September 24, 2008

Some days you eat the bear...

The Gentle Reader may perhaps have noticed that sometimes there are no pleasant alternatives and any course of action is going to be nasty. The Odyssey of Homer gives a great image for those occasions. I am referring, of course, to the dual dangers of Scylla and Charybdis.

Charybdis is a whirlpool that can suck ships straight to the bottom of the sea. Scylla is a twelve-legged six-headed monster with six long necks that likes to eat people. And Odysseus and his men have to sail between them.

Oh yeah, there was one other option. They could have tried to sail between the Clashing Rocks, which squish anything that goes between them. "Not even the birds can escape them...," as Circe warns Odysseus before the event.

You takes your pick. Either lose the whole ship or expect six more men to wind up as somebody's dinner.

There are times in life when even courage and cunning can't get you through. Odysseus asks Circe whether he might overcome Scylla with force of arms and is rebuked:

'So stubborn!' the lovely goddess countered.
'Hell-bent yet again on battle and feats of arms?
Can't you bow to the deathless gods themselves?
Scylla's no mortal, she's and immortal devastation,
terrible, savage, wild, no fighting her, no defense--
just flee the creature, that's the only way.
Waste any time, arming for battle beside her rock,
I fear she'll lunge out again with all of her six heads
and seize as many men...'

In typical fashion, Odysseus neglects to inform his men of the danger and likewise ignores Circe's advice. He puts on his armour and attempts in vain to resist. Scylla gets a good meal:

Just as an angler poised on a jutting rock
flings his treacherous bait in the offshore swell... now they writhed,
gasping as Scylla swung them up her cliff, and there
at her cavern's moth she bolted them down raw--
screaming out, flinging their arms toward me,
lost in that mortal struggle...
Of all the pitiful things I've had to witness,
suffering, searching out the pathways of the sea,
this wrenched my heart the most.

Spending much time in Scylla/Charybdis situations can drive anyone over the edge of sanity. It's something that happens fairly regularly in war, causing traumatic stress the effects of which can last for years on those who survive them.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, the American people are being asked to sail between the Scylla of a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street and the Charybdis of a massive recession. This time, there's another alternative, i.e., a package that includes an economic stimulus aimed at ordinary Americans, accountability and stricter regulation for failing firms, and help for homeowners facing foreclosure. Tomorrow is likely to be a national day of action, with protests around the country and call-ins to Congress. Stay tuned for more.

NO BLANK CHECKS. Here's Dean Baker's latest on the Wall Street bailout.

AND MORE. Here's more bad stuff 'bout the bailout from Alternet.

OK, JUST ONE MORE on socialism for the rich.



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