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Bill Weintraub

Bill Weintraub

The Strife of Valour: Ares is Lord; Greece has no fear of gold; Austerity and Equality at Sparta

1-3-09

Hi guys.

This post looks at the current economic crisis and what Sparta can tell us about surviving such a crisis.

Like the crisis, the post is long.

But it's in sections.

And to make it easier for folks who want to read one section at a time, there's this Table of Contents:

Preface

Part I: V i r t u e

Part II: V a l o u r

Part III: A g o n

Part IV: A r e s

Part V: M a n h o o d

I hope you'll take the time to read the entire post.

Like Excellence, Honor, and the Molding of Men, this is a post I'll be referring back to, because it introduces the core Warrior concepts of Austerity and Equality, explains how they functioned at Sparta, and looks at how they can enrich our own lives.

Bill


τhis post, which addresses cultural issues brought forward by the credit crunch and the subsequent economic crisis, was inspired by Warrior Brian Hulme, who sent me the following email:

As for the credit crunch, well it will not affect me, because 1) I can not lose my job, as I am already unemployed and on State (Government) benefit. 2) My reason for donating, if you remember, was that the church I was in and at that time leaving was treating me in an un Christian way and not supporting me but I got the support I needed from the Man2Man Alliance and you. The tithe that I paid to them at that time was 10% of my income and I considered it a sacred trust and not for my use. When I left the Church this money was left with "nothing to do" or I could every 4 weeks send it to you as a "tithe" and as much of a sacred trust. I now think of Patrick as my Pastor, you as my Elder and Robert and Naked Wrestler and the many other contributors to the Alliance web site Warrior Brothers in this my new church as we share a new type of love and belief that involves total Manly love, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

The credit crunch can crunch away, but it will NOT crunch my Manhood my Masculinity or my Warriorhood and it will not stop me sending my donations to the Alliance, because I hunger for the establishment of (through setting up of Regional Chapters by Warrior couples) a Warrior Community and that can only happen if we are committed to the cause of Warriorhood in every way we can be, and this includes sending as much in donations as often as we can.

Brian

In his email, Brian is, implicitly I feel, contrasting the values of those who've created the credit crunch -- and of those who fear the credit crunch -- with his own Warrior values of Manhood, Masculinity, and Warriorhood.

And he's being very clear:

A Warrior Community can only exist, he says, "if we are committed to the cause of Warriorhood in every way we can be."

He's right of course.

Which means he's hitting on crucial issues which you need to think about in terms of the choices you're making and will make in your lives.

Now, Brian lives in the UK, and so, while, as I told him, I'm sorry he's unemployed, he's at least getting benefits.

He also, as I understand this, gets medical care, regardless of whether he's currently employed.

Brian was ill recently and had to have an operation.

Because his society provides him with medical care, he didn't have to worry about the cost of that care.

So in the UK, even though the UK is a capitalist country, and even though it too has been hit hard by the credit crunch, there are COMMUNAL VALUES which help protect guys like Brian.

That's good.

And Brian shares in those communal values.

Because from his unemployment benefits, which from the point of view of an American, are meager --

he's tithing.

To which I say: Wow!

But I also recognize that his tithing is a reflection of his values, his communal values, which most of you reading this -- lack.

And in thinking about how to explain this to you, I came upon a phrase in Xenophon describing an aspect of Sparta and the Agogé.

That phrase is "The Strife of Valour."

If you can understand The Strife of Valour and the meaning of The Strife of Valour, then you can understand the values -- communal values -- which powered the Spartan experiment and made it so successful.

"Manhood, Masculinity, Warriorhood" says Brian.

Once again, he's right.

They're all part of The Strife of Valour.

And that's not all.

Because my reading of Xenophon led me to Plutarch's Life of Agesilaus, a Spartan king -- in which I came across this line of ancient Greek poetry:

Ares is Lord; Greece has no fear of gold.

That too is germane to our discussion.

So -- I've given this post a long title:

The Strife of Valour


Ares is Lord

Greece has no fear of gold


Austerity and Equality at Sparta

If you'll bear with me, you'll see how each element comes into play.

And how, in the place where Ares -- that is, the Warrior God -- is Lord; and where the Strife of Valour prevails; the people need have no fear of gold.

Part I: V i r t u e

Part II: V a l o u r

Part III: A g o n

Part IV: A r e s

Part V: M a n h o o d










ωhat we've been seeing for months now, in the credit crunch and the ensuing collapse of the worldwide financial system, has been the strife of greed.

The strife of selfishness and self-interest.

Struggles among the greedy for an ever bigger piece of the pie are what has brought our world to this brink --

this brink of financial, social, and environmental disaster.

The strife of greed, then, is destructive.

It puts the individual first, no matter how destructive that individual's actions are to the common good.

The Strife of Valour is something entirely different.

As we'll see -- it destroys neither communities nor Men --

rather, it is the SALVATION of both.


The Way of the Warrior is the Way of Salvation;

and the Way of the Warrior is the Strife of Valour.

Again: the strife of greed is destructive.

The Strife of Valour is not, because, as we'll see, it's part of an effort to build both excellence -- Manhood -- and fellow-feeling among Warriors and thus strengthen and exalt their Warriorhood.

Warriorhood which exists in service to a community -- what we may think of as a Warriordom.

A Warrior Realm -- which is what Sparta was.

Now: In our time, the strife of greed is largely about the creation of needs and the creation of things to fulfill those needs.

Which begs the question:

What do human beings actually need?

Answer -- in my view:

Clean air, clean water, wholesome food, and exercise -- the last two in moderation -- and the communion and mutual aid of their fellows.

That's what they need.

They also need the freedom to be sexual -- within limits.

Sex must be genital and consensual.

That means they can't be allowed to rape, or buttfuck, or violate children.

In addition, Men need to be able to Fight.

Women to bear children and nurture.

But, it should be noted, Spartan Women were encouraged to wrestle, to throw the javelin and discus;

while Spartan Men were expected to fully participate in the education, training, and moral acculturation of boys and young men.

At Sparta, both sexes experienced aggression -- and nurturance.

This then is what human beings need:

Clean air, clean water, wholesome food, exercise, and mutual aid;

sex, aggression, and children.

That's what human beings need.

Not SUVs and flat-screen TVs;

but the freedoms, rights, and obligations of their mutual humanity.

The Spartans had that.

We don't.

Yet, even in the midst of the credit crisis, our culture continues to emphasize and value material goods, often and predictably to the exclusion of our mutual humanity.

For example, I wrote that line about "SUVs and flat-screen TVs" back in October;

and in November, the New York Times ran this picture:

It's a photo of a man putting his newly-purchased flat-screen TV into his SUV -- life imitating, as it were, art.

He purchased the TV on "Black Friday" of this year, on the same day that a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a mob of shoppers.

According to the International Herald Tribune:

People did not stop to help the employee as he lay on the ground, and they pushed against other Wal-Mart workers who were trying to aid the man. The crowd kept running into the store even after the police arrived, jostling and pushing officers who were trying to perform CPR, the police said.

"They were like a stampede," said Nassau Det. Lieutenant Michael Fleming. "Hundreds of people walked past him, over him or around him."

The reason the Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death is that the shoppers put their acquisition of things

ahead of their individual and mutual humanity.

It was more important to them to get a bargain -- a cheap object -- on the day after Thanksgiving, than it was to concern themselves with what had happened to a fellow human being.

That's a reflection of their values -- values which are cultural.


A woman who's been engaged in a culturally-mandated activity, shopping,
sits wearily alone in a mall, her only companions the things she's bought.

Cultural values.

The photos I just showed you appeared in the New York Times on Black Friday, and as such are a snapshot, a picture of the culture.

This Spartan drinking cup which I often show you is also a picture -- of its culture.

These guys have not been shopping.

They've been in battle.

True battle.

They've been Fighting.

True Fighting.

And they're happily carrying home the body of a fellow Warrior, one who Fell in the Fight.

He died honorably -- virtuously Xenophon would say.

His death was "kalos" -- noble and beautiful.

The Warriors carrying his body have lived honorably.

Their lives, says Xenophon, are also "kalos" -- noble and beautiful.

That's why they're happy.

Because they've behaved virtuously.

And in accord with the values of their community -- a Warrior community -- which puts human relationships -- including relationships between Warriors, such as those we examined in The Warrior Bond -- ahead of material possessions.

Their happiness depends not on things -- not on objects -- but on behavior, their own behavior, which they control;

and on the way that behavior shapes their relationships with other members of their community -- a Warrior community.

Materially, these people are poor.

The Men are nude and barefoot, their only adornment is their elaborately dressed hair, and as we'll soon see, they live austere lives in every other way as well.

But they're happy.

At Wal-Mart, shoppers stepped over, around, and upon the body of a fellow human being in order to obtain objects -- not food, not water -- but objects, things, stuff -- virtually all of it junk;

At Sparta, Warriors battled and fought -- they risked their lives -- to protect and bring home a wounded comrade or the body of a fallen comrade.


Big difference.

And that's because at Sparta, human relationships based on the core Warrior values of Nobility and Goodness -- aka areté -- were more important -- far more important -- than things.

And to ensure that Nobility and Goodness remained the core values at Sparta -- the Spartans instituted a regime of Austerity and Equality.

That's what they did.

They banned wealth.

And replaced it with areté -- excellence.

Areté -- as it arose from Ares.

Excellence -- as it arose, and by design, from Fighting, Combat, and Strife.

