The two sides of glory

“Glory” has two sides. The first is familiar and desirable; the renown, the respect, the honour that accrues from the conception and undertaking of great deeds. For example, in antiquity, the Greeks competed in the Olympics for the love of victory. In a way, the glory those mortals strove for, both individually and collectively, was an ode to the immortal Gods. Even now, we do battle with ourselves and with others for the right to do the unprecedented and the unbelievable. And although we do it less for our Gods than for our own egos, it still remains an endeavour that has the assumption of glory as one of its chief prizes. Which brings me to the second side; cruelty.

Historically, glory for one party meant suffering for another. Glory for the armies of Alexander the Great meant the destruction and oppression of other tribes, armies and nations. Victory in single combat for one Homeric hero signalled defeat for the other. Nowadays, the building of a continent-spanning enterprise means the death of smaller, local entities. For every Amazon, hundreds of independent stores die. For every Walmart, hundreds of family businesses suffocate.

It has been like this throughout history, and will remain like this for the foreseeable future. Glory here means suffering there; victory for one means defeat for another.