‘The West’ as a victim


by Sunny
21st March, 2007 at 3:25 am    

[The film] 300 reminds us too that for all the current misperception of America as global bully, the West is in truth the eternal underdog. In a world always ready to fall back into tyranny and superstition, only the Greeks and their inheritors know the value and the power of individual human beings. When we are set free, we can bring down giants, but we always play David to the world’s Goliath. Refusing to kneel before the Persian horde, Gerard Butler’s Leonidas and his buffed-up men are an army of Michelangelo’s Davids.

They are simultaneously the progenitors and inheritors of the best of the West. Their reception in 2007 is proof that ordinary westerners retain a sense of their civilisation and its essential values. Our elite gatekeepers may find the unofficial western motto—freedom or death; war is not the worst of evils—hard to grasp. 300 shows that everyone else gets it. There is hope for us yet.

Hahaha! I’ve never read so much tripe in my life. Is the British right that desperate to clutch at anything that offers them comfort? Looks like it. The above is a review of the film 300 on New Culture Forum, a think-tank for British conservatives. It’s hilarious to watch the extent to which these people are painting themselves (and ‘the West’ as a whole) as victims.


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  1. Clive Davis

    BOTH SIDES OF “300″…

    That new historical blockbuster (on which Victor Davis Hanson served as consultant) tempts critic Andrew Sarris back into the multiplex, bag of popcorn in hand: My late mother Themis was a Spartan, as were her two brothers—my uncles—Leonidas and So…




  1. mirax — on 21st March, 2007 at 4:08 am  

    Yes, the above is embarassingly overwrought nonsense. Greece was ‘free’ for an elite and it wasn’t particularly cognisant of the value of any individual outside that elite. This movie however lends itself to quite a bit of male hysteria on all sides. That Iranian writer on CiF lambasting 300 as a ‘racist gorefest’ is every bit as out of whack as the drama queeens at NCF. What … no equal opportunity bashing from Sunny in this case?

    I have seen the movie and do feel the Persians were unfairly portrayed as barbarians but that seems the failing of Frank Miller more than anyone else since that’s the way he wrote it. Plus the movie is based on a comic book – completely over the top with war rhinos, flute playing satyrs and assorted monsters. Who in their right minds takes any of this seriously?

  2. mirax — on 21st March, 2007 at 4:11 am  

    This thread is sooo going to be taken over by Amir …

  3. Leon — on 21st March, 2007 at 9:35 am  

    Yeah, depressing aint it?

    But back on topic, a big ROFL at the very idea!

  4. Rumbold — on 21st March, 2007 at 9:39 am  

    Half the Greeks defending the pass did not even want to be there. Thebes had already been overrun by the Persians and so the Thebans on the Greek side were not trusted; the Spartans promised to fillet them if they tried to run.

    The Persians have always been unfairly portrayed, though they were barbarians in the strictest sense (‘barbarian’ being a term for any non-Greek). Mirax hit the nail on the head; it is a film adaptation of a comic book.

    To portray this as an East vs. West clash is just a bit silly, as the Persians and Greek states were interlocked in a bewildering array of alliances during this period. People will always try and use history, or what they think is history, for their own ends.

  5. Sahil — on 21st March, 2007 at 9:49 am  

    I remember a few years back, that I was really excited when I first heard about hollywood again reaching to historical ‘fantasy’ type genre. But after Troy, Alexander and now 300 I’m bloody depressed. My sister is a bit fan of Butler so she had told me about the movie and then I went and saw the trailer and I couldn’t believe the kind of imagery being potrayed: gay persians who drink blood, kill babies, worship heathen gods, have a slave for every task, and are generally a buch of wussies, getting their ass kicked by manly men, who even when they lose an eye, laugh and carry on killing an assortment of Rhinos, Elephants, Giants (with very sharp teeth), and all the while cursing the wussie Athenians and Persians.

    I decided that I’m only get a pirate copy to check some bits out, but I went to some movie forums:

    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/300/

    and many people said not to look to deeply into it, as it was based on a Frank Miller comic and that’s all it should be. But after seeing the post above, I’m getting even more annoyed, because what my guts told me initally seems to be true: simple minded idiots are going to use this to promote jingoism and all the typical stereotypes about the scary east. It is violent porn and I urge people to join my plans to boycott the movie, or at least use torrents to download the damn thing.

  6. Kismet Hardy — on 21st March, 2007 at 10:43 am  

    The time has come to seperate the ochroid from the husks, the stipple from the big enchilada and unite as one to take the dionysian bison by the balls and spread the imprudence with liberal zest

    Fuck. I’m a tory

  7. soru — on 21st March, 2007 at 10:54 am  

    Focusing on the Iranians/Persians is a bit of mistake. The film is selling a message about war, and how to fight it:

    1. demonise the enemy, learn to hate them collectively.

    Don’t worry if your hatred looks a lot like racism, it’s just a natural human reaction, a necessary evil.

    2. Don’t let rational strategic calculations, bad omens, fear or pity influence your decision on whether or not to fight.

    Not fighting is almost always the wrong decision, made by the weak for one of the above reasons. It is better to fight and lose than shirk a fight.

    3. Avoid any obligation to successfully perform good acts, or abstain from bad ones, in order to be the good guys

    Throw a baby off a cliff, spurn wise advice, murder an envoy. You are the protagonist. Whatever you do, it just makes you cooler.

    4. freedom is the word printed on the banner you fight under.

    It doesn’t need to have any meaning outside that, any more than you would expect people fighting under a red flag to have red hair. Owning slaves is a side issue, a distraction from the important point about Freedom.

    5. the defending side is always morally right, epsecially if outnumbered.

    Note: ‘defending’ and ‘outnumbered’ are specialist terms that may not have the literal meaning of not attacking first or having a lower number of fighting troops.

    In short, it’s more an attempt to refight the american civil war, repudiate Lincoln’s adress at Gettysburg, than anything about either Iraq or Sparta.

    All of this is based by Frank Miller on the works of Victor Davis Hanson, and predates 9/11.

    Ultimately the film takes a moral stance, Herodotean in nature: there is a difference, an unapologetic difference between free citizens who fight for eleutheria and imperial subjects who give obeisance. We are not left with the usual postmodern quandary ‘who are the good guys’ in a battle in which the lust for violence plagues both sides. In the end, the defending Spartans are better, not perfect, just better than the invading Persians, and that proves good enough in the end. And to suggest that unambiguously these days has perhaps become a revolutionary thing in itself.

  8. Paul Moloney — on 21st March, 2007 at 11:09 am  

    I must say I’m looking forward to the film as pure macho spectacle (as the guys from “Penny Arcade” say: if you don’t like it, head downtown and turn in your penis); if anything, it had the best trailer I’ve ever seen.

    But it’s been responsible the most awful cod-political tripe, both from right-wingers _and_ left-wingers. For a look at the latter, check the article on Comment is Free from an Iranian editor. It’s quite amusing how, in condemning it, left-wingers use the same argument that they criticise right-wing historians such as Niall Ferguson for using; namely, that in some situations, imperialism is a good thing. At least when it’s a Middle-Eastern empire conquering Greeks.

    P.

  9. The Dude — on 21st March, 2007 at 12:26 pm  

    For the average punter in the street both in New York City and Tehran this all action movie is going to be nothing more than another Hollywood sugar coated all action movie. What scares me is that the shit stirrers on both sides of the political divide are already hard at work stirring. I’ve been a long time admirer of the work of Frank Miller and I’d hate to think that his good name is going to be dragged into a spate of historial muck racking.

  10. Rumbold — on 21st March, 2007 at 12:53 pm  

    Sorry Sahil, were you referring to my post or the rotten tomatoes? If it was mine could you tell me which part(s) you found objectionable? Thanks.

  11. Jagdeep — on 21st March, 2007 at 12:54 pm  

    Great, now even conservatives and right wingers are playing the victimhood card.

  12. Sahil — on 21st March, 2007 at 12:56 pm  

    Rumbold it was to the acutal link from the new culture forum, not yours.

  13. soru — on 21st March, 2007 at 12:56 pm  

    Are you claiming that Frank Miller, author of batman versus al qaeda, is apolitical?

    Did you miss the fact that 300 uses the framing device of a Greek poet telling the story of the Spartans in order to encourage a later generation to fight in the same way?

  14. Rumbold — on 21st March, 2007 at 1:04 pm  

    Thanks Sahil. It really is a cringe-worthy review. The Spartans were not fighting for the principle of freedom (most of them had stayed home anyway), they were fighting to defend their homeland, something that has happened in thousands of wars since. The defence of the pass is a great story, and an important part of history, but it is not good vs. evil. The key battle of the war happened when the Athenian-led fleet defeated the Persians, though it was Thermopylae that made it possible. Then the Greeks went back to fighting one another.

  15. Vasey — on 21st March, 2007 at 1:07 pm  

    Ha. The West hasn’t been the underdog since we left the Ottoman Empire in the dust during the Renaissance.

  16. sonia — on 21st March, 2007 at 1:11 pm  

    painting any one group as ‘victim’ is problematic -be that east or west. there are ‘victims’ who as individuals may live in the so-called ‘Western world’ or somewhere else. i saw a video on this last night actually – some Swedish professor was pointing out how his ‘development’ students had skewed ideas.

    but why is anyone suprised anyway? everyone wants to join the bandwagon – can ya’ blame ‘em! if ‘brown people’ are going to have all the fun… ‘if you can’t beat ‘em ..join ‘em’

    my cynicism extends across the board…

  17. sonia — on 21st March, 2007 at 1:12 pm  

    “Great, now even conservatives and right wingers are playing the victimhood card.”

    :-) of course! it seems to have worked well for the ‘Muslims’. and we all know about the glorious Caliphate don’t we.

  18. sonia — on 21st March, 2007 at 1:17 pm  

    actually, whilst watching this video last night, the discussion was about stereotypes and ‘development’ how everyone wants to rush off to Africa to help etc. and it was noted that as many people here rush off to help somewhere else..so I should start painting myself as a Bangladeshi person who is here in England to help the deprived.#

    heh.

  19. Sahil — on 21st March, 2007 at 1:46 pm  

    Rumbold #14 That’s why I really enjoy reading classic history, everyone was bloody evil and weird, yet I love them all in their own twisted way. That’s why I can’t stand these hollywood takes, they’ve removed so much of what made that kind of story telling so much fun to read.

  20. soru — on 21st March, 2007 at 2:04 pm  

    ‘they were fighting to defend their homeland’

    Actually that’s just as much a myth as the idea they were fighting for freedom – it’s just a 19C Greek nationalist myth, not a 20C american militarist one.

    I don’t think anyone can reliably say why, in particular, they fought – it was just the kind of thing that that kind of man in that time and place did. They were soldiers, they fought; that needs no more explanation than farmers planting crops.

  21. Roger — on 21st March, 2007 at 2:18 pm  

    ” I should start painting myself as a Bangladeshi person who is here in England to help the deprived.”
    Much more enjoyable to help the depraved.

    One of the defining myths of Europe (and a truth too) is the fear of invading Asians. Not just the Perians, but the Huns, Mongols, Seljuks, Ottomans…Until the invention of firearms horse-borne nomads were miltarily superior to settled agriculturists and could conquer them easily, no matter how many fewer they were. The same aplies to China and India.

    Soru, the spartans were fighting to defend their homeland; Sparta as a homeland was much more important to them than the concept was to other greeks; Athenians could settle in a colony and remain Athenians, but Spartans were only spartans in Laconia with their fellows. Equally, Sparta was the opposite of a democracy, even by greek standards, it was an authoritarian dictatorship, devoted to traing for war and suited to no other purpose. They were in a psychological trap. Helots, serfs, did the agricultural work that fed the Spartans who had to be expert soldiers to hold down the helots who…
    It’s also worth remembering that everything we know about the Spartans comes from their enemies. They were undoubtedly odd, but they may not have been quite as weird as we’ve been told.

  22. justforfun — on 21st March, 2007 at 2:35 pm  

    Soru – Tom Holland mentions in ‘Persian Fire’ ( if i remember correctly ) that the Spartans, after they had excecuted Xerxes’ envoys, were very troubled by the omens they received from their gods and greatly regretted this blasphamous act. Once Xerxes started to prepare his army to avenge them, they were further panicked and many wanted to sue for peace. Most Spartans were willing to pay the token tribute of land and water, but some also knew, having killed the envoys , they personally would have to pay far more that just a token piece of land and water. Therefore those involved in the envoys deaths had nothing to lose and engineered the Spartans to resist, if only to distract from their dishonour and blasphamy in killing the envoys. The Spartans, I believe, were the most superstitious of all the Greeks and this sort of thing mattered to them.

    Anyway who knows, who cares? – CGI tends to ruin these gore-fest movies!

    Happy Pateti for those who celebrate today and for myself, there is always August for another party, when the weather is better – a far more sensible a date for a New Years party. How I envy Australians.

    Justforfun

  23. soru — on 21st March, 2007 at 2:56 pm  

    Sparta as a homeland was much more important to them than the concept was to other greeks;

    Maybe, but there is no evidence that it would have been taken from them had they not fought. The Romans left Sparta alone, to a large degree, when they conquered present-day Greece.

    They fought because they were professional fighters, they fought well because Leonidas was a personally charismatic leader, just like Alexander in a later era.

    Anything more than that is a post-hoc fabulation, a made up story that says more about those telling it than anything else.

  24. Jagdeep — on 21st March, 2007 at 4:53 pm  

    300 is HOMOPHOBIC

    The fact of the matter is that they were all a bunch of ragining homos werent they, the Greeks, Spartans and all. After a good day of training and fighting they’d oil each other up and roll about and do all those things gays do. Has anyone notified Peter Tatchell that they’ve downplayed the centrality of gay sex and homosexuality in this movie, thus marginalising and oppressing gays in present day society too? They may as well join in the victimhood bandwagon that this movie seems to have provoked.

  25. Jagdeep — on 21st March, 2007 at 4:54 pm  

    Coming in the same week that John Inman died, it is especially insensitive to release this movie now.

  26. Kulvinder — on 21st March, 2007 at 5:50 pm  

    Overacting looks good on stage and bad on film.

  27. Don — on 21st March, 2007 at 7:12 pm  

    Has anyone actually seen it yet? From the trailers I don’t think we can complain about a lack of camp. And if anyone should be kicking up a fuss at representation, I’m not aware of any historical evidence that Ephialtes was a hunchback and that his deformity informed his villainy.

    The triumph of the buffed. Still going to catch it, though. This thread has made want to re-watch Sin City.

  28. Kulvinder — on 21st March, 2007 at 7:26 pm  

    I forgive Frank Miller his right-wing lunacy because of the best comic-book movie ever made.

  29. lithcol — on 21st March, 2007 at 9:15 pm  

    Its a bloody Hollywood film, pardon the pun. What do they call them, sandals and sand or whatever. An allegory of eastern barbarianism meets western civilization according to some. There are even suggestions it is anti Islamic. Could be, after all the Persians do appear to have invented monotheism, and Islam is of course derivative.

    In reality it is as some have observed a comic book rendition of history. Much like Ben Hur and others of its ilk. Get the popcorn in, sit back and enjoy the spectacle if that is what you like. But all this analytical drivel is just so much hot air.

  30. ZinZin — on 21st March, 2007 at 10:12 pm  

    I am with lithcol.
    Sword and sandals thats the term you are looking for.

  31. lithcol — on 21st March, 2007 at 10:24 pm  

    Thanks ZinZin. I thought sandals and sword sounded awkward.

  32. William — on 21st March, 2007 at 11:08 pm  

    come back Dambusters all is forgiven!!

  33. Sunny — on 22nd March, 2007 at 1:16 am  

    soru hit the nail on the head.

    At least when it’s a Middle-Eastern empire conquering Greeks.

    Paul – very true. I was having this debate with Munira irza once actually, when we were talking about intervention in other countries etc. And I pointed out that imperialism wasn’t a British invention, the Aryans around Persia and Indian civilisations around the Indus valley had been practicing it for centuries. In fact India is an imperialist creation in itself, first put together by Ashoka Chandra Maurya in around 200BC. Now he was ruthless (and later converted to Buddhism and made India Buddhist as a whole).

  34. Bert Preast — on 22nd March, 2007 at 9:53 am  

    “only the Greeks and their inheritors”

    Not how most westerners I know think of themselves.

  35. Bert Preast — on 22nd March, 2007 at 9:54 am  

    Bit more to it than buggery and yoghurt.

  36. Rumbold — on 22nd March, 2007 at 10:44 am  

    I think that Alexander the Great and Chandra Gupta have more claim to be the ‘fathers’ of India. Ashoka just consolidated what they had done.

  37. Ravi Naik — on 22nd March, 2007 at 11:28 am  

    >> There are even suggestions it is anti Islamic.

    Which is funny taking into account that it pre-dates Islam.

    >> I think that Alexander the Great and Chandra Gupta have more claim to be the ‘fathers’ of India.

    Uhm. I thought Alexander the Great didn’t go as far as the North of India, and then retreated.

  38. Roger — on 22nd March, 2007 at 11:46 am  

    ‘“only the Greeks and their inheritors”

    Not how most westerners I know think of themselves.’

    In important ways it is actually, Bert Preast: the ideas of democracy and sceptical science are traced back to Athens and most of the western arts are inspired by the Greeks or what they imagine the Greeks to be like. Sparta was the exception, though. They were an authoritarian dictatorship that didn’t encourage the arts or sciences- they thought they weakened the warrior spirit.

  39. sonia — on 22nd March, 2007 at 12:03 pm  

    the Greek idea of democracy is a bit like the Islamic Caliphate’s idea of equality : restricted to people they thought of as full beings – i.e. men. forget the women and the slaves.

    And they appeared to have other things in common: a fondness for young boys

    Interesting no?

  40. Roger — on 22nd March, 2007 at 12:59 pm  

    Certainly Greek democracy was limited. The important thing is that the idea- and the practise- was there at all. Logically it could be extended.
    Personally, I’m inclined to think that western european democracy was actually inspired more in practise by the German tribes (see Tacitus), but the Greeks provided a intellectual justification and a precedent.

  41. Rumbold — on 22nd March, 2007 at 2:19 pm  

    Alexander did not cover the whole of India, but he did conquer parts of it, and Chandra Gupta was able to build on the empire he left behind in India.

  42. bananabrain — on 22nd March, 2007 at 3:24 pm  

    it does seem a bit desperate, at that, but i would certainly agree with them that the idea that “war is not the worst of evils” is not readily grasped by many. in hebrew the word for “peace” is also the word for “greeting” and that for “completeness”. semantics aside, there are a number of issues i have with the idea that thermopylae should be some kind of pan-western symbol. the reality is probably closer to the idea that thermopylae was not really the big event as far as the persians were concerned, no matter how much it was mythologised by the greeks.

    gay persians who drink blood, kill babies, worship heathen gods, have a slave for every task, and are generally a buch of wussies, getting their ass kicked by manly men

    actually, from the jewish point of view, which was eminently familiar with both the various greek and hellenising civilisations as well as with the persian empires, there wasn’t really a lot to choose from between them; we didn’t really get on with either and fought both at various times, but generally made out better with the persians than the greeks, partly because the persian empire was a far more pluralist society than the monocultural world of the helleniser, which denounced anything non-greek as “barbarian”. the only greek we ever really got on with was alexander – and he was macedonian and a pluralist to boot.

    But it’s been responsible the most awful cod-political tripe, both from right-wingers _and_ left-wingers. For a look at the latter, check the article on Comment is Free from an Iranian editor. It’s quite amusing how, in condemning it, left-wingers use the same argument that they criticise right-wing historians such as Niall Ferguson for using; namely, that in some situations, imperialism is a good thing. At least when it’s a Middle-Eastern empire conquering Greeks.

    hur hur hur hur *claps loudly*

    The West hasn’t been the underdog since we left the Ottoman Empire in the dust during the Renaissance.

    except in the battle of moral certainty, i fear.

    “Great, now even conservatives and right wingers are playing the victimhood card.”

    unfortunately, nowadays that’s one card that is accepted everywhere.

    Sparta was the opposite of a democracy, even by greek standards, it was an authoritarian dictatorship, devoted to traing for war and suited to no other purpose. They were in a psychological trap. Helots, serfs, did the agricultural work that fed the Spartans who had to be expert soldiers to hold down the helots who…
    It’s also worth remembering that everything we know about the Spartans comes from their enemies. They were undoubtedly odd, but they may not have been quite as weird as we’ve been told.

    precisely. it is amazing how everybody seems to think that greece began and ended with the great athenian philosophers and it was all togas, culture and so on. there was just as much silliness as rationalism: pythagoras, when he wasn’t calculating the square on the hypotenuse, was writing about how his new mystical religion was opposed to the eating of beans, for example.

    the hellenising model of civilisation was, in the jewish experience, invasive, imperialist and intolerant – and the persians weren’t much better. both come in for criticism in the prophecies of daniel (who was, lest we forget, the prime minister of the persian empire at one point) and at least one persian ruler attempted to ban jewish observance entirely, the purim story also testifying to at least one attempt at wholesale genocide. in particular, we disliked the deification of the persian emperor, although some of them, like cyrus the great, we considered entirely good eggs due to his decision to allow us to return to the land of israel and rebuild the Holy Temple. the persian emperor would often be referred to as “shahenshah”, or “king of kings” and it is in denigration of this vainglory that we began to refer to G!D as “King *above* the king of kings” (melech malchei ha-melachim)

    Could be, after all the Persians do appear to have invented monotheism, and Islam is of course derivative.

    *ahem* – excuse *me*. since when did they invent monotheism? i think you’ll find that was us. the persians, when they weren’t being polytheist, came up with zoroastrianism, which certainly isn’t monotheist.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  43. William — on 22nd March, 2007 at 3:25 pm  

    Sunny #33

    As Persia is mentioned in all of this and you mention Buddhism. After Ashoka Buddhism expanded and also became one of the religions of Persia and is said by some to have influenced the early Sufis. It also existed side by side with Islam for a while. In fact they were regarded as people of the book at least at one time. People of the book it seems having a more wider definition than just Qoran or Bible meaning people who live according to written down and organised way or doing things.

    http://www.onecountry.org/e161/e16116as_Review_Iran_Religions.htm

    http://www.iranian.com/History/2004/December/Buddhism/index.html

  44. William — on 22nd March, 2007 at 3:39 pm  

    The formation of most of what we now know as China was brought about by one western state “Qin” I think conquering several others.

  45. William — on 22nd March, 2007 at 3:49 pm  

    It is possible to say that Greek ideas have influenced us today but to go as far as identifying with them is a bit of a tall order.

    Oh by the way Isaac Newton is my spiritual, cultural, intellectual ancestor. Ooooo! guess I must belong. There must be some bit of Newton in me somewhere. Maybe it’s in my hair, toes, or fingernails. Haven’t found him yet but I’ll keep on searching.

  46. S — on 22nd March, 2007 at 4:21 pm  

    “ahem* – excuse *me*. since when did they invent monotheism? i think you’ll find that was us. the persians, when they weren’t being polytheist, came up with zoroastrianism, which certainly isn’t monotheist.”

    ahem– I’m pretty sure it is monotheist and sought to replace earlier Median polytheistic beliefs. ‘Ahura mazda’ is the creator. There is a notion of a chaos figure ‘angra mainyu’ btu he is quite like Satan, comes after and will be defeated at the end of time. Allegedly.

  47. S — on 22nd March, 2007 at 4:23 pm  

    ps I know that Ahura has apsects– but that is like saying christianity is not monotheistic because it has patron saints of this and that.

  48. bananabrain — on 22nd March, 2007 at 4:46 pm  

    I’m pretty sure it is monotheist and sought to replace earlier Median polytheistic beliefs

    hmm – well, never let it be said that i was unwilling to challenge my preconceptions. i had a look at the following website:

    http://www.zoroastrianism.cc

    which, if it is representative, certainly follows your line. on the other hand, reading between the lines, it seems that the original scriptures gradually became incomprehensible until they were re-translated in the 19th century, which would, i’d have thought, tend to indicate that the dualist ideas attributed to zoroastrianism were probably current at the time the attribution was first mooted, if not nowadays with the benefit of scholarship. in other words, zoroastrianism went through a phase of, for want of a better word, decadence, during which it was responsible for things like manichaeanism and the sassanid persecutions. certainly the “magi” of the classical jewish world, if their actions and opinions are at all accurately described, could hardly be described as monotheists. and, insofar as one can identify zoroastrian influence on judaism, it is a dualising, not holistic or monotheistic influence. for example, if zoroastrianism is responsible for the growth in the role of the “evil inclination”, or “ha-satan”, or of the heaven/hell afterlife duality, then that is again hardly a monotheistic but a dualist tendency. besides, in jewish terms these are not terribly early influences, so it is hard to argue that judaism was influenced by zoroastrianism in any meaningful or positive way! i don’t mean to diss the guys – my mum’s best schoolfriends were parsi and so on, but to try and make out that they are the “original monotheists” is frankly a bit rich.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  49. William — on 22nd March, 2007 at 5:02 pm  

    Bananabrain

    “if zoroastrianism is responsible for the growth in the role of the “evil inclination”, or “ha-satan”, or of the heaven/hell afterlife duality, then that is again hardly a monotheistic but a dualist tendency.”

    To my understanding the great monotheistic religions Christianity and Islam were both monotheistic and dualistic at the same time. In the above it seems you seem to say monotheism and dualism are exlusive. Have I missed something.

  50. Zoroastrian — on 22nd March, 2007 at 5:06 pm  

    I can assure you that Zoroastrians were, and still are, to the effect that we are religious, monotheistic. Many scholars believe that Jewish monotheism was influenced by Zoroastrianism, due to evidence of early Jewish polytheism. It could be the other way around – I really don’t care, it’s pretty obvious that Jews and Zarthushtis borrowed heavily from each other, though its pretty unlikely that any modern religion would ever admit to it.

    The Persian king, Cyrus, did conquer Babylon, and free their Jewish slaves to return to Israel to rebuild the temple, something I rarely here all the defenders of Israel bother to mention when discussing east/west history. I suppose it would disrupt the narrative.

    As far as Islam, it wouldn’t be around for several centuries so how 300 is an insult to it is beyond me, other than some practitioners take everything as an insult.

  51. bananabrain — on 22nd March, 2007 at 5:08 pm  

    er, yes, you have. judaism (my religion) is only monotheistic – the afterlife bit is only really about reward and punishment and frankly it’s a matter of debate rather than dogma as far as we’re concerned, coming under the rubric of “aggadah”, in which multiple philosophical/ theological/ mythological /mystical opinions are permitted, rather than “halakhah”, where one legal ruling must be followed.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

    b’sha

  52. Chairwoman — on 22nd March, 2007 at 5:28 pm  

    bananabrain – I never debate with you on matters theological because your study is far deeper than mine, but I would quote from the morning service ‘These are the things a man enjoys in this world, while the stock remains for him in the world to come’.

    To me, this always implied an afterlife.

  53. William — on 22nd March, 2007 at 5:31 pm  

    Bananabrain

    “er, yes, you have. judaism (my religion) is only monotheistic”

    I like to find out this sort of stuff it kind of broadens things out…..yet again.

  54. bananabrain — on 22nd March, 2007 at 5:41 pm  

    can assure you that Zoroastrians were, and still are, to the effect that we are religious, monotheistic.

    it’s not for me to tell you what you are or aren’t, of course. but in terms of this:

    Many scholars believe that Jewish monotheism was influenced by Zoroastrianism, due to evidence of early Jewish polytheism.

    “many scholars” believe a lot of things, including that the Torah is a composite document. doesn’t make it true or authoritative. and as for early jewish polytheism, jewish texts are pretty clear that it was widespread and problematic and was, in many cases, influenced by cults from the zoroastrian neck of the woods. i don’t deny that there was *influence*, but i would certainly dispute that it was zoroastrian *monotheism* that influenced jewish polytheism rather than the other way round. it may not be important to you which way round it is, but it is important to me.

    The Persian king, Cyrus, did conquer Babylon, and free their Jewish slaves to return to Israel to rebuild the temple, something I rarely here all the defenders of Israel bother to mention when discussing east/west history. I suppose it would disrupt the narrative.

    well, i certainly just mentioned it and he gets a thoroughly good write-up in our sources, so as far as i’m concerned that *is* the narrative.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  55. bananabrain — on 22nd March, 2007 at 5:43 pm  

    chairwoman auntie -

    nobody really knows what “the world to come” actually is – there’s a big debate about it in the talmud, some people saying it’s like a big piss-up, others saying it’s like a big yeshiva, others saying it’s like a bunch of people sitting round with crowns all doing the equivalent of sunbathing in the Divine Radiance. it might also refer to the messianic age, or even to the future, or to the next transmigration of the soul. nobody can prove anything, or knows anything for sure.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  56. Zoroastrian — on 22nd March, 2007 at 5:52 pm  

    banana, if I am understanding you correctly, you are saying the presence of an afterlife, and the manichean concepts of good/evil somehow refute monotheism? Because frankly, they have nothing to do with one’s worhip of a singular diving entity.

  57. Zoroastrian — on 22nd March, 2007 at 6:05 pm  

    Banana, I find it odd that you dismiss a segment of scholars who don’t believe the same as you, dismiss S’ points as being “a bit rich,” then go on to proclaim that Jewish polytheism was widespread, and depsite anything scholarly or impartial I’ve ever heard or read, claimed that Zoro “cults” were the cause?

    Let’s just say, that I respect your version of history, as all Z’s do, but there’s no sense arguing dogma – It’s a shame that there can’t be more consensus on the fact that we only have to look at our modern societies to realize that despite our commonalities, we will still fight over the stupidest things.

  58. Zoroastrian — on 22nd March, 2007 at 6:09 pm  

    And please excuse me about the “Cyrus” thing – I know you mentioned him, but for all the Jewish people I’ve known, dated and loved, not one had ever even heard of my religion or our histories together. That very well could be because most people I know are pretty secular, but it’s not like they were goyim.

  59. bananabrain — on 22nd March, 2007 at 6:19 pm  

    banana, if I am understanding you correctly, you are saying the presence of an afterlife, and the manichean concepts of good/evil somehow refute monotheism? Because frankly, they have nothing to do with one’s worhip of a singular Divine entity.

    er, no, i’m not saying that. the presence of an afterlife per se is not evidence of anything in particular. it’s the type of afterlife that’s important. the presence of a *duality* in afterlife (ie “good guys go up, bad guys go down”) could, if one wished, be taken as evidence of dualist influence, but that need not be from zoroastrianism. it could be from greek or even sumerian roots. the point is one can’t really prove anything one way or another. all we know is that after the jews started hanging out in zoroastrian necks of the woods, they started talking about “heaven and hell” (in those terms) a lot more, rather than the terms they’d previously used, which were about whether one “receives one’s portion in the World-to-Come” or not.

    monotheism is the non-negotiable essence of judaism and as such has defined us since the time of abraham, who was probably a contemporary of zarathustra or however you want to spell his name. indeed, there are perfectly kosher sources which speak of abraham converting people (the “souls he had made in haran”) and spreading his ideas abroad (“sent his sons eastwards with gifts”) so one should not be surprised to find monotheism popping up in other places.

    the concepts of good and evil do not refute monotheism, of course, but they must be seen, in a monotheistic jewish worldview as both coming from the Divine, which is One, Indivisible and Infinite, as it says in isaiah, as i paraphrase: “I Form light and Create Darkness, Make peace and Create evil, I Am G!D, Who Does all these things” – ie both good and evil. ‘ha-satan’ doesn’t do anything that G!D doesn’t Command him/it to do and, as an angelic being, has no independent free-will. he’s like the celestial CPS: he sticks to his brief, which is to prosecute according to the Law. as such, the Infinite Divine Is neither “good” nor “evil”, but beyond both – indeed, G!D Is Who makes the *rules* about such things. when you separate out good and evil into separate aspects of G!D, that is when there is a distinct risk of dualist heresy, as we see with mani and indeed with the later christian concepts of “the devil”. they are actually distortions which give evil an independent existence that is not compatible with the idea of G!D as All and One.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  60. justforfun — on 22nd March, 2007 at 6:28 pm  

    BB – if you like reading here is a good reading list.
    Unfortunately there are many sites On Zoroastrianism or alternatively Parsee Orthopraxy, so it can be difficult for the casual reader to differentate. So the link below is from the department in SOAS that deals with ancient Iranian Studies and has the possibly the most impartial look at things. There are others but enough to be getting on with here I think :-)

    http://www.cais-soas.com/articles/religions&beliefs_articles.htm

    Have fun – I have to pop out but I’ll put up a summary of my understanding of Zoroastrianism when I get back. Think of it like the buses. None around for years and then 3 come by at once.

    Happy Noruz S and Zoroastrian.

    Justforfun

  61. bananabrain — on 22nd March, 2007 at 6:33 pm  

    I find it odd that you dismiss a segment of scholars who don’t believe the same as you, dismiss S’ points as being “a bit rich,”

    the thing is, there are a lot of scholars who say all sorts of things. some of them i agree with, some of them i don’t. in general, the ones i don’t agree with tend to be (but are not exclusively) the ones that ignore what jewish texts actually say in favour of supporting some spurious hypothesis which will sell a lot of books and get them invited to conferences – but don’t get me started on that. the point is that the fact that someone is a “scholar” is not evidence that they are necessarily right about something.

