Sappho Poetic Fragment

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Analysing National Socialism
(pdf)

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As described in the Preface,

Republished here are two essays – both written in January 2012 and respectively titled Some Philosophical and Moral Problems of National-Socialism and Hitler, National-Socialism, and Politics: A Personal Reappraisal – whose genesis was the development and the refinement of my earlier ‘numinous way’ into the philosophy of pathei-mathos.

The essays, although now somewhat dated, are republished because they may have some relevance for those interested in my rejection of extremism, and because the writing of the two essays enabled me to express the thoughts and feelings about the particular extremism named National Socialism engendered by the insights of that ‘numinous way’.

As I noted in Some Questions For DWM 2014,

“My writings, post-2011, were and are really dialogues: interiorly with myself and externally with a few friends or the occasional person who has contacted me and expressed an interest.”

In addition, as I wrote in Letter To My Undiscovered Self, published in 2012,

“That it took me four decades, and the tragic death of two loved ones, to discover [such] simple truths surely reveals something about the person I was and about the extremisms I championed and fought for. Now, I – with Sappho – not only say that,

“I love delicate softness:
For me, love has brought the brightness
And the beauty of the Sun”

but also that a personal, mutual, love between two human beings is the most beautiful, the most sacred, the most important, the most human, thing in the world; and that the peace that most of us hope for, desire in our hearts, only requires us to be, to become, loving, kind, fair, empathic, compassionate, human beings.

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Image credit:
Sappho Poetic Fragment
P. Oxyrhynchus. XV (1922) number 1787, fr. 1 and 2
“I love delicate softness:
For me, love has brought the brightness
And the beauty of the Sun”


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Orestes and the Ἐρινύες

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Contents

° Preface
° A Premature Grieving
° Concerning The Abstractions of Extremism and Race
° Some Notes on The Politics and Ideology of Hate
        Part One: According to the Philosophy of The Numinous Way
        Part Two: A Personal Perspective – My Uncertitude of Knowing
° Some Philosophical and Moral Problems of National-Socialism
° Suffering And The Human Culture Of Pathei-Mathos
° Persecution And War
° The Matter With Death
° Appendix I: Physis And Being
° Appendix II: Self-Dramatization, Sentimentalist?

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Extremism And Reformation
(pdf)

Extract from the Preface:

The genesis of this 68-page compilation of essays was, as mentioned in the included essay A Premature Grieving, the publication in 2019, by a well-financed, now Establishment, political advocacy group, of various unsubstantiated allegations and disinformation about me and the subsequent repetition of such allegations and disinformation by some mainstream newspapers and media outlets.

The unsubstantiated allegations and the disinformation concerned my supposed continuing involvement with extremism, specifically neo-nazism; it being apparent that neither the political advocacy group nor the newspapers and media which repeated the allegations and the disinformation had bothered to read my extensive post-2011 writings about rejecting extremism and about seeking expiation for my decades-long extremist past.

This compilation of essays is my reply to those unsubstantiated allegations and disinformation.

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Image credit:
Orestes and the Ἐρινύες. Red figure vase, c. 380 BCE


David Myatt

°°°

While the following two part essay, written in 2012, has been superseded by my 2013 book Understanding And Rejecting Extremism (ISBN 978-1484854266) and by subsequent writings concerning the ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’ it nevertheless in my fallible view may have some relevance for those interested both in my rejection of extremism and how and why I developed my ‘numinous way’ into the ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’.

The writing of this essay – with its many suppositions and many generalizations and some rhetoric – helped me organize and then refine my thoughts about extremism in general and my own extremist past in particular. It also made me moderate my thoughts and how I came to express those thoughts in writing; a moderation expressed by my Understanding And Rejecting Extremism. [1]

David Myatt
May 2019

[1] A gratis open access (pdf) version of the book is available at https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/dwm-rejecting-extremism-v3.pdf

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Politics and Ideology of Hate
(pdf)


Orestes and the Ἐρινύες

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An Indebtedness To Ancient Greek And Greco-Roman Culture

One of my fond memories of English schooldays was as a Sixth Form boarder in the late 1960’s when I had a room to myself and an allowance from my father who had returned to live and work in Africa.

As recounted elsewhere [1] the allowance allowed me to travel and buy books, often from bookshops in London, Oxford, and Cambridge, and one such purchase was of the complete, multi-volume, Oxford English Dictionary, and almost every evening I loved

“to dip into it for an hour or so, discovering new words, their etymology, and a quotation or two to betake me, in the days following, to some library or some bookshop to find and to read the work or works in question. I enjoyed the richness, the diversity, the flexibility, of the English language; its assimilation of so many words from other languages, and that ambiguity of sound which sometimes led to or could lead to such variations in spelling as sometimes seemed to annoy those who desired to reform that language and which reform would see its versatility, quirkiness, and heritage, lost in order to fit some boring manufactured schemata.” [2]

Such schoolboy habits would prove useful when I began to develope my philosophy of pathei-mathos and saught to express my intuitions about Being and about our mortal being through the medium of English words.

Such an expression led me to use some non-English terms mostly from Ancient Greek but occasionally from Latin in the hope that such terms would not only be able to convey my meaning better than some easily mis-understood English term but also might be assimilated into the English language as philosophical terms either in their transliterated English form or in their Greek and Latin form.

Such terms might also reveal my indebtedness to Ancient Greek and Greco-Roman culture and how and why the philosophy of pathei-mathos is both a “transition from mythoi and anthropomorphic deities (theos and theoi) to an appreciation of the numinous sans denotatum and sans religion” [3] and thus a return to individual insight and understanding over impersonal abstractions/ideations, over denotatum, and over religious and political dogma, with the Latin denotatum – used as an Anglicized term and which thus can be used to describe both singular and plural instances of denoting and naming – a useful example of my somewhat idiosyncratic methodology.

Thus and for example I used and use σοφόν instead of σοφός when the sense implied is not the usual “skilled”, or “learned” or “wise” but rather what lies beyond and what was/is the genesis of what is presenced in a person as skill, or learning, or wisdom.

I used and use σωφρονεῖν in preference to σωφροσύνη (sophrosyne) to suggest a fair and balanced personal judgement rather than the fairly modern English interpretation of sophrosyne as “soundness of mind, moderation”.

I used and use Δίκα instead of δίκη when the sense implied is “what lies beyond and what was the genesis of δίκη personified as [a] goddess”, which is the natural instinct in those of noble physis (φύσις) for honour, fairness, and beauty – καλὸς κἀγαθός [4] – and thus the natural balance rather than “the correct/customary/ancestral way” or an abstract, impersonal, modern-type of “justice”.

In most such cases the Greek words are used, as I wrote in A Note On Greek Terms In The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos, in an Anglicized way – as transliterated terms such as pathei-mathos and enantiodromia are – with there being no need to employ Greek inflective forms.

In the cases where the Greek words are not transliterated – σωφρονεῖν as sophronein for example – the intent was to not only provide a direct link to Ancient Greek and Greco-Roman culture but also to signify that the word represents an important or interesting metaphysical principle in the philosophy of pathei-mathos.

Hence σοφόν – sophon – is how and why empathy and pathei-mathos can reveal and can presence our physis, the nature of our being, the nature of Being itself, and reveal that Time is not only causal but acausal. It also suggests, as do Δίκα and σωφρονεῖν, the primacy and the importance of individual insight and understanding.

In a world where propaganda and disinformation still proliferate, based as they are on denotatum and often on political dogma and impersonal abstractions/ideations, and in a world where mythoi and anthropomorphic deities (theos and theoi) and thus organized religion still seem to dominate, the philosophy of pathei-mathos provides an alternative: the individual way of pathei-mathos and of empathy, based as it is on four axioms:

(i) that it is empathy and pathei-mathos which can wordlessly reveal the ontological reality both of our own physis and of how we, as sentient beings, relate to other living beings and to Being itself; (ii) that it is denotatum – and thus the abstractions deriving therefrom – which, in respect of human beings, can and often do obscure our physis and our relation to other living beings and to Being; (iii) that denotatum and abstractions imply a dialectic of contradictory opposites and thus for we human beings a separation-of-otherness; and (iv) that this dialectic of opposites is, has been, and can be a cause of suffering for both ourselves, as sentient beings, and – as a causal human presenced effect – for the other life with which we share the planet named in English as Earth. [5]

Does my idiosyncratic use of Ancient Greek and Latin terms make this philosophy confusing, difficult to understand and difficult to appreciate? Perhaps. But since philosophia – ϕιλοσοϕία – is, at least according to my fallible understanding, becoming a friend of σοφόν, [6] and since such a personal friendship involves seeking to understand Being, beings, and Time, and since part of the ethos of the culture of the West – heir to Ancient Greek and Greco-Roman culture – is or at least was a personal and rational quest for understanding and knowledge, then perhaps some effort, as befits those of noble physis who appreciate and who may seek to presence καλὸς κἀγαθός, is only to be expected.

David Myatt
April 2019

[1] Early Years, in Myngath: Some Recollections of a Wyrdful and Extremist Life. 2013. ISBN 978-1484110744.

[2] The Joy Of Words, 2013.

[3] From Mythoi To Empathy: Toward A New Appreciation Of The Numinous. 2018.

[4] I have described καλὸς κἀγαθός in my two recent books Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos, and Tu Es Diaboli Ianua.

[5] Physis And Being: An Introduction To The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos. 2019.

[6] The Way of Pathei-Mathos: A Philosophical Compendiary, in The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos, fifth edition, 2018. ISBN 978-1484096642.

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Image credit:
Orestes and the Ἐρινύες. Red figure vase, c. 380 BCE


Orestes and the Ἐρινύες

°°°

A Premature Grieving

A recent occurrence, although expected for some years, saddened me expressing as it seemed to do something about our human physis; about how for so many people our physis does not seem to have evolved that much, if at all, despite our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos.

The occurrence was the publication of a report – by a well-financed, now Establishment, advocacy group – in two parts of which report I was repeatedly mentioned, with the author of those parts making various allegations about me for which he provided no evidence; who misattributed certain quotations to me; who made fundamental and multiple factual errors; who committed various logical fallacies; who was generally biased and dishonourable and who thus rather than promoting hope and fairness promoted old-world hostility toward and a stereotyping of particular individuals.

My resigned sadness was because for that author it was as if propaganda on behalf of some cause came before, was more important than, truth and empathy; as if there was for that author no personal belief in redemption, in the possibility of individuals changing for the better, except insofar – perchance – as such change was toward the cause he believed in; and thus as if the author was selective, judgemental, about those given the benefit of the doubt using the ideology of some cause, or their own prejudice, rather than humanity, as the criteria of judgement.

As I wrote in 2012:

“could my career as an extremist have been brought to an earlier end had one or some of my opponents taken the trouble to get to know me personally and rationally revealed to me the error of my suffering-causing, unethical, extremist ways? Perhaps; perhaps not – I admit I do not know. I do know, however, how my personal interaction with, and the ethical behaviour of, the Police I interacted with from the time of my arrest by officers from SO12 in 1998, permanently changed (for the better) my attitude toward the Police.” [1]

Instead of an empathic, a human, an honourable approach the author preferred propaganda, repeating the stereotyping he used almost two decades ago.

Thus in the stereotyping of me by that author my extensive writings in the past eight years about rejecting all forms of extremism, my extensive and intensely personal writings regarding my struggle to reform myself as a result of pathei-mathos, were ignored. [2]

“Thus am I humbled, once more, by such knowing feeling of the burden made from my so heavy past; so many errors, mistakes. So many to humble me here, now, by such profusion as becomes prehension of centuries past and passing, bringing as such a passing does such gifts of they now long beyond life’s ending who crafted from faith, feeling, experience, living, love, those so rich presents replete with meaning; presenting thus to us if only for a moment – fleeting as Thrush there feeding – that knowing of ourselves as beings who by empathy, life, gifts, and love, can cease to be some cause of suffering.

For no longer is there such a need – never was there such a need – to cause such suffering as we, especially I, have caused. For are not we thinking thoughtful beings – possessed of the numinous will to love?

But my words, my words – so unlike such musick [Dunstable: Preco preheminencie] – fail: such finite insubstantial things; such a weak conduit for that flowing of wordless feeling that, as such musick, betakes us far out beyond our causal selves to where we are, can be, should be, must be, the non-interfering beauty of a moment; a sublime life seeking only to so gently express that so gentle love that so much faith has sometimes so vainly so tried to capture, express, and manifest; as when that boyish man as monk past Compline knelt in gentleness to feel to become such peace, such a human happiness, as so many others have felt centuries past and present, one moment flowing so numinously to another.” [3]

Yet, as I wrote some years ago,

“I harbour no resentment against individuals, or organizations, or groups, who over the past forty or so years have publicly and/or privately made negative or derogatory comments about me or published items making claims about me.

Indeed, I now find myself in the rather curious situation of not only agreeing with some of my former political opponents on many matters, but also (perhaps) of understanding (and empathizing with) their motivation; a situation which led and which leads me to appreciate even more just how lamentable my extremism was and just how arrogant, selfish, wrong, and reprehensible, I as a person was, and how in many ways many of those former opponents were and are (ex concesso) better people than I ever was or am.

Which is one reason why I have written what I have recently written about extremism and my extremist past: so that perchance someone or some many may understand extremism, and its causes, better and thus be able to avoid the mistakes I made, avoid causing the suffering I caused; or be able to in some way more effectively counter or prevent such extremism in the future. And one reason – only one – why I henceforward must live in reclusion and in silencio.” [4]

That I have now broken such self-imposed silence is the result of my resigned sadness regarding how far we mortals still have to travel to be able to live, en masse, empathic and compassionate lives, and of how so many individuals still – from whatever personal motive or because of some cause or ideology – promote old-world hostility toward and a stereotyping of particular individuals.

Perhaps the goddess Δίκη will touch some of those so many hostile individuals, for as Aeschylus wrote,

Δίκα δὲ τοῖς μὲν παθοῦσιν μαθεῖν ἐπιρρέπει:
τὸ μέλλον δ᾽, ἐπεὶ γένοιτ᾽, ἂν κλύοις: πρὸ χαιρέτω:
ἴσον δὲ τῷ προστένειν.

“Δίκη favours someone learning from adversity:
But I shall hear of what will be, after it comes into being:
Before then, I leave it,
Otherwise, it is the same as a premature grieving.” [5]

Which is yet one more reason why I am still learning and still have far to travel, for that recent occurrence brought a premature grieving.

David Myatt
Ash Wednesday 2019

[1] A Matter of Honour (pdf).

[2] These writings include (i) Just My Fallible Views, Again, (ii) Understanding and Rejecting Extremism (pdf), (iii) Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos (pdf), and the letters and essays included in (iv) Such Respectful Wordful Offerings (pdf).

[3] Bright Berries, One Winter, written 22 December 2010.

[4] Pathei-Mathos – Genesis of My Unknowing, written in 2012.

[5] Agamemnon, 250-253.


Image credit:
Orestes and the Ἐρινύες. Red figure vase, c. 380 BCE


Orestes and the Ἐρινύες

 

Persecution And War

A Remembering

Reared as a Roman Catholic, educated for a while at a Catholic preparatory school and then – again for a while – at a Catholic boarding school, I remember the history taught by our teachers and Priests of the centuries-long persecution of English and Irish Catholics that began in the 16th century. There were stories of martyrs; of recusants; of secret Masses; of anti-Catholic polemics and propaganda; and of the monks who – after the suppression of the monasteries, the theft of monastic lands and wealth, begun by a tyrannos named Henry – escaped to France and founded monasteries such as the one at Dieulouard in Lorraine.

There thus was engendered in we Catholic children a feeling of difference, aided by the fact that our Mass was in Latin, by our sacrament of confession, by the practice of Gregorian chant, and by the singing of hymns such as Faith Of Our Fathers with its memorable verses

Faith of our Fathers living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword […]
We will be true to thee till death […]

Our Fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free […]
Faith of our Fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to thee

This feeling of difference was forcefully remembered when I in the early 1970’s – during The Troubles – ventured to visit Northern Ireland; when I in the mid-1970’s and as a Catholic monk spent several weeks staying at a Presbytery in Dublin; and when I in the mid-1990’s – before the Good Friday Agreement – visited Derry.

Forcefully remembered because I listened to accounts of the burning of Catholic homes by Protestant mobs in 1969 and the subsequent flight of hundreds of Catholic families to the Irish Republic where they were housed in refugee camps; listened to witness accounts of the killing of eleven Catholics, including a Priest, by the British Army in Ballymurphy in 1971; listened to witness accounts of the killing of fourteen Catholics, again by the British Army, in Derry in 1972; and listened to stories of the persecution of Irish Catholics under British rule.

Such a remembering, such a childhood feeling of difference, formed part of the years-long personal and philosophical reflexion that occupied me for several years as I, between 2006 and 2009, developed my ‘numinous way’ and then between 2011 and 2012 gradually refined it into the ‘way of pathei-mathos’, with the core of that reflexion concerning matters such as extremism, my own extremist past, war, prejudice, intolerance, and persecution.

War And Combat

Familiar as I was with ancient works by Thucydides, Herodotus, Livy, and others; with many works concerning more recent European history by modern historians, as well as with personal accounts of those who had fought for both the Allies and the Axis during World War Two, I recalled some words of Cicero:

“Aliis ego te virtutibus, continentiae, gravitatis, iustitiae, fidei, ceteris omnibus.”

“because of your other virtues of self-restraint, of dignity, of fairness, of honesty, and all other such qualities…” [1]

Which led me to consider making a distinction between war and a more personal combat, between a modern krieg and the Old Germanic werra, given that war, from my reading of and admittedly fallible understanding of history, seemed to me to involve – by its very nature of necessitating killing and causing injury – intolerance, hatred, a divisive sense of difference often involving “us” believing we were “better” (or more civilized) than them, our enemies, thus leading to a dehumanization of “the enemy”. A divisive sense of difference and a dehumanization often aided (particularly in modern times) by polemics, rumour, and propaganda; and a divisive sense of difference, a dehumanization, together with polemics, rumour, and propaganda, which I knew from my own decades of political and religious activism formed a core part of all types of extremism.

The distinction I considered was that personal combat unlike war did not involve large armies fighting against each other because of some diktat or personal agenda by some tyrannos or because of some ideology or religion or policy of some State or government. Instead, combat involved small groups – such as clans or tribes or neighbours – fighting because of some personal quarrel or some wrong or some perceived grievance.

But the more I considered this supposed distinction between combat and war the more I realized that in practice there was no such distinction since both involved principles similar to those of the Ancient Roman Leges Regiae – qv. the Jus Papirianum attributed to Sextus Papirius – where someone or some many possess or have acquired (through for example force of arms) or have assumed authority over others, and who by the use of violence and/or by the threat of punishment and/or by oratory or propaganda, are able to force or persuade others to accept such authority and obey the commands of such authority.

This acceptance by individuals of a supra-personal authority – or, more often, the demand by some supra-personal authority that individuals accept such a supra-personal authority – was manifest in the Christian writings of Augustine (b.354 CE, d.430 CE), such as his De Civitate Dei contra Paganos where in Book XIX, chapter xiii, he wrote of the necessity of a hierarchy in which God is the supreme authority, with peace between human beings and God requiring obedience to that authority; with peace between human beings, and civil peace, also of necessity requiring obedience to an order in which each person has their allotted place, “Ordo est parium dispariumque rerum sua cuique loca tribuens dispositio.”

Which hierarchy and acceptance of authority led Augustine to describe – in book XXII of Contra Faustum Manichaeum – the concept that war requires the authority of a person (such as a monarch) who has such “necessary” authority over others. This concept regarding war has remained a guiding principle of modern Western nations where the authority to inaugurate and prosecute a war against perceived enemies resides in the State, and thus in modern potentates who have seized power or in elected governments and their representatives such as Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Authority And Society

In the nations of the West, such a hierarchy of authority applies not only to war and its prosecution but also to changes, to reform, in society [2] for there is, as I mentioned in The Numinous Way Of Pathei-Mathos,

“a hierarchy of judgement involved, whatever political ‘flavour’ the government is assigned to, is assumed to represent, or claims it represents; with this hierarchy of necessity requiring the individual in society to either (i) relinquish their own judgement, being accepting of or acquiescing in (from whatever reason or motive such as desire to avoid punishment) the judgement of these others, or (ii) to oppose this ‘judgement of others’ either actively through some group, association, or movement (political, social, religious) or individually, with there being the possibility that some so opposing this ‘judgement of others’ may resort to using violent means against the established order.” [3]

In the way of pathei-mathos authority is personal, based on individual empathy and a personal pathei-mathos; both of which have a local horizon so that what is

“beyond our personal empathic knowing of others, beyond our knowledge and our experience [our pathei-mathos], beyond the limited (local) range of our empathy and that personal (local) knowledge of ourselves which pathei-mathos reveals – is something we rationally, we humbly, accept we do not know and so cannot judge or form a reasonable, a fair, a balanced, opinion about. For empathy, like pathei-mathos, lives within us; manifesting, as both empathy and pathei-mathos do, the always limited nature, the horizon, of our own knowledge and understanding.” [4]

In practical terms this means trying to cultivate within ourselves the virtues mentioned by Cicero – self-restraint, dignity, fairness, honesty – and implies we have no concern for or we seek to cultivate no concern for supra-personal hierarchies and supra-personal authority – whether political, religious, or otherwise – and thus move away from, try to distance ourselves from, the consequences of such supra-personal hierarchies and supra-personal authority manifest as the consequences are and have been, throughout our history, in war, prejudice, intolerance, unfairness, extremism, and persecution in the name of some ideology, some religion, or because someone has commanded us to persecute those that they and others have declared are “our” enemies, and which war and persecutions are often, especially in modern times, accompanied by propaganda and lies.

Thus in the case of my Catholic remembering, those soldiers in Ballymurphy and in Derry shot and killed civilians, women included, because those soldiers believed them to be “enemies”, because propaganda had dehumanized those enemies; because those soldiers were part of and obeyed a hierarchical, supra-personal, chain-of-command by being there armed and prepared to use deadly force and violence against individuals they did not personally know; and because in the aftermath of those killings, and for years afterwards, they were not honest and hence did not contradict the propaganda stories, the lies, about those events which some of their superiors and others circulated in an attempt to justify such acts of inhumanity.

Yet for me the real tragedy is that events similar to those of my very personal remembering have occurred on a vaster scale millennia after millennia and are still occurring, again on a vaster scale and world-wide, despite us having access to the wisdom of the past, manifest as such wisdom is, for those reared in the West, in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, in the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles, in the mythos of Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες [5], in many of the writings of Cicero, in Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν by Marcus Aurelius, in the numinous beauty of Gregorian chant, in the music of JS Bach, and in so many, many, other writers and artists ancient and modern.

Ða sceolde se hearpere weorðan swa sarig
þæt he ne meahte ongemong oðrum mannum bion
(XXXV, 6)

David Myatt
9.ix.18

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[1] M. Tullius Cicero, Pro Murena Oratio, 23. My translation.

[2] By ‘society’ in the context of this essay and the way of pathei-mathos is meant a collection of individuals who dwell, who live, in a particular area and who are subject to the same laws and the same institutions of authority. Modern society is thus a manifestation of some State, and States are predicated on individuals actively or passively accepting some supra-personal authority, be it governmental (national) or regional (county), or more usually both.

[3] “Society, Politics, Social Reform, and Pathei-Mathos”. The Numinous Way Of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. Fifth edition. Link: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/numinous-way-v5c-print.pdf

[4] “Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions.” 2015. Link: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/personal-reflexions-on-some-metaphysical-questions/

[5] “Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies.” Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 516

°°°

Related:

° Agamemnon: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/agamemnon.pdf

° Oedipus Tyrannus: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/oedipus-tyrannus-v1.pdf


Image credit: Orestes and the Ἐρινύες. Red figure vase, c. 380 BCE


Attic Vase c. 480 BCE, depicting Athena (Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany)

Breaking My Silence

As someone brought up as a Catholic, who in his early years was educated at a Catholic Preparatory School, who entered the noviciate of a Catholic monastery, and who – perhaps unusually – also some years later converted to Islam, lived for a decade as a Muslim, travelled in Muslim lands, and studied the Quran and Sunnah in Arabic, I am dismayed, unsettled, at the killing of an elderly Priest in a Church at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in France by two persons who (according to information received so far) were radical Muslims and probably inspired by the Middle-Eastern group ad-Dawlah al-Islamiyah fil ‘Iraq wa ash-Sham, named in the lands of the West as Daesh, Isis, and ‘Islamic State’.

So dismayed, unsettled, that I have the temerity to break my self-imposed, years-long, silence regarding ‘current affairs’ and ‘current events’. For such a killing of such an elderly religious figure – taken hostage with (according to current and informed reports) two nuns during Mass – is just so dishonourable, so cowardly, that it yet again places (for me at least) into perspective “what is at stake”, remembering as I do that quotational phrase because it was said to me in 2001 by a Special Branch (SO12) British police officer shortly after the 9/11 attacks in New York.

What is at stake – as that Special Branch officer, and so many of his colleagues, intuitively knew – is the culture of the West itself, manifest as that culture is in such modern societies as those in Britain, France, and the United States, and created as such a culture has been by hundreds of years of communal and individual hardship and pathei-mathos. For the lands of such a culture are – despite their many imperfections, and in comparison to so many other non-Western lands – places of relative safety and peace and opportunity for the majority of their citizens. Places of law, and order, where so many know – and try to do – what is right, what is just, what is honourable. And places where so many other people, world-wide, hope and seek to reach and live.

Of course, such truths are not what I, personally, believed for many decades, seeking as I so often did to undermine such Western societies by political, by revolutionary, and even by terrorist, means. But as I mentioned in a fairly recent essay:

“The reality of The United States of America – in its vastness and its diversity (social, religious, racial) – is, as so discovered via my own recent pathei-mathos, so very different from the answers propagated by those who, lacking such a personal pathei-mathos extending over years of such a diverse America, personally or ideologically fixate on ‘this’ or ‘that’ perceived or even real causal personal problems as exist in a land such as America. Yet the reality of America is of many people – both in government and otherwise – who, from the best of intentions, seek and have saught to make their family, their local area, their State, their nation, a better place.”  [1]

What therefore can be done, and is there as some have assumed a clash of ‘civilizations’ with “us” contrasted with “them”?

As to what can be done, my own fallible answer born as it is from some four decades of experience of extremism and pathei-mathos, is that it seems incumbent upon us to know, to remember, how and why our Western societies came into being, how and why they have been progressively reformed over a century and more, and why it is incumbent on each one of us to be prepared to do what is honourable in the immediacy of the living moment.

In this I recall what another member of SO12 said to me following my arrest in 1998 following allegations of ‘conspiracy/incitement to murder’ and ‘incitement to racial hatred’. Which was that he was simply doing his duty, in an honourable way, according to what was laid down: according to the oath of his office and thus according to the accumulated law of the land, and that it was not for him or his colleagues to judge since such judgement was the prerogative of an established Court of Law so constituted in its longevity that a fair trial was possible. He had guidelines, a supra-personal and well-established duty, while I realized I had none, having been guided for so long only by hubris.

As to whether there is a ‘clash of civilizations’, my own fallible answer is that there is not; that here, now – as so often in our human past – there is only a clash between the honourable and the dishonourable, and that while such modern societies as those in Britain, France, and the United States, are far from perfect they do often manifest for perhaps a majority what is decent, honourable, especially when compared to the majority of past societies, so that when dishonour occurs in such societies – when some dishonourable deed is done – there are usually individuals, be they Police officers, or soldiers, or journalists, or some citizen, who will seek to redress that dishonour.

For honour is only and ever honour, always the same, while the dishonourable, the cowardly, can hide behind, and have for millennia hidden behind, some cause or ideology or religion or some personal excuse that they or others have manufactured and denoted by some name.

For the fault is not that of some religion named Islam; nor of some extremist version of that religion. The fault is ourselves, our human nature; our propensity – and seemingly, sometimes, our need – to be violent, to find in some cause or some ideology or some religion, an excuse for our desire, our need, to be selfish, dishonourable, violent, or establish a ‘name’ for ourselves.

What we – in societies such as those in Britain, France, and the United States – have evolved, so slowly, so painfully over a century and more are some reasonable guidelines, a sense of duty, regarding what is honourable and what is dishonourable.

As Homer declaimed well over two thousand years ago:

τὸν δ᾽ ἐπαλαστήσασα προσηύδα Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη:
‘ὢ πόποι, ἦ δὴ πολλὸν ἀποιχομένου Ὀδυσῆος
δεύῃ, ὅ κε μνηστῆρσιν ἀναιδέσι χεῖρας ἐφείη.
εἰ γὰρ νῦν ἐλθὼν δόμου ἐν πρώτῃσι θύρῃσι
σταίη, ἔχων πήληκα καὶ ἀσπίδα καὶ δύο δοῦρε  [2]

David Myatt
July 26th 2016

Extract From A Letter To A Friend

°°°

[1] In Praise Of America And Britain (pdf), 2015.

[2] Then Pallas Athena – angry at this – said to him:
Before the gods! How great is the need here for the absent Odysseus –
For him to set about these disrespectful ones with his fists!
Would that he would arrive at the outer gate of this dwelling
With his helmet on and holding his shield and two spears.

Odyssey, Book I, 252-256 (pdf)


Image credit:
Attic Vase c. 480 BCE, depicting Athena (Antikensammlungen, Munich)