The Primordials and the Victorian State Elections
They used to call them “oracles” back then, in ancient Greece. Or “prophesies.” We call them “polls” today, here in Oz.
Silly things they were which silly people believe in. The giant primordial gods believed in them and that’s why they lost their thrones. One minute they ruled the Universe and the next they trod the rough grounds, “the desolate, untrodden Skythian paths of Tartarus,” as Aschylus put it in his splendid Prometheus Bound.
And, like today’s polls, oracles always gave the same message and with the same effect: “Doom is imminent!” And, as sure as Zeus would follow a gorgeous, mortal virgin, change his form and rape her, doom would certainly come.
It’s always a case of self-fulfilling prophesy. Believe in the oracles and you’ll try to avoid their doom scenario and, trying to avoid it, you cause that doom.
Aeschylus, for example, came to a most unfortunate death thanks to an oracle: “Beware of fallen objects!” the oracle had told him. He was living in Gela, Sicily at the time. Aeschylus looked up at the ceiling, saw the vast, glimmering crystal chandelier and the poor man thought that this was it. This was the source of his doom. So he spent his days away from it, outside, where the only ceiling is the sky. No chandeliers to fall upon your head up there.
One fine day, however, something fell upon his head. Hard and heavy.
Just before his last breath, he looked up. An eagle was hovering above him and next to his bleeding head he saw a turtle, shell smashed and also bleeding.
Aeschylus was killed by the act of an eagle which, as is their custom, picked up the turtle, flew high, looked for a rock to drop the animal onto, saw Aeschylus’ bald head, thought it was a rock and…
Zeus, was a jolly fellow, so jolly that the Romans gave him the name “Jove” whence we got “jovial.” Jolly and strong. Still a suckling, he accidentally and playfully, tore off one of his mother’s horns, his mother being the goat, Amaltheia (“she who for ever nourishes”). That horn became the “Cornucopia,” a horn perpetually filled to the brim with food, also known as “The horn of Plenty.”
Zeus had brought doom to his father Cronos, (renamed Saturn by the Romans) who, at the time, was the omniscient one, the boss of all bosses, in the same way that doom was delivered to his grandfather, Ouranos (Uranus by the Romans -trust the bloody Romans to deform a great Greek name!)
Cronos, was a frightened god because fear goes with power, and absolute power, as we all know, makes its possessor absolutely unnerved. Oracles scream fear just like polls do. Always!
So, Cronos too listened to the ravings of an oracle which told him that his own son would strip him of his power and so to avoid that plight, he would snatch his newborn the moment they poked their little heads out of the womb and eat them.
Until Zeus turned up.
Ouranos would do the same.
Until his son Cronos arrived and, to cut a splendidly long story short, Cronos ambushed his father and sliced off his genitals. He wanted to kill him in fact but you just can’t do that to gods because they are, after all, immortal. Ouranos is still there, in Tartarus, along with all his loyal devotees, his followers, his acolytes, other near-rebel deities, the Titans and all those who had disobeyed the new Boss of Bosses, the new God of all gods, Cronos himself.
There they still are, waiting for another rebellion, spending their time either rolling great sisiphian boulders up a hill or being tantalised by fruit bearing trees or a lakes with crystal clear water, neither quenching their thirst nor satisfying their hunger.
Real kings, of course, real bosses, real leaders don’t consult oracles; they consult philosophers, men and women of skill, of expertise, because that’s what the word ‘sophia’ means, skill and a philosopher is someone who loves sophia; it does not mean some mysterious capacity to be omniscient, all wise, nor some equally mysterious understanding of what is virtue and what is evil but, simply the possession of a “skill” the expert knowledge of doing a particular thing: Hektor was sophos at the spear, Achilles at running, Ajax at the sword. Phidias at sculpting statues, Pythagoras at Maths. That’s where their sophia lie. So, real leaders sought out and listened to philosophers, not to oracles or to entrails-shuffling priests.
And so, I now come to today’s gods, today’s leaders, today’s Uranus and Cronos and Zeus. I come to the politicians who lead this country and it seems to me that with the exception of but one of them, they all do as did the primordials: consult the oracles, the “polls”. Three days later, they are still consulting oracles and entrails!
Our current leaders prefer the counsel of polls rather than that of philosophers.
Plato warned us about doing this very thing, some 2,500 years ago in his great work, The Republic,yet here we are: at both, the State as well as at the Federal level, we see our leaders treat philosophers with scorn and pollsters with great reverence (a euphemism for fear.)
We are afraid of children so much that we lock them up for all eternity in Tartarus-like tent jails. We are afraid of gays and lesbians so much that we deprive them of love and marriage. We are afraid of the poor so much that we deprive them of every necessity to stay alive. We are afraid of education that much that we make it almost impossible for anyone but the rich to get educated.
And so on. Oracular forces of fear.
Last Saturday we saw a leader who, for most of his term was wise enough to have consulted the skilled ones. He came to the Victorians with policies delivered to him by the skilled ones. Policies that sparkled with progress and vision and a Promethean good will. There was no oracular fear in any of his presentations.
His opponent did not. He came with the policies that came out of the burnt offerings of sacrificed animals and barley. Out of oracles. The result is an unequivocal, thunderously crashing win for the philosophers and a calamitous loss for the pollsters, who did nothing but shout belligerently, at every opportunity, the word “fear.”
From the Opposition we heard no policies – just fear.
There are a few lessons that may be learnt from this experience and, to my mind, they are not so much directed at the LNP, as they are to the leader of the Federal Opposition, Bill Shorten who is still fumbling his way between one tentative and shamefully timid announcement, like “we will check out their policy and then make up our mind” and another, like, “the LNP and we are singing from the same hymn book.”
