Sunday, August 29, 2004

*Ø* Thucydides, war and peace

In a Neopagan e-list to which I subscribe, came this message (my reply is below)
Please ponder this.

War is and evil thing, but to submit to the dictation of other states is worse. Freedom if we hold fast to it, will ultimately restore our losses, but submission will mean permanent loss of all we value. To you who call yourselves men of peace, I say: You are not safe unless you have men of action on your side.


* Ø * Ø * Ø *

Dear Gyllias,

I've pondered the quotation as requested, and thank you for it.

Thucydides was a remarkable man and a fine historian for his day, but his views on freedom and the necessity of war must be taken with a grain of salt. We only know his name because he wrote the history of the Peloponnesian War. He might, in fact, be considered to have had a vested interest in human slaughter. As a general of Athens, he most certainly had a vested interest in war, and no doubt was surrounded by a culture too wrapped up in war to think outside the square. His family background is heavily aristocratic and military, which must have coloured his thinking.

Thucydides was largely able to write his famous history because his inherited wealth afforded him luxuries such as education.The money for this came from the suffering of his family's slaves who worked in their gold mines. Thucydides, I feel, has little to share with us about freedom. Like many readers, I also find his writings to reveal an incredibly pessimistic man, so I'm not surprised if he doesn't have the brightness of mind to consider imaginative alternatives to war. Not everyone can do it.

He's been dead for 2,400 years and despite his wisdom (and I really do love the old coot), the challenges of the 21st century are way beyond his experience and understanding. He knows nothing of globalization nor the manipulation of public consent. The past has much to offer us, but very little of the arts and sciences of conflict resolution and creative alternatives to violence, as these are on the whole new disciplines. Thucydides could never have imagined the writings of people like Gene Sharp. Sharp is one of many who remind us that war, which was horrible in 5th-century BCE Greece, is even worse today and completely unnecessary as we've developed techniques that render it obsolete. National self defence needs no weapons.

So, thank you for stimulating me with this quotation. It reminded me of cranky old Thucydides, his wonderful writing, and most importantly, that there is much work to be done by peace-loving pagans to spread the word in the Neopagan community, which is still confused on this pressing issue. I'm sure most of us believe that there is absolutely no point to any religion if it is not about peace.

Bright blessings,


* Ø * Ø * Ø *

[pagans4peace Yahoo! Group is another great group.]


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker