The older woman recognized the warning signs

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

We can learn from history, Jared Diamond argues (Upheaval) — both personal history and history history:

I write these lines just after spending an evening with two women friends, one of them a psychologically naïve optimist in her 20’s, the other a perceptive person in her 70’s. The younger woman was devastated by the recent break-up of her relationship with a fascinating man who had seemed so caring, but who suddenly, after several years, cruelly and without warning abandoned the woman. But as the younger woman related her story, even before reaching the devastating denouement, the older woman (without having met the man) recognized the warning signs that the man was a charming but destructive narcissist, of whom she had come to understand quite a few.


Thucydides described how the citizens of the small Greek island of Melos responded to pressure from the powerful Athenian Empire. In a passage now known as the Melian Dialogue, Thucydides reconstructed the gut-wrenching negotiations between the Melians and the Athenians: the Melians bargaining for their freedom and their lives, attempting to convince the Athenians not to use force; and the Athenians warning the Melians to be realistic. Thucydides then briefly related the outcome: the Melians refused Athenian demands, just as the Finns two millennia later initially refused Soviet demands; the Athenians besieged Melos; the Melians resisted successfully for some time; but they eventually had to surrender; and—the Athenians killed all the Melian men and enslaved all the women and children.


  1. Harry Jones says:

    My take: a small island can never stay politically independent, because it can never be economically independent to the point of building adequate defenses. A larger island might be able to manage it. For a small island to be politically sovereign is contrary to nature.

    Before Melos was invaded, all its neighboring islands were already under Athenian control. The handwriting was on the wall. The point of war is to win. If you can’t hope to win, then there’s no point. The universe is not on your side, and that’s that.

  2. McChuck says:

    “the Athenians killed all the Melian men and enslaved all the women and children.”

    Unpossible! We know that only Christian crusaders ever massacre the people of a defeated city! /snark

  3. McChuck says:

    “the Athenians killed all the Melian men and enslaved all the women and children.”

    But hey, at least the Athenians brought them democracy. /snark

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