Article Overview:   Who is the tragic hero in the current drama over War With Iraq?  Is it President Bush?  Tony Blair?  Saddam Hussein?  Or the United Nations itself?   Since the Fifth Century B.C. tragic plays have been acted out on the theater stage and the world stage.   How will this one end?   Will it end in tragedy or triumph?  Find out.


Monday--March 10, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 544
The Tragedy Of Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Mar. 10--Is Saddam Hussein rewriting Greek Tragedy for the 21st Century?   It would seem so, for the world appears to be applauding his battle to rise from the ashes of Terrorism as the great victor over Good, and to prove one more time that Evil and Good can co-exist despite the power of Good.

Good vs. Evil:  Can they co-exist?

     To decide if the current conflict between the forces of "Good and Evil" fall within the scope of classic Greek Tragedy, let's first examine what constitutes a "classic Greek tragedy."
       It all began back in 534 B.C. when Thespis, a Greek playwright, invented an actor who conversed with the leader of the chorus who represented what we might call today the United Nations.   The chorus was the "body of man," who commented on the events and participated in them so that it was both involved in the action and detached from it.  The chorus' purpose was to ask questions about the nature of man, his position in the universe, his relation to the powers that govern life:  the chorus offered serious concern with the problems of man's fate.
       This seems a reasonable parallel to the nature of the United Nations.  It sits detached, yet capable of action.   It cogitates the conflicts between nations in respect to all other nations.   But, in the end, it is merely a chorus, not an actor.   It is a backboard, not the basket.
       Now, to the key structure of a Greek tragedy.

Does the current conflict in the Middle East qualify as a Greek Tragedy?

       There were three great masters of Greek tragedy, each of whom spun tales in the Fifth Century B.C. and set up foundations for human beings to reflect up the moral nature of themselves and others.    They were Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.   
       Aeschylus examined the dangers of overweening arrogance, the ancient rule of blood for blood and the inevitability of the misuse of power.  Sophocles didn't argue for or attempt to justify the "ways of the gods" as did Aeschylus. (Aeschylus may be likened to a Conservative, a fundamentalists by nature who, even while finding fault, warned against change, warned against opposing the order of things.)  
       Sophocles accepted the "ways of the gods" as they are, treating them with awe and reverence, and drew from them central truths, but his works didn't stop dead in their tracks.   His contribution was to burrow out these "truths" and hold them up to the mirror of self-reflection.  For example, to Sophocles, any violation of the cosmic order creates suffering.  However, he held that suffering can redeem and exalt.  He tended to be compassionate toward his principle characters, showing sympathy for them however deluded or broken they may be.   (He may have been a Liberal.)

        Aeschylus (Conservative?)                 Socrates  (Liberal?)                     Euripides (Rabble Rouser)

      Finally, there was Euripides.   He was the rabble rouser, the George Bush challenging the U.N.    Where Aeschylus and Sophocles merely suggest the old ways may be wrong, Euripides criticizes them boldly.  He flew in the face of tradition, unafraid to stand up to the "ways of the gods" as America and Britain are examples of in their battering ram charge to denude Saddam of weapons of mass destruction despite the "conventional wisdom" of the U.N. and even the body politic.
       Now, what comprises a tragedy?
       Fundamentally, it is always a situation in which man seems to be deprived of all outward help and is forced to rely entirely on himself.   It is usually a situation of extraordinary tension, of utmost conflict.  (Sounds frightfully similar to the stand-off between the U.S. and the U.N., doesn't it.)
      Greek tragedies include variations on two basic tragic situations.  The first is:  man's miscalculation of reality that brings about a fatal situation.   

The true shapes of things cannot always be judged by their surface appearances

      The second is that of a man caught between two conflicting principles.   In this case, the protagonist is suddenly put at the crossing point of two duties, both of which claim fulfillment.  
       Characteristic of the tragic catastrophe is the fact that not only the protagonist comes to be destroyed, but very often innocent people are also involved   Everybody's fate is connected in some way.  (Again, it seems the U.S./U.N. angst is fodder for another Greek tragedy)
       The underlying current of all Greek dramas concerns the laws and standards by which the gods let man live.   It is the paradox of Greek tragedy that it will never yield any definite answers.   The only result in each drama is one's awareness of the unreliability and deceptiveness of human reason and the realization that the true shapes of things cannot always be judged by their surface appearance.  And, one last but vital point, that man's view and insight can be clouded over by demonic forces.
        Greek tragic drama almost always results in a catastrophe, yet the way in which the hero fails often evokes our admiration for him.   In his suffering, the tragic hero attains a certain greatness.  Tragedy is a form of protest, a cry of Terror or complaint or rage or anguish to and against whomever  or whatever is responsible for "this harsh attack," the cause of the suffering and death, be it God, Nature, Fate, circumstance, chance or just something nameless.
        Aristotle called the process of viewing a tragedy "cleansing" for spectators.   "By participating vicariously in the grief, pain and fear of the tragic hero or heroine, the spectator experiences pity and fear and is purged."

Who is the Tragic Hero?

        Now, who is the tragic hero in the play unfolding over Iraq?  Is it Saddam?  President Bush?   Tony Blair?
        All three seem to fit the mould in greater or lesser degrees.
        Saddam seems to fall into the first category--he has miscalculated reality.  Despite sanctions and agreements to disarm after the Gulf War, he has continued to expand his weapons of mass destruction.  When the U.N. issued Resolution 1441 unanimously, it was an indictment he had "miscalculated reality."  That reality was the United States would step up to the plate and put such pressure on him to disarm that the world would back America's position--and it did.   At least for a while.

Resolution 1441: a "miscalculated reality"

        His defiance of the "gods" turned on him.   But then the winds shifted to his favor.   Slowly, he turned the spotlight of Terrorism 180 degrees, back upon the United States and away from his dodging and weaving.  The tragic hero became America, no longer the protagonist in the drama, but now the "evil one," the antagonist bent on war.   Saddam slipped through the Greek tragedy curtains like Hamlet's ghost.
         He has succeeded in rallying the world behind him, a world that tends to ignore his "crimes" to one that favors crippling America's arrogance because it threatened to stand up to Terrorism with or without global assent.  Saddam now is the chorus,  laughing out of one side of his mouth while the lips on the other side smack the buttock of the U.N., France, Germany and Russia.  
        Then there is Tony Blair, another tragic figure in the modern drama.  With only 15 percent of his nation's public opinion behind him, Blair risks his political future by standing alongside America against Saddam.   One of his top advisors threatened to quit if he sides with America against the U.N.'s expected refusal to authorize force against Iraq.   He faces political tragedy if he continues supporting the U.S.
        Blair seems to be caught in the tragic vice of dual principles--that of his nation's will and that of the overriding duty to the future security of the world.   While his nation's opinion is to stand by and be a Greek drama spectator, Blair's concern is facing Terrorism head-on.  Personally, he has risked the wrath of the gods by supporting America in a bitter political battle over  a Complacent world of "cosmic deities" who are punishing those who stand in defiance to their Titan powers, or assumed powers.   These are the members of the U.N. Security Council, to which France has become its Jupiter.

The UN Security Council chorus sings "Que Sera, Sera..."

       Finally, there is George Bush.    He falls into both categories.  He too, has miscalculated reality and, like Blair, is being squeezed not just by his duty to protect America but also to retain America's role as the world's policeman.  Tragically, the world--through the U.N. chorus-- is shouting at him:  "We don't want your help.  We've grown up.  We can take care of ourselves. Boo!  Hissssss!  Boo!  Hisssss!"
        Some might lobby to expand the tragic hero ensemble to include the United Nations.  Its qualifications include a high degree of political hubris, a shoe-banging history of arrogance toward one another, and its factional self-aggrandizement as the world's "peace keeper" when it tends to debate rather than act when the Beast of Terror rapes, pillages and plunders.

The United Nations proclaims it acts as "peacekeeper" while closing its eyes to the actions of the Beast of Terror

       It is especially qualified today because a few months ago the body (chorus) voted unanimously for Resolution 1441 to rid weapons of mass destruction from Iraq, and now sing songs of support rather than admonishment for Iraq.   Iraq has become its "tragic hero," being bullied by the U.S., a victim of American "imperialism" and "rush-to-war" policies that do not settle in the caw of the U.N. chorus. And, its more bellicose entrails are current waging virtual "war on America's credibility, using the ploy of Iraq and Resolution 1441 to diminish America's role as the world's unilateral peacekeeper and posit Europe as the bold new Big Stick in world politics and power.
       Sadly, in tragedies, there are no conclusions.   There is the presence of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust but no exclamation points, no "ah hah's" that suggest some punctuation or underscoring of any vital moral or philosophical issue.   The purpose of a tragedy is to expose the frailty of human beings, and to remind the audience that they too are vulnerable to such fragility.  Therefore, it applies that the U.N. Security Council, headed by France, Germany and Russia as lead actors, should step into the tragic play spotlight.
       Tragedies are also not about something intensely sad or terrible.   They do not end on a pessimistic note.   If they did, the effect upon the audience would be one of intolerable depression.   While the evil forces in a tragedy most frequently destroy the tragic hero, the tragedy rarely ends with evil triumph.  This, hopefully, suggests that Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il will be defeated ultimately.
       This analysis of a classic Greek tragedy  presents us with a dilemma--what is the goal of a tragedy?  What's it payoff?   Where is the asset in the pile of pony dung?
       Ultimately, its final curtain is a reminder that we, as human beings, have room to improve.   It reminds us that despite all our failings and faults, all our blindness and self-seeking, that there is Hope just over the horizon.

The Final Curtain reminds humans we have room for improvement

      In one of the great Greek myths about Pandora's Box, the legend goes that when Pandora opened the box, sent by Jupiter who was angry that humans could live without his power and ruler ship, out flew all the pains and sorrows of the world.  Jupiter was, mankind's first Terrorist, our first Saddam Hussein, our first Genghis Khan, our first Hitler, our first Kim Jong Il.  His weapons of mass destruction were pride, anger, greed, lust, envy, gluttony and sloth, the Seven Deadly Sins he had sent, a virulent weapon to drive humans into depression and despair, to force them into a constant state of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
      But Vigilance was close on the heels of Terrorism, even in those legendary days.   One of the gods above had taken issue with Jupiter's wrath against humans, and slipped in one more item in Pandora's box--it was Hope.
      As Pandora, so the story goes, is screaming in pain and anguish as the faults of humanity bore into her soul, she heard a plea from inside the box she had dropped when the Seven Deadly Sins flew out like banshees from Hell to turn the peace and prosperity of earth into a state of Terror.   
      Painfully, she opened the box one more time and let out the Hope that had been nefariously slipped in by a god of Vigilance.   Hope offered humans Courage to overcome Fear, Conviction to displace Intimidation, and Right Actions for the Children's Children's Children as a tool to digest Complacency and focus the world on a singular goal--to improve the lot of humanity for the innocent, those yet not infected by the Seven Deadly Sins.
        It is this critical part of the Greek tragedy that I believe the world should focus upon, and not the disquieting Seven Deadly Sins that fly up to blind us to Hope's germination.
        World leaders have for eons been given the powers of gods.  They have been treated as the Titans and Jupiter's of the world, issuing edicts to the people from trumpets of despotism and tyranny, to the disguises of democracies and republics.
       Over these eons, the average man and woman has abdicated his or her role of Generational Leadership to these bodies of tragic power, whether they be Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, Emperors or heads of the U.N. Security Council.
        If we look at the real tragedy of human growth, we see leaders unable to lead, powers that have no power, nations that have no spine, and other nations willing to risk the security of the world to feather their own beds.

Human growth will come from the Vigilance of Hope

       That leaves us, the people, as mere spectators to an endless marquee of tragic plays in which national and world leadership holds in its grasp the destiny of the globe.
        Our not-so-new enemy, Terrorism, has brought the audience into the tragic play.  Terrorism infects all.  It passes through the porosity of cultures and borders, slithers around the barricades of ethnicity and politics as though it were some alien from egregious planet far in space.
        It strips the world of what we have known as "leadership," vis-à-vis the rancor currently demonstrated by the not-so United Nations.   It enfolds the audience onto the stage, demanding that the Citizens of Vigilance stand up and be counted or suffer the tragic consequences of leaving their children's destiny in the hands of those who cannot decide who the enemy and ally is anymore.
     .   The average person truly stands rudderless  in the churning Sea of Terrorism.  But as any tragic play offers, there is Hope.   That Hope is that people will awaken from their roles of subservience into roles of leadership.
          If the scene plays itself out to ultimate final curtain, it tells us  we, the people, will rise out of the ashes of the tragic hero spotlight and become Sentinels of Vigilance.
         It challenges each of us to become a collection of Global Parents of Vigilance, denying the past false belief that there is a King of Vigilance or Queen of Vigilance ruling over us who cares more about our children's future and security than we care, or can protect them from Terrorism's wrath and harm more than we, the Guardians of Vigilance.
         If we truly care about the future of the world, and the removal of Terrorism, then we, the audience of