 2004
Aeschylus and Homer
The founding culture of Western Civilization is that of Hellenic Greece — starting with Homer about the time of the first Olympiad in 776 BC to the death of Aristotle in 322 BC (one year after that of his student, Alexander the Great).
The singular invention of the ancient Hellenes that is the foundation upon which Western Civilization has been built, is an idea unique in history: that the individual human being, and not just the tribe to which he or she belongs, has an intrinsic value and thus a legitimate claim to exist for his or her own sake.
No other culture in mankind’s history had ever had the courage to think this before, so suffused as they were with fear of their gods and rulers. We owe our cultural existence to the moral audacity of the Hellenic Greeks.
The Bible of the Hellenes was Homer, whose Iliad and Odyssey epics were for them, as one scholar puts it, “the source of all instruction in ethics.” Homer sings of individual heroes — Achilles, Hector, Ajax, Diomedes, Glaucus, Odysseus — whose motto was, in the words of Glaucus, “I lead. Strive your best.” They were the role models for the Hellenes.
Homer’s Iliad is a paean to the right of the individual to his existence. The scene that most dramatically expresses this is in Book V where the God of War, Ares (the Roman Mars) takes human form and fights on the side of the Trojans. Outraged at the unfairness of a god taking sides, Diomedes, “tamer of wild stallions,” thrusts his bronze spear “deep into Ares’ bowels where the belt cinched him tight.”
Here is a human physically attacking and wounding a god — and there is no retribution. When Ares, “the fresh immortal blood gushing from his wound,” demands that Zeus punish this wretched mortal for his audacity, Zeus tells Ares to shut up and stop whining. In the Odyssey Homer tells us that after the war, Diomedes returned safely home.
Yet for all their moral worship of individual heroism, the ancient Greeks suffered an existential crisis, a spiritual catharsis of fear and doubt, in the wake of their seemingly superhuman victories over the superpower of the Ancient World, the Persian Empire.
The Greeks looked upon Persia as an ant-hill society, whose king was an absolute ruler wielding total sway over subjects indistinguishable from chattels. The Greeks looked upon themselves as citizens possessing rights their leaders could not violate.
When the tiny, insignificant city-states were attacked by the gigantic Persian army, there seemed little hope. But on the fields of Marathon in 490 BC, they defeated the hordes of Darius.
Ten years later, Darius’ son Xerxes invaded Greece again bent on revenge. On September 28, 480 in perhaps the most momentous naval battle in history, the 1,200 massive war galleys of the Persian navy were lured into the bay of Salamis by the Greek commander, Themistocles of Athens, where the 370 quick little Greek trireme ships cut the Persians to ribbons.
Xerxes ordered a throne chair placed upon a mountain-top to watch the battle. The Great King had come to gloat, to contemptuously snuff out these insolent Hellenes who had dared oppose him. He witnessed instead the destruction of his fleet, the most awesome naval force the world had ever seen, and now had to retreat in humiliation through the snows of Thrace in winter with the remnants of his once mighty army.
The Greeks, particularly the Athenians, had done the impossible. Rather than taking Homeric pride in their incredible victory of the Persians, they experienced instead a profound failure of nerve – a panicky self-abnegation to avoid the envy of the gods for such an astounding achievement.
The problem was that their victory over the Persians was too astounding — it really did seem superhuman. Thus Aeschylus, the greatest of all Greek playwrights and who had personally fought at both Marathon and Salamis, interpreted the victory not as a triumph of Hellenic valor, but as punishment for Persian hubris.
“Behold this vengeance,” Aeschylus has the ghost of Darius warn in his play, The Persians. “Curb that pride which calls down destruction from the gods upon our heads.” The primitive fear of phthonos — the envy of the gods for the success of men — had arisen from the subterranean depths of the Hellenic soul to triumph over Homeric fearless optimism.
