May 22, 2009

"...freedom only after countless pains"

Heracles would eventually liberate Prometheus. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

Goat Rope these days is taking a tour of ancient Greek tragedy (but you'll find links and comments about current events below). This week the theme is Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus.

Why Greek tragedy? I'm convinced the tragic lens often is the one that applies best to current problems. In an earlier post about coal and Appalachia, I argued that we too often tend to view the world through a simplified action movie lens, with clear good guys who are all good and bad guys who are all bad (see former President Bush) and a happy ending. Would that it were so.

But back to the story at hand.

It is easy to see Prometheus as the archetypal rebel against tyranny and to view Zeus as an evil usurper. But Aeschylus was concerned with a deeper matter: how excess can be tempered and holy moderation can be achieved. He was all about avoiding excess and calling for moderation.

We only have the first play of his trilogy, but we know it ended with the release of Prometheus, who would aid Zeus with information that would allow him to remain in power.

Zeus, after violently overthrowing the old order, was excessive in his punishment and use of power. Prometheus, though he benefited humanity, was excessive in his pride and defiance, as some of his sympathetic visitors suggested.

Totalitarianism and the rule of force must give way to restraint and the rule of law. Prometheus and Zeus are symbols of forethought and reason on the one hand and power on the other--and these must be reconciled.

Too bad we can't see how Aeschylus got there. Too bad we haven't figured out how to get there ourselves.

Y'all have a good weekend and try not to get chained to any rocks.

SPEAKING OF BEING CHAINED TO ROCKS, this essay hopes we'll be liberated soon from the rock of market fundamentalism.

HEALTH CARE COSTS exceed wage gains in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia (and elsewhere in the US too). Meanwhile, it looks like the health care industry, after making a show of supporting reforms, is trying to sabotage President Obama's health care plan. Their main target is a public option which many see as the key to moving towards universal coverage.

REASON # 42949 why we need the Employee Free Choice Act here.

NOT COOL. WV's proposed state budget includes cuts in legal services for domestic violence victims.

MONKEY BRAINS aren't all that different from ours.



Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Excellent post! Thank you.

I wonder (or at least I have in the past:is tragedy comedy carried to an extreme? As someone (can't remember who) said, "Comedy is nothing more than tragedy deferred."

And, in the midst of all tragedy seems to be an absurdity that can also be comedic.

And. thanks for the link to Peter Laarman's essay. Excellent!

El Cabrero said...

Hi Nick,

I like that quote.

Here's a matching one by Melville from Moby-Dick:

"There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own."