Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hellenismos and the military life

I need to start this post on my difficulties with a specific aspect of Hellenismos with a bit of background on my life. I was raised in the Netherlands, a country with an--at best--neutral attitude towards the army and combat. When a vote comes up for our involvement in a war over here, the odds are about even we will or will not participate. If we do participate, it's always for peace missions. The Netherlands saw heavy action in both World Wars and I think everyone has their belly full of them. We have very little warrior spirit.

I was raised in a household which actively opposed war. My dad refused service and participated in protest marches against the army and Dutch military involvement in other countries when he was younger. I was raised with a 'make love, not war' mentality and now I'm an adult, I still can't see the logic or reason behind warfare. All I see is young men and women being send out to kill and be killed with no reason at all. Because no, people, not every Iraqi is a terrorist or an enemy. They're human beings, just like you. And if they barged into your country trying to reform your life, you'd fight them too.


The Hellenic empire has a long history of warfare; from cattle robbing to the Greco-Persian and the Peloponnesian War. Sparta was part of the Hellenic empire and we all saw 300 (exaggerated though that movie was) so we know what they valued. Even when there were no wars to fight, heroes of the army stayed in shape by training's, competitions and games (like the Olympics). Physical prowess was an ideal in ancient Hellenic, at least for the men. Women, thankfully for me, had other ideals to uphold.

I dislike physical exercise. It's one of those things I hope to change eventually but I severely doubt will happen in the near future. The most I'm hoping to achieve in the relatively near future is to practice sports religiously--as in; within a religious context. One thing I doubt I will even be able to get behind, though, is the conquest spirit that the ancient Hellens had. Their lust for warfare.

I have read many accounts of the Trojan war myths and have seen not just men but also Gods take sides. In the end, all that came from it was death, where the Hellens mostly saw honor. I don't see the honor in murder, but then again, it probably isn't murder if the killing happens at war time.

Thankfully, the warrior spirit has taken a back seat position in current Hellenismos. Intellectual pursuits are more important, as are the family-oriented rituals. It was something I needed to figure out before accepting Hellenismos as my religion. If the warrior spirit had still been as prevalent (like, for example, in Asatru), I doubt I would have been able to make it such a large part of my life.

1 comment:

Maya M said...

Not intervening in countries like Iraq actually means that people there are left to any whim of a bloodthirsty dictator for indefinite time (because true dictatorships are virtually impossible to be overthrown from within). I grew up under a similar dictatorship, so I know what I am talking about. Therefore, I supported Western interventions in Yugoslavia (both), Iraq (both), Afghanistan and Libya. Now, nobody is intervening in Syria, the dictator Assad has already killed enough people for several ordinary wars, he uses chemical weapons against citizens with impunity, and refugees coming to our shores tell of all sorts of horrors. Not to count the new outbreaks of polio. And of course I am very sorry for the people of Vietnam because the US intervention there did not succeed and they were left to the whims of crazy Communist dictators.
I have always been glad that pacifists could not determine US policies during WWII (at any rate, not after Pearl Harbor which showed the true and inevitable consequences of pacifism). So US troops intervened in Europe, guaranteeing the freedom of many countries, including yours. I bet that US pacifists opposed fighting Hitler at that time with argumentation very similar to yours in this post.
Ancient Hellenes could not afford being pacifists. They knew very well that being pacifist does not lead to peace but only to losing wars; and those who lost wars were abandoned by gods to dismal fate (Aeshylus, Seven against Thebes).