Tag Archives: imperialism

Polemical topics for Polytheists (part 10): Multiculturalism

First view: Multiculturalism is good and consistent with polytheism, because there was plenty of cultural exchange in ancient times

Second view: Multiculturalism is bad and harmful to polytheism, because it is associated with expansive empires that pretend to be inclusive.

Balanced view: We can’t overlook that multiculturalism is both a result of good cultural exchange and harmful imperialism, but this old conflict may need to be understood in a new manner.

At a time when multiculturalism (also called diversity) is praised so often as an essential component of the modern world, or strongly opposed as such, it may be problematic to find a common ground between the two sides. But in the spirit of the previous piece about politics, I will attempt to do so here. The ancients, whose polytheisms we follow, were living through new experiences in what could be called an experiment of the human condition. Their world was growing, their knowledge of foreign things was increasing, but why? Expansive trade was practiced since the Bronze Age among complex urbanized societies, also called civilizations, and this useful activity brought mutual benefits—as did the stories, news and food exchanged during the trade. On the other hand, along with this expansive trade, there was expansive empire: If trade has to do with money, surely it is not difficult to see how money is inherently connected to power, land and resources, i.e. empire. Ancient civilizations gradually grew from regional to imperial, and this was accepted as common and even desirable at that time, because it was associated with survival as well as glory. Yet, after so many centuries, are we still living in this paradoxical manner? The answer is yes. The multiculturalism promoted today can be seen from the global trade that is being carried out, connecting all large urban centers throughout the world. But this is not a complete perspective: What is often overlooked about multiculturalism is that its current form is a product of imperial Westernization and Christianity. At first there was the Catholic Church which promoted a united “Christendom” (the word “Catholic” means “universal”, by the way), but after the rise of Protestantism, Anglo-America now leads the movement. It is no secret that America today, like the Catholic Church and Great Britain formerly, is an expansive empire that seeks domination. It is often wrongly presumed by many that multiculturalism creates an equal field for all to flourish; this is a simplistic mistake because it is not possible for all cultures to be represented fairly in one place at the same time. The emphasis is on the words “in one place at the same time”: Cultures need to be distinct and dominant at their place of origin*. After a certain point, following Anglo-American culture, however tolerant it may pretend to be, is succumbing to cultural imperialism and living in subjugation. One of the eternal advantages of polytheism is that it allows for exchange, but at the same time, requires us to respect foreign cultures as distinct without interference. If each foreign culture has its own God, can we assault their cultural distinction without assaulting their God? I think not. Can all cultures (and by extension Gods) live equally in the same place at the same time? I think not. We are a cooperative species, but also one that engages in conflicts, and our Gods are no different from us in that respect. My reconciliation of cultural exchange and cultural imperialism is already hinted, but for a larger consideration, I would refer my kind readers to part 6 of this series, entitled (significantly) “indigenism”.
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*While this is a convenient rule for the Old World, a discussion of the New World is more complex because dominant cultures there had been replaced through colonization. I have already attempted a discussion in part 6 previously.

Polemical topics for polytheists (part 8): Identity

 

First view: Identity is a fully personal matter, and the modern world is improving one’s ability to embrace it. (Folks on the left incline to this position).

Second view: True identity comes from a large group (like a nation or religion), and these are wearing off in the modern world. (Folks on the right tend to say this).

Balanced view: There are identities (like polytheisms), and these are guided both by personal choices as well as the decisions of a moderate group (like a community, tribe, or local region).