Aeschylus and Neal Armstrong
On July 20, 1969, as I sat with a group of friends around a television in Honolulu, Hawaii, watching with awe a human being place his foot on the moon, I commented, “Neal Armstrong will be the most famous man of the 20th century.” Obviously I turned out be very wrong.
America’s landing a man on the moon is the single greatest accomplishment in the history of the human race. It was an act of the purest Homeric fearless optimism. And yet after it, America — like Aeschylus and Ancient Athens- had a failure of nerve. Landing a man on the moon was epic heroism on a scale far beyond anything to which any other culture on earth could aspire.
It was a pinnacle that left the rest of the human race too far below. Landing a man on the moon, like the defeat of the Persians, was too unbelievably astonishing. It was a feat that placed Americans too far beyond the rest of humanity. The primordial anxiety that the gods would punish us for our succeeding too much caused us to give up.
We gave up going to the moon after the inertia of scheduled Apollo landings ran out in 1972. We gave up in Vietnam. We gave up in the Arab Oil Embargo. We gave up against the Soviets, and let them colonize South Yemen (1971), Benin (1972), Angola (1975), Mozambique (1975), Ethiopia (1977), Seychelles (1977), Nicaragua (1979), Surinam (1979), Afghanistan (1979), and Grenada (1980).
We gave up when the Communist Khmer Rouge committed genocide in Cambodia. We gave up and let Khomeini overthrow the Shah and gave up again when his thugs took American hostages at our embassy in Tehran. We gave up and let our economy collapse in a malaise of inflation and unemployment. We gave up and elected a pathetic nebbish for our president, Jimmy Carter.
The American Retreat of the 1970s is attributed to the “Vietnam Syndrome,” as if defeat in Vietnam was its cause. But the cause of America’s defeat in Vietnam was a prior failure of nerve in the face of the envy of the gods – i.e., the rest of humanity — for the greatest achievement of mankind.
This defeat and subsequent retreat was a monumental disaster for humanity. Communist tyrants perpetrated mass slaughter in the millions and doomed scores of millions more to lives of hideous oppression and poverty from Ethiopia to Afghanistan to Cambodia and Vietnam itself. The Arab oil money financing Moslem Terrorism’s war on Western Civilization was only made possible by America’s capitulating to the Arab Oil Embargo.
The end of the 1970s saw a clueless President whining about an American “malaise” – never comprehending that he was elected as an expression of America’s prostrate self-image – and Henry Kissenger asserting that the Soviet Union was so close to winning the Cold War that the real question was how America could negotiate the best terms of surrender.
Ronald Reagan came to our rescue. He restored our pride in ourselves and our country. He resurrected America’s economy and won the Cold War. Ronald Reagan is America’s Homeric hero of the 20th century. So what did we Americans do in response to our defeating the Evil Empire of the Soviet Superpower? We got drunk.
To celebrate victory in the Cold War culminating in the disintegration of the Soviet Empire and the Soviet Union, America went on a bacchanalian bender of social, economic, and political irresponsibility. The most memorable line of the 1980s was: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The most memorable line of the 1990s was: “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”
The Clinton Bacchanal ended as all frenzies do, morphing into the morning-after Clinton Hangover recession. The barest of electoral majorities voted to put the social wreckage of the Clintonistas behind us — but what finally sobered America up was the horror of September 11.
Ten months earlier, in November 2000, Americans still couldn’t decide if they wanted to end their binge of moral delinquency. The slightest breath of bad karma could have tipped the scales against a George W. Bush presidency. That whiff of bad breath would have installed people in the White House totally incapable of preventing what Osama Bin Laden tried to achieve: America’s will to protect itself collapsing like the Twin Towers of New York.
If The Atrocity of Sept. 11, 2001 had been committed under a Gore presidency, a few ineffectual Monica Missiles would have been lobbed in Osama’s general direction, the Gore White House would have sat around wringing its hands afraid to do anything serious lest “the whole Moslem world be against us,” while the rest of America sat cowering in fear of the next terrorist assault.
