the decline and fall of things

Thucydides wrote this around 430 BC describing how Athens and the character of its citizens degraded during the long war with Sparta, but it should send an electric thrill of familiarity down the spine of anyone living here and now:

“To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as thoughtless acts of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfit for action.

“Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense. Any one who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and any one who objected to them became a suspect…As a result…there was a general deterioration of character… The plain way of looking at things, which is so much the mark of a noble nature, was regarded as a ridiculous quality and soon ceased to exist. Society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow.”

Thanks, George!

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1 Response to the decline and fall of things

  1. Sir Nickel says:

    Thanks for this insight. What a rotten parallel for our leaders to promote.

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