Saturday, October 16, 2010

When is it appropriate to surrender to an enemy?

Yesterday I posted a note entitled "Salamis, and is Western Civilization worth saving?" ( )

Billy Blogblather responded with,

LAWRENCE (quoted from the above note): If a Greek city surrendered to Persia then it wasn't invaded. Tribute was paid and a deal was struck, but once you fought against Persia then your doom was sealed. Men were killed or taken into slavery, women raped or enslaved children and old people killed -- who wanted that? It was much better, those 1469 Greek States believed, to surrender and pay tribute. Of course that option wasn't open to Athens, Sparta and a few others. They had fought against Persia in the past; so they needed to be punished. Surrender was not an option for the ancestors of our Western Civilization -- although it seems to be an option for the European heirs to this civilization.

BLOGBLATHER: So what's your point? Better dead than Red? Better Red than dead?

COMMENT: Blogblather's comment was so far from anything that related to my note, anything I was thinking about it, or anything I could imagine about it that I dismissed it as a joke that missed its mark. But this morning I realized that Blogblather was being consistent. He does not value patriotism, heroism, Western Civilization, or Nationhood. But rather than say something like that, he tries to put the onus back on me. The inference, if I am now reading him right, is that since I do value patriotism, heroism, Western Civilization and Nationhood than I am making the point, better Islamist than Dead.

Had Blogblather lived in 480 BC during the time of the Battles at Thermopylae and Salamis, he would not have been one of the 300 standing with Leonidas, nor one manning the oars of a trireme at Salamis. Assuming he had a choice, he would have been with one of the cities that surrendered to and sided with Xerxes. He would have been an Ionian, Phoenician, Carian, Cypriot, Cilician, Pamphylian or a Lycian.

I would warn Blogblather from history that just because the people from those cities decided "better Persian than dead" didn't guarantee them a long life. Persia was a totalitarian empire. You might have been a Carian and thanked your lucky gods that you were part of the Persian Empire and not dead, but if you were available when Xerxes was building his army and navy, then you might well have been drafted. Instead of being one of the Spartan 300, you could have been one of the 20,000 killed by them. Or, you might have been forced to man one of the oars in a Carian Trireme. As to how you might have fared in the latter case, I refer you to Aeschylus, who fought for Athens at Salamis.

[From Aeschylus "The Persians" translated by Seth G. Benardete]

Persian Herald reporting to Xerxes mother:

". . .

A great concerted cry we heard: 'O Greek

Sons, advance! Free your fathers' land,

Free your sons, your wives, the sanctuaries

Of paternal gods, the sepulchers

Of ancestors. Now the contest's drawn:

All is at stake!' And babble Persian tongues

Rose to meet it: no longer would the action

Loiter. Warships struck their brazen beaks

Together: a Grecian man-of-war began

The charge, a Phoenician ornamented stern

Was smashed; another drove against another.

First the floods of Persians held the line,

But when the narrows choked them, and rescue hopeless,

Smitten by prows, their bronze jaws gaping,

Shattered entire was our fleet of oars.

The Grecian warships, calculating, dashed

Round, and encircled us; ships showed their belly:

No longer could we see the water, charged

With ships' wrecks and men's blood.

Corpses glutted beaches and the rocks.

Every warship urged its own anarchic

Route; and all who survived that expedition,

Like mackerel or some catch of fish,

Were stunned and slaughtered, boned with broken oars

And splintered wrecks: lamentations, cries

Possessed the open sea, until the black

Eye of evening, closing, hushed them. . . ."

Blogblather's Leftist slogan sounds rather pathetic in light of the fact that Death isn't actually being presented as the alternative to surrender in Europe. Very few have been threatened with actual death, and those who have, such as Salman Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, and the Danish cartoonist have gone into hiding, fled their countries, or both. No, the threat is that if these Islamic Fundamentalists aren't surrendered to -- in regard to what they are demanding -- they will throw tantrums, go into rages, carry insulting signs, threaten death to those who oppose them (without the means for carrying those threats out), burn a few cars, and blow themselves up.

If we could bring forward in time an educated person from one of the city-states that surrendered to Persia and describe to him the surrender that is occurring in Europe today, I am convinced he would be amazed. "Have you no backbone? Are there no men left in Europe. We surrendered to overwhelming odds, but you surrender to nothing -- and without a fight."

But if we had a European Multiculturalist handy to rebut him, he might say "wait, wait. It isn't as simple as that. We have this theory that we have progressed in Europe beyond the old national wars and that we can all get along if we let everyone have whatever culture he wants."

Surely our visitor from the past would be equally stunned by this statement. He might look about him in Europe (we'll give him a bit of omniscience), raise an eyebrow and observe, "and how much longer do you intend to pursue this theory of yours. In my day we knew better than to try anything so nonsensical, but you people appear to have degenerated a bit."

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