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The Third Estate
What Is The Third Estate?
 Everything
What Has It Been Until Now In The Political Order?
Nothing
What Does It Want To Be?
Something

Okay, NOW I have something to say.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Namely that Maureen Dowd is a cretin. Her attempt to understand the influence of ancient Greek thought & history on modern conservatism is as vapid as....well.. the interpretation of ancient Greece by conservatives. I mean, honestly.

Some examples:

1) "...[conservativism's] lofty ideals and nobility and character in American politics — while Democrats merely muck about with policies for the needy."

2) the execrable Harvey Mansfield's belief "why politics should be about revolution rather than equilibrium."

3) the pedant Kagan's statement regarding the Iraq War: "Professor Kagan said that one reason the Athenians ended up losing the war was because in the Battle of Mantinea in 418 B.C. against the Spartans, they sent 'a very inferior force' and had a general in command who was associated with the faction that was against the aggressive policy against the Spartans."

4) her odd quote from Thucydides that Athenian democracy was characterized by a belief that "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."


One at a time, then...

1) Why is a concern for the needy lacking in idealism, Ms. Dowd? Where is the nobility of character in challenging your opponents' character and railing about gays? Is this just more of your callow schoolyard smears of man's requirement to demonstrate humanity to man? And do you have notion of how vital a role class politics played in Greek political and intellecutal life? No? What a suprise.

2) Uh, Harvey? Establishing equilibrium, i.e. political stability, was the principal object of Greek political philosophy. Examining the necessary preconditions for it was the center of EVERY major Greek thinker. Remember Aristotle's "mixed regime"? And Thucydides in fact criticized the internal revolutions breaking out all over Greece in the run-up to the war.

3) Kagan has clearly read the comic version of Thucydides or something. The Battle of Mantinea wasn't the turning point of the Peloponnesian War. According to Thucydides, it was the expedition to Syracuse. And the lesson of Syracuse was not to over-commit to risky imperial adventures - precisely the opposite point that Kagan is trying to make.

4) I don't whether it's Maureen or Harvey that's bungling this. Likely both. Thucydides argued that the spirit of domination was a perversion of Athenian democracy. Athens failed because she was hated by the rest of Greece - hated because she was always throwing her weight around. (Update: I looked this quote up and it's from the Melian dialogue - piece devoted to the evils of imperialism. Nice example, Mansfield. Is this the America you want to live in?)

Ugh. What a disaster. I need a drink.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:02 PM
3 Comments:
  • So my mistake was going back and reading the original essay. I should have just read yours. Blech.

    By Blogger Chaser, at 11:15 PM  
  • Yeah, it was really something, wasn't it? Leave it to Dowd to get me going again.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 6:08 AM  
  • Her column the other day about Al Gore's weight really really bothered me. NOW recently sent out a call for an end to sexist reporting of the presidential race (incl, not talking about appearance and weight) - and it seems to me she is the worst offender.

    By Blogger shrinkykitten, at 10:40 PM  
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