Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why the West must (as must India) preserve and immerse itself in its roots, its classics

. . . without them, we are rootless, floating in a meaningless world. This return to our roots, something to keep us from drifting aimlessly, shows us from whence we came and points the way to where we have to go.

This is not in imitation of the musulman, who for every action to be taken, looks back to his koran, with nothing left to learn from before this was compiled, nothing exist for him before the the 7th Century C.E.

Our purpose here is to save our Civilization, before it is destroyed by the musulmans, and everything prior to their Mohammed is obliterated, all our antiquities gone, forever.

. . . top students in the United States chant[ed] the battlecry of the new creed, Diversity: "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Western Culture's Got To Go."

We cannot sustain ourselves when, as Simone Weil said, ". . . the growing weakness, and . . . the disappearance, of the idea of value" is characteristic of us and our time.


By the twentieth century . . . Plutarch's popularity began to fade. Professional classicists produced no revitalizing new edition of the Lives in modern English, and by the 1990's, classical studies had so declined in popularity that a riot at Stanford University featured thousands of the top students in the United States chanting the battlecry of the new creed, Diversity: "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Western Culture's Got To Go." Plutarch's heroes had no place in their brave new world of gray equality, populated by puppets of money, resentful of eminence.

Moreover, all discrimination between good and bad was actively suppressed among the intelligentsia. In the words of Simone Weil: "The essential characteristic of the first half of the twentieth century is the growing weakness, and almost the disappearance, of the idea of value. ... But above all [those responsible were] the writers who were the guardians of the treasure that has been lost; and some of them now take pride in having lost it." 9

Another cause for Plutarch's loss of popularity was that reading skills declined generally with the advent more seductive entertainment such as television and Nintendo games, and the decline of public schools. Plutarch's elaborate sentence structure and long digressions, preserved in the Dryden edition, are a challenge to modern young readers of English, who, if they read at all, require a pruned-down text that gets to the point.

As classics departments continue to close, embattled scholars demand cramdown Greek grammar for all, and Greek drama in the original. The best has indeed become the enemy of the good. Scholastic diligence has produced such a dense cloud of ink that the ancient light grows dim, and so, at the end of the twentieth century, the cycle of Plutarch's popularity has reached its perigee.

But Plutarch will always come back, as he has after other dark ages. We find Plutarch surprisingly relevant today because nothing really has changed in human nature over the nineteen centuries since Plutarch wrote. As the greatest English thinker, Samuel Johnson, put it: "... we are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure." The Rambler, No. 60. And we all need heroic examples to show us the way.

There is a definite effect on readers of these ancient stories. Emerson said: "We cannot read Plutarch without a tingling of the blood; and I accept the saying of the Chinese Mencius: 'A sage is the instructor of a hundred ages. When the manners of Loo are heard of, the stupid become intelligent, and the wavering, determined.' "10 The spiritually inductive power of Plutarch's heroes, apart from Plutarch's own skill at sketching character and imparting wisdom, may explain the perennial appeal of the Lives.

To the biographies of his heroes, Plutarch brought a master's eye for the essence. Impressionist artists and poets are not to be faulted for failing to record every detail of their subjects with scrupulous fidelity, and likewise we should recognize that a deft sentence from Plutarch means more than volumes from minor scribes. Historical details are only incidental to the character of Plutarch's subjects. He clearly disclaims any pretensions to being a historian at the beginning of his life of Alexander: "My intention is not to write histories, but lives." The difference between Plutarch and a dry chronicle of the times is the difference between a cake and a pile of ingredients, understanding and knowledge, a person and a corpse.

It is this difference which makes a classic. Plutarch transcends the historical subjects he deals with and the period he wrote in. As Ben Jonson said of Shakespeare, we may say of Plutarch: "He was not of an age, but for all time."

(circa 45 - 125 A.D.)
Parallel Lives

[end of quote]

What good is all that old stuff to us today? You may well ask. Well, look at this:

The Battle of Leuctra (371 B.C.) introduced a new tactic known to military historians as the oblique order of battle. The Thebans, who had only 6,000 men against 11,000 of the invincible Spartans, loaded their left wing with a heavy column of hoplites, spearheaded by the Sacred Band under Pelopidas. This strike force would go against the Spartan right wing, where the king of Sparta and his best troops were. Epaminondas slanted the rest of his line, so that they were opposed to the other Spartans, but out of range. The Theban army, therefore, had a local superiority of force where they actually engaged. Once Pelopidas broke through, the Thebans rolled up the flank of the opposing force, as the slanted line held the enfiladed enemy in place by a threatened attack from the front. Spartan casualties were very heavy, and the military power of Sparta ended on that day.
For a further elucidation of the battle of Leuctra, see



The battle opened with the Spartan's mercenary peltasts (slingers, javilineers and/or skirmishers) attacking and driving back the Boeotian camp followers and others who were reluctant to fight. There followed a cavalry engagement, in which the Thebans drove their enemies off the field. Initially, the Spartan infantry were sent into disarray when their retreating cavalry hopelessly disrupted Cleombrotus's attempt to outflank the Theban phalanx, and were themselves caught on their flank by Pelopidas and the Sacred Band of Thebes. The decisive issue was then fought out between the Theban and Spartan foot.

The normal practice of the Spartans (and, indeed, the Greeks generally) was to establish their heavily armed infantry in a solid mass, or phalanx, some eight to twelve men deep. This was considered to allow for the best balance between depth (and the pushing power it provided) and width (i.e., area of coverage of the phalanx's front battle line). The infantry would advance together so that the attack flowed unbroken against their enemy. In order to combat the phalanx's infamous right-hand drift (see article phalanx for further information), Greek commanders traditionally placed their most experienced, highly regarded and, generally, deadliest troops on the right wing. By contrast, the shakiest and/or least influential troops were often placed on the left wing.

In a major break with tradition, Epaminondas massed his cavalry and a fifty-deep column of Theban infantry on his left wing, and sent forward this body against the Spartan right. His shallower and weaker center and right wing columns were drawn up so that they were progressively further to the right and rear of the proceeding column, in the so-called Echelon formation. The footsoldiers engaged, and the Spartans' twelve-deep formation on their right wing could not sustain the heavy impact of their opponents' 50-deep column. The Spartan right was hurled back with a loss of about 1,000 men, of whom 400 were Spartan citizens, including the king Cleombrotus I. By the time the Theban center and right columns advanced to the point of engaging the enemy, the Spartan right had been devastated. Seeing their right wing beaten, the rest of the Peloponnesians, who were essentially unwilling participants, retired and left the enemy in possession of the field. The arrival of a Thessalian army under Jason of Pherae persuaded a relieving Spartan force under Archidamus not to heap folly on folly and to withdraw instead, while the Thebans were persuaded not to continue the attack on the surviving Spartans.

Seeing their right wing beaten, the rest of the Peloponnesians (unwilling participants) retired and left the enemy in possession of the field. The arrival of a Thessalian army under Jason of Pherae persuaded a relieving Spartan force under Archidamus not to heap folly on folly and to withdraw instead, while the Thebans were persuaded not to continue the attack on the surviving Spartans. But the battle is none the less of great significance in Greek history. It marks a revolution in military tactics, affording the first known instance of a deliberate concentration of attack upon the vital point of the enemy's line. Its political effects were equally far-reaching: The loss in material strength and prestige which the Spartans here sustained went part of the way in depriving them forever of their supremacy in Greece.

A good prelude to the battle of Leuctra is given at

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Sharing a glimpse of the life I so dearly loved...
by "a sailor once"

I liked standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the globe.

I liked the sounds of the Navy - the piercing trill of the boatswains pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship's bell on the quarterdeck, harsh, and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work.

I liked Navy vessels -- plodding fleet auxiliaries like the USS Ute ATF-76) and amphibs, sleek submarines and steady solid aircraft carriers.

I liked the proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga, Coral Sea, Antietam, Valley Forge - - memorials of great battles won and tribulations overcome.

I liked the lean angular names of Navy "tin-cans" and escorts like the USS Maddox (DD-731) mementos of heroes who went before us

And the others - - San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles, St. Paul, Chicago, Oklahoma City, named for our cities

I liked the tempo of a Navy band.

I liked liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port

I even liked the never ending paperwork and all hands working parties as my ship filled herself with the multitude of supplies, both mundane and to cut ties to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there was water to float her.

I liked sailors, officers and enlisted men from all parts of the land, farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England, from the big cities, the mountains and the prairies, from all walks of life.

I trusted and depended on them as they trusted and depended on me -- for professional competence, for comradeship, for strength and courage. In a word, they were "shipmates"; then and forever.

I liked the surge of adventure in my heart, when the word was passed: ''Now Hear This'' "Now station the special sea and anchor detail – all hands to quarters for leaving port," and I liked the infectious thrill of sighting home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting pier side

The work was hard and dangerous; the going rough at times; the parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the "all for one and one for all" philosophy of the sea was ever present.

I liked the fierce and dangerous activity on the flight deck of aircraft carriers, earlier named for battles won but sadly now named for politicians. Enterprise, Independence, Boxer, Princeton and oh so many more, some lost in battle, and sadly many scrapped.

I liked the scent of aviation hi-octane fuel, and now jet . . . as the men in purple shirts hustled about to "feed" the flying weapons of war.

And the crews in red shirts rearming the aircraft for their next sortie.

I liked the flight crews readying their flying machines with the green shirted and brown shirted crews ensuring worthiness.

And then the white shirted crews directing the aircraft to the catapult followed by the crescendo of the aircraft shooting down the cat track and into the air.

I liked the feel of flying with a fine tuned air wing where all of the aircrews knew what to do and did it safely and well

I liked the exciting recovery of aircraft as they returned from combat or training. It was always an exciting event whether a landing was a trap or a bolter.

I liked the names of the aircraft and helicopters; Skyraider, Intruder, Sea King, Phantom, Skyhawk, Demon, Skywarrior, Corsair, and many more that bring to mind offensive and defensive orders of battle

I liked the excitement of an alongside replenishment as my ship slid in alongside the oiler and the cry of "Standby to receive shotlines" prefaced the hard work of rigging spanwires and fuel hoses echoed across the narrow gap of water between the ships and welcomed the mail and fresh milk, fruit and vegetables that sometimes accompanied the fuel.

I liked the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship's work, as flying fish flitted across the wave tops and sunset gave way to night.

I liked the feel of the Navy in darkness - the masthead and range lights, the red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating phosphorescence of radar repeaters - they cut through the dusk and joined with the mirror of stars overhead.

And I liked drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small that told me that my ship was alive and well, and that my shipmates on watch would keep me safe.

I liked quiet mid-watches with the aroma of strong coffee -- the lifeblood of the Navy permeating everywhere.

I liked the sudden electricity of "General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations," followed by the hurried clamor of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship transformed herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war -- ready for anything.

And I liked the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters clad in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognize.

I liked the traditions of the Navy and the men and now women who made them.

I liked the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John Paul Jones and Burke.

A sailor could find much in the Navy: comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman's trade. An adolescent could find adulthood.

In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, AND SO WE ARE, we still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods – the impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water surging over the bow.

And then there will come again a faint whiff of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief's quarters and mess decks.

Remembering this, WE stand taller and say, “I WAS A SAILOR ONCE."