That's what they did.

And what they did worked.

Spectacularly well.

For centuries.


Ares, the Warrior God and the source of areté
in Spartan panoply

So -- it's like I said:

This is what human beings need:

Clean air, clean water, wholesome food, exercise, and mutual aid;

sex, aggression, and children.

That's what human beings need.

Not SUVs and flat-screen TVs;

but the freedoms, rights, and obligations of their mutual humanity.

The Spartans had that.

We don't.

And the reason we don't is rooted in our code of values -- our "value-system."


Let's start by talking about the credit crunch and values.

We've often heard, in the last few months, that Greed -- which is a value -- is what got us into this mess.

But, fact is, we've been told for years, at least in the US, that Greed is the best motivator in a society -- that Greed is what powers "Free Market Capitalism," and if we just cut Greed loose to do its thing, everyone will prosper.

Well, we did cut it loose.

And a few people prospered.

And the rest of us lost.

We've also been told, repeatedly over the last years, that "the Market is always right."

Well, the market, out where I live, was valuing houses at -- at least -- five, ten, or even more -- times their actual value.

In one case, I saw a "home" -- really just a shack, sitting on a scrubby lot with a chicken-wire fence -- listed for $215,000.

It's not worth more than $12 or $14,000.

And what happened?

Someone bought it for $215,000, he couldn't make the payments, he bailed out, the bank has it, and last I heard the bank was demanding $130,000 for it.

Dream on.

So -- the Markets aren't always right.

I know, I know -- we're told that the Markets are self-correcting.

See, that's like saying, psychiatry is always right, so psychiatry was right in the 1960s when it said that "homosexuality" was a "personality disorder" --

until it "self-corrected" in 1973 and decided that "homosexuality" wasn't a "personality disorder."

No.

Guys having sex with guys is not evidence of a "personality disorder."

It wasn't in the 1960s, and it isn't now.

Psychiatry was WRONG.

And the Markets were WRONG too.

As Alan Greenspan himself, admitted, more or less, at a Congressional hearing in October:

Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation

By EDMUND L. ANDREWS

Published: October 23, 2008

WASHINGTON - For years, a Congressional hearing with Alan Greenspan was a marquee event. Lawmakers doted on him as an economic sage. Markets jumped up or down depending on what he said. Politicians in both parties wanted the maestro on their side.

But on Thursday, almost three years after stepping down as chairman of the Federal Reserve, a humbled Mr. Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending.

"Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders' equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief," he told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

...

"You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others," said Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, chairman of the committee. "Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?"

Mr. Greenspan conceded: "Yes, I've found a flaw. I don't know how significant or permanent it is. But I've been very distressed by that fact."

[emphasis mine]

Mr Greenspan's ideology -- his belief in greed and the markets -- was, he now admits, flawed.

Which means that the two values on which our society runs -- Greed and the Marketplace -- are not reliable.

They just aren't.

What's more, Mr Greenspan's ideology went beyond a simple belief in greed and the markets -- towards something which we can call "dollar-worship."

And I do mean dollar-*worship*.

Because it turns out that Greenspan, who was for so many years head of the Federal Reserve and whose pronouncements not just on the economy but just about anything were given great weight by the Congress, by most of the rest of government, and certainly by American society, is, according to the International Herald Tribune, a follower of Ayn Rand:

A professed libertarian, he counted among his formative influences the novelist Ayn Rand, who portrayed collective power as an evil force set against the enlightened self-interest of individuals.

Well, that's one way of putting it.

Rand, a White Russian refugee who hated communism and collectivism, put Greed at the center of her philosophic system.

The Tribune refers to it as "the enlightened self-interest of individuals."

But in Rand's work, it comes across as individual Greed.

Indeed, at one point in her writing, Rand, who was an atheist, has a character say that the only symbol worth honoring is the dollar sign.

And Rand means it.


Rand's conception of God

As a consequence, Greenspan was opposed to most government regulation of markets, including the derivatives market -- derivatives are complex financial instruments which are core to the present crisis; and, as I said, Greenspan strenuously and successfully opposed efforts, by the Congress and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to regulate them, because, says the Tribune, he had "a resolute faith that those participating in financial markets would act responsibly."

Why anyone would believe that, given the history of the world and of bubbles in particular -- is beyond me.

But perhaps you would if you believed, as Rand and Greenspan did, that decisions based on Greed, and a society run on Greed, would be sound.

Look: I have said that core to my work is a simple idea:

That you must question the dominant paradigms -- the dominant social models -- of your era.

Whether they be "heterosexuality" or analism.

Now -- one of the dominant paradigms of our present era is that Greed is good and that the Markets are always right.

But use your eyes.

The Markets were NOT right.

And if the markets were not right, then the theory is wrong.