The voices of the left would have risen unchecked to claim America somehow deserved it, we would have sunk into a quicksand of demoralized gloom, the economy would have never recovered from the Clinton Hangover, and the thousands of human beings slaughtered at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon would have died in vain.
This is what Osama Bin Laden expected of us. Thus the pivotal event of our time is not the attack on America of September 11, but America’s reaction to it. Nothing shocked the Al Qaeda terrorists more than to see in response to their attack not an emasculated America but an enraged America, not an America cringing in fear but an America actually attacking back.
Once again in a moment of direst need, at a mortal fork in America’s road, one single individual had come, like Ronald Reagan, to his country’s rescue: George W. Bush.
And the liberals hated him for it.
To understand why, we must journey to the jungles of the Amazon.
The Evil Eye
Among the Yanomamo and other tribes deep in the Amazon rain forests still adhering to the ancient hunting-gathering lifestyle practiced by our Paleolithic ancestors, it is an accepted practice that when a woman gives birth, she tearfully proclaims her child to be ugly.
In a loud mortified lament that the entire tribe can hear, she asks why the gods have cursed her with such a pathetically repulsive infant. She does this in order to ward off the envious black magic of the Evil Eye, the Mal Ojo, that would be directed at her by her fellow tribespeople if they knew how happy she was with her beautiful baby.
Anthropologists observe that for most primitive and traditional cultures, “every individual lives in constant fear of the magical aggression of others… there is only one explanation for unforeseen events: the envious black magic of another villager.”
Reflect for a moment on the extent to which tribespeople in a tribal, “primitive” culture suffuse their lives with superstition, witchcraft, sorcery, voodoo, “black magic,” the “evil eye.” The world for them is teeming with demons, spirits, ghosts and gods, all of whom are malicious and dangerous — in a word, envious.
Envy is the source of tribal and traditional cultures’ belief in Black Magic, the fear of the envious Evil Eye. The fundamental reason why certain cultures remain static and never evolve (like present-day villages in Egypt or India that have pretty much stayed the same for a thousand years) is the overwhelming extent to which the entire lives of the people within them are dominated by envy and envy-avoidance: as anthropologists call it, the envy-barrier.
There is one and only one way to combat envy and envious rage, and that it is to show no fear of it. For many, this is extraordinarily hard to do. Fear of the Evil Eye is very ancient, very deep-rooted in the human psyche. For those so afraid, nothing infuriates them more than a man who does not possess their fear. A man such as George W. Bush.
Terrorism As A Pathology of Envy
The crux understanding of terrorism is that it is a form of envious rage.
All three of the great barbarisms of modern times have been pathologies of envy. Naziism, preaching race-envy toward “rich exploitative Jews”; Communism preaching class-envy toward “rich exploitative capitalists”; Moslem Terrorism preaching culture-envy toward “rich exploitative America.”
All forms of rage against success and prosperity — from the leftist university professor who considers himself to be in the progressive vanguard of sophisticated contemporary thought to the terrorist in a cave wanting to take us all back to the Dark Ages – are nothing but an atavism, a regression to a primitive tribal belief in Black Magic.
Take for example the primitive atavism of left-wing bromides like “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.” By the same logic, one can be healthy only at the expense of others. That in order to be in superior health, bursting with energy and vitality, one has to make someone else sick or in poor health — just like in order to be rich you have to make others poor.
The healthy are healthy because they unjustly exploited and ripped off the sick, spiriting away the sick’s fair share of health with black magic. In fact, the sick are sick because the healthy are healthy. If this is absurd, then claiming the poor are poor because they have been exploited by the rich is equally so.
Terrorism is an expression of envious Black Magic. No where is this more clear than the Nazi-type hatred Arabs have for Israel. The root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict is envy. The Jews created a civilization out of the wilderness and a garden out of the desert, while the Arabs – even with their centibillions of petrodollars — continued to mire themselves in medieval tyranny and poverty.
Israel is a fount of creativity and achievement, a bastion of Western Civilization built by scratch out of a desiccated wasteland, sparsely populated by Arab nomads herding sheep, goats, and camels. And that is why the descendants of those nomads hate and envy it so much.
It is also why they hate America so much. Moslem Terrorists do not hate America for its vices but for its virtues, for its freedom, its prosperity, for its cultural success. Just as Nazis hate Jews for their success, just as Marxists hate capitalists for their success, so Moslem Terrorists hate America, Western Civilization, and Christianity for their success.
The hate is justified in all three cases by the claim that the success is due to “exploitation.” In all three cases, the belief in exploitation is a primitive belief in voodoo Black Magic.
Liberalism As A Fear Of The Evil Eye
What gives envy its enormous destructive capacity is the fear of it, fear of the Evil Eye. It is envy which makes a Nazi, Communist, or Moslem Terrorist. It is the fear of being envied which makes a Liberal.
This is most easily seen in the children of wealthy parents. Successful businessmen, for example, who have made it on their own normally have a respect for the effort and the economic system that makes success possible. Their children, who have not had to work for it, are easier targets for guilt-mongering by the envious.
So they assume a posture of liberal compassion as an envy-deflection device: “Please don’t envy me for my father’s money — look at all the liberal causes and government social programs I advocate!” Teddy Kennedy is the archetype of this phenomenon.
Then there are those who are terrified of envy even though they have earned success themselves. Many Jews are liberals because such lethal envy has been directed at Jews for so many centuries that it is little wonder they consider avoiding envy to be a necessity of life.
Envy-appeasement explains why Hollywood is so liberal. The vast amounts of money entertainment stars make is so grossly disproportionate to the effort it took them to make it that they feel it is unearned. So they apologize for it. The Liberal strategy is to apologize for his success, his country’s success, his civilization’s success, in order to appease the envious.
Liberalism is thus not a political ideology or set of beliefs. It is an envy-deflection device, a psychological strategy to avoid being envied. It is the politicalization of envy-appeasement.
One definitive characteristic of both envy and the fear of it is masochism. Envy is not simply hatred of someone for having something you don’t — it is the willingness to masochistically hurt or deprive yourself as long as the person you are envious of is also hurt or deprived. The penultimate example is the Palestinian suicide-bomber.
Similarly, the more one fears being envied, the more one is driven to masochistic self-humiliation in attempts at envy appeasement.
The Masochism of Liberals
The lethality of liberal envy-appeasement is that personally-felt guilt is projected onto the various social or tribal collectives to which the liberal belongs and are a part of his self-identity. Self-loathing is transformed into a loathing of one’s society or race.
White male liberals become auto-sexist, sexist toward their own sex. White liberals become auto-racist: racist toward their own race (such as white writer Susan Sontag who denounces her own race as “the cancer of human history”). Dime-store demagogues like eco-fascist environmentalists, feminazis, PETA animal rights fanatics, homosexual marriage promoters, race hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton all get their strength from the liberals’ fear of their Evil Eyes.
All the passions of the Left are frenzies of masochism. What could be more idiotic and masochistic than to oppose missile defense? This opposition cannot be understood unless one dispenses with its rhetoric and rationales and realizes that such folks at their emotional core do not want their country defended. The “global warming” hoax cannot be comprehended other than that its masochistic advocates do not want their civilization to prosper.
The entire Political Correctness movement is nothing but masochistic envy-appeasement advocated by those who do not want their culture to survive. The pro-abortionists’ crazed determination to prevent the halt of mothers murdering their children by the millions, or the equally crazed mission of the environmentalists to prevent DDT from saving millions of children from dying of malaria, means that they do not want their species to exist.
As the Amazon tribeswoman who says her baby is ugly, so the white male liberal says his gender, his race, his country, his civilization and even his entire species is ugly.
The Pathology of Bush-Hatred
Today we — America and Western Civilization — are up against an enemy far more dangerous than the Soviet Union. We are up against an enemy that will actually use nuclear or biochemical weapons to destroy us if they have the chance, an enemy that will commit suicide in an attempt to destroy civilization as we know it.
Yet the liberal elite that controls the Democrat Party and mainstream media hate George Bush more than they hate the terrorists – just as they were more outraged at the humiliation of Baathist thugs in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison than they were over the murder, mutilation, burning, and hanging of four Americans in Fallujah.
They – just like the Old Europeans and the “international community” to whom they always kowtow — hate George Bush precisely because he refuses to appease the envy of the terrorists, precisely because he is defending America without apology. Just as the terrorists hate America for her virtues and not her vices, the liberal elite hate George W. Bush for his virtues, not his vices.
This is a tragedy for the Democrat Party. “Patriotic Democrats” were once commonplace. Now they are an anomaly. The Democrats were once riddled with patriots like Scoop Jackson and George Meany. Now they are a rarity, like Joe Lieberman and Zell Miller. The process of McGovernization of the Democrats began in 1972, a consequence of America’s failure of nerve after reaching the moon.
Today in 2004, the process has reached an apotheosis in the Democrats’ hatred for a president that is not, like they, embarrassed to be American, a president who thinks that, unlike they, America is worth defending.
Once again, America has achieved another pinnacle in world history and accomplishment. America today stands alone as the sole superpower on earth, far far and away the richest nation in man’s history, possessing the most powerful – and most morally humane — military force our planet has ever seen. There is no nation or group of nations remotely capable of challenging her.
And again, the liberals are terrified of the envy of the gods, and pathologically angry that America won’t apologize to the world, won’t appease those who hate us, won’t beg and grovel for forgiveness for the sin of historically singular success.
Aeschylus and George Bush
Aeschylus wrote his ode to pessimism, The Persians, in 473 BC, seven short years after Salamis. Over the ensuing decades he and his fellow Athenians regained their Homeric heritage. They elected Pericles to be their Strategos (General, overall leader), inaugurating that magnificent moment in history known as The Glory That Was Greece, culminating in their building the Parthenon and Aeschylus writing Prometheus Bound.
Prometheus, in giving fire to man in defiance of Zeus’ command not to, has committed the ultimate sin, the super-hubris of pleonexia, rebellion against the gods — yet Aeschylus portrays him as nobly heroic precisely because of his hubris. Under the ghastly torture designed by Zeus, chained to a rock and his liver eaten by an eagle, Prometheus remains proud of his gift to humanity and refuses to submit:
“There is no wrong however shameful, no malice of Zeus, whereby he can persuade me to unlock my lips… and bend my will.”
America’s liberal intellectual elite – as their Old European counterparts – are dominated by primitive fears, fear of pleonexia, fear of the evil eye. This is why their primary appeals to voters are based on negative emotions – anger, bitterness, angst, and dismay. Perhaps someday, years hence, they will be able to cast these fears aside as did Aeschylus – but for now their archaic fears are too deeply embedded in their psyches.
America cannot win the War on Moslem Terrorism if she is tortured by fear of the world’s evil eyes. The single greatest hope America’s enemies have at this moment is that Americans will capitulate to this fear and defeat George Bush for the presidency this November.
When Americans went to the polls in November 2000, they did not know the stakes history was about to create. When they go to the polls in November 2004, the stakes will be clear, with no fog of the future obscuring them.
Will Americans surrender, retreat, and appease her enemies by electing the epitome of the Vietnam Syndrome, of Blame-America-First defeatism – or will they cast aside the fear of envy and strive for triumph?
The calamitous consequences of the former choice will far exceed those of America’s Retreat in the 1970s. The consequences of the latter will be America’s standing on the pinnacle of history proud and unafraid, proclaiming without fear: “I lead. Strive your best.”
— Dr. Jack Wheeler is editor-in-chief of To The Point News and is widely credited as the architect of the Reagan Doctrine. His “Aeschylus and America” originally appeared as Chapter Eight of Thank You President Bush, published for the Fall 2004 Presidential campaign season with writers such as Rod Martin (editor), Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush and other folks you’d know.