May 11, 2008
Men with Guns
Another sophisticate has spoken out, and bravely.
"I don't want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don't, then you've got the Army, Iraq, I don't know, something like that. It's not as bright."
So said Stephen King. He is a writer of horror I hear, though I have never read his books. I do hope that his written prose is more literate than that evinced by his speech.
King's bold words passed scarcely noticed, near invisibly in fact. (Only Noel Sheppard of Newsbusters spread the outrage.) The reason is because they are not at all remarkable. Such courageous thoughts spew regularly from those who ride booted and spurred over this tottering edifice we call ‘Western Civilization.' There is hardly a mover and shaker residing in the ivory towers of academia or among our literati who does not share the same views as Mr. King.
From their talk, from their vast outpouring of books and articles, from their appearances in the media, from their endless self-absorption, from their spittle-flecked sputtering hatred and disdain of the common man, one would get the impression that these types are the very upholders of all that is sweet and honorable in our culture.
One would be wrong. Such men are the destroyers of civilization. Like competent parasites they take every advantage of a society created and maintained by their betters. They drain as much vitality as they can, replace it with a crude solipsism and work to crush the husk that remains. Their lives are ones of soft comfort and padded ease. For in all their degrees and learning and rhetoric and billions and billions of words they have learned nothing worth knowing. For all intents and purposes they are barbarians.
Civilization does not rest upon their shoulders, it rests upon the shoulders of men with guns.
"We sleep peaceably in our beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf." (George Orwell)
It has always been so. Civilization and the ability to inflict violence go together, are inseparable. Our pampered elites cannot understand this and have no ability to understand this. They look upon men with guns like apes gaping at The Last Supper.
Our venerable history books speak of Western Civilization as beginning with the Greeks somewhere around 700 BC. Not so. It began with the Hebrews pushing into what they called ‘the Promised Land' 500 years before. We forget that the most influential book in Western Civilization had its origins in the violence spread by the Israelite commander Joshua and his successors. The poetry of Solomon, the beauty of the Psalms, all rest upon the shoulders of Israelites with swords.
The contributions of the Greeks came to us through violence, of Greek against Persian and Greek against Greek. Aeschylus fought at Marathon and Salamis, Socrates at Delium, Demosthenes at Chaeronea. Aristotle tutored the future conqueror of the world, Alexander, who himself spread Greek culture as far as the Indus River. It is simply a waste of time to try and separate those who begat Western Civilization and those who used violence to promote it. Sometimes they were one and the same.
The Romans were likewise. Cicero served in the army. Caesar was a superb Latin stylist and man of letters. Horace served with Brutus at Philippi (42 BC). Virgil idealized Roman power, and both he and Maecenas were friends of Augustus. Suetonius and Pliny the Younger served under the Emperor Trajan. The emperors Hadrian and Aurelius wrote poetry. The Emperor Constantine legalized the spread of Christianity and so begat yet another facet of the spread of Western Civilization.
The Middle Ages also relied upon men of violence and men of books. Boethius worked for Theodoric the Great (520 AD). Justinian (r. 527 - 565) revised the entire Roman law code. Charlemagne built schools, began the first European Renaissance and himself spoke several languages. An entire style of troubadour poetry and epic literature, including The Song of Roland, flowed from the wars of Christian against Moslem in Spain.
The Renaissance was a time of great violence and high culture. Leonardo designed military machines. Michelangelo worked for that most militaristic of popes, Julius II. The ruthless Medici were great patrons of the arts. Dante fought at the battle of Campaldino (1289). Machiavelli undertook both diplomatic and military missions. Cervantes was with the Christian fleet at Lepanto (1571). Cortéz was a writer, and one of his soldiers was Bernal Diaz de Castillo who became a historian of the Conquest.
Many of the great Christian men of the day were not exactly shrinking violets either. The Jesuits were founded by Ignatius Loyola, who was a soldier. The gentle Francis of Assisi was a troubadour poet and mercenary. Aquinas formulated the Christian concept of ‘Just War.' Las Casas was a historian of the Indies. Martin Luther relied upon the pikes of Protestant kings to spread his new faith.
I could go on, but you get the point. Western Civilization has always depended upon bayonets. Take away the bayonets and the culture they supported will crumble, and rather rapidly.
Let us put it another way. The Ancients wrote of the Ages of Man, first of Gold then Silver then Bronze and finally of Iron. This last Age is dismal indeed. Men are "warlike, greedy and impious. Truth, modesty and loyalty are nowhere to be found." Hesiod (c. 700 BC) was even gloomier.
"During this age humans live an existence of toil and misery. Children dishonor their parents, brother fights with brother and the social contract between guest and host (xenia) is forgotten. During this age might makes right, and bad men use lies to be thought good. At the height of this age, humans no longer feel shame or indignation at wrongdoing; babies will be born with gray hair and the gods will have completely forsaken humanity: ‘there will be no help against evil.'"
There in a paragraph is our future. Our own nation's Golden Age is almost ignored in our history books, our Age of Silver a distant memory. Our present Age of Bronze is itself crumbling, preparing our nation for a coming Age of Iron.
When it arrives, who will defend what remains of Western Civilization? Will the likes of Stephen King step up to the plate? Will Pinch Sulzberger and Ward Churchill and Ted Kennedy don battle fatigues and utter their cries of war? Will Bill Clinton and his minions marshal armies and command troops? Will the professors at Yale and Harvard give great speeches about the noble profession of arms?
You already know the answer. Worthless men like them will be swept away. All their works and words, seemingly so valuable in this age, will be as dust.
The coming Age of Iron will be met as such times are always met, by men with guns. When it is over, when the forces of barbarism have at last receded, the new civilization will be ushered in by these men, the men of Yorktown, of New Orleans, of Chapultepec, of Gettysburg, of San Juan Hill, of Saint-Mihiel, of Guadalcanal, of the Ardennes, of the Chosin River, of Tet, of Desert Storm, of Fallujah.
For it is those men and their guns who have carried upon their shoulders our American nation. It is their ancestors throughout time and space who created and supported Western Civilization, of which we are a part.
In 1000 years when the dust has settled, when the first glimmers of a new Age of Gold appear, men like Leonidas will still be remembered. Men like Stephen King will be as forgotten as yesterday's papers, remembered only by worms.