October 20, 2003
"Look upon that last day always. Count no mortal happy till
Recognition of Self is a requisite for completeness, although it does not necessarily bring happiness. It may be accompanied by surprise, shock, dismay and foreboding. Oedipus comes to mind, as does Faust. It is an essential theme in Greek tragedy and serious drama right down to this day.
Good drama and literature contain characters and situations through which the viewer, or reader, may be brought to memory. Ah . . .
As alluded to above, the memory may not be pleasant. At some point, the thoughtful person runs smack into himself, or herself, in a sudden moment of truth. To find that things once believed in are false, is not only to be wrong, but to have perpetuated a fraud on oneself and possibly others. It is hard for the average individual to admit error, to say nothing of those who think they are superior. It is even more difficult to admit your deeply held beliefs are wrong. At this point, the individual can either find justification -- the normal response -- or change course. This can be seen most easily in politics, where the average politician "spins" facts in order to be perceived as correct by the citizenry, instead of admitting he/she was wrong and subsequently changing course to make things right.
Condoleezza Rice comes to mind.
Recently, the White House took over the reins of US Iraq policy from the Pentagon. The job was taken from Donald Rumsfeld and given to Condoleezza Rice. In a speech made to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, October 8, 2003, she stated the Administration's case for attacking Iraq. (2) In the speech, she made nine claims about why the U. S. was correct in going to war. All nine are flawed, some misleading and others outright false. (3) Misrepresentation and "spin" from a woman who was a provost at Stanford University and an honored professor of note is a sad thing. Unlike the president, Condoleezza Rice is too bright to tell untruths. Hence, she was lying.
I asked a friend -- a law professor -- what she thought about Dr. Rice and her new career as part of the George W. Bush team. She reflected for a moment and used a line from the old movie, "The Blade Runner": "I wonder if IT knows what IT is?" (4) The law professor's implication was that Dr. Rice is a humanoid, a "replicant."
Is it any wonder that the citizenry are confused? Yet, is confusion not what "spin" is all about? The citizenry are left with the task of sifting through various statements made by government officials, or celebrities -- as if these people knew the answers -- or simply deciding to believe whom they want to believe. As seeking the truth requires work, many decide to go along with those who tell them what they want to hear.
But when respected individuals are exposed as liars and politicians spout Orwellian newspeak, it is time to pull one's head out of the sand. Of course that, too, requires some work, so some decline it. After all, it's scary to find out that an "icon" has feet of clay. Point this out to a "true believer" and all sorts of monsters and goblins are apt to fly out.
Why? Because although it's ugly out there, it may be even uglier IN there.
The recent flap over an untoward comment by Rush Limbaugh illustrates the point. Limbaugh stated on ESPN that Donovan McNabb, starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, wasn't really that good and that the press were kind to him because they wanted to see a black quarterback succeed. A furor ensued and Limbaugh decided it would be the better part of valor to resign from his gig at ESPN.
While Limbaugh denied that there was any racist intent in what he said, those more sensitive to such matters saw it differently. The question is: how could Limbaugh not have foreseen this? Was he blind, insensitive, or just plain stupid? How about all of the above? Those caught up in hubris exhibit all those qualities.
But, before we laugh at all the "Ditto heads" for their misplaced faith, do we not have to examine our own "icons" and question our allegiance to them? When we naively place our faith in others, are we not like Marguerite, in Goethe's Faust, when she went to church to pray for salvation and found that the priest performing Mass was Mephistopheles?
Yes. There's better than a good chance of it.
Farai Chideya, put it this way:
"Conservative complaints about the poor, about liberals, about (Rush's term) "feminazis" are a veiled form of victimology -- the very syndrome they decry. Beset by enemies of his own making, is it any wonder that Limbaugh could feel the need to turn to powerful drugs for relief?"Victimology" is what awaits for those who fail to look inward and look for a savior instead, placing their faith in an authority figure of some sort. The bad news? The authority figure doesn't know much more than they do. It doesn't matter whether one turns to the King James Bible, Das Kapital, Fox News, PBS, or the latest book by Michael Moore. The individual still must make a choice, to stand up for his/her beliefs, or sit on his/her reference and absorb someone else's message through osmosis.
What is the scariest message of all? Whatever OZ there is, YOU are!
Whether or not Condoleezza Rice, Rush Limbaugh, or any other authority figure -- tarnished or not -- comes to terms with whom she or he is, is moot. No one is perfect and there is no magic man or woman to save you. We must all face our "lonely street." It is necessary for you -- the individual -- to face yourself. Only then, can inner peace be pursued and, perhaps, be achieved.
A few lines from William Faulkner are apropos:
"He thought that it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himself. But the street ran on: catlike, one place was the same as another to him. But in none of them could he be quiet. But the street ran on in its moods and phases, always empty: he might have seen himself as in numberless avatars, in silence, doomed with motion, driven by the courage of flagged and spurred despair; by the despair of courage whose opportunities had to be flagged and spurred."
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References and Resources
1. Sophocles, Oedipus The King, David Grene trans., University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1954. Lines 1529-1530. (back)
2. Dizon, Nicole Ziegler. "Bush Advisor Rice: Saddam Never Disarmed," Article in reference to 'Condoleezza Rice's Speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations,' October 8, 2003. Associated Press, White House. Yahoo News, October 11, 2003.
It is interesting to note that the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations does not include her speech on their web site -- at least as of October 11, 2003. One is left with the Ziegler article -- sketchy at best -- and the analysis by Jude Wanniski, cited below. (back)
3. Wanniski, Jude. "There Are Flaws In Your Soup, Dr. Rice," http://www.wanniski.com/ October 10, 2003. (back)
4. Perenchino, Jerry and Yorkin, Bud. The Blade Runner, Lines spoken by Harrison Ford, Warner Brothers, Hollywood, 1982. (back)
5. Chideya, Farai. "Avoiding the Rush to Gloat," AlterNet, October 5, 2003. (back)
6. Faulkner, William. Light in August. The Modern Library, New York, 1959, p. 213. (back)
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