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Posts Tagged ‘populism’

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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Words had to change their meanings in response to events. Mindless aggression became courage. Forethought and hesitation became cowardice. Moderation was unmanliness. Seeing different sides of the question was a sign of an ivory-tower academic ‘expert’. Real men said what they thought, the more extreme the better, and anyone who objected was not to be trusted. If an opponent said something reasonable, this had to be condemned as criminal nonsense. Cheating the system was a sign of cleverness, while honesty and integrity were condemned as simple-mindedness. Law and morality were an unacceptable restraint on the Will of The People.

(Thucydides 3.82.4-5, adapted)

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Another day, another classical Trump analogy – or rather, a reiteration of one that’s already somewhat familiar, Trump as Cleon, put forward this time by G.W. Bowersock in theĀ New York Review of Books. I have to say that, the more I see this comparison, the more I think it’s deeply unfair to Cleon, and reproduces an old-fashioned view of Athenian democracy that is based largely on sources hostile to the whole thing. Of course we don’t expect classical analogies to be based on detailed historical insight – I don’t have much to add on this point to Donna Zuckerberg’s ‘Make Comparison Great Again’ – but there are definitely bad and worse cases, evocations of the ancient world for present political and polemical purposes that are deeply dodgy rather than just moderately dubious. (more…)

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There’s a new Thucydides quotation out on the streets, or rather the internet, bringing him into debates about the candidacy of Donald Trump, and it seems like a good, if probably pointless, idea to try to nip this in the bud.

To get the really pedantic bits out of the way first (more…)

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