David Brin: Why the Occupy Wall Street kids are better than the #$%! Spartans

  • Published on November 14th, 2011
(Photo by Jack David Savage, ImagesInPerspective.com)

By David Brin
(Originally posted at Contrary Brin)

A few days ago, the famous comic book writer and illustrator Frank Miller issued a howl of hatred toward the young people in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Well, all right, that’s a bowdlerization. After reading even one randomly-chosen paragraph, I’m sure you’ll agree that  “howl” understates the red-hot fury and scatalogical spew of Miller’s lavishly expressed hate: “Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.

In fact, I need do nothing more — in order to reduce that individual’s public esteem — than simply point you all to his bile-drenched missive.  Please. If you must choose between reading that or my detailed, cogently-argued response (below), by all means let his words suffice!  I cede the floor. Let him express the maturity and thoughtfulness of his side.

(Side? Miller has one. I do not. While I openly state the obvious –  that America’s right wing has gone insane, waging open Civil War against science, medicine, economics, journalism, education, skilled labor, civil servants, and every other practitioner of mental arts – I am nevertheless an equal-opportunity contrarian,  often seen skewering shibboleths of the far-and-loony-left.  If one side is far more crazy-dangerous to the Republic right now, I can remember when it was the other. I’m a paladin for militant, pragmatic moderation!)

Well, well. I’ve been fuming silently at Frank Miller for a years. The time’s come, so get ready for steam!  Because the screech that you just read – Miller’s attack on young citizens, clumsily feeling their way ahead toward saving their country – is only the latest example of Frank’s astonishing agenda. One that really needs exposure to light.

I’ll do it by dissecting – calmly and devastatingly – his most famous and lucrative piece of modern propaganda.  The comic book andmovie tale about Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae.

A tale called – “300.”

Leni Riefenstahl would be proud

Though I’m not best-known for graphic novels*, I’ve done a few. I’ve been sketching out a script about one of the greatest heroes of western civilization – Themistocles – the man who actually defeated Xerxes. the Persian emperor, during his brutal invasion of Greece, after the Spartans failed so miserably at Thermopylae.  In part, this would be an answer to Frank Miller’s “300”… a book and film that I find both visually stunning and morally disturbing.

For one thing, “300” gave all credit to the Spartans, extolling them as role models and peerless examples of manhood. Adorably macho defenders of freedom.

Uh, right.  Freedom. Sorry, but the word bears a heavy burden of irony when shouted by Spartans, who maintained one of the worst slave-states ever, treating the vast majority of their people as cattle, routinely quenching their swords in the bodies of poor, brutalized helots… who are never mentioned, even glimpsed, in the romanticized book or movie. Indeed, the very same queen who Frank Miller portrayed as so-earthy, so-kind, was said to be quite brutal with a whip, in real life.

Miller’s Spartan warriors honestly and openly conveyed the contempt for civilians that was felt across the ages by all feudal warrior castes. An attitude in sharp contrast to American sympathies, which always used to be about Minuteman farmers and shopkeepers – citizen soldiers – the kind who bravely pick up arms to aid their country, adapting and training under fire. Alas, Frank Miller’s book and movie “300” ridiculed that kind of soldier…

…even though the first invasion by Persia, ten years earlier – under Xerxes’s father – had been defeated by just such a militia army… from Athens… made up of farmers, clerks, tradesmen, artists and mathematicians. A rabble of ill-disciplined “brawlers” who, after waiting in vain for promised help from Sparta, finally decided to handle the problem alone.  On that fateful day that citizen militia leveled their spears and their thin blue line attacked a professional Persian force many times their number, slaughtering them to the last man on the legendary beach of Marathon.

Next page >> The inconvenient truth of Marathon

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