I’ve been putting off this topic for a while, mostly because it isn’t very fun to talk about killing people, let alone enjoying it. It’s not even a matter of political correctness; the act of a human killing another human is pretty much a universal taboo in most contexts, which makes it an uncomfortable subject to talk about. Despite this, Ares revels in killing. His titles such as Brotoloigos (manslaughtering), Andreiphontes (Destroyer of Men), and Thouros (Violent), among others, give testimony to this. Ares does have a softer side, as previously discussed, but war, violence, and killing is his primary MO. So, if killing and destroying other people is so taboo, why do we worship a killer god?
Let’s make it very clear from the outset that I neither promote nor condone the arbitrary murder of people for the sake of murder. Violence, especially deadly violence, should always be considered after long deliberation and should never be the first option you pick, and it should never be picked frivolously. That being said, violence can and does solve problems, despite the politically correct answer to the contrary. Often, it may be the only solution viable; after all, people like Hitler or Mao weren’t really into negotiating their position. Remember, the maxim stated Avoid/Shun Murder (Φονου απεχου), not the Abrahamic religions’ commandment Thou Shall not Kill/Murder (לֹא תִּרְצָח). Most systems, our own and the monotheists’ included, make exceptions for warfare, capital punishment, and self-defense. But many carry it beyond those exceptions, in both cultures.
Okay, so if we can agree that in many cases killing another person is wrong, why then does it still occur? Moving beyond criminal theory, which I am not qualified to comment on, I think much of it has to do with the inherent nature of man. Man, as a creature and a conceptual whole, has an innate drive to create things. Part of this drive, I believe, is what causes our desire to destroy things that hinder our creation, including other people. Just as a tree is destroyed to create a book, men will band together to destroy other men or nations so they may use their enemies’ land and resources to create new things/nations/people with. While this simple analogy could never capture the complexities of geopolitics and sociological conflict in humans, I feel it does begin to scrape the surface. Deep down in the human psyche, man feels an urge to destroy things, and may derive satisfaction from it. This is, in essence, blood lust. This is Ares.
While the concept of blood lust may seem abhorrent to your general sensibilities, I want to look at how it manifests and drives humanity and history. Essentially, I want to highlight how Ares affects the world. To do this, I’ll show you how blood lust affects and manifests at the individual level, the societal and cultural level, and then how history, and Ares, have tied the two together to get us to where we are now.
Generally, you don’t hear much about blood lust at the personal level, except in the case of a rare psychopath like the Zodiac killer. Often, a person’s inner blood lust manifests as little thoughts that are instantly dismissed by the rational brain, such as when you hope the asshole who just cut you off gets murdered in his sleep (I have road rage issues sometimes…). You get a sudden violent impulse which normally instantly subsides. I can’t go so far as to say the feeling is universal, but for most of the people I know, it’s there. There’s also a thrill you get out of being violent. Have you ever taken a martial arts class, or got in a fight (verbal or physical), or even been in combat and noticed the rush you got as adrenaline and other chemicals began flowing through your body? It can be rather intense, and even feel pretty damn good. I remember hunting down Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and getting quite a rush when bullets and bombs would start to fly and we’d begin positioning troops and calling in airstrikes and artillery. People were going to die, and I liked doing it. Individually, blood lust can hold quite a lot of sway, but it isn’t really conducive to a functioning society, which brings me to our second point.
We have a love/hate relationship with violence and blood lust in Western society, especially the US. Our constitution guarantees most access to deadly weapons, and we have the highest gun violence rate of any industrialized nation. This is ironic, because Finland has higher per capita gun ownership and only a small fraction of the violent crime. Obviously, there’s something cultural about violence, too. While we hate and decry actual violence, it is a huge part of popular culture in the US and many other countries. We spend billions of dollars every year on violent video games, sports, movies, and television every year. Billions! Just take a look at what’s on the news right now, or at the collection of video games in your house. Chances are, they have some sort of violence depicted. The recent book series and now movie The Hunger Games was a box office hit, and is essentially about a world where people look forward to watching an annual death match between children. Kids killing kids! I enjoyed the movie, but I can see why some parents refuse to let their children see it.
So, why if we dislike violence and campaign to see it end do we continue to perpetuate it in our cultures and commit violence at a personal level? Well, for one, it gets things done. For the most part, the majority of change throughout history is precipitated through violent means. The English Civil War, the American and French Revolutions, the Crusades, the Peloponnesian War… all changed history, and all were violent. The black plague didn’t just pop up, it was brought to Europe by the invading Mongol armies. Violence has ensured the survival of entire races, and their near extinction. History is violence. It is Ares. But, like Ares, we need to chain violence in the bonds of Justice. We also need to acknowledge our species’ violent tendencies, and thus we need to acknowledge Ares as a master and a driver of our lives. So hail Ares, and let Him control our furies.