September 17, 2008

The forgotten man

Hades, god of the dead, and pet.

The Goat Rope Odysseus odyssey continues. You'll also find links and comments about current events.

One of the tough things about the life of a soldier--and lots of other people too--is that they don't often get to pick who their bosses are. They could be good or they could be awful and often there's not a whole lot that can be done about it. It's luck of the draw.

No doubt the Gentle Reader has already figured that out...

Sadly for his men, the hero of the Odyssey is a terrible leader. In the Iliad, he fought well enough and was a good staff officer for Agamemnon and Menelaus and was capable of acting independently in raids and intelligence missions. But as a leader responsible for the well-being of the soldiers under him, he's a disaster.

If you've been following this series or are familiar with the story, he's been losing men by the score--since the Trojan War was over. Some died in a botched pirate raid, some were eaten by the cyclops, and hundreds died at the hands of the Laestrygonians, who were man-eating giants. He's down to one ship from an original twelve and the ship that's left is not at its full roster. One would think he'd try to do a little better at keeping up with the few who are left.

But when he makes his visit to the land of the dead and offers the appropriate sacrifices, he is surprised to find that the first ghost that speaks to him is someone he thought was alive. It is Elpenor who was just with him on Circe's island.

His death was about as unheroic as they come. He had been sleeping on the roof of the house and fell off, breaking his neck.

OK, so we can't blame Odysseus for that one, but after losing so many men you'd think he could at least be bothered to freakin' count the ones he has left before taking off.

In the Homeric world, the afterlife was a pretty bad place but it was even worse for those who were unburied. The ghost begs Odysseus to do what's right for once: lord, remember me, I beg you! Don't sail off
and desert me, left behind unwept, unburied, don't,
or my curse may draw god's fury on your head.
No, burn me in full armor, all my harness,
heap my mound by the churning gray surf--
a man whose luck ran out--
so even men will come to learn my story.
Perform my rites, and plant on my tomb that oar
I swung with mates when I rowed among the living.

That's one promise Odysseus will keep, but many more of his men died worse deaths and never received their rites.

So this one goes out in memory of all the forgotten people who have suffered in war and peace from the neglect or incompetence of their leaders.

THE CULT OF THE MARKET GOD is up for some criticism here.

ON A SIMILAR NOTE, here economist Dean Baker on the Wall Street meltdown.

THE FOG OF WAR... The war on drugs in this instance. Here are some interesting numbers on drug related arrests.

RATIONAL VOTERS.This item from Newsweek asks where they are.

MATH IN THE BELLY. This NY Times article looks at the latest research on human mathematical abilities. A lot of it is intuitive.



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