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Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump’

If what you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If what you have is a copy of Thucydides, everything looks like the Melian Dialogue.

Sometimes, this is a great advantage: Thucydides offers a way – definitely not the only way – of seeing new connections between things, and asking new questions through a process of comparison and contrast. This was the way things turned out at Queen Elizabeth School, Crediton, yesterday, where Lynette Mitchell and I were running our first pilot session with Hattie Andrews from The Politics Project; the students had great fun playing what’s become known as the Peg Game – basically, the Peloponnesian War considered as Rock, Paper, Scissors – which then led perfectly into consideration of different examples of unequal power relationships, setting things up for next week’s exploration of the Melian Dilemma choose-your-own-adventure game. The only thing we could have asked for was an extra twenty minutes for discussion. (more…)

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Would it be better if Thucydides had never written, or if his work had been lost altogether? (Not an entirely impossible scenario, given that nothing of his work was available in Western Europe before the 14th century, and any number of Greek works may have been lost when Constantinople fell). I’ve mused on this before, in the context of the stupid Thucydides Trap idea (which, insofar as it’s a well-intentioned policy intervention, seems just as likely to prompt aggressive war preparations as the de-escalation that its author urges), and one might have asked the same question about the US Neocons and their apparent belief that Thucydides licensed a new US world order, in which the Sicilian Expedition would have the right outcome. (more…)

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Here is Donald. Here is Vladimir.

Donald is scared. Donald is greedy. Donald wants everyone to admire his big red balloon.

Vladimir has a ruthless, clear-sighted sense of his personal interests.

What do you think is going to happen, children?

Pat the dog is hiding under the duvet.

Here is America. Here is China.

America is an established power. China is a rising power.

Are they going to fight?

Donald is strong.

Donald thinks the strong can do what they want.

Is he going to launch an expedition against Syracuse?

This is Sebastian.

Sebastian doesn’t really know anything about Thucydides either.

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Either the ‘Thucydides’ Trap’ has now infiltrated France, or Bernard-Henri Lévy has been spending a lot of time in Washington lately; in either case, his latest discussion of the fate of the Kurds (French version in Le Point (£), English in Tablet) and denunciation of Trump’s USA for abandoning them invokes Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War extensively* – though not in the most illuminating manner. (more…)

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When I first began putting together a research project on the modern reception and influence of Thucydides, and writing funding applications, the big ‘hook’ – the thing that was going to persuade reviewers of the contemporary relevance of the theme – was Thucydides’ infiltration of the G.W. Bush White House. Irving Kristol’s claim that he was the favourite author of the Neocons, the relationship between Donald Kagan and the Project for a New American Century, and – from a less bellicose perspective, Colin Powell’s love of the (fake) Thucydides quote about manifestations of power and restraint, were not intended to be the central focus of the project, but they showed the importance of understanding the context of such readings, the traditions of reception and reinterpretation that made powerful people think, or at least claim, that Thucydides speaks to the present.

Here we are again, with a new article on ‘Why everyone in the White House is reading Thucydides’ suggesting the Obama adminstration’s relative restraint in such matters (occasional references from Martin Dempsey when Chair of the Joint Chiefs) was just a blip.* (more…)

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Whom would you rather have make a speech about the death of one of your loved ones, Donald Trump or Pericles? For Simon Schama over on the Twitter yesterday, there’s no contest: “Grief obliges eloquence or silence. Pericles. Lincoln. Then ‘evil losers'”. It’s certainly true that there’s no contest when it comes to eloquence and rhetorical skill, or even basic grammar – but the differences aren’t so stark when it comes to the ends of such speeches. For Trump, the deaths of children, teenagers and their older relatives in Manchester are fuel for his confused, ill-directed crusade against ‘radical Islwmic terrorism’, fuelling suspicion of Muslims in general. For Pericles, the deaths of Athenian soldiers were weaponised to urge the survivors to sacrifice themselves for the city as well, with the grief of their families waved away. The issue with Schama’s contrast isn’t that Pericles lost the war or was responsible for starting it, as various people responded to him; it’s that the contrast isn’t as stark as he implies. As for his “Thucydides would block you and so will I”, nice line, but would the man willing to face up to the full ghastliness of human weakness and violence really filter reality like that?

Meanwhile, if you’ll excuse the sub-tweet, I feel ever more disturbed by the sorts of people who choose to incorporate Thucydides into their Twitter identity, and the violent right-wing views many of them seem to hold – and what this says about the modern image of Thucydides, if not necessarily the work itself…

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I don’t have the time or the patience to look through more than a couple of pages of search results, so this is not a definitive conclusion, but Googling the phrase “hacking history” produces plenty of accounts of the history of computer hacking, and not a lot else. There’s a summary of a 2014 talk on how the rise of digital tools ought to have led to a democratization of the production of history, and an advertisement for a History Hacker’s Camp on a farm museum in Maryland in June (tickets still available!), where children can learn all about farm life in the early 20th century through practical activities; in both cases, “hacking” seems to be little more than shorthand for “new and exciting!!!” Finally, if you look instead for “history has been hacked”, you’ll find an Assassin’s Creed III tie-in where you have to identify how the historical record has been tampered with, and a collection of links to claims that history as we know it is all a lie, the Trojan War was actually the same event as the First Crusade, the Book of Revelation was written in 1486, and no life’s just too short to start on this nonsense.

Why am I worrying about any of this? Because of the opening sentence of an essay by Mike Davis in Jacobin, ‘The Great God Trump and the White Working Class’: (more…)

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