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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The punishment of the gods

As hardly anyone knows these days, Sisyphus was a king in Greek mythology who was condemned to push a rock five miles uphill, just to see it roll down again.

There are many versions of his story, one of the most amusing being the one told in the Encyclopaedia of Greek Mythology.  It seems he was a really rather nasty bloke - devious, deceitful, and vain, and great at building up business to his own pecuniary benefit.  He also killed people who tried to migrate to his realm.  All of this irritated the gods immensely, and so they decided to punish him.  Hence the rock.

Remind you of anyone?

As well as various versions of the myth, there are various theories of what it really means.  Some of them are on Wikipedia.   But what I really like is a discussion by oped writer Joe Bennett in today's DominionPost.   "The ancients knew a thing or two," he says. "Their gods weren't supernatural beings to be worshiped.  They were metaphors for the way things were."  And if, like Bennett, you are thinking of Trump, then the punishment is being wrought already.

"Trump yearns to be loved, to be admired," he goes on. "Praise is the fuel he runs on.  But his stupidity and vanity have trapped him in a job that is utterly beyond him. And everyone can see it.  He is despised throughout the world.  And worse, mocked.  He cannot open a newspaper, turn on the television, without finding himself ridiculed."

And it is all so public. No one is laughing behind his back -- the world is laughing right in his face. "A recent survey revealed that the three words Americans associated most with Trump were idiot, incompetent and liar.  For a narcissist such knowledge is torture."

One almost feels sorry for the poor bloke.  As Joe Bennett concludes, "Isolated, out of his depth, exposed and mocked, consumed with hatred, awash with self-pity, and facing a slow but inexorable crushing in the jaws of justice, Trump is in hell more surely than Sisyphus ever was."

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