The Ancient Idiot

Here’s an excerpt from the next book that I will be reviewing, Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism:

“Religious belief shaped the character of ancient ‘patriotism’. Serving the ‘fathers-land’ emerges in the word itself. The defenders of an ancient city under siege were not moved by interest as we understand the term. They were not defending a public institution that had created and guaranteed individual rights. Neither were they inspired by the kind of historical narratives that have been created to celebrate and reinforce the identities of modern nation-states. There was nothing self-serving, abstract or sentimental about ancient patriotism.

The ancient citizen saw himself as defending the land of his ancestors, who were also his gods. His ancestors were inseparable from the ground of the city. To lose that ground was to lose the gods of the family. Indeed, the loss of the city meant that the gods had already abandoned it. That is why, whenever a new city was about to be founded, the first public rite involved its members digging a trench to receive soil carried from their previous city, representing the soil in which their ancestors had been buried. Citizens could then still say this was the land of their ancestors, terra patria. In Plutarch’s account, Romulus, the founder of Rome, did exactly that, in order to establish a new residence for his ancestral gods. The foundation of a city was not the construction of a few houses, but the assertion of a hereditary religious identity, ‘patriotism’.

When defending his city, the ancient citizen was therefore defending the very core of his identity. Religion, family and territory were inseparable, a combination of which turned ancient patriotism into an overwhelming passion. The enslavement that often followed the unsuccessful defence of a city merely confirmed a truly dreadful anterior fact: the loss of identity that necessarily accompanied the loss of domestic gods.

We can now understand why patriotism was not only the most intense feeling but also the highest possible virtue for the ancient citizen. Everything that was important to him – his ancestors, his worship, his moral life, his pride and property – depended on the survival and well-being of the city. That is why devotion to the ‘sacred fatherland’ was deemed the supreme virtue. In devoting himself to the city before everything else, the citizen was serving his gods. No abstract principle of justice could give him pause. Piety and patriotism were one and the same thing. For the Greeks, to be without patriotism, to be anything less than an active citizen, was to be an ‘idiot’. That, indeed, is what the word originally meant, referring to anyone who retreated from the life of the city.

So it is no accident that exile was the most severe punishment the citizen of a polis could suffer. It was worse than death, or rather it was a living death. To be exiled meant to be separated from the religious rites and relationships that were the source of personal identity. The city-state or polis was not simply a physical setting or place for the citizen. It was his whole life.

Let him leave its sacred walls, let him pass the sacred limits of its territory, and he no longer finds kind. Everywhere else, except in his own country, he is outside the regular life and the law; everywhere else he is without a god, and shut out from all moral life. There alone he enjoys his dignity as a man, and his duties. Only there can he be a man.

This, of course, is why Aristotle later famously argued that the life of the citizen was the only life worth living.”

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14 Comments

  1. Individualism is a libertarian fantasy drawn from the same bottomless pit of a soulless creature of the Death Cult of Modernity. The entire idea of Modern is a damn lie. Today is not the beginning and to forget your ancestors is to lose your identity completely. These pot smoking libertarians and their liberal progressive cousins in the Workers Paradise of Slavery are cut from the same cloth of delusional idealism. One believes he needs no government and the other sees the government as a surrogate mother. Two sides of stupid right there. Let’s see if the libertarian calls the police when his home is invaded, he will. Let’s see how much liberals love Mommy Dearest Government when they have to work for food instead of voting for a living, they won’t. They’re just immature. The real world is too hard for them so they have a nice fairy tale to live in their own deluded minds – if you can call them minds.

  2. Ironically, Siedentop derives his thesis from an anti-chistian perspective. Congratulations on your new-found circle jerk. I’m taking my activism elsewhere.

  3. I’ve only read the first two chapters. So far, I haven’t seen anything anti-Christian yet, but I will keep reading.

    Good luck trying to reconcile libertarianism with your pro-White views. I will just note that Objectivists, anarcho-capitalists, and the libertarian movement don’t even pretend to be pro-White and decry that sort of “collectivism.” This includes both of the Pauls and the Lew Rockwell crowd.

  4. I would say there is a strong connection between the two.

    As the West has become more atomized and individualistic since the Enlightenment, the size and scope of the government has grown. We’ve progressively eliminated the clan, the tribe, the ethnic group, the religious community, and now even the nuclear family, which is the latest victim.

    Scandinavia is a place that combines extreme individualism and socialism. There is no contradiction between the two. It’s necessary to kill the family, the church, and the nation in order for the market and the government to fill the vacuum.

  5. “Gods” etc are a cognitive stand in for genetic interest for people who couldn’t even fathom what a molecule was, let alone DNA.

    The inherent order of the universe can be personified as “God”, or it can be accepted as is: arta. Aryans chose the latter.

  6. “Good luck trying to reconcile libertarianism with your pro-White views.” – if libertarianism survives I think it will have to adapt to the knowledge that it can only work in white societies, much the same as socialism.

  7. Having read through Livy and Arrian recently, I have concluded that most of what we call “culture” were actually religious observances. Every “cultural practice” had its place in the satisfaction of the gods. This included the positions that men had in society (Plebeian or Patrician), how elections were held, and rules for day to day life. Everybody had their place that was special and important.

