September 02, 2008


The Goat Rope series on the Odyssey of Homer resumes today. You will also find links and comments about current events. If you like this kind of thing, check back on earlier weekday posts.

If people remember any episode in the Odyssey, it's generally the one where Odysseus visits the island of the cyclopes and has a run-in with the one-eyed giant Polphemus. It is pretty memorable.

To briefly recap, after the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus and his men (around 600 to start with in several ships) make a gratuitous raid on the Circoneans, which ends badly. Then they land at home of the Lotus Eaters, who are blissed-out stoners who offer his men the addictive drug that makes them forget all about going home. He forces them, "with streaming tears," back to their ships.

From there we sailed on, our spirits now at a low ebb,
and reached the land of the high and might Cyclops,
lawless brutes, who trust so to the everlasting gods
they never plant with their own hands or plow the soil.
Unsown, unplowed, the earth teems with all they need,
wheat, barley and vines, swelled by the rains of Zeus
to yield a big full-bodied wine from clustered grapes.
They have no meeting place for council, no laws either,
no, up on the mountain peaks they live in arching caverns--
each a law to himself, ruling his wives and children,
not a care for any neighbor.

They land first at a nearby island, teeming incidentally with wild goats. They could easily stock up on game and head on home to Ithaca. Odysseus, however, can't leave things well enough alone. Gazing across to the island, he says,

'The rest of you stay here, my friends-in-arms.
I'll go across with my own ship and crew
and probe the natives living over there.
What are they--violent, savage, lawless?
or friendly to strangers, god-fearing men?'

It might be rational to do a rapid recon and get the hell out, but our boy is addicted to adventure--or terrified of boredom. Oddly, he decides to take along a large skin of super strong wine. As John Prine might say, he's "wishin' for bad luck and knockin' on wood."

In the end, his curiosity will mean a gruesome death for six of his men. About which more tomorrow.

THE NEXT BIG THING. Here's an op-ed by Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research about the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier and safer for workers to join unions. In El Cabrero's humble opinion, this would be the most significant legislation in decades and could help reduce poverty and rebuild the nation's battered middle class.

ON A SIMILAR NOTE, here are Labor Day reflections from Larry Matheney of the WV AFLCIO.

SICK KIDS. West Virginia ranks second in the nation in the percentage of children with chronic illnesses. From the Charleston Gazette,

About 18 percent of West Virginia children - 69,500 kids - have special health needs or chronic illnesses, such as asthma and diabetes. Only Kentucky has a higher percentage - 18.5 percent.

WEALTH, WORK AND INEQUALITY is the subject of this interesting op-ed.

BEACHFRONT PROPERTY? Climate change-induced increases in sea level over the next century could be higher than predicted, according to some scientists.

ANIMALS AND DEATH. How do they deal with it?


No comments: