One reason I’m glad that President Obama, unlike George W. Bush, is hesitating to play Alexander in Afghanistan….
We have preferred the power that apes greatness, first Alexander and then the Roman conquerors whom the authors of our schoolbooks, through some incomparable vulgarity, teach us to admire. We, too, have conquered, moved boundaries, mastered heaven and earth. Our reason has driven all away. Alone at last, we end up by ruling over a desert. What imagination could we have left for that higher equilibrium in which nature balanced history, beauty, virtue, and which applied the music of numbers even to blood-tragedy? We turn our back on nature; we are ashamed of beauty. Our wretched tragedies have a smell of the office clinging to them, and their blood is the color of printer’s ink.
—Albert Camus, “Helen’s Exile,” from The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (tr. Justin O’Brien)