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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Brexit negotiations. Yes, we’re still replaying the Melian Dialogue, with the UK still stuck in the attitude of the Melians, offering the equivalent of “Surely there’s advantage to both of us in being friends rather than enemies?” and “Can’t you see that this will damage you as well as us?” as if these are knock-down arguments. My final-year Thucydides class has been having some really interesting discussions over the last couple of weeks about Pericles’ manipulative rhetoric and parallels to the Leave campaign – offered spontaneously by the students, before anyone puts me onto that government watch list – so I’m tempted to skip forward to the Melian Dialogue while these issues are still fresh. But, realistically, the negotiations aren’t likely to be going much better in February, when we’re scheduled to get to Book V, so the issues will still be fresh enough… (more…)

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We appear to have reached a tipping point, where future historians of this period – not necessarily human – will simply refuse to believe what they find in their sources on the grounds of plausibility. Just as with the Julio-Claudians, we can discuss the discourse of polemic and invective, and the values and cultural assumptions it reveals, but not the historical reality that lies somewhere behind it; we cannot study Boris Johnson as a real historical individual, but only the image of him as cartoonish buffoon constructed by hostile sources… (more…)

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So, when I announced my Exeter inaugural lecture a few weeks ago, I was persuaded to arrange for it to be recorded, for everyone who wasn’t in a position to trek down to Devon on a Thursday evening. It has turned out to be surprisingly and annoyingly difficult to make this happen, but we have the technology…

This is offered to the general public with the usual caveat that it was written far too hastily while trying to do too many other things at the same time, and so it would have been much better if delivered in different circumstances; and the slightly less usual caveats that (1) it was recorded from the very top of a rather weird, extremely precipitous lecture theatre, which is why you mostly see the top of my head from a steep angle, and (2) my watch was ever so slightly slow, so my brilliant timing actually meant that the recording cuts off literally seconds before the end. (more…)

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How does our knowledge of classical antiquity relate to the present and its problems? How do we as classicists – to address at least a subset of my readers – engage with the world through our knowledge of the classical past, or is our chosen field of activity precisely a means of not engaging with the world?  (more…)

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As I’ve remarked on here before, I really wish I had some grasp of Mandarin, in order to be able to get a proper sense of how Thucydides is being discussed in China: do they simply follow the conventional US international relations reading, and especially Allison’s Thucydides’s Trap theory, on the basis that this will help them understand American foreign policy thinking, or are they engaging with this and other classical texts (including Chinese ones) more creatively? A recent report from the Asia News International website (original link from @rogueclassicist) suggests the latter may be more likely, as it reports on an article from the official news agency Xinhua that speaks not of Thucydides but of the hitherto-unremarked Tacitus Trap. (more…)

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[guest post from the official #CthulhuUK campaign]

If you are exposed to a vacuum, the tears that moisten and protect the outside of your eyeballs will evaporate within seconds. I therefore urge you: DO NOT attempt to read the Conservative Party’s 12-point Plan For Brexit! I, mighty Cthulhu, guarantee the continuing flow of tears over moist, succulent eyeballs. My 13-point Plan for Brexit is truly of the abyss, not merely abysmal.

1. Certainty and clarity that the land *will* be laid waste and your children and grandchildren will curse your name as they cower in makeshift shelters from the Fungi from Yuggoth.

2. End feeble attempts of EU institutions to ban noble British tradition of human sacrifice.

3. Unite all parts of the Union in suffering.

4. Restore historical tradition of wrecking Ireland as well.

5. Cut off all contact with so-called civilisation.

6. Foreigners will be treated in just the same way as natives [evil chuckle]

7. Worker’s rights. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

8. Free cake.

9. Exciting new trading opportunities with Ulthar, Kadath in the Cold Waste and the Plateau of Leng.

10. A new technological revolution, as we return you to the Stone Age.

11. Full cooperation with global terror.

12. A smooth, orderly detachment of Britain from mundane reality.

13. Brexit means Brexit means Bragnarök!

A vote for any other party risks handing over management of the forthcoming apocalypse to weak, indecisive humans who are simply dying to backslide on the self-destructive instincts of the British people. Take back control from so-called experts and their rational calculations! #CthulhuUK

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In this morning’s Grauniad, George Monbiot argues that the fundamental political decision of our age – not solely in Britain or Europe or the West, but across the globe – lies between “public luxury available to all, or private luxury available to some.” My immediate thought was of the famous lines in Cicero’s Pro Murena (76):

The Roman people hates private luxury, it esteems public munificence; it does not love lavish banquets, still less sordid behaviour and brutality; it recognises differences in services and circumstances, the interchange of work and pleasure.

I’ve no idea if this is a deliberate reference (Monbiot hasn’t responded to a query on the Twitter); rather like the “many not the few” line, it’s such a boilerplate contrast that the resemblances don’t necessarily mean anything. (more…)

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