September 22, 2008

Metaphor and reality

El Cabrero would like to thank regular readers of Goat Rope for putting up with a long series on the Odyssey of Homer. As I've written before, I think this epic of homecoming has universal human appeal but also can shed light on the difficulty many veterans have on returning from war.

I happened to grow up between the wars, but my father served in World War II, having enlisted shortly after asking, and I quote, "Where the #*%@ is Pearl Harbor?" He made it back in one piece but had trouble with his homecoming throughout his life. So have some other people I know who served in Vietnam or Iraq.

To recap, many of the misadventures Odysseus had on his long way home can be seen as metaphors for the many different ways people can lose their homecoming. Indeed, Odysseus can be seen as an example of how not to do it. As Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist who works with veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome, wrote

Odysseus was absent from home for twenty years. Ten of those were the Trojan War itself. The remaining ten years were...what? The only account we have of them is Odysseus' fabulous tales told to the Phaeacian courtiers in Books 9-12. Might they have been ten years at home, but not home? Ten years of wildness, drinking, drugging, living on the edge, violence, sex addiction, not-so-petty crime, and of "bunkering in," becoming unapproachable and withdrawn? If so would not Odysseus have been just as "absent" a son to Anticleia, just as "absent" a husband to Penelope, and "absent" a father to Telemachus as if he still had been overseas? Could not these ten years have been told in metaphor as the very same story told in the Odyssey?

Get ready for the sirens...

THE DEBT OF NATIONS. Here's a view from Canada on the current US financial crisis. And here's Paul Krugman with more of the same.

HOW MANY ECONOMISTS DOES IT TAKE to change a light bulb? For many, the answer until recently was "None. The market will take care of it." As this item from the UK points out, it won't.

LOSING IT. The number of foreclosures in West Virginia has been greatly underreported, according to an investigation by the Charleston Gazette.

FEAR THIS. Here's more on the recent study of the psychology and politics of fear mentioned here last week.


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