I can’t count how many times words like “freedom” and “liberty” and “reason” are used in the film 300. It sounds like a neoconservative pep rally at times, and presents the conflict between Sparta and Persia as one between free men and slaves, between reason and superstition, and so on.
These things are of course absurd. One reason the Spartans were such famous warriors and soldiers was because they had to be – in order to subjugate the 90% of their population who were slaves. They committed infanticide with a coldness that is beyond anything we can probably comprehend. They bred and trained themselves to be killing machines.
Rather, an empire of slave-masters went to war against a city-state of slave-masters…who turned out to be a hell of a lot tougher.
The rhetoric of the film would be absurd, but it is rather disturbing, because it is so familliar. Our own leaders talk about “freedom” as they erode ours. They talk about liberty but think that cluster bombs are the way to liberate. They talk about justice while they flee from it themselves, admitting no mistakes, acknowledging none of their crimes. They talk about peace while they wage war based on lies and misrepresentation. They talk about the need to fight evildoers while they do evil.
Words like freedom, liberty, justice, are empty right now in our public discourse. Put your dictionaries away – the are useless in the current climate. They are perhaps marginally less empty than they are in the film 300, but I couldn’t get the comparison out of my head as I watched the movie. I feel like misusing these words has become frighteningly commonplace, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen next.