February 11, 2011

Of monsters, cyclopes and the rule of law

It is a truth universally acknowledged that monsters and other giant cannibalistic humanoids get low marks when it comes to playing nicely with others and obeying the rule of law.

This was noted as far back as The Odyssey. In Homer's epic, Odysseus describes the cyclopes thus:

They live without a council or assembly
or any rule of law, in hollow caves
among the mountain tops.

(Cyclopes, by the way, is the classical plural form for the word cyclops. It has the additional advantage of looking and sounding cooler than "cyclopses.")

The monsters in Beowulf, the theme here lately, by the way, are a bit tone deaf as well when it comes to legal refinements after Grendel starts raiding the mead hall of king Hrothgar of the Spear Danes and preying on any victim he can find. The poem laments at some length the monster's lack of interest in negotiations, treaties or paying for damages:

Sad lays were sung about the beset king,
the vicious raids and ravages of Grendel,
his long and unrelenting feud,
nothing but war; how he would never
parley or make peace with any Dane
nor stop his death-dealing nor pay the death-price.
No counsellor could ever expect
fair reparation from those rabid hands.
All were endangered; young and old
were hunted down by that dark death-shadow
who lurked and swooped in the long nights
on the misty moors; nobody knows
where these reavers from hell roam on their errands.

It strikes me as a bit amusing that the narrator of this supposedly barbaric poem seems genuinely surprised and disappointed that the monster didn't play by the rules.

UNEMPLOYMENT. Jobless claims last week look better than they have since mid 2008.

AN UNUSUAL ECONOMIC INDICATOR, the divorce rate, may also signal an improving economy. Strange to say, the number of divorces tends to go down in recessions (they are kind of expensive).

A GOOD CALL. West Virginia has a new superintendent of schools, one backed by myself and many others I know. Congratulations to Dr. Jorea Marple.



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