More on Free Slave-Holding Phallocratic Fascists Defending Freedom

War Nerd says it way better than I did.

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7 Responses to More on Free Slave-Holding Phallocratic Fascists Defending Freedom

  1. withywindle says:

    Hanson’s also quite eloquent on the Theban defeat of the Spartans, and liberation of the helots; refers to it quite frequently.

    There are, of course, different sorts of freedom; one of them is the freedom of the city over foreign domination and individual dissent. This the Spartans defended at Thermopylae. It wasn’t the entire Greek complex of freedom, but it was an essential aspect of it. I don’t suppose *300* did it justice. But then, most historical movies (and play productions) are entirely incomprehending of any society farther back than 1968. Occasionally they dress up Greek kings or Tudor earls as British aristocrats ca. 1914, as the utmost limit of strangeness. And if they were accurate, they’d probably turn off most of their potential audience, which doesn’t really want to discover strangeness, merely to look at odd costumes and preen at their cultural adventurousness over a good Indian dinner afterward.

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    But seriously, Withywindle, the “freedom of the city over foreign domination” is the idea that tracks mostly closely to the defense of national sovereignty against foreign imperial overrule. If that’s all that can be said for the Spartan part at Thermopylae, any analogy to all to the contemporary moment is misdrawn if it maps the US to the Spartans. About the only analogy left that produces that mapping is a racial one, which I’m hoping you would agree is kind of nasty.

  3. withywindle says:

    I think (as a non-expert) that you are misstating the nature of Spartan politics. Sparta was a mixture of monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic elements; the ruling class were *citizens* with a strongly egalitarian ethos. They were relatively conservative compared with Athens, but compared with imperial Persia, they, like every other Greek city-state, were clearly a bastion of freedom. Indeed, to the extent that they were more of a mixed-form of government than was Athens in its most democratic state, the US *does* match more with Sparta than with Athens. The fact that Spartans expressed their freedom both by coercion of the helots below, enforced conformity of the citizens at home, and resistance to foreign rule abroad, does not make them less democratic or free. They were not particularly *liberal*, but the core of freedom is not liberalism.

    Sparta is very strange; Athens is more clearly in our political ancestry; but Sparta was free as Persia was not, and we are both the beneficiaries and the descendants of Sparta. And a touch of the Spartan spirit is never amiss, in defense of our freedom.

  4. Timothy Burke says:

    “The core of freedom is not liberalism.” It isn’t? If so, you’re just defining freedom here as either a) national self-determination or b) egalitarianism within a small ruling class. If national self-determination is “freedom”, then that really does make your stance on current US policy peculiar. If egalitarianism is freedom, then you’re kind of a leftist, actually, unless you want to keep that constraint of “within a narrow ruling class”.

    Tell me what you know about life within the Persian ruling class in the capital, and tell me why you think that was measurably less free than Sparta, a society that had a large slave class, treated all women as a servile class, and strongly enforced conformity to a very specific set of values and ideologies among the male ruling class. In what sense were any Spartans “free”? If that’s freedom, then tell me again why Persian elites were not “free”?

  5. withywindle says:

    1) This is a historical statement. Freedom, liberty, got started in Greece as the liberty of the city, the liberty of slave-owners to direct their own destiny, the liberty of free men to make coercive laws. “Liberalism”–the rights of the individual against the polity–emerges strongly from early-modern contract theory, gets philosophical polish from Locke, is only part of the mixture in the American constitutional settlement and early American political culture (if you can’t accept the Massachusetts quasi-theocracy as part of our own complex of freedom, you’re missing something important), and doesn’t reach its current strength until sometime after World War II. If you feel so inclined, you may call liberal democracy the culmination of freedom–I certainly want some admixture of liberalism in my democracy–but to call it the core is historically inaccurate and, I think, philosophically so as well; you can have freedom without liberalism, but not liberalism without freedom. Liberalism is valuable, but it should be defended as a late addition to the complex of freedom, not as part of its core.

    2) Spartan citizens voted as free men. Persian nobles obeyed the orders of their emperor. If you can’t see the difference, then you can’t see the difference between British nobles and French nobles in the eighteenth century, or, I suppose between Charleston planters in 1850 and Russian serf-lords. I rather hope you can see the difference.

  6. Gavin Weaire says:

    “Sparta… treated all women as a servile class”

    You’ve drifted into overstating your case, I’m afraid. This is simply not true.

    There is room for debate about the degree to which the ancient stereotype of Spartan women as unusually free (or licentious) is accurate – like all information about Sparta, it derives from non-Spartans. But there is no doubt that Spartan women could (e.g.) own their own property and did in fact control rather a lot of the property in Sparta.

    Whereas what you wrote would imply that they were *less* free than other Greek women.

  7. Sarapen says:

    This new article is a nice corrective to that thing that was masquerading as an essay. But Sparta defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War, so it’s not so simple as saying authoritarian militarists are too stupid to win wars.

    However, having a Spartan in charge of defending freedom is like having Superman in charge of defending kryptonite–i.e., they would both be defending something they despised. The ideal Spartan would agree with the Orwellian contradiction of freedom being slavery, which is to say that Spartans valued nothing more than being subjugated by the state. The greatest Spartan virtue was to be the perfect tool of the state, to be a sword wielded in the service of Sparta. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori and all that jazz (yes, I know it’s Latin).

    So if you put someone like that in charge of defending freedom, then they would immediately set out to curtail as many freedoms as they can, because, after all, dissent undermines the power of the state.

    And do we really need to keep the Oriental Despot thing around? The Spartans owned slaves just like the Persians did, but because the Persians weren’t Western, that automatically means Persians were less free than Spartans, freedom being fundamentally a Western invention.

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