Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Embrace Athena and Ares
I love ancient Egypt and its myths, customs and history. I also appreciate the ancient Greeks and Romans. This is one of the reasons that my husband and I went on an Aegean cruise for our honeymoon in 1999, so that I could immerse myself in the lands of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
I recall my tour of one of the most revered of ancient sites, the Parthenon of the Acropolis in Athens. The name Parthenon refers to the worship of Athena Parthenos, the 'Virgin Athena' who issued fully grown from the head of her father Zeus. Although she was widely known in one of her roles as war goddess, it was in her roles of mediator and battle planner that she excelled. She always worked to prevent war, but once war had been joined the goddess Athena, fought valiantly for her side.
Our tour guide made it a point of pride to note that the ancient Greeks venerated Athena, whose focus was on tactics and the intelligence aspects of warfare. In his view, this made the goddess superior to Ares, the god of warlike frenzy and bloodshed. The Greeks had such disdain for Ares that he was deemed a coward and when a Greek hero wounded him during the Trojan War, Ares received scant sympathy from his father Zeus.
Interesting as this was, I think that the Greeks made a critical mistake. To effectively engage the enemy, one has to be willing to tap into their inner Ares. Being able to talk and negotiate is fine, but there must be a time a people are willing to battle for their society and way of life and to do so smartly. Therefore, both Areas and Athena should be given their due.
The Greek world eventually was dominated by the Roman Empire. I feel this is because the Greeks became too enchanted with peace, prosperity and negotiations. Rome, on the other hand, was devoted to its war god, Mars. Mars was the legendary father of its founder, Romulus, and it was believed that all Romans were descended of Mars. Mars, unlike neglected and abused Greek version, was more widely worshipped than any of the other Roman gods. Because they promoted a distinctly martial attitude, Rome was able to conquer the Mediterranean basin (including my beloved Egypt), much of Europe, and a good portion of Asia Minor.
The ability to combine fearlessness, stength and other aspects of the "masculine" with more "femnine" qualities such as intuition, circumspection, and willingness of negotiate and comprise is vital to being successful. This is true both on an individual level and on a societal scale. And never forget that Rome, too, eventually fell to tribes that were able to tap into their warrior nature. Rome became a victim of prolonged peace, prosperity, and dealing with neighbors who were willing to treat with them. They could not contend with The Scourge of God…hideous barbarians who ate raw meat and did everything on horseback, even sleep.
I think it is good to reflect on both Ares and Athena now. The time we live in seem turbulent. Though I was not around in the 1930s, I sense that the pace and nature of significant news events would have been similar. And in his article today, The West Invites Attack, David Warren writes:
We have a problem in us, not in them. It is the recovery of our own sense of what we are, what we believe, and what we are about, that would defeat Afghan cave-dwellers and shrieking ayatollahs fairly quickly.
The West has an enemy in Islamic extremists, who desire nothing more than our complete and total destruction. Yet, one of the grand actions that France takes as part of Athena-based negotiating tactics is to send 49 engineers to enforce the UN-sponsored cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel. Yes, and I am sure a set of Roman aqueduct workers would have astounded the Huns, too! [In the interest of complete disclosure, France has vowed to send a total of 2000 troops for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). How many will actually arrive is anyones guess].
That being noted, it is also critical to balance power with wisdom. One of the key components in effective battle tactics is identifying allies. It is good to recall not all Muslims love death as much as Maulana Inyadullah of al-Qaeda (The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death.). In some of the more extreme anti-Muslim sites, there are calls to Nuke Mecca!!!!. This is not a sound approach either, as analyzed by Robert Spencer in his FrontPage Magazine article, Nuke Mecca? Nope.
Others have argued, however, that the deterrent value of destroying Islamic holy sites would lie not in giving jihad terrorists pause, but in showing Islam itself to be false and thus removing the primary motivation of today's jihad terrorists. If Allah is all-powerful and rewards those who believe in him while hating and punishing the disbelievers (the vilest of creatures, according to Quran 98:6), wouldn't he protect his holy sites from these disbelievers?
However, Muslims have weathered such shocks to their system in the past. In 1924, the secular government of Turkey abolished the caliphate; the caliph was considered the successor of the Prophet Muhammad as the religious and political leader of the Islamic community. By abolishing the office, Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk hoped to strike at the heart of political Islam and create a context in which Islam could develop something akin to the Western idea of the separation of religion and state. Instead, his act provided the impetus for the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first modern Islamic terrorist organization, in Egypt in 1928.
Muslims were involved in busting the recent trans-Atlantic terror plot (which impact my impending trip to Maine, as I can't take my 4-year-old son's boxes of Parmalait vanilla milk).
And as President Bush pointed out:
Many Muslim scholars have already publicly condemned terrorism, often citing Chapter 5, Verse 32 of the Koran, which states that killing an innocent human being is like killing all humanity, and saving the life of one person is like saving all of humanity. After the attacks in London on July the 7th, an imam in the United Arab Emirates declared, "Whoever does such a thing is not a Muslim, nor a religious person."
Despite my affinity for the Great Mother Goddess of ancient Egypt, I lack answers on how to best address the nature of our terror-loving enemies. But I do appreciate the importance of balancing Athena with Ares.
here is something i wrote long ago, that u might like.
i am no longer so sure of the efficacy of Gulf II, but i still believe in metis.
athena and ares