I mean, I ASK YOU!
The Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews called out in no tentative or timid tones to his Federal colleagues, “guys, don’t keep staring at Uranus and at Cronos and trying to make us fear our own shadows. Start thinking like Zeus and give us a cornucopia, a horn which is always replete with the stuff that nourishes our bodies, our minds and our hearts: houses, schools, hospitals, utilities, infrastructure, jobs, justice!”
To Bill Shorten and the Federal ALP, to all the other State and Territories leaders, Dan Andrews is bellowing his exhortations for them to start looking at being assertively progressive, not timidly regressive.
To the LNP, Andrews is saying, “guys, stop eating your own children! Cannibalism in politics can be harrowingly lethal.”
And that’s what can be learnt from last Saturday’s Victorian State election.
Heed these lessons or forever fall into the shadowy world of Tartarus.
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Oh I do like all that ancient stuff, George.
I sometimes think I was born in the wrong century. And when I look at the LNP, Hanson and Trump … I know I surely was.
Carol and I are planning on going through the stones at Craigh na Dun … to get away from this mayhem.
Great read George most rewarding.
We must be wary should dutton seek a comb over.
A friend sent me a quote sadly I have lost it but involved the introduction of religion instruction into public schools compared to a mobile dentist room.
michael a look at bush and blair with little johnnie panting like a puppy destroying the people of iraq, or the hoover/rooseveldt treatment of mexican americans in the depression makes trump’s antics a doddle
a look at kevin andrews slimey input puts pauline easy on the ear
when we look at barnaby how can we not laugh??
Vary apt, though I suspect niether Scomo nor Shorten will read it, and even if Scomo did read it he wouldn’t pay attention to the message, his hubris would blind him.
Mind you Scomos attention span is only just that bit longer than trumps so he probably would not get to the message
On Shorten’s need to be assertive…oh but he is. Didn’t you read about it? All the places he has visited including numerous consultations with indigenous communities. No? It couldn’t possibly be that the MSM never reports on the numerous times that he IS being assertive and proactive. We’re more likely to get photos of Scott Morrison’s latest baseball cap than stories about what Bill Shorten is doing.
My American friend ( he’s a Labor voter ) told me on Sunday that Shorten has not got ‘personality’ , whatever that is….
My reply to him was that many good leaders have not had ít either, Helen Clarke, Tarja Halonen, not even the Liberals favourite boy, Johnny Howard…
I can’t say I liked Johnny, but he was miles ahead of Abbott, Morrison…
But to be honest, I have to agree with your statements: ‘ Bill Shorten who is still fumbling his way between one tentative and shamefully timid announcement, like “we will check out their policy and then make up our mind” and another, like, “the LNP and we are singing from the same hymn book.”
Still, I remember Gillard being too ‘tentative’ at first, but grew into a good, confident leader…so can Shorten.
Of course he also has many good confident people behind him, and good policies….Not much talent on Scottie’s side.
I saw Captain Denial John Howard on the 7.30 Report last night. A true master in the delegation and the outsourcing of fear.
Very nice prose…
Thank you all for reading and for your kind comments.
I feel that in political terms, here in Oz we’re going through what may be called, a stage of liminality, of transition, one that is the reverse of that brought about by the likes of Howard and his phalanx of hollow-hearted men and women (though, women one must admit were very sparse around his flanks).
I think the Right has run itself all the way to the edge of the precipice and has little more to go before they find themselves flying through the deep void.
Or, at least, that’s as far to the Right as the Oz people will allow the Right to go.
Dan Andrews’ phosphorescent victory in Victoria is an incontestable statement to that effect. The era of “thou shalt nots” cascading over our heads on a daily basis is over. It is being slowly but certainly, replaced by an era of, “yeah, you can have a bit of this” and “no, there is no need to deprive you of that, just because some cleric says so.”
Politics has shifted its focus from the “suits” to the open necked shirts, from the Melbourne Club to the footy club and from the Pulpit, to Face Book.
Not quite far enough and fast enough for my long departed father of the splendid heart, who was a passionate people-lover, a humanist-socialist and not enough for me either but this step, this Victorian exhibition of moral strength and what it can achieve, is most encouraging.
I know what the Federal ALP is facing and what Shorten has been doing, or at least trying to do and the ideological beasts who own the big media and I know also that his job and the job of those around him is much akin to the job faced by the Athenians twice back in 490 and 480 BC, against the Persians. Huge odds.
However, Shorten is no Pericles when it comes to delivering policies, at least not the policies that concern me and my kin: Refugees, Climate (Adani, anyone?) Foreign Policy, TPPs. And the rest of the issues that concern me, Health, Education, Housing, are treated far too timidly, if at all.
I don’t see the bold vision and intellectual and moral strength of Gough’s. The power of every syllable of his speeches, the faith we had in those syllables. Nothing about free education, or Medibank, no talking to the common folk. I don’t see it in the Big Media and I don’t see it on Face Book.
At least not yet.
And as for the issues of Housing, Health and other day-to-day essentials, I hear syllables of timid concern and shouts of attacks against the LNP but no solid conviction, no solid solution, no solid support.
And this, I think is the message that Saturday’s People’s victory is sending to Bill Shorten; and if Bill Shorten had, in fact, taken notice it would be seen, not in the Big Media but on Face Book and on everyone’s “smart phone” and it would flowing from everyone’s lips. In the agora and in the coffee shops.
But it isn’t.
Carol and Helvi, it is also my hope that Shorten will develop into that “good, confident leader.” I certainly do, otherwise, we will be stuffed as a country and we will very much resemble that dystopia across the seas, the putrefying old USA.
But he’ll need to move fast and, dare I repeat it, assertively!