A few months ago, I decided to stop fisking the awful op-eds produced by Ed Hudgins for The Objectivist Center. The process was too easy to be interesting. Plus, I’d ripped apart more than enough to permit my honest readers to grasp TOC’s consistent betrayal of Objectivist principles in its attempts at cultural activism. I’ve not even bothered to read any of the more recent op-eds produced by TOC. What would be the point?
However, I did read the new op-ed by Ed Hudgins mentioned by “D Eastbrook” in his (terribly off-topic) comment: “The Iliad and Islam.” It was much more offensive than expected. Ed is no longer appeasing run-of-the-mill religionists: he’s moved on to flattering the terrorists.
As the title “The Iliad and Islam” suggests, the article focuses upon a comparison of the culture portrayed by Homer in the Iliad with that of the modern militant Islamists. About the Greeks, Hudgins writes: “The Bronze-Age society of the Greeks who fought before Priam’s fortress around 1250 BCE was in many ways primitive and brutal. After the sack of sacred Ilium that society collapsed. Five hundred years later Homer told the tale in a Greek society that had emerged from a dark age and was in transition to the classical civilization that marked the birth of the West.” Then he draws the parallel to modern Islamists: “America today is at war with barbarians from a culture that also is primitive and brutal but which is hopefully in transition to something far better.”
To create this unholy package-deal, Hudgins maligns the world of the Iliad in most unjust terms. He ignores the wider context of the story in which the unbridled, inhuman passions of Achilles rage to suggest that such represented Greek culture at the time. He characterizes that world as thoroughly dominated by religious fervor for omnipresent deities simply because the all-too-human gods are active characters in Iliad. On both points, he contrasts the epic of Homer with the views of the later Greek philosophers, as if the later overturned the former.
That’s a novel interpretation of the historical impact of Homer’s epic, to say the least! In fact, the glorious accomplishments of the Golden Age of Athens grew out of the fruitful foundation laid by Homer. The Iliad is no barbarian melodrama: its themes include the rule of law, the freedoms of speech and choice, the natural equality of man, the destructiveness of unbridled passions, the limitations of the divine, the honor due excellence, the demands of justice, and more. In itself, the work is an impressive exercise in critical self-reflection upon Greek culture. Homer’s epics shaped Hellenistic culture enormously as core educational texts for centuries. He is perhaps the first hero of Western civilization — and ought to be venerated as such.
Hudgins’ misrepresentations of the awe-inspiring world of Homer’s Iliad permit him to liken it to the barbaric culture advocated and practiced by modern Islamic terrorists. He claims that “radical Islamists today–like ancient Achilles–are dominated by their rage and hatred.” (Those nasty feelings plus “envy of the West” constitute the whole of Hudgins explanation for the barbaric acts of the terrorists.) In fact, the cases are more than a little different. Most obviously, the terrorists nurse their bitter hatred until they (literally) explode, whereas the destructive power of the wrath of Achilles is intended as a warning to the Greeks. Hudgins also claims that “Islamists share with Bronze-Age Greeks an obsession with religion.” Certainly, the Olympian gods frequently involve themselves in the action of the Trojan War. Yet the relationship between the Greeks and their insensible, weak, quarrelsome, cowardly, and manipulative gods bears no resemblance to the abject submission of the terrorists to a vengeful, omnipotent Allah.
What is the ultimate end of all this folly? It is to suggest that some great culture of reason can arise from militant Islam itself, just as classical Greece arose from the supposed barbarism portrayed in Homer’s epics. Remember the comment from the beginning that, “America today is at war with barbarians from a culture that also is primitive and brutal but which is hopefully in transition to something far better.” That’s an absurdly arbitrary hope, but hey, if the Greeks did it, anyone can! I’m sure that the death-worshipping mysticism of Islamism will give rise to something very much like the Greek culture of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Euripides, Sophocles, and the like in just a few centuries! Hudgins even tells us how that can happen:
A millennium ago Islam had a tradition of rational thought and critical thinking that created a major civilization; Islamic scholars in that era reintroduced the works of Aristotle into backwards, Medieval Europe. Today the backwards cultures in most Islamic countries are dominated by anger, violence and superstition. And it will only be an ethic of reason and the subjugation of whims to thoughtful reflection that can lead those cultures and their people back to enlightenment and free their imaginations and creativity so they can lead truly human lives.
Yup, a little “thoughtful reflection” will surely cure those terrorists of their unhappy propensity suddenly explode in crowd of peaceful people. Their fundamental problem is emotionalism, right? Since the barbaric Greeks solved that problem, so can the militant Islamists!
Unfortunately, “The Iliad and Islam” is not a confused, barely comprehensible muddle like so many of Ed Hudgins’ other philosophical train wrecks. It’s basic message comes through loud and clear. It might have been written by Ed Hudgins, but it bears all the earmarks of David Kelley’s campaign of appeasing Islam.