September 18, 2008

The blind seer, and an action alert, and more

The shade of Tiresias appears to Odysseus after the latter offers a sacrifice.

The theme here lately is the Odyssey of Homer, along with links and comments about current events. If this is your fist visit, please click on earlier posts. Right now were on his voyage to the land of the dead.

To recap, the goddess Circe tells Odysseus that if he wants to make it home after years of fighting at Troy and wandering the seas, he has to visit the underworld to consults with the shade of the seer Tiresias, who is one of the most fascinating figures of Greek mythology.

A prophet of the city of Thebes, he had the distinction of spending several years as a woman as punishment from Hera for whacking a pair of copulating snakes with a stick. Note: while El Cabrero is opposed to whacking snakes, let it be noted that it didn't take much to tick Hera off.

After changing back into a man, he was called upon by Zeus and Hera to settle an argument over whether males or females enjoyed sex the most. (Zeus said women did and Hera vice versa.) When he basically answered that women get 9/10s of the pleasure, Hera struck him blind as punishment. Zeus couldn't do anything about that but did give him foresight.

(Important safety tip: if you are ever called upon to resolve a dispute between Olympian gods, decline the honor.)

In the myth of Oedipus, Tiresias is summoned by that tyrant to explain the source of a mysterious plague ravaging Thebes, which was actually caused by the Oedipus himself who inadvertently killed his father and married his mother.

The confrontation between the two is the focal point of Sophocles' great tragedy Oedipus Tyrannus. The parallelism between the two is striking: Tiresias is blind but sees what is happening. Oedipus can see but is blind to what he did--and when he sees it he blinds himself.

At this point in the Odyssey, Tiresias will tell its hero what lies ahead and what he must do if he is to make it home. The news isn't good:

A sweet smooth journey home, renowned Odysseus,
that is what you seek,
but a god will make it hard for you--I know--
you will never escape the one who shakes the earth,
quaking with anger at you still, still enraged
because you blinded the Cyclops, his dear son...

Still they have a slim chance, provided that when they land on the island of Thrinacia he and his men don't eat the cattle of the sun god Helios. If they do that, his men will die

And even if you escape, you'll come home late
and come a broken man--all shipmates lost,
alone in a stranger's ship--
and you will find a world of pain at home,
crude, arrogant men devouring all your goods...

And even if he deals with that, he must make one more journey to appease Poseidon, by carrying his oar so far inland that people mistake it for a winnowing fan and there make appropriate sacrifices.

If, and it's a big if, he does all that, he can expect to die peacefully in old age in his home with his family.

We'll see how that works out.

ACTION ALERT. The American Friends Service Committee and allied groups are urging people to call their senators and representatives today toll free at 1-888-245-0215 to urge the passage of a second economic stimulus package targeted at those who need it most before Congress goes home.

The package should include extended unemployment benefits, an increase to food stamps and home heating assistance, aid to states for Medicaid, job creation through investments in infrastructure and youth employment programs. Obviously the $720 million we are spending each day in Iraq isn't helping either...

SUNDOWN ON THE GOLDEN CALF of market fundamentalism? Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz thinks so.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, here are two reports aimed at driving some nails in the coffin of supply side economics and related but contradictory bogus dogmas on tax cuts as the cure for all things.

DEPRESSION OR SADNESS? The tendency to medicalize emotions makes it hard to distinguish between the two.


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