    Without seeing the importance of religion to these people it is difficult to comprehend how a person could be so ashamed at losing a battle that he might bury his head in the dirt to suffocate. Or how an entire army might be called back to the city because it is discovered that the election of the Consul was sinfully incorrect (even if it was done in good faith).

    Since it appears that religious observance and culture are linked so strongly, then if you subtract religion, then you subtract the culture. People in a culture vacuum attach themselves to crazy ideas and eventually the civilization falls apart.

    I don’t know what to think about Christianity, but without some religion to bind us together, I do not think we will have a civilization. If we somehow win without a revival of some old time religion I suspect our status quo will look just as cult like and religious as the current status quo’s madness.

  8. HW< you're on to something. Don't stop there, however.
    You cannot have 'culture' without the 'cult' (i.e., religious faith) that undergirds it.
    If the Culture is decadent, it is because the Cult became decadent, first!
    But with civilizations, this inner rot takes generations, sometimes CENTURIES to manifest itself.

    My contention, (since abandoning Catholi-schism) is that it was Rome's PERVER-SION of the CULT/FAITH, in the 1100's (filioque/Great Schism) that led inexorably to the Protestant Reformation, four hundred years later. And it was the Protestant perversion of THAT 'received faith' (i.e., the filioquist Thomism of medieval Rome) that caused us to even more speedily abandon our Calvinist Puritanism, for the evils of Usury, Capitalism, and the 'bare, ruined choirs' of Apostate, Unitarian, Abolitionist New England, less than 250 years later. Since then, the 'slippery slide' has only accelerated, as both Rome, Augsburg, and Geneva have become more (to use Maslow's term) 'self-actualized' in their various apostasies.

    I found it fascinating that Michael Hoffman, in his book 'Usury in Christendom- the mortal sin that was and now is not' was actually highly complimentary of the Puritans, and dismissive of the Romanists (he was, to my knowledge a devout Trad RC) in this book. But he noted that it was the DEPARTURE from the first millennium's prohibition of usury that led to both the depravity (he mentions sodomy in context) of the Roman State, and thereby to Europe, as well as the moral rectitude of the early Puritans, and how it was their descendants, removed from Europe, who fell both from their father's faith, as well as embracing the Jewish Usury mindset.

    Raphael M. Johnson's book, 'The Third Rome' is a screed of denunciation against the falling from grace of both the West (and her subservience to the Jew/Liberal mindset) as well as the 'modernizers' Catherine and Peter, the 'so-called Great' in Russia, and how this culture of the White Man, (especially in Russia, but tied to observations from Johnson as a Westerner) cannot stand unless the Cult (the religion- the CHRISTIANITY) is both national, RACIAL (LITERAL identification with the God-Man, Jesus Christ, as the Last ADAM 'fair,ruddy, able to [visibly] blush' – Christian Identity, anyone with 'ears to hear'?) and mono-cultural. Which is why Judaism, as a COMPETING EVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY (No, not you, but WE are the 'Chosen People') is our greatest enemy, on ALL FRONTS.

    I remember well a certain 9/11, reading Hoppe's book on the 'Death of the West' while all the Jews in upstate NY were running around campus like madmen, and thinking, "It's the end of the USA." No lie. Well, here we are, 15 years later, and it's happening.

    Why? Because we no longer have a common faith, a common culture, a common race, or a common cause. The common faith was never stated, but presumed, during the pre-Revolutionary era, with Trinitarian Oaths, and ostracization of those not "Free, White English persons' from voting, and other covenantal privileges. The Common Culture lasted until about 1803, and the opening of the Midwest to colonization. The book "American Nations" which you reviewed clearly pointed out how we began to glorify hyper-individualism, with the first settlers West of the Appalachians, rather than race, nation, HISTORY. A common race? We destroyed that via Lincoln, and the abolition of chattel slavery, a biblically sanctioned reality to keep the other AS 'OTHER.' Our only 'common cause' seems to have been our hatred for England, rather than a desire to keep America 'pure.' That last hope died with Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard.

    I fully believe America as a nation is in its death throes, precisely due to a lack of all of these things, with the Jew/Usury Bloodsucking Parasite as just one of the more obvious problems; and the fallacious belief that 'democracy' does not ALWAYS, inevitably lead to oligarchic Bolshevism, is our great myopia. A monarchic ethnostate is the ONLY valid form of governance, and yet the West denies the Biblical norms, the Biblical race purity law, and the Biblical model of a godly republic, precisely because we are in opposition to the only God that can save us. And therein is our damnation.

  9. I owe “Hunter” an apology for that last comment. In retrospect I think it was childish and over the top.

    • No sweat man.

      If we were to discuss this in person, I am sure we would agree on what level of individual liberty is appropriate, well, at least in most cases. I’m skeptical of all abstract ideologies. I’m convinced that our people are becoming more atomized and morally degenerate. As structures like the family, ethnic group, and the church erode, it is having the effect of weakening us, and the state and the market are rushing into the vacuum.

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