PERSPECTIVErnNone More Terrible Than Manrnby Thomas FlemingrnThe past half-millennium that beganrnwith the fall of Constantinople andrnthe subsequent discovery of the NewrnWorld has gone by so many titles that itsrnname might be legion: It has been thernage of “progress” and “discovery,” a periodrnof “enlightenment,” the era ofrn”democracy.” However, all these gloriousrnnicknames that stud the pages of historyrntextbooks like so many Homeric epithetsrnare surface indications of a darkerrntruth that lies in the depths, that this hasrnreally been the age of false dichotomies,rnwhich began in the distinction betweenrnthe imagined “Dark Ages” and the rediscoveryrnof individual dignity in the 1 5thrncentury, and it is dying, crushed underrnthe rubble of its shattered historical lies.rnProgress and Enlightenment, Democracyrnand Individualism are so many wordsrnon a tombstone, and it is time to lay their ^rnPhilosophers from Montaigne and Descartes to Marx andrnMill have spent the past four centuries honing abstractions intornweapons to cut the cords that weave men arrd women into thernsocial fabric: the concept of absolute national sovereignty thatrnsucked away the vitality of commimities, families, and thernChurch; the concept of equality that obliterated all the little differencesrnand polarities that converge into a commonwealth;rnand the concept of the free autonomous individual that accomplished,rnfrom the bottom, the social and polihcal revolutionrnwhich the sovereign state was enforcing from the top.rnBy the mid-20th century, no polihcal discussion could bernconducted if it was not expressed in the polar terms of the Individualrnand the State. Libertarians and leftists, who might disagreernon virtually everything else, do concur on the terms of therndebate and reduce political theory and practice down to the allocationrnof power between atomized individuals and the molecularrnstate that may or may not express their “general will.”rnThese twin concepts, sown by Hobbes and Locke andrnRousseau, are the dragon’s teeth that have sent poor men intornkilling each other over theories of national deshny, class conzhosts.rnflict, and human rights.rnAlthough discourses on political theoryrnare salted with discussions of thernstate — its origins, nature, and developmentrn—the individual is taken for granted,rnas if the mere fact that our bodies arernseparate conshtutes a self-evident proofrnthat the individual is universal. It is arnstrange fact, however, that the Greeks—rnwho are said to have had a word for everythingrn—only slowly were able to conceptualizernthe individual, and evenrnAristotle wondered if an individual humanrnbeing could be regarded as happy if,rnafter he died, his family and communityrnsuffered a disaster.rnIn the earliest and greatest works ofrnour literature—the Iliad and Odyssey—rnthe oudandish treatment of the humanrnpersonality led so great a scholar asrnBruno Snell to conclude that the Greeks of Homer’s time couldrnnot conceive of the human being as an individual. Homer hasrnno good v’ord corresponding to English words like person or individual,rnand when his warriors react or reflect, it is usuallyrnthrough some physical (or quasi-physical) organ. WhenrnAgamemnon rages against Achilles for his presumption, hisrnphrenes (diaphragm?) are swollen black, and various emotionsrnare felt or expressed b’ activities in the heart or in the thymus.rnWlien Achilles is making up his mind whether or not to drawrnhis sword and kill Agamemnon for his insults, his decision tornmeditate a more rational revenge is portrayed as divine interventionrn—Athena pulls him by the hair and tells him to vent hisrnspleen (the Greeks are not the only people to think organically)rnin words.rnAlthough it is unlikely that the inventors of our civilizationrnwere far iriore primitive, intellectually, than any known culture,rnthe ancient Greeks, even in the age of Aristotle, never fully arrivedrnat a conception of the human individual that would havernpleased a modern philosopher.rnObviouslv, even Homeric Greeks had names to distinguishrntheir individuality, and there were ways of metaphorically refer-rn10/CHRONICLESrnrnrn