Monday, October 10, 2011

Movie "300"

An old memory popped back into thought today about the reaction of the Iranian government to the 2006 movie "300" which offered a highly stylized comic book-type depiction of the battle of Thermopylae and the events leading up to that historical event.

Historical purists of course needed to accept that considerable license would be taken with this movie. The scenes are purposely made to be outlandish, fighting styles of the hoplites range from reasonably accurate to one-on-one fights more suited to martial arts scenes, and the only other Greek state mentioned as a Spartan ally are the Arcadians. There were in fact several contingents. ( Note that the Thespians stayed with the Spartans until the end and the Athenian fleet was slugging it out too). Also, no notice is taken of the aspects of Spartan society of which a westerner would have less of a reason to be proud i.e. the treatment of non-Spartan Helots.

Nevertheless, the movie is motivating, entertaining, and does a more than fair job of evincing strong feelings for a people who were willing to risk enslavement or total annihilation of their state, people, and culture as they stood against odds for which overwhelming would be a gross understatement.

Allen West was recently eviscerated by the political left for his speech in which he noted the better attributes of Spartan society and challenged American mothers to follow the model of that state by rearing their sons to be future defenders of the US. The left, of course, did their best to mock the Congressman by noting only the practices of the Spartans that we would be sure to avoid. They entirely ignored the best of that culture, such as restrictions on greed and jealousy, the continuous pursuit of excellence, and the knowledge that to be truly free is to recognize that every individual has apart to play in defense of the state.

The most confusing event that occurred in response to this movie was the reaction of the Iranian government. They immediately condemned the immoral and sensual manner in which the Persians were depicted. Muslim thought is replete with an absolute unwillingness to look at any cultural aspect of a Muslim nations pre-Islamic past with any admiration. This applies to the Pagan Arabs as well as Persians. It may glean from its scientific. architectural, or administrative achievements, but it will not allow anything that existed in the pre-Islam days to be something of which one should be proud. If it concerns a prophet of that county from the past that the Koran declares to have been one of the original Muslims (like Zoroaster) then it is OK to speak of him as long as it is under Muslim terms, but the rest is ignored until it is forgotten. Unfortunately, Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians too tend to fall into this pattern. Little or nothing of pre-Christian Europe is admired in their world. Even the cultural achievements of Europe by Catholics and mainline Protestants are given little or no consideration  unless, again, a particular individual can be presented (against all historical evidence) as some type of fictional early Baptist hammering away against the Church and the culture that game birth to the arts, music, literature and more of the West.

Ultimately, I find the protests of the Iranian government to be a classic example of the knee-jerk reactions common to both Islam and Fundamentalist Christianity. No effort to given even to thinking "Hey, those guys have a point. Thank God we became Muslims and don't have to be like those immoral Persians" (Which of course is exactly what they would say as long as they get to say it first) No, since the movie comes from the West, they have to be angry about it even though they logically would have to agree that their position would be that the pre-Islamic Persians were quite immoral. So the Iranians find themselves in the unenviable position of defending a people that they are required to, if not abhor, at least pity because they were not Muslim.

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