In Sicily, Top of the Mountain, Watching the New Barbarians

You don’t need to be Seneca to observe that Sicily embodies so many perfect archetypes of Beauty that it all seems superhuman, Pepe Escobar writes.

It’s another stunning sunset in the western edge of the Sicilian coast, and I’m right in front of the Real Duomo in Erice, the pluri-millenary “Mount”, sung by Virgil in the Aeneid as “close to the stars”, and founded by the mythical homonymous son of Venus and Bute who became King of the Elimi, an ancient tribe that settled in these lands.

Welcome to a realm of gods and demi-gods, heroes and nymphs, saints and hermits, Faith and Art, who still survives as a practically intact, magnificent medieval village.

Following century after century of splendor, misery and wars, it’s enlightening to remember how Thucydides recalled “Trojans in flight” arriving with their ships in Sicily and then interacting with the Sicani and the Elimi, “while their cities carried the names of Erice and Segesta”.

And then, much later, Thucydides tells us, the Segestans took ambassadors from Athens to the temple of Aphrodite in Erice: that’s where all the cool cats of the time used to hang out.

From the apartment of Roger II, King of Normandy in Cefalu in the late 11th century, to creeks and coves scratching the shores of the deep blue Mar Tirreno; from Venus worshipped in Erice to Venus worshipped in Segesta, it was in these realms drenched in History and Mythology that I happened to follow, from a safe distance, a rather prosaic, provincial manifestation of post-modernity: a clown show in Vilnius advertised as the NATO summit.

Imagine an epigone of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek historian from the early 1st century tracking the arrival of Aeneas and the Trojans to Sicily and pointing that the Venus altar at the Erice heights was erected by Aeneas himself to honor his mother, reacting to the “ceremonial” staged by a bunch of North Atlantic upstarts, led by a declining superpower which qualifies crossroads-of-the-world Sicily as a mere AMGOT: “American Government Occupied Territory”.

Well, you don’t need to be Seneca, in first century Rome, to observe that Sicily, like nowhere else in the world, embodies so many perfect archetypes of Beauty that it all seems superhuman.

So it was impossible not to see the NATO clown show for what it was: a tawdry, trashy crypto-Aristophanes rip-off – and deprived from the slightest trace of self-deprecating humor.

A clown show falls flat

Particularly proficient among the cast of minor characters was the little sweaty sweatshirt warmonger, who was ruthlessly snubbed by the supposed A-list.

One of his helpless ministers framed the dilemma: what conditions do we need to meet to be part of the club, and who makes the rules?

Unfortunately demi-goddess Maria Zakharova, our contemporary of Mercury, the messenger of the Gods, was not available in person to quell his doubts, but she did, anyway, from afar: if you don’t know the rules of the game, that means you know nothing about the “rules-based international order”.

Once again, no one needs a PhD on Tacitus – another big fan of the temple of Venus in Erice – to know how this works.

The “rules” thing was invented by the declining hyperpower. In fact there are no rules. They make them up on the go. And they change them if the results don’t match their expectations. Tiberius – who Tacitus chronicled – would have been impressed.

The alternative to the “rules” Mafioso racket is called “international law”: a concept that happens to be duly supported by the Global South, or Global Majority.

Now let’s get to the main plot in the clown show. NATO explicitly formulated it “does not want” a war with Russia. Translation: they are absolutely terrified. More scared than if Zeus in the flesh was threatening them with a million thunderbolts (or their post-modern epigone: Mr. Khinzal).

What NATO – via the real masters, the Americans, or their piece of Norwegian wood posing as the man in charge – could not possibly admit in public is that they have less than zero resources for a real war.

Russia, on the other hand, has them – in droves.

NATO, already miserably humiliated in Afghanistan, is now being ruthlessly, methodically demilitarized, a process running in parallel to the increasingly abysmal state of the economy prevailing amongst all NATOstan members.

War? Against a nuclear, hypersonic superpower? Give us a – Thucydides – break.

Watching the New Barbarians

Then there’s the story of a major character that ended up making a big splash: the Sultan. He may be a Neo-Ottoman potentate or just a plain streetwise grifter, but in the end he got what he needed: the moolah in the coolah.

Well, not yet in the coolah: considering this is an IMF racket, the moolah will come with a zillion conditions attached.

It goes like this. Sultan is broke. Turkiye is broke. Foreign exchange reserves are going down the Bosphorus drain. So what’s Sultan to do? Miserably default? Sell what’s left of the palace gold? Or bend over backwards to the IMF?

There’s no smokin’ gun on who called who first to set up the deal. Ankara may have been promised a lifeline of up to $13 billion – in fact pocket money. The Sultan could have gotten a much better deal with the “win-win” Chinese – complete with serial BRI investment projects.

And yet he decided to play his cards with NATO, not Eurasia. Reality won’t take much time to dictate its terms. Turkiye will never be admitted into the – floundering – EU. The Americans may force Brussels to do it – remember those “rules” – but up to a point.

Selling tons of extra Bayraktar drones to Kiev – yes, it’s a Sultan family racket – won’t alter anything on the battlefield.

Yet simultaneously antagonizing the Russia-China strategic partnership and their push for Eurasia integration – via SCO, BRICS, EAEU – does alter the chessboard.

The Sultan may be condemning Turkiye to the role of extra minor sidekick – with nearly zero screen time – in the plot line that really matters: the Eurasian Century.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow, reflecting on the Vilnius clown show, remarked that the world will not be turned into a “NATO globe”. Of course not: what’s ahead has been defined by Old Man Luka, the Oracle of Minsk, as the “Global Globe”.

But enough of the “rules” racket. On a splendid sunny morning, after leaving the Mare Tirreno and driving inland, I found myself right in front of the temple of Segesta, the most important center of the Elimi, one of Sicily’s original peoples before the arrival of the Greeks.

Segesta, for centuries, was allied with Carthage, and then Athens. The temple is the embodiment of absolute Doric perfection. Construction was started in 430 B.C. But it may have been abandoned twenty years later, when Segesta was captured by…Carthage.

History, always capricious, led to the site being currently named Monte Barbaro. That comes from the denomination given to Segesta by the Arabs: Calatabarbaro. Poetic justice struck again: so there I was, under the blazing sun, at the top of a pluri-millenary Barbarian Mountain, watching the New Barbarian Warmongers weave their poisonous “rules-based order”.

By Pepe Escobar
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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