Why does reading Lucan’s The Civil War make more sense in 2021 than it might have 30 years ago?

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Tyler Cowan asks, why does reading Lucan’s The Civil War make more sense in 2021 than it might have 30 years ago?

To me, it seems remarkably contemporary — more than Virgil. People are crazy. They’re at each other’s throats, but not really for any good reason.


I think the lack of obvious self-interested motivation for the polarization is what strikes me as so contemporary about Lucan. It’s not primarily about rent-seeking. There’s simply some logic of escalation that never stops. Now, maybe at the end of the poem, there’s a return to sanity in some ways, but there’s still this total immersion in violence, and the dynamics of that, the nonrationality or arationality — it struck me if I had read Lucan in 1991, I would have been quite puzzled, like this is something of antique interest. But I read it today — I’m not so pessimistic about the Western world, but it seems to hit much closer to home.


There seems to be a logic in contemporary politics where people take opposite sides of an issue because other people have taken a side. They don’t necessarily care anymore what it’s about. This may have moderated in the last few months, but there was a sense, if Trump tweeted some view about Turkey, some people would agree, and other people would take the other side, whether or not they had agreement about Turkey.


  1. VXXC says:

    Because we’re monkeys who’ve lost their gods, because we’re monkeys who’ve sawn off the branches perched on, because we’re burning down our own trees, because the top monkeys are weak, corrupt, treacherous, because without our sky gods divine and hominid we are bored itchy nihilists, because we have too many bananas and not enough to do…because these things happen from time to time.

    Civil Wars happen from time to time.

    If you want the actual cause of this war now — cause, not rationalizations or justifications — the cause is there’s a power struggle because we all sense no one and no group is actually in charge.

    Tyranny is bearable; no one being in charge is unbearable.

    That no one’s in charge is a natural consequence of the Bureaucratic Technocracy set up by FDR, The New Deal is Administrative government in exchange for government checks. No one’s actually been President since FDR; he arranged matters that way. Problem being that led to our present bureaucratic feudalism and elite capture of respective bureaucracies and our ever whoring Parliament. But the real cause is now we KNOW that NO ONE IS IN CHARGE.

    WHEE WHEEE WHEE scream we monkeys. NO ONE IS IN CHARGE! WHEEE WHEE WHEE! We just can’t live this way, never could. The rest is just shades of green feces. The problem in politics is always power. Our unbearable situation is we now know no one’s in charge.

  2. VXXC says:

    Politics is Power. Any Political struggle is a struggle for Power.

    WE are having our Power Struggle because we’ve realized NO ONE IS IN CHARGE. That is UNBEARABLE.

    We cannot bear it; we shall scream and fight UNTIL someone wins and ORDER is restored because SOMEONE IS IN CHARGE AGAIN.

    All the rest including Lucan is mere shades, textures and varying scent of the green poo we toss. Soon we’ll bite and no more poo, just blood.

Leave a Reply