2002, Allworth press, NY, pages XXV-XXXII
McEvilly’s subject is comparative philosophy and colonization and the nature and depth of philosophical exchange between ancient Greece and Indian, with the modern British colonization of Indian used as a counterpoint. The British used the excuse that their invasion of Indian was a selfless educational mission and that their mother tongue’s linguistic relationship with Sanskrit, the oldest surviving Indo-European language, justified this intervention as a kind of an intellectual revitalization from without. Of course, the Brits were not interested in bestowing boons, let alone achieving an even rate of exchange. They were mercantilist plunderers who came and went.
The ancient Hellenes, on the other hand, actually planted intact colonies of retired soldiers who married local women and practiced a form of long-term dual acculturation. They did not seek to impose, nor did they wish to assimilate, but actually share from the shelter of a cohesive Hellenic community. The British, possessed of a merely materialistic culture over-laid with distinguishing affectations, were forever panicked about their men “going native” and they did, because British culture, like the American and Greater European consciousness of or time, had been negated by its own rampant materialism. Whereas now, 175 years after the Raj put down the Sepoy Mutiny  we see Great Britain itself becoming Muslim, its men permitting their daughters to be taken and gang raped, the center of the empire upon which the sun once did not set a generation away from genetic obliteration, Hellenic colonies lasted for up to 700 years and remained—along with the cultural center of Athens—a foci of intellectual life to the end of the succeeding Roman and Asoka empires.
Rather than importing the values that “made money” and projected maximum force, as the British would later do, the Hellenes imported the ideal of Arete, [the excellence of a warrior] along with an adventurous spirit of exploration, internally and externally. The idea that it was a duty—a duty of and for the self—to spread knowledge and art was the axis of the Hellenic process of colonization. There are whispers of it through the modern era—mostly suffering from ham-fisted application—but the ideal did not die, a testament to its value.
McEvilly gives a concise explanation of the democratic ideal of education represented by paedeia, an ideal that survived and was protected, by many a tyrant. His concept of modern colonization as merely a racist power play is a bit crude—but the man is an academic. Although his crude Leftist understanding of the modern racial question is unfortunate, McEvilly does note one distinguishing characteristic of the ancient world, an absence of gross racial consciousness.
The modern reader who has not read hundreds of ancient books—none of which differentiate people by race, but rather by clan, tribe and allegiance to a culture—may scoff at this, but it is true. Why then has the question of race risen so monstrously to engulf humanity in this obsession above all else from the beginning of the modern era, to its twilight?
My quick answer is, materialism. It was not until mankind gave up notions of tribalism, with English, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish all becoming merely British, like a blended scotch—all sold as slaves into the belly of the mercantile system—that the European, stripped of his functional, detailed, ethnic identity, grasped for the only defining thing he had left, his pale skin, a genetic abstraction which made more men his brothers than he could ever tolerate as his equal, and most men his enemies, an enemy by nature inferior.
Where the ancient Greek was able to strive against an admirable Persian and Indian foe and be restored at the well of honor, the modern European was left with a choice of murdering his racial brothers for the enrichment of his social betters and likewise exterminating sub-humans in the cause of spreading a lack of specific identity that was somehow supposed to endure. The military machines responded with attempts to preserve vestiges of tribalism in unit loyalty, but that solution proved thin, with most men never permitted entry and those who entered cast-out in 4 to 20 years. Ever since the mercantile shackles went on the world, men have looked for honor in the rituals of sport and exploration, with a soldier of WWII inclined to see his hero in the boxing ring or on the baseball field rather than on the battlefield.
Now, at the end of this process of cultural negation, exploration is virtually an extinct activity and athletics have become the sterile field of celebrity, with the only opportunities for honor remaining in the concept encompassed by Arete, warrior excellence, a pursuit that was once considered a multi-faceted engagement with the wider world, but is now an attempt to resist erasure by what that world has become.
In such a world as this, authors of heroic fantasy and science-fictionkeepers of the ancient mythssuch as Herman Melville, Jack London, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Ernst Junger and Gene Wolfe provide examples of the quest inward to survive The Machine, the last battlefield remaining to us on which to practice our besieged heroic heritage. For this is a world that does not test honor, but seeks to erase it at every level.