Polemical topics for polytheists (part 2): Modernity

First view: “Modernity is a blessing that should be embraced, because it has made us advance”

Second view: “Modernity is a curse that should be shunned, because it has ruined the world and nature”

Balanced view: “Although tradition is by far preferable, part of modernity is important to use for the time being”

The best way to describe modernity would be to consider Western Civilization*, which is in effect a synonym, as well as to look at the world as it stands. The systems of capitalism and globalism prevail; there is excess in everything and everywhere, because everybody tends to imitate the Western way of life. There is comfort to the degree of decadence, and satisfaction (much less true happiness) is hard to find, because society is no longer cohesive and communal. A great deal of imbalance threatens to turn a world, which has seemingly been reformed and improved, into a monster. Meantime, being trapped within this system, we polytheists can only hope and act to the best of our ability. At least modernity, through advancements in archaeology, provides us with the means to rediscover our ancient heritage, and through technology, to connect with one another quickly. It could even be said that the subversive and imbalanced qualities of modernity have allowed us to exist freely again, through the decay of monotheism. In an ideal world, the aforementioned second view would be best, but according to reality, we must carefully make use of some of the advantages of modernity (at least for the time being), if our intention is to rise again and compete successfully with our rivals. But careful we must be: modernity does not distinguish between monotheism and polytheism in its subversions and imbalances. For that reason, we’ll need to treat it like a tool and acquaintance, rather than a master or friend. When it falls to a choice between polytheism and modernity, there should be no hesitation to choose the former. And when modernity is no longer absolutely necessary, we should be the first to lay it aside in favor of an older, happier, and humbler way of life that is more balanced and more traditional, putting nature and culture above money and machine.

 

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*A very suitable acronym would be WC

21 thoughts on “Polemical topics for polytheists (part 2): Modernity

  1. K

    I guess modernity is more like a mindset rather than just a term for technology. I hear the word used a lot, but what is modernity? What does it entail? What is the source of it? I can think of a few things, but no doubt those could be countered.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Well said: My thoughts exactly, Courtney. Modernity is a way of thinking and a way of production–together they make a way of life. I suppose you could also stretch modernity further back than the 18th century, but the Industrial Age and Enlightenment are strong marks for its reference.

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  2. heathenembers

    Modernity is an alluring notion. It seduces us to think that we are the cleverest, wisest, best people to have ever walked the earth. But for all we have gained, we have also lost so much. The focus is so heavily on technology, the production of things, that we don’t give any thought to other aspects of life. As you say, the world is out of balance. Great post, and something I will be writing more about soon.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Well said and thank you! Modernity is such a tempting trap, isn’t it? In a general sense, sometimes I think that “progress” is merely growth and repetition, but at very high and unnecessary costs, and the worst has not even begun. It almost seems as though humanity is steadily approaching the conclusion that modernity was rather a mistake after all. As an example, we’ve replaced worshipping the moon at a humble distance with the hubris of celebrating our “colonization” of it, especially while the earth is full of pollution. There’s a thought to ruminate about. I will stay watchful in anticipation of your own post about this important subject.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      If the matter is explained to people correctly and wholly, many would question those values. To my thinking, the force of our present circumstances is already doing that work for us, little by little. I’ll surprise you by saying that we polytheists are all postmodernists, to a certain degree, according to the ideological definition of the term. We are part of the decay of western (Christian and universalist) thought and culture–the struggle now is to shift the direction to our side instead of (or even from) atheism.

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      1. K

        Say you are walking down a road and you see someone on horseback riding a bit ahead of a group of men on horse or foot leading a group of cattle. The man up front on horseback is armed with a few short spears, a buckler, and a sword. Three severed heads are tied to his saddle. He hails you and explains that he and the rest came back from recovering some cattle and goods taken by a party of rustlers. He pats his saddle and says “I felled three of them. Too bad they didn’t give us much of a fight, they ran off when they lost a quarter or so of their men. A shame, we probably could have made a good tale of it later, if we had more some more heads to show for it.”

        What would your response be? And what do you think the average person today would say in response to this?

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      2. Melas the Hellene Post author

        This is a question for a topic on cultural and moral relativism, which is on my list, but I will give you an idea of my general direction. As a brief introduction, I would call your attention to a similar practice done by the native peoples of Turtle Island (America) in such cases, i.e. scalping heads. The Celts took severed heads in battle too, but for ritual and religious purposes, rather than for humiliation or for displaying a trophy. What can we say of this? From my study of history, I am afraid there are very few universal principles in the world. My response to your question, therefore, would really depend on the culture and historical era I belong to, as well as the culture and historical era that both the horseman and the bandits belong to. If it were to happen here and today, my response would naturally be one of horror, especially if the horseman and bandits belong to the same modern culture. Does this position imply I support the return of such practices because I oppose modernity? I think not.

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    2. K

      I had the Irish and Borderers in mind. That sort of thing would have been going on even 500 years ago in those places. Not that far back. Taking the heads of dead enemies is often mentioned casually in dry Irish chronicles from the Middle Ages mentioning battles, and the epic cycles have it as well. The stories about Ulster’s wars and heroes tell how Conall Cernach took the heads of a great portion of Connacht’s warriors over his lifetime.

      I use this sort of thing as a test of modern thinking. It comes down to a question of values. Western modernity, whatever we define it as, has mores and values associated with it. Breaking away from them would mean having different values, even conflicting ones. I think about it this way; our own ancestors would be as alien to the majority of modern Westerners as primitive tribes in South America, traditional Muslims, and small groups of dissenters still are today. When dealing with modernity versus the past or something else opposing modernity, we are talking about different cultures. Postmodern, well, I guess we are. And a counterculture as well.

      I am not optimistic about convincing most against modernity, especially atheists. When I consider the relatively small issues that are already controversial, actual reactionaries stand no chance at convincing anyone.

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  3. Paul

    This brings to mind a quote from Sharon Paice MacLeod’s book, The Divine Feminine in Ancient Europe (page 7): “Our souls are quite literally starving in a world of physical “plenty,” the acquisition of which never quite reaches a point of satiety or rest.”

    I can only shake my head in puzzlement at people who momentarily bond over something like the latest phone or the people I overhear in restaurants whose conversation is entirely about who is watching which pointless TV show. In America, many people have a longing for small town life, i.e. where you know and care for your neighbors and everybody knows everyone else. Modernity is rather soulless and leaves people with an inner void that previous generations would not have felt, or at least not to such a degree.

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    1. K

      I grew up in a rural environment. By that, I mean all fields, forest, clearings, creeks, river, and hills. Not much else around. I lived right down the road from an old one room schoolhouse. It was not used for that anymore, as we had gotten a bigger school built closer to a highway. I live in a small town now. You find people here and there who hate it, because “everyone knows your business” and “rumors and gossip are all around.” Also, they might say something about how boring it is or how small town/rural social attitudes are backward. They actually want to go live in a city just to get away.

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      1. Paul

        Thanks for your comment. I think it is very subjective! Your childhood environment sounds quite nice, I must say. For myself, I grew up in the kind of suburbs where you look out your bedroom window and into someone else’s room. Probably the reason why I live in a rural area now and couldn’t be paid to live in or near a city 😁 that, and I am in Los Angeles on a regular basis (enough said). I can definitely empathize with people who feel there is little or nothing to do in a smaller community, though, especially if they have never lived in or visited a major city for any length of time.

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      2. K

        I think the complainers are fools. They will find those troubles everywhere they go. I myself despise urban environments. I always feel uneasy in them. And I like my backward rural attitudes. That said, I can see the problems in broader society having their effect here too. It is hard to be isolated from them.

        There are also bodies of water and old trees to make offerings at. Not to mention shadowy groves for sacrifices. Where in most cities will you find those things?

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    2. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Much good sense here. Thank you both. I wish I had been brought up in a rural place (containing all the natural beauty), rather than suburbs. Yet I consider myself one among many millions who long for the peace and beauty of the countryside. Those who complain about such life (I’ll guess) are either rebelling against Christian values (in the communal sense) or too attached to modern technology. There are also those (like my parents, generation) who leave because the work is hard and the city tempts them–only to discover later that a backache is preferable to depression. This is still happening in “developing countries” which I see as actually advanced in the cultural sense of the word. Developing and backward are western societies that sacrifice the traditional for the new. But the tendency in the west now is urban flight and that could lead to suburban also, and then rural refuge would be the only solution.

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  4. Paul

    I would also add that technological progress and the willingness to inplement it as much as possible is not negative (especially in the realms of medicine and communication – although I am an advocate for more natural and herbal medicines as opposed to chemical ones), but only when it becomes all-encompassing and an end in and of itself, while things that truly matter are mocked, discarded, and left by the wayside.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Thanks for this. I had once thought so too, but I question it now. The reason is technological progress does not arise in a vacuum, meaning it requires so many other conditions to support it–and those are precisely what we have been objecting to earlier, i.e. urban environment, machines, money, etc. Do we really think we can find cures for everything? Apparently our new way of life is introducing new diseases also, that are negating whatever progress there is. We have ended the plague, influenzas, etc. but rates for cancer and other conditions (psychological, cerebral and physical) have gone up dangerously. Besides, rural environments are generally safe from epidemics–those arise in cities foe obvious reasons. Hence, I remember reading that royal courts fled to the countryside during the plague. As far as communication goes, we have too much! I am sitting on my armchair writing this to you and have just now neglected to give my attention to what my mother said by nodding it off!

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      1. Paul

        Quite true, my friend. I stumbled across an example of that (the introduction of new diseases) only yesterday. Apparently, there is more than one strain of the HIV virus (I did not know this), and it is possible to become infected with more than one strain. The new strain can then essentially hybridize with the already-present strain within one’s body and become a “superbug” that is immune to the few drugs that do exist and aren’t completely effective anyway. And I also remember reading of that, as well, where nobles would retreat to their countryside estates to wait for the plague to burn itself out! I don’t know how effective that ultimately was, though.

        But at any rate, I read your words this morning before leaving and spent the day pondering them, and I find my thoughts on implementing technology as much as possible have shifted. Perhaps a laughable potential example, but for myself personally living in a rural area, something as simple as getting a more reliable internet service would require them to pave my street, install telephone poles (which are a health hazard), and consequently add to the suburban sprawl and eliminate my being in a rural area and everything that goes along with it.

        A tad rambly, but thanks for the food for thought. And my sincere apologies to your mother, but I do appreciate being the recipient of your full attention! 😁

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  5. maartenmijmert

    I do believe we a sa society would have been better off withouth Western Civilisation (I blame the Romans), but seeing as that is not how things turned out, we should work in the world that we have, not the world that we’d perfer. Encourage proper values and discover how you can work for those values despite, or with the aid off, modern conveniences. Both technical and cultural.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Thanks, Maarten. I blame the Romans too as well as the Hellenistic Greeks before them. I agree with you about dealing with the world according to reality, but a reasonable portion of idealism should be our incentive to do so, even if it is not entirely attainable. It infuses us with hope. We can wish that the world become better ideally, while at the same time using modern means for that purpose.

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