Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The 300, Democracy, and the Rise of the West

A lot of people have seen the epic comic movie 300 - the ancient story of how a handful of Greek soldiers fended off the entire Persian Army for a period of time. I say comic because you get to see monsters and the MTV inspired fighting sequence bears little resemblance to the actual way the Greek phalanx fought.

The Greek phalanx fought together- as a single unit. The shields overlapped- your shield protected the man standing beside you. The wall of spears prevented the enemy from getting close and shredded any who dared.

Not so with the barbarian armies. They fought as heroic individuals - a romantic and very ancient concept of warfare. Or in the case of the Persians - as slaves to their ruler. Meanwhile their king stood back in the sidelines - protected by his bodyguard.

If you want to see where democracy first began- study the Greek phalanx. Here the soldiers were all equals - rich or poor - merchant or king - they all played the same role in the phalanx. Observe King Leonidas - he fought and died with his men- not choosing to run and retreat.

When a people decide to unite as a group - and the traditional natural bonds of family are loosen - a nation is born. The problem with Asian civilizations - is that our strength - our loyalty to our family is usually vastly superior to our commitment to that vague theoretical notion of nationhood. And so we seek to accumulate inordinate advantage, at the expense of our neighbors, for our flesh and blood.

(If Asians see a car accident, generally, we will most likely be copying down the license plate number - than trying to render assistance.)

But in that ancient epic battle, when that pitiful group of Greek warriors fought against overwhelming odds for days, it showed us what men are capable of achieving. And when King Leonidas chose to fight and die in the ranks - he showed us what sort of leaders we should follow.

When a people can set aside the traditional bonds of family, clan, race and chose to work for the common group - you have a nation that can work wonders.

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