Tuesday, March 8, 2011
That's not SPAAAARTAAAAAA!!!
Seriously? Sparta? That's where you want to go for an iconic historical image of your struggle to promote your beliefs within contemporary American society?
Let's start with Spartan society, which in the example cited (the 300), was fighting against the expanding Persian Empire. The Spartans were a tiny group of wealthy landowners whose economy was based on the enslavement of an entire neighboring nation, who euthanized imperfect babies, and where the government took all male children away from their families at the age of seven in order to train and indoctrinate them into service to the state as part of a universal compulsory draft system. Men were not allowed to marry until they passed their graduation exams (at 18 or 19), and could not marry women younger than 18 (having sex with a girl who was not yet of an age to enjoy it properly was considered rape). Once married, a man couldn't live with his wife until turning 30, until then, the man could only see his family at public festivals and during nighttime conjugal visits, while the woman had complete control over the household, property and children.
Persia, (incidentally ruled by the white, Aryan race) was the leading civilization of its time in terms of wealth, technology and knowledge. The functions of government included national defense, infrastructure (road building, mostly), the postal service, and communications (in the form of public offices with multilingual scribes who would read, write, and translate documents for a fee), and very little else. Monogamous marriage was the norm, and children were raised by their parents. They did have a developing states rights issue at the time, as Xerxes was trying to spread their monotheistic religion and impose principles like the abolition of slavery, but otherwise respected the traditional values of mostly autonomous regions within the empire.
Which one sounds more like America today? Which sounds more like the America those guys want to live in?
And yet, that's not the really strange part. The really strange part is that a group that, one assumes, is hoping to be successful in promoting its goals would take as its model a military band that chose to fight what they knew would be a losing battle. The 300 defended the pass at Thermoplyae in the hopes (according to one theory, anyway) of reducing the losses of the remaining Greek forces so they would survive to fight the Persians later. Even though there was no possibility those survivors would be able to defeat the Persians anyway. How are "Christian" values supported by mass suicide? (Could they be subtly signaling a shift in their position on euthanasia?) More importantly, why are they portraying themselves as martyrs, destined to die in a hopeless cause?
300 was a fun flick. It was even, despite its many ludicrous aspects, somewhat inspiring. Taking it as a model for trying to bring about cultural/spiritual change in 2010s America? That's what we like to call nothistory.