EPISODE 97: The Psychology of Power in History: A Conversation with Aziz Al-Doory
“…we venerate the crooks, rapists, and pillagers credulous historians have repackaged as ‘founders,’ ‘conquerors,’ and ‘civilize.’ We erect statues and consecrate tombs to commemorate their difference-making. But in fact, most of these monuments memorialize the dark deeds of unhinged lunatics driven by rampant ego and raving greed… most of the supposed ‘great men of history’ were criminals on a rampage. We celebrate them because they ‘changed the world.’ But where’s the evidence that they changed it for the better?” — Chris Ryan
“He who dies with the most toys wins.” — Malcolm Forbes
“If we don’t put aside our enmities and band together, we will die. And then it doesn’t matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne.” — Davos Seaworth, Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3
In most episodes I tell a story about a specific event with a clear beginning and end. Occasionally, I tackle a theme and look at how it plays out throughout history. This is one of those times. Simple stories are great, but sometimes looking at the big picture is even more interesting.
I am joined by Aziz Al-Doory from the History of Westeros podcast to chat about a central theme in history and, of course, in JRR Martin’s work: the drive that makes individuals struggle for power throughout history. In particular, we look at the more extreme (but by no means rare) examples: what makes someone risk his position and wealth in an effort to plunge a country into civil war for the sake of power? What goes through someone’s head who is willing to murder his siblings to get to the throne? Can uber-powerful people who executed their children and spouses ever have been happy? Why so many people have become addicted to a struggle that seems to be antithetical to having a good life?
As we ponder the answer to these questions, we tackle multiple case studies: from the Japanese warring states period to Shaka Zulu’s career, from the power struggle after the death of Alexander the Great to the conflict between Kublai Khan and his brother, and many more.
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“Sent to report on a story that wasn’t there, reporters invented one.” — Heather Cox Richardson
“Lakota will kill you.” — A meadowlark speaking to Sitting Bull in a vision
“If the white men want me to die, they ought not to put up the Indians to kill me… Let the soldiers come and take me away...
“Kill the Indian and save the man.” — Richard Pratt
“The life my people want is a life of freedom. I have seen nothing that a white man has, houses or railways or clothing or food, that is good as the right to move in the open country, and live in our own fashion.” — Sitting Bull