Some of you no doubt believe that the crisis is due to "bad actors."

No no no no no.

It's the theory behind the actors which is the problem.

It's like saying that psychoanalysis couldn't rid me of my Love of Men and Masculinity -- because my psychiatrist was a bad psychiatrist.

Or that I was a bad patient.

No.

It was that the theory behind the pyschoanalysis was wrong.

Because the Love of Man for Man is normal and natural.

Not diseased.

Same with analism.

It's like saying, which many of the buttboys in the person of the AIDS Service Organizations do, that anal would be fine if everyone used condoms.

No.

Anal is an inherently UNnatural act.

It's inherently dangerous.

And if you have to wear a condom to do something -- chances are you shouldn't be doing it.

So -- the theory of Markets and Greed -- is wrong.

And when you look at an event like the present credit crisis, you need to look at the theory behind the event.

Because there's always a theory -- a paradigm or model -- which is guiding the actors.

Analism is one such theory.

Genderism is another.

The medical model of homosexuality was another, which was seemingly done in, but which has survived as sexual orientation.

And the theory of Markets and the salutary effects of Greed -- is another.

So: dollar-worship, greed, the marketplace -- major players in the American value system -- are in fact phoney theologies based on faulty and failed theories.

Which means we face a choice:

We can continue down the disastrous road of dollar worship and greed;

or we can rejoin the human race and behave once again like human beings.

And that means first and foremost looking at other values.

What other values are there?

Communal values.

Including what's called "reciprocal altruism" -- I'll help you if I have a reasonable expectation that at some point in the future you'll help me -- and which we in the Alliance, along with every other Warrior Culture, elevate to Warrior Altruism.

And that's what's powered most societies throughout history -- altruism, reciprocal or otherwise, and mutual aid.

Not greed.

Feminist author Margaret Atwood, with whom I don't often agree, had this to say about reciprocal altruism in an op-ed in the NY Times:

We are social creatures who must interact for mutual benefit, and - the negative version - who harbor grudges when we feel we've been treated unfairly. Without a sense of fairness and also a level of trust, without a system of reciprocal altruism and tit-for-tat - one good turn deserves another, and so does one bad turn - no one would ever lend anything, as there would be no expectation of being paid back. And people would lie, cheat and steal with abandon, as there would be no punishments for such behavior.

Children begin saying, "That's not fair!" long before they start figuring out money; they exchange favors, toys and punches early in life, setting their own exchange rates. Almost every human interaction involves debts incurred - debts that are either paid, in which case balance is restored, or else not, in which case people feel angry. A simple example: You're in your car, and you let someone else go ahead of you, and the driver doesn't nod, wave or honk. How do you feel?

...

Atwood is correct about how reciprocal altruism functions.

And she ends her piece by saying that people need to "recognize that there is such a thing as the common good."

That's something which previous societies took for granted.

Including the Greeks, who, for all their competitiveness and individualism, recognized that communal values -- the common good -- mattered.

Indeed, that's one of the reasons they so admired and respected Sparta.

Now, I'm going to talk about the Greeks, and Sparta, because I think doing so is very helpful for you guys.

But let me be clear.

It's not just the Greeks.

The ancient Hebrews, for example, didn't think that greed and the marketplace were what should govern their society.

Nor did Jesus.

He took a very dim view of greed, and the marketplace, and scourged the moneychangers out of the temple.

That said, let's talk about ancient Greece -- and Sparta in particular.

In Excellence, Honor, and the Molding of Men -- and once again, if you haven't read that article, it's important that you do -- we discussed how "excellence" was the primary value for the Greeks.

What was "excellence" in ancient Greece about?

At first -- in Homer -- "excellence" denoted valour in battle and a sort of courtly morality.

Valour in battle.

Fighting Spirit.

Indeed, in Excellence, Honor, and the Molding of Men, we saw that the Greek word for excellence, areté, was derived from Ares, the Warrior God.

Ares -- Areté

Fighting Spirit -- the Spirit of Battle -- leads to Excellence.

Over time, areté also became identified with Nobility -- "kalos" -- and Goodness -- "agathos."

The Greeks took those two words -- "kalos" and "agathos" -- and combined them into one, by using an abbreviated form of their word for "and" -- kai:

Kalos kai agathos =

Kalokagathia -- Nobility and Goodness.

Noble also meant Beautiful.

While Good was meant in the sense both of moral -- and of brave.

So that "kalokagathia" denoted a morally brave beauty.

Not just beauty, and not just brave, but morally brave.

Morality.

As Brian has said, values and morals and honour.

Which means that over time, excellence -- areté -- became identified with "moral beauty."

Which, in turn, was, basically, moral heroism -- that is, the sacrifice of self for another -- or for an ideal.

For example, to Aristotle, says classicist Werner Jaeger in his great work