 Although identity has become a topic constantly in discussion, it is also in need of an even-minded understanding of human history and societies. No wonder the modern world finds itself (yet again) troubled and disturbed because of the fierce and extreme dichotomy of the individual’s identity as opposed to that of the large group. It is necessary though to point out that the beginnings of this problem lie further back in time: Ancient empires, like modern nations, forged identities for large groups that extended beyond the natural borders of one’s distinct local group. It is true that these smaller communal identities still remained, but the larger group became increasingly important & superior because of the military nature of imperial power; the “glory” that many perceived could result from such “unity”, or the shame that they feared could come if they did not maintain it, propelled and perpetuated the concept of an ever  larger group. This is how national and imperial power (as far back as the Persians, Greeks, and Romans) began its long course of gnawing away regional identities and the unique cultures that accompany them. The concept of the unified state providing an identity for all its people (the second view above), so common nowadays, is derived from the policies that historians had always believed (till now) led to “reforms” in the Athenian government, establishing a term we take for granted, i.e. “democracy”. Under the tyrant Cleisthenes in 507 BCE, traditional tribes were stripped of their identities and people were to live now in artificial tribes (determined by localities) as designed by the state. People were now to identify themselves not by their family name, but rather by the name of their locality. The pretext for these “reforms” was to prevent inner conflict, but anyone who is familiar with Athenian history will know that such conflicts festered even worse after the “reforms”, but only in new forms—i.e. political parties dividing the nobles and common people (the prototype for today’s destructive dichotomy of left and right parties*), and imperial policies that pretended to unite those opposing forces by conquering other states (see first Athenian empire and Second Athenian Empire). Some justify these measures by citing the importance of unity in defeating the Persian invasion of Greece, but although this system did indeed contribute to protection of the “Greeks” (if we are to use that unifying term), it also led to a bloody war between the two great imperial forces of Sparta and Athens, only to be ended by the conquests of Phillip II of Macedon in preparation for an invasion of Persia, which was badly fulfilled by his son. The conclusion here is that a national & imperial identity is always a fragile, contradictory and artificial concept that drives people to larger and larger conflicts, even as it falsely attempts to unify and elevate them. The Romans went through the same journey and all modern states follow this seemingly “civilized” example without questioning it. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the exclusive personal identity, i.e. the sort that opposes the communal group, was developed out of this bad environment of artificially collective unity. The result of removing tribal identities was only that new artificial tribal identities arose; we see this with the philosophical schools (Sophists, Stoics, Epicureans, Cynics, etc.) that flourished in Athens during the sixth, fifth and fourth centuries, schools that were later exported to many other imitators of Athens, like the Romans. The concept was then transferred to the Christians and Muslims (hence all the ideological sects) and thus still continues to this day, as the world treads blindly in the footsteps of Athens and Rome. We must oppose this dichotomy of national and personal, of huge and tiny, by seeking a balance and a moderate path. The community, tribe and local region are the natural answers to this problematic question. The model of indigenous peoples (alas, unfortunately declining) once again proves itself to be right-minded and advanced, in the true sense of the word. The modern world loves to smear the concept by calling it “tribalism”, but we polytheists, far more aware of history and the failures of “civilization”, are capable of championing a cause that will help us greatly. History must be revised and re-examined if we are ever to advance ourselves among so many competitors. If they are already declining, why should we follow their same faults? It is a dangerous humiliation to be a pawn in the hands of a large state, a piece of their machine, by making our main identity a national one, and at the same time, it is a sore deprivation to leave one’s ancestral group by pretending that personal or philosophical identity can rise above it. It is my hope one day not merely to call myself a “polytheist”, but to belong to (or at least to prepare for my future descendants to belong to) a communal and ancestral identity. Let us hope (while making a contribution) that the concept of the nation and empire will slowly wear away into confederations that are less centralized & oppressive.

 

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*The Athenian dichotomy of nobles and democrats (or sometimes, moderate & radical democrats) was later transferred to Rome, where it became the dichotomy of the optimates (patricians) and populares (plebeian middle and lower classes), a division that led to civil wars & endless problems, but has continued to this very day.

Polemical topics for polytheists (part 6): Indigenism

First view: The indigenous people of the world are faring very well and are part of modern society, therefore they don’t need our help

Second view: The indigenous people of the world are in great misery and they need to be championed by everyone born with privilege (i.e. people descended from European colonists)

Balanced view: If we all think of ourselves as indigenous to a certain part of the world, and act accordingly, the problem will be solved.

