After killing a usurper to the Achaemenid throne in 522 B.C., the Persian conspirators responsible for this act debated what form of government should replace him. It was no surprise at the time that they chose monarchy. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, notes that many Greeks were bewildered that such a discussion even took place. Their experience with the Persians generally put them beyond the possibility of deliberative politics.
The Greeks as opposed to the Persians put deliberation at the center of their affairs. Even when threatened with annihilation Greeks chose to embrace fierce debate over seeming trifles, such as who should hold this or that wing of the line of battle. Ever self-aware, the Athenians opened their arguments over the battle lines saying: “We appreciate that our reason for gathering here is to fight the Barbarians, not to make speeches. Nonetheless. . . .” And they poured out speeches.
Winston Churchill in his memoir The Second World War, took note of this exceptional quality of Greek character:
The Greeks rival the Jews in being the most politically minded race in the world. No matter how forlorn their circumstances or how grave the peril to their country, they always divided into many parties, with many leaders who fight among themselves with desperate vigor. It has been well said that wherever there are three Jews it will be found that there are two Prime Ministers and one leader of the opposition. The same is true of this other famous ancient race, whose stormy and endless struggle for life stretches back to the fountain springs of human thought.
Churchill, who himself was an exceptionally political person, of course meant this as a high compliment to Greeks and Jews alike, the peoples he most admired after the British.
From the Persians and the Greeks to the Cold Civil War
The trials of the West throughout history parallel the ancient struggle between the political Greeks and the apolitical Persians—this is the famous East/West duality in our history. Success in these struggles often is followed by the victors adopting the essential opinions of the vanquished and carrying the struggle into the new forms.
Today’s “new form” is one or another variety of historicism. Historicism generally, and Marxism particularly, asserts that all great political debates are over. Knowledge of “the end of history” renders politics as we know it superfluous The Marxist takes as fact that Marxism will bringing a final end to the bitter politics that have long defined human nature. Break the eggs, and make the omelette.
The Soviet Union, inspired by these beliefs, sought to reduce the whole world under its rule. The Soviet Union was ultimately defeated, or defeated itself, as the Greeks defeated Darius at Marathon. But just as 10 years after Marathon the Persians returned (and with a vastly greater force) in our present post-Cold War age, Marxist thought has returned, with greater potency.
Some have called our present time an age of “Cold Civil War.” And it’s true—we are invested in a (for now) civil struggle between globalism (and its appendages, the administrative state and cultural Marxism), on the one hand, and the Greek way of political deliberation, on the other.
The First Greek President
In this struggle, Donald Trump is the first Greek president.
To understand why, you need to look at the manners of the globalists and in them see the shadows of the Achaemenid Persians. If there is a distinguishing feature of progressive intellectual life it is that the debate is closed on most subjects. Here is a tweet from Barack Obama:
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 29, 2014
The character of this pronouncement, when first made, was novel in a society accustomed to deliberation. Today, it is dangerously common and considered true of almost all questions of political importance. At the university, topics of race, gender, class, intersectionality, privilege, and bias are almost entirely closed, a closure backed by the threat of, and actual, violence.
Beyond academia, for our governing elite, the “debate is over” in favor of globalism on trade, on international finance, on the benefits of global interdependence, on the issue of militarist foreign policy in the Middle East, on the moderate status of Islam, and on passivity in the face of militant lunacy of rogue regimes North Korea and Iran, among other topics. It is difficult to imagine globalists having a serious discussion on most topics that does not assume the conclusions of progressivism to be true.
The Uniparty and the Rebellion of Politics
The suppression of politics that stems from this Cold Civil War manifests itself in other ways. You have heard the expression “uniparty” in these pages and elsewhere. But what does it mean? Nothing less than the concession of all political opposition to the undebatable character of the settled issues of progressivism. The fight today is a mere skirmish over the pace and the methodology for ratifying these ends.
Trump is the first Greek president because he rejects the notion that issues are beyond debate. He is willing to consider positions outside the fold of globalism and cultural Marxism, and that earns him the aggressive opprobrium of globalists, for whom these are part of an inviolable catechism. He is also willing to consider positions outside of the fold of his own support. He does not agree that discussion of a bad position is tantamount to adopting it; rather it is a necessary step in rejecting it.
Trump is condemned by the opposition, as well as by his own party—and at times even by his own base—for the many surprising things he says. Following the braying condemnation of all corners of elite society, Trump defends what he says. He says at Charlottesville “There were very fine people on both sides.” The globalists respond that he is a white supremacist.
Trump is the first Greek president because he rejects the notion that issues are beyond debate. He is willing to consider positions outside the fold of globalism and cultural Marxism, and that earns him the aggressive opprobrium of globalists, for whom these are part of an inviolable catechism.
Trump returns the question of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to Congress, but expresses willingness to sign legislation providing accommodations to DACA beneficiaries. His supporters respond he has been captured by the swamp creatures.
Yet he persists, as would a Greek, in the insistence there were good people on both sides and that DACA beneficiaries deserve some consideration. These are, of course, just two examples. Trump behaves the same way on many topics. You might call it a habit. He reduces the habit to the simple expression: “I am not politically correct.”
He may as well say, I am political, and then add, if America is to be great again, it is necessary for you to be political, too. A first Greek president means Americans must relearn the habit of hearing arguments they don’t like, and making arguments others don’t like to hear.
The First Global Superstate
Persia was the first global superstate. Persian kings would demand “earth and water” from city-states as a token of their submission. As the Persian Empire grew, the Persian kings made a simple proposition: join a wealthy global alliance of 35 million people at the price of political freedom that is of no use to you, or be destroyed.
There were advantages to submission. The concentration of wealth at the top of Persian society created spellbinding grandeur. For most who submitted, there would be little change in their day-to-day lives, other than a modestly increased tax and the chance—only a chance—they or their children might be conscripted into a massive Persian campaign. For a few who would become advisors to or satraps of the Achaemenid Empire, they would enjoy power that would be impossible in a small city-state.
The same is true of today’s globalists. In a world dominated by politically minded sovereign nations, the power and wealth of global concerns—think Amazon, Tesla, Apple, Facebook, and the administrators and technocrats that service them—would be limited. The leading industries today are monopolies, and monopolies, whether industrial or governmental, are distinguished by maximal exploitation (including in regulation) of a market. Growth is dependent not so much on innovation as it is on growing new markets.
The captains of industry and technocratic elites of the globalist world are but satraps and advisors of a new global superstate, which imparts to them control over monopolies, just as the Persian empire imparted to its allies monopolies over taxation and the extraction of wealth. The globalists adore the power globalism lends them. And because governments still retain popular elements, they ask you to adore it, too.
To buy your adoration, there is a real promise of enormous wealth and opportunity, but only to a few. But to have what they promise, you have to be willing to sacrifice your political liberty.
When Darius sent messengers to Greece asking for “earth and water,” the leading Greeks refused to surrender political freedom, and threw the heralds into a pit. The action was intended as the clearest possible rejection of submission. Similarly, the election of 2016 was intended as a clear rejection of the global order.
When Darius sent messengers to Greece asking for “earth and water,” the leading Greeks refused to surrender political freedom, and threw the heralds into a pit. The action was intended as the clearest possible rejection of submission. Similarly, the election of 2016 was intended as a clear rejection of the global order. In effect, it was voters throwing globalism in the pit.
Economic Growth and The Power of Globalism
Globalism, like the Persian Empire before it, is an illusory promise, because, like so many things globalist, it is collective. It is a lottery ticket’s interest in an aggregate pool, a contingent share which, so long as it remains contingent, is intangible.
Globalism’s greater trade opportunities tend to increase the value of goods and services produced in an economy. But the growth concentrates at the top. The average man or woman notices little change in his or her economic condition, and in many cases a retreat, as the value of their labor falls.
When the Greeks finally defeated the Persians, the contrast between the richness of the Persian table and the simplicity of the Spartan table provoked laughter. The Greeks mocked the Persians for having invaded Greece to grasp . . . what? Its relative poverty? Greek freedom, they understood, is a far greater treasure than Persian luxury. Your political liberty, too, is a far greater treasure to you than the “wealth” or promise of globalism.
So Much Winning
Among the Persians, only a few saw through the veil of their own customs, and appreciated that they had made the mistake of going to war with a people who contend with one another for the mere honor of being the best. Most Persians, like Xerxes, could not understand the concept of competing in an Olympic games for the honor of wearing a laurel wreath. Xerxes, like today’s globalists, could understand exerting effort only if the end result was winning wealth or power. Trump, in contrast, speaks incessantly of winning abstracted from almost any context. One cannot help but enjoy recalling Trump’s remarks on May 26, 2016 in Billings, Montana:
We’re going to win. We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win at trade, we’re going to win at the border. We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come to me and go ‘Please, please, we can’t win anymore.’ You’ve heard this one. You’ll say ‘Please, Mr. President, we beg you sir, we don’t want to win anymore. It’s too much. It’s not fair to everybody else.
To his globalist critics, Trump’s emphasis on “winning” signals his emptiness. They call him “vapid” or worse. What on earth does Make America Great Again mean?
Much of the architecture of globalist culture is defined by one’s status as a victim. Losing, for the globalist is, in a sense, good for its own sake. Losing gives one claims on political communities. Winning only raises the question, winning what?
Having imbibed this Persian opinion, the globalist monopolist expects unimaginable rewards for winning, and the globalist politician expects to get rich for political service. In no person is this more evident than in Hillary Rodham Clinton. The honor of being the best would never be sufficient to one such as her. For the globalist, there is no pleasure in simply being the best. That is meaningless.. There has to be a financial reward, of increasingly massive proportions.
No person stands in greater opposition to this view of things for our country than Trump. As a billionaire turned politician, he has risked the destruction of his wealth and—it is no exaggeration given the vigor with which his opposition pursues him—his liberty for the honor of being president. And that seems fitting of a first Greek president.