Sailing in Homer’s wine-dark Aegean Sea, and traipsing all over the Acropolis and the marvels of antiquity, is the best antidote I know to the brouhaha over “The Squad.” It makes these four publicity-seeking, opportunistic mental dwarfs seem even pettier than they are. Mind you, these petulant females wouldn’t know the difference between Corinthian and Doric any more than they’d know Athenian democracy from Spartan oligarchy.
As my boat sailed away from Athens and headed south towards the Peloponnese, I thought of the achievements of the ancient Greeks, and how the democratic system they left us is now held hostage by the tiniest of minorities in cahoots with the leftist mainstream media.
Pericles, the charismatic leader most commonly associated with Athenian democracy, cast a giant shadow on the future. No one has approached his level of influence: He was an aristocrat, politician, democrat, soldier, imperialist, peacemaker, visionary, educator, private citizen, statesman, strategist, and hero. Yet, with his premature death from the plague during the 27-year Peloponnesian War, the miracle that he had created 2,500 years ago went the way of all empires. Pericles’s democracy was a model for its time: Nowhere in the ancient world was there such individual freedom, even though women, slaves, and foreigners were excluded from citizenship and participation in the democratic process.
To those modern critics who see ancient Athenian democracy as falling short of their requirements, the ancients would, in turn, find utterly incomprehensible modern democracy’s indirect representation and total lack of public accountability for politicians.
Times have changed. Victimhood has become the sine qua non of today’s America. It is a con perpetrated by ignorant but opportunistic politicians who remain in power through the publicity they get from their phony crusades. Real democracy needs a body of citizens with a sound understanding of its principles. The body of American citizens with a sound understanding of democracy is the silent majority of mostly white and Christian men and women never evoked or quoted by the media, but who go about their lives without complaining or claiming to be victims.
Let’s compare Pericles to the Democrats of the present, and weep. He was one of 10 annually elected generals, a public official who never placed himself above the law or above the constitution. He believed in intelligence, reason, restraint, and peace—qualities totally lacking in The Squad. He guided his fellow citizens toward civic virtue and the order and excellence associated with it. He did not use crude insults to refer to political opponents, as Rashida Tlaib did.
Pericles and Athenian democracy are a powerful challenge to the actions and goals of contemporary political leaders. Simply promising economic equality has not worked, nor will it ever. What will work is a system that protects the dignity and autonomy of every individual. One that elevates individuals to full participation in the political process, but also requires full civic responsibility and community participation.
These concepts were forged more than 2,500 years ago beneath the Acropolis, by men who believed the unexamined life was not worth living.
For a lesson on how not to live one’s life, watch today’s shameless men and women vie for votes in the Democratic primaries.
Shame has always been unbearable in Greek life. Honor and a sense of shame were prerequisites for ancient heroes, both in real life and in mythology. In Homer, bravery is the hallmark of nobles, heroes, and demigods like Achilles. Socrates thought virtue indivisible. In other words, one couldn’t be a pious murderer nor an honest thief. This demanding ideal of honor entails accepting responsibility, even for acts not of one’s doing. Excuses do not remove blame.
We Greeks brought a lot to the world, but things have not gone our way since Byzantium fell to the hated Turks in 1453. After 400 years of oppression by the Muslim hordes, we rose up alone in 1821 and won our independence. When both Italy and Germany attacked us in 1940 and 1941, we pushed the Italians back into Albania, but eventually were beaten by the Wehrmacht’s Panzers. Other European countries like France, the Netherlands, and Belgium surrendered almost without a fight and emerged on VE Day unscathed.
Was the honor of defending the country worth the loss of more than half a million Greeks? I’d say yes, even having lost many in my family. But then I’m a dinosaur who still believes in honor, duty, and country—and not in victimhood. If the America-hating members of The Squad had a scintilla of honor, they would commit seppuku in unison in front of the Capitol. But honor is an alien word in today’s politics. See you around the Acropolis!