Although it was my intention to consider ethnicity and ethnic religion, it is impossible to do so without understanding indigenism and its integral place within the system of polytheism. In ancient times, the various peoples of humankind spread themselves through the Earth gradually and accidentally in the course of many tens of thousands of years. When these journeys ended, and most lands were inhabited, peoples diversified further within distinct territories to form distinct cultures, practices and languages. It is difficult to determine when exactly this permanent or regional settlement occurred, but it seems to have been (in general) hardly later than the past three thousand years ago. However, with the rise of population (mainly because of agriculture), states arose and battled for wealth and power, and before long, the vile spirit of imperialism was born, and its lust for absolute domination, false glory, and unjust expansion began. As shown in the previous series (good and bad polytheists), we see it occurring throughout the world where agriculture was adopted along rivers, even (though to a lesser degree) in South America with the Incan Empire. It is thus easy to understand how indigenism lost to imperialism and its twin colonialism.  After  extended periods of growth (following fall of the Roman Empire) an absolute tragedy occurred in Western Europe: Ethnic groups on the margins of national empires, formerly indigenous Celts, who were now oppressed and disliked by the new dominant cultures based in the capital cities, undertook to colonize actively (as if in escapism) the New World. It is no secret that most settlers in the New World were poor, scorned and therefore hungry for some sort of wealth or acknowledgement— the Spaniards on the fringes, the Northern & Western English, the Welsh, the Irish, the Scots, the Portuguese, the Scots-Irish, the Hugenots of France, the Southern Germans, etc. These people had been oppressed by an inner colonization & imperialism in the form of nationalism, and now they were tempted to help themselves, not knowing that they were also feeding the same oppressive system of nationalism, and this again at the expense of other indigenous people. Thus, by a most unfortunate twist of fate and conspiracy on the part of the theocratic & national forces, the marginal groups of Europe, formerly indigenous, founded their own theocratic & national systems throughout the New World, in order to prove themselves and put an end to their former oppression, as if in defiance of the native countries that had scorned them. The obvious observation here is that imperialism and colonialism cause destructive cycles that expand and diversify themselves—the very definition of a disease. But since this is not a conclusion, we must answer the question, what is to be done nowadays? Although I am somewhat biased to the second view above, it seems to imply (ironically) that people of European descent will be committing only another sort of colonialism by championing and speaking on behalf of indigenous peoples. The solution? Leave. Yes, leave however and whenever you can to rediscover and resettle your indigenous homeland. This is already a time in history during which people are travelling more than ever and changing their residence constantly, because it has never been easier; this is likewise a time when several parts of the world, especially Europe, is declining in its birth-rates. As polytheists, it is furthermore impossible to overlook we are rebels and more or less distant from our families. So, what can be the excuse? Say what you will, but I’ll maintain that the Hellenic Zeus has no place out of the original lands inhabited by Greeks, nor do the Celtic or Germanic Gods belong to America, Canada, Brazil, Australia, or any part of the New World. By worshipping them there, we commit a sort of absurdity, and above all, we disappoint our Gods by alienating them from their original holy areas and at the same time, we anger them by allowing them to encroach on the lands of other Gods. Now, if you ask me, how can Gods own lands? The answer is quite simple: Since every indigenous people has their pantheon, the Gods preside as patrons of the land and all that belongs to what we call nature. What makes us different from monotheists is that we don’t believe there is one supreme, omnipotent, omnipresent (aka imperial) deity ruling over all peoples and all parts of the Earth. Gods and cultures and peoples and lands in polytheism are all connected within distinct groups, which all have the right to remain and continue, with neighborly exchange and sharing, otherwise we commit imperialism and colonialism. Another difference from monotheists (and their descendants the modernists) is that we don’t misuse the universal term “humanity”, as if to show we are all happily united as one people on one earth*. If Zeus can exist within Ireland, it can only mean he is appropriating the thunder of Taranis. If Taranis or Odin can exist within America (with a majority of people as descendants of colonists), it can only mean they have overthrown the realm of the Great Spirit, and therefore they are superior to it because of current supremacy. If this seems wrong, it is because we are too accustomed in our thinking to the transcendent immaterial side of divinity only, as practiced by monotheism, while forgetting of the solid material side. Let us therefore no longer be tokens and playthings in the hands of colonialists and imperialists. Let us do our part to end the problem of immigration by replacing its false economic purpose for a real cultural one. Let us then return to our own ancestors and Gods in the true sense and spirit of the word, by returning to their lands.

 Please visit this website, if you are interested in learning more about an ambitious project & discussion of unsettling America and re-indigenization begun by a fellow polytheist. N.B. The author uses the term “whiteness” in the sense of “westernization”, not in the sense of “race”, and she explains this under the section “heal whiteness”.

*Humanity is a generic term that really bears no significance as a united and universal concept, except when monotheism is applied (or its descendants: atheism and modernism). One god leads to one people, doesn’t it (just as atheism leads to people vs god, ironically)? But this only means that imperialism is in force by one culture over all others. Notice how the language of “humanity” is English nowadays. Surely that has a connection with British and American imperialism? And surely that extends to cultural values also? This is by no means a coincidence.

 

 

 

Good and bad polytheists (part 20): Conclusion

Papyrus scrollAfter presenting various historical characters and stories from a range of almost 4000 years, a conclusion is needed to put an end to the series. After the 13th century, polytheism declined gradually throughout the Old World, surviving only in the Indian and Far East, as well as in other isolated places where some traditions have endured even to this day. At the end of the 15th century, as we know, the New World was linked to the Old, and the indigenous polytheism of those lands began a decline also at the hands of the Christian conquerors, though not without their own instances of bravery. When we polytheists of this day look back, we marvel at the changes that the world has gone through at the hands of mankind, and we forget the many stories and lessons about our ancestors that have long since past. Of the great and known personages that history has left us with, we find that not all of them were exemplary and good; indeed, in some cases, they contributed, by means of their selfish actions (knowingly or unknowingly), to the rise of evils and misfortunes that still plague the world.