    [you] then go on to proclaim that Jewish polytheism was widespread, and depsite anything scholarly or impartial I’ve ever heard or read, claimed that Zoro “cults” were the cause?

    firstly, i’ve never met an impartial human being in my life, let alone a “scholar”. secondly, i didn’t say that zoro cults were the cause of jewish polytheism. jewish polytheism was *clearly* widespread – that’s what the prophets were upset about from the book of joshua up until the destruction of the first Temple by the babylonians – we say that ourselves. the biblical israelites were a dissolute, immoral bunch of idolaters, with fairly few exceptions. that’s precisely the reason we needed prophets in the first place after the death of moses – we conquered canaan and then immediately started worshipping the local idols. in fact, we didn’t even wait till moses was dead – remember the golden calf? i’m not laying any of that at the door of zoroastrianism. all i was saying was that the zoro influence, if any, would be found in our later (ie post 786 BCE) texts, like the gemara (babylonian talmud), which was redacted under the sassanids i believe – the influence, as far as i am concerned, if any, is restricted to our ideas about the afterlife and the conflation of the angelic figures of the “evil inclination”, “ha-satan” and the “angel of death”. i hope that clarifies matters sufficiently so that we are no longer at cross-purposes.

    and, yes, i would expect the jewishly uneducated to have no idea of just how important cyrus was to judaism – he is mentioned extensively and was even considered by some to be a (but not *the*)
    messiah.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  62. ZinZin — on 22nd March, 2007 at 6:43 pm  

    I thought this thread was about that sword and sandals film 300. Anyone going to watch it?

  63. Zoroastrian — on 22nd March, 2007 at 6:53 pm  

    I saw it – in Imax, and it was OK but the best scenes were all the in the trailer.

    Personally, I thought it was boring because 2 hours of shouting about how war is awesome isn’t that fun.

    Visually cool, but Sin City was better.

  64. Zoroastrian — on 22nd March, 2007 at 6:55 pm  

    Noruz Mubarak, Justforfun

  65. Bert Preast — on 22nd March, 2007 at 8:15 pm  

    Roger #38:

    You misunderstood what I meant. I know a fair bit of the ancient Greeks as it’s a hobby of mine, but what I said was most westerners I know have only the vaguest ideas of this. The English would mumble something about the Magna Carta as their origins, and the Spaniards would shout something about the reconquista. The Greeks would never occur to the vast majority as anything to do with their culture.

  66. William — on 22nd March, 2007 at 9:54 pm  

    Sin City to me was good on style and image. I feel the same way about 300 as when first seeing the ads for Gladiator, that is, this is a stupid action film.
    But Gladiator turned out to be a great film.

  67. The Dude — on 22nd March, 2007 at 10:42 pm  

    I’m waiting for 300 Part II, an heroic tale of a band of 300 Taliban brothers defending a pass in Afghanistan against……you now the rest.

  68. soru — on 23rd March, 2007 at 12:20 am  

    Scene: Greenzone, legendary fortress of the Westguard
    Busces (9 foot tall and camp)
    Condi and Hilary (half-naked, serving wine)
    General Petraus (in full military kit including backpack and helmet)

    Enter: bin Leonidas (a Chippendale in a loincloth)

    Petraus and bin Leonidas fight, while Busces watches from his throne

    Busces: your defeat is inevitable, why do you struggle?

    Join me and together we can rule the galaxy, as man and wife

    bin Leonidas: I did join you. You have forgotten already how we fought together against the Sovieti? But you never wrote, never returned my calls…

    bin Leonidas: besides, I fight for FREEDOM and my HOMELAND

    General Petraus: your homeland is 2000 miles away, and what was that about FREEDOM?

    bin Leonidas: You misheard, I am fighting for FREEDOM from my HOMELAND. That place sucks, this is the only way I could get to leave

    Busces: Darken the sky with warplanes!

    bin Leonidas: then we will fight them in these caves!

  69. soru — on 23rd March, 2007 at 12:37 am  

    Scene: UN Trade Towers, a neutral zone of commerce and diplomacy, a quarter of a million stories high

    Envoy C’len: so, do you accept our offer?

    bin Leonidas pushes C’len off the tower

    bin Leonidas: THIS! IS! ISLAM!

  70. Roger — on 23rd March, 2007 at 11:49 am  

    Bert P: agreed, most Europeans wouldn’t cite the Greeks as originators of their culture, but the philosophers who define what European culture is- what the Spaniards and the English have in common- would. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that democracy became admired rather than despised, so the philosophers had to find precursors to justify it.

  71. Jai — on 25th March, 2007 at 6:05 pm  

    Okay folks, I just saw “300″ earlier today.

    It’s entertaining enough, rousing in some places, and Leonidas is certainly charismatic; I can understand the comparisons some reviewers in the media have made with Russell Crowe’s Maximus from “Gladiator”.

    However, it’s also quite wildly offensive towards Iranians. The Persians are mostly shown as dehumanised — literally, in some cases (eg. the Immortals and the “orcs”), and the depiction of their culture is also fairly inaccurate — was Xerxes’ court really that debauched ? Xerxes himself of course looked nothing like his physical appearance in the movie.

    There is also a huge amount of “artistic licence” taken with the portrayal of the Persians’ ethnicity, who are disproportionately shown as being black (even more so than the misrepresentation of the Indians from the extreme northwest of the subcontinent in the film “Alexander”). I guess they wanted the Persians to look as non-white as possible.

    However, I guess the film’s a good couple of hours’ entertainment if you bear in mind the considerable libterties which have been taken with the facts; people wishing to learn about the reality of those events would be wise not to base their conclusions on the movie and should do some background reading (the book “Persian Fire” mentioned above is a great start). The statements repeatedly made by the Spartans in the movie that they stood for “freedom and rationality” and “against tyranny” are of course rubbish.

    On a lateral note, I did like the portrayal of Leonidas’s wife. She was shown as being a pretty strong character, and her relationship with her husband did come across as passionate and very heartfelt; I thought the deep feelings between the two were quite nicely conveyed. I also liked the fact that Lena Heady (who played the queen) was very clearly in her thirties and not some early-twentysomething nymphette, but the queen was still shown as an extremely attractive and sensual woman. A nice touch; something which went against the grain of the way women past the age of 30 are often depicted by Hollywood.

  72. Jai — on 25th March, 2007 at 6:11 pm  

    =>”Alexander did not cover the whole of India, but he did conquer parts of it, and Chandra Gupta was able to build on the empire he left behind in India.”

    That’s not true. Alexander hardly left an “empire” in the subcontinent — he took over a few territories in the extreme northwest and what is now Afghanistan, but his impact on the vast majority of the Indian population and the country was negligible. In fact, the small fraction of Indian territory which came under his rule isn’t even within the borders of what is modern-day India.

  73. Vikrant — on 25th March, 2007 at 6:21 pm  

    There is also a huge amount of “artistic licence” taken with the portrayal of the Persians’ ethnicity, who are disproportionately shown as being black

    Is that a news? It started with Indiana Jones and Lost Temple something, complete with its snake-eating child sacrificing Kali cult. Funnily the village situated at bottom of Himalayas was populated by Sinhalese (they spoke actual Sinhalese in the movie).

  74. ZinZin — on 25th March, 2007 at 10:22 pm  

    Jai
    If you wanted historical accuracy you would have had to include gay sex in 300. Not exactly going to get the alpha males through the door.

    Its still homoerotic despite the absence of gay sex. I mean they are killing thousands of persians wearing loincloths and red cloaks leaving their bronzed muscular torsos exposed.

    Maybe that was something for the ladies to look at while limbs and blood were veering in all directions.

  75. Roger — on 26th March, 2007 at 12:07 pm  

    “However, it’s also quite wildly offensive towards Iranians.”
    It’s also wildly offensive to Greeks and the only Greeks it isn’t offensive to- Leonidas and friends- are inaccurately portrayed.

  76. bananabrain — on 26th March, 2007 at 12:54 pm  

    i’m not sure if i should start worrying about anti-semitism. maybe the orcs are intended to be the jews who were based in persia at the time, at least the ones who hadn’t gone back to israel to rebuild the Temple (thermopylae was 480 bce) – there were probably a good few of us with the persians at the time.

    are any of the orcs shown doing the books for the persians? collecting receipts? doing the catering?anything like that?

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  77. Roger — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:20 pm  

    Was Esther an orc, perhaps, Banabrain?

  78. soru — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:48 pm  

    bb: I am afraid Spartans as Israelis works reasonably well as an analogy, in a way that’s probably deliberate by Miller:

    1. citizen-soldier-farmers
    2. heavily outnumbered and out-gunned, but superior fighters
    3. defending their homeland against foreign attack
    4. ruling harshly over an under-class in fear they would rebel
    5. but that doesn’t matter because they are on the side of FREEDOM

    That also parallels the South in the US civil war, which is, ultimately, what a certain strand of US right-wing support for Israel is all about.

    People like Miller and Hanson is not interested in refugees or playwrights, but in people who kick ass and take names in a righteous fashion, who win wars against the odds just because they are that badass.

    It’s not a coincidence that the US only really started supporting Israel once it started acting that way.

  79. bananabrain — on 26th March, 2007 at 3:45 pm  

    soru:

    i take your point, but israel is a *leetle* bit more democratic than sparta was. if there was nobody else in israel other than the settlers, i’d say it was accurate – in fact, as a *stereotype/caricature of how “progressives” see israelis*, rather than strictly speaking a satire, i would say it works rather well.

    sadly enough, it’s certainly how the loony wing of the settlers, the “orange camp”, see themselves – the “persians” in that case would include their own government, of course. but in terms of the larger israeli population, it ignores the far larger segment of society that doesn’t live that way, much of which lives in cities, votes for left-wing parties and wants a two-state solution (and then there are the ultra-orthodox, who aren’t interested in fighting anyone at all and just want to sit around having kids and studying Torah) well spotted though.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  80. soru — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:41 pm  

    ‘it ignores the far larger segment of society that doesn’t live that way’

    Well, the film is called the ’300′, not the ‘several armored divisions with full spectrum air support and nuclear weapons, financed by a first world economy any led by democratic politicians who were voted for by people who want nothing more than to go on living their lives as peaceful citizens’…

    The film is not about the reality of any situation, it’s an expression of a myth that some people also make use of in real-world political arguments.

    I think it is quite useful to remember that such arguments are only ever fully applicable in situations where the enemy are, as in ’300′, ogres and combat rhinos.

  81. Chris Stiles — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:43 pm  
  82. ZinZin — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:50 pm  

    Its a film and not a very good one. Let it rest.

  83. douglas clark — on 26th March, 2007 at 5:16 pm  

    Sadly, or perhaps not, the idea of War Rhinos seems to be a myth. But this is quite entertaining:

    http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2007/03/war_rhinos.php

  84. bananabrain — on 26th March, 2007 at 5:52 pm  

    dammit, i know that hizb’ollah have been breeding war rhinos for the last five years in the bekaa valley – seriously, people, when will we wake up??

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  85. ZinZin — on 8th April, 2007 at 1:01 pm  
  86. Innit — on 10th April, 2007 at 3:08 pm  

    So, it was just me who found the half naked men terribly attractive?

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