First view: Universalism is an important part of polytheism because humanity unites us
Second view: Universalism has no use whatsoever in polytheism because we are all distinct in ethnicity and tradition
Balanced view: Polytheists do and should share certain universal values and aims, but their traditions are also distinct and ought to remain so
In a comment for the previous post, I noted that systems of imperialism, whether political or religious, use a kind of moral universalism as a means to gain followers and maintain power. I illustrated this by comparing a quote by Alexander of Macedon with another by Jesus, as shown below respectively:
“Now that the wars are coming to an end, I wish you to prosper in peace. May all mortals from now on live like one people in concord and for mutual advancement. Consider the world as your country, with laws common to all and where the best will govern irrespective of tribe. I do not distinguish among men, as the narrow-minded do, both among Greeks and Barbarians. I am not interested in the descendance of the citizens or their racial origins. I classify them using one criterion: their virtue. For me every virtuous foreigner is a Greek and every evil Greek worse than a Barbarian. If differences ever develop between you never have recourse to arms, but solve them peacefully. If necessary, I should be your arbitrator. You must not consider God like an autocratic despot, but as a common Father of all”.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It is plain and requires little examination to understand that both Alexander and Jesus used specious invitations and deceptive justice to expand their empires at the expense of others. Post-modernism can be useful in its tendency to examine everything, including morality and other points seemingly above criticism, in terms of power and I am employing this theory here. As I mentioned before, what we take for granted as being “universal” were originally ideas and practices derived from a certain culture and period, and always that culture and period was one of imperialism. The universal language (lingua franca) today is English because of British & American imperialism throughout beginning from the 19th century*. The universal law today (i.e. of the United Nations) is largely based on English common law and English political philosophers (perhaps a few Dutch and German too), which in turn had derived from Roman law. The universal culture of the masses today, in regard to fashion, norms and entertainment, is mainly American and Western for similar reasons. It would therefore be a fault for us polytheists to overlook the source of universalism as well as universal ideas and practices by believing and taking everything we know for granted. Better it is to examine society with some depth and search for the origin and development of things. At the same time, it would be impossible to forget that we polytheists have something in common with one another as well as with other non-polytheists. I don’t think this point needs much emphasis because it ought to be obvious to us all, but reminding ourselves of it from time to time can help us avoid unnecessary misunderstanding or unwarranted hostility. Although we don’t believe in the story of Adam and Eve, we acknowledge gladly the common qualities of humankind, and at the same time, we are also proud of what distinguishes us in our separate traditions and groups. The verb “distinguish” is perfect within this context since its noun “distinction” means both “difference” and “excellence”. This sense is exactly what I hope to convey here: the way for any group (ethnic or otherwise) to advance and rise to greatness is to understand how they differ from others (i.e. what makes them unique) and by that means achieve excellence by their spirit and effort. Universalism, on the other hand, tells everyone “you can be anything” which is a kind of individualization that removes people from their natural groups and identities, i.e. weakens them. It is sometimes no better than a variation of the rule of “divide and conquer”, as employed by the empire or nation-state to mold the populace into a uniform cast for its own benefit and for the ease of controlling them. Whenever I hear the words “humanity”, “human progress”, “we are all alike” and such like expressions, I can’t help but think of it in terms of imperialism. The imperialism of “humanity” is its cruel dominance over Earth’s plantkind and animalkind (I am sorry that there are no such words in our monotheistic language), a dominance maintained by a euphemism called “human progress”. The notion of “we are all alike” (similar to quotes above), although partly correct, can also be used to trick people into following the dominant imperial system. We are bound to compete and wrestle for power, just like the Gods, but let us do so with art, tradition and justice, rather than with superficial tricks. May polytheism, in all its manifold hues and indigenous glories, rise to end all imperialism one day!
* As soon as Napoleon was defeated, the British Empire supplanted the French Empire as the leading colonial and imperial force in Europe and subsequently the world.