The question remains, how exactly can a good polytheist be known then, and distinguished from a bad? Part of this answer is obvious to all, because the good and bad has certain universal standards. Generosity, courage, fidelity, humility, magnanimity, piety, prudence, honesty, justice, etc. are examples of virtues that are known to be good throughout the world and have been held as such throughout history. The other part is more particular to culture and the circumstances of the times. A good polytheist will always endeavor to respect his own culture as well as others, not setting one at the expense of another, and will be active in promoting the good within his community, even if the times tempt him with rewards for a bad and selfish endeavor. And when circumstances or times are otherwise bad and dangerous, he will also attempt to turn them as much as possible to a good direction, for the benefit and protection of his people, yet without excess. In the meantime, he will not forget of the Gods, nor insult them directly. Furthermore, he will not act with the pride of false piety, by pretending to act as if in their company.

The earliest bad polytheist we know of is King Sargon, falsely (like several others) called “the great”. As the founder of the very first empire*, he established the horrible precedent for uncontrolled expansion and conquest, which never since ended. Imperialism is a condition that has always plagued polytheism, and in some respects, it could very well be said that it gave rise to monotheism and atheism, which are imperialisms, only in ideological form. If Abraham flourished at the period the biblical scholars agree upon, i.e. about 1900 BCE, then this was about 5 centuries after Sargon. Likewise, Akhenaten propagated his idea of monotheism during the New Kingdom, a period during which Egypt made foreign conquests and assimilated foreigners. This is also about the same time Moses is said to have lived. The exclusive and hostile monotheism of a sect of the Canaanites (said to be descendants of Abraham and followers of Moses’ commandments), commonly called the Jews, developed in a region and during historical ages that were plagued by continuous imperialism; the Jews were pressed from the east by the Egyptians, from the north by the Hittites, and from the East by the Babylonians and Assyrians. Is it any wonder then that they came to hate foreigners so much and make themselves differ from them in every way? If Judaic monotheism was an evil idea, it arose within an evil environment. The same could be said of the far more dangerous religion of Christianity, which arose during the unprecedented hegemony of the Roman Empire.

If there is any way to sum up this series of good and bad polytheists, it cannot be better done than by means of this theme of imperialism and the resistance to it. Abrahamic monotheism has attributed the source of evil to the pride of the Devil and his defiance of his master, causing an eternal battle in which man must resist evil or be punished by it and for it. Although this is a horribly poisonous view of the world and universe (since it presupposes that Abraham’s people are the only good ones, against the rest of the world), it has its advantages in directing the masses and gaining power. Polytheists must study history and learn from this lesson; it is possible to adjust and apply it in a good way, with a good intention. Imperialism is to us, what the Devil is to Abrahamic monotheists: it is a perfect an embodiment of most of the overgrown evils that have plagued the world. I say overgrown because we polytheists don’t believe in pure dualism or the eternal war between the good and evil. Imperialism is therefore the condition (ideologically and materially) that aggravates, multiplies, and propagates injustice, impiety, slavery, destruction of nature, genocide (cultural and ethnic), high ambition, universal war, and many more. Imperialism is the greatest false promise the world has ever known; it has promised people eternal happiness, protection, glory, and prosperity, but has given them only the shadows and shells of those blessings. After 4500 years since Sargon, with a continual series of empires, this is too evident already to need further explanation. If there is one thing that should be remembered then after this long series, it is the horror of imperialism and the nobility of resisting all its forms. Our present battle against monotheism and atheism verifies that truth beyond any doubt.

 

 

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* Although Egypt was said to have been unified many centuries before Sargon (i.e. about 3100 BCE), the circumstances were different, and did not lead to empire. Egypt had already been divided into a Northern and Southern Kingdom, not too different culturally and ethnically (unlike Mesopotamia), which were then united for reasons not precisely known. It can be observed in general that civilizations, which begin independently and accidentally along rivers (a constant source of water and hence food), are prone to growth and conflict, which often leads to centralized systems. There was what could be called temporary “proto-empire” before Sargon in the region of Mesopotamia, where city-states attempted at domination and achieved it temporarily. However, Sargon was the first to celebrate himself as a glorious conqueror who managed (in one lifetime) to conquer 34 city-states and stretch his dominions from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean sea, achieving therefore not only what had never been done before, but also (in his mind) what is worthy of imitation, because he falsely claimed he was inspired by the Goddess Ishtar. By this means, he added a dangerous idea to an existing (and somewhat undesirable) material condition, i.e. the glory of large conquests beyond one’s ethnic and cultural bounds. This is how the entity of empire was created and cemented in history, multiplying in an unbroken succession (see part 1) from 2400 BCE to this very day.