Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Paying the price

The death of a young woman; a Greek tragedy in Ireland, though one almost certainly being replicated in Greece and elsewhere.
This narrative of Ireland’s recklessness has been seized upon by politicians, ex-bankers, journalists and visiting emissaries from solvent countries like a life-ring in a cess-pond. It has the feel of Greek tragedy about it - we made mistakes and must be punished.
In this tragic narrative the Furies are represented by the implacable markets, and our great mistake, our hamartia, which Aristotle defines as ‘an injury to others’ and which later commentators came to call the ‘fatal flaw’, is to have become greedy. It must be remembered, however, that the hamartia is usually committed in ignorance of its evil nature or the likely consequences. It may even be committed against the best advice. Think of Oedipus who, in desperately avoiding the terrible crime that has been foretold for him by the oracle at Delphi, commits that very crime in ignorance if not innocence. Oedipus was a good man, but he misunderstood the role of oracles. We too have failed to understand that oracles are agents in our tragedy rather than disinterested commentators. Oedipus was blinded for his hamartia. Rachel Peavoy was frozen to death for ours.
 And so we continue to offer human sacrifices to the gods of economic orthodoxy in the hope that their propitiation will return us to the good days of self-indulgence and rising property prices. Yet:
The end of tragedy, according to Aristotle, to whom we still turn in these matters, is catharsis. But our catharsis will be long in coming and our children’s children will share the punishment.
And as another Irish writer put it:
Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
Hat tip to John

1 comment:

Roger said...

And on Greece itself: