Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Oedipus, Obama and Denial, Denial and More Denial
I recently reread ‘Oedipus the King.’ I needed the review to write something about the TV series Mad Men. The story of Oedipus is dramatic and full of insight into human nature. No big surprise that Sigmund Freud gave it top billing in his description of the workings of the human personality,
This odious semi-monster, the Sphinx has the city of Thebes blockaded and closed up. Oedipus shows up and with some clever thinking defeats the monster by solving a riddle. The people hail him and make him king. They marry him to the old, lost king’s wife. So Oedipus settles down to a happy marriage in a great new job.
All of this is wonderful until the people of the city begin dying from a plague. Oedipus is told that the plague is caused by there never having been any punishment for the murder of the old king. He’s also told that the murderer remains in the city and the deaths from the plague will not end until the man is found and punished.
So now Oedipus is pretty much drawn into the whole hero gig. He’s full of himself and convinced of his ability to make a difference. He starts smart talking the little folk and he acts like there is no way he can fail at this. Circumstances and his ego keep drawing him slowly, deeper and deeper into the search for the killer. Will find the killer? At this point, Barack Obama is somewhat like this guy. Barack defeated Hillary, McCain and Palin without breaking a sweat mainly by piercing the riddle of how to manipulate the caucus process. Plus, he inextricably seems to be the favorite of the party old guard. Maybe they just figure he is better than Hillary. Or maybe they think they can manipulate him more easily than they can Hill. And I think they’re right about that. But what a perfect example of: be careful what you wish for..
There follows much investigation into the old king and all of the circumstances surrounding his death. The further he goes the more committed Oedipus becomes to the whole quest. Solving this question becomes Oedipus’ whole life. We detect no fear in him. He seems to have not an inkling that the final answer will discomfort him in any way.
I’m beginning to notice more and more divergence from the story of Barack Obama. Once inaugurated into the presidency he talks big about lowering unemployment and bailing out those too big to fail. The plain English for ‘too big to fail’ is ‘gave money to whoever gave us money and will give to the reelection.’ Decreasing unemployment seems to be unimportant for anyone but Barack’s friends the government employees and union members. Apparently everyone else can go to hell and at a rapid rate. Not heroic!
For the first reader totally unfamiliar with the story, the dénouement is just as much a massive surprise to them as it was to Oedipus. Because, as everyone else knows, the new reader and Oedipus are in for a really, really big surprise. As he is looking for the murderer, some revelations also begin coming out about Oedipus’ genesis and youth. And this is a finely woven plot so nothing goes to waste.
It all gets down to at the inescapable fact that Oedipus was the killer. We also discover that, by a strange chain of accidents, that the old king, Laius is actually Oedipus’ father. And also Oedipus’ present wife, Jocasta is actually his mother. All of these revelations coming at once are more than a little upsetting to Oedipus. To see how all or this is finely worked out by the playwright you need to read the whole play (the judgement of the ages is that it is well worth the time and effort). Oedipus goes a little crazy and ends up gouging his eyes out. No fear of Obama seeing too much. I think the main fear is that he might not pay attention at all. Meanwhile, the plague of recession and unemployment stalks the land. I suppose if Barack and friends eat enough Kobe beef, I mean a lot of Kobe beef, the Japanese cowboys will become so rich that they might come to America on vacation and create an hotel maid job or two. But maybe Barack and Michelle will go all soft and sweet again and have another date night in New York. That won’t put any new actors to work or make a whole new cook or waiter necessary but it might mean a few bucks for the local economy. They do pay for their theatre tickets and dinner, don’t they? Well if a few dozen cops get some extra overtime that might get spent on the locals.
There is no lack of denial in this story. Obama’s inner circle is in denial that he is anything but very holy. But that is a cautionary tale. Obama has surrogates all over the place and they are spreading the denial thick and deep. The two favorite denial systems seem to be ‘It’s all Bush’s fault’ and ‘All of our critics are racists.” Yes they lay out this crap with straight faces and act like this BS belongs in a rational discussion between adults. Well, denial is whatever gets you through the night. And this worthless crap really seems to speak loudly to many a Democrats’ inner Keynes.
Obama does have some answers. Regrettably they are not to questions anyone has asked. His answers are to the straw men. And those answers might try to make him look wise and rational but they don’t do any of us any good. So plainly Obama is not the hero that is going to save us from the plague. Maybe he only thinks about the plague once or twice a week, anyway. The fine silver service and the crystal in the White House might be all the denial system the Great One needs to live and think like there is actually no plague ravaging his newly acquired kingdom Maybe we’re going to have to go to a local Tea Party and become our own heroes.
On my other blog The Chinese Jar I have posted a totally unpolitical version of this. I recommend it for those who want a little intro to the Freud's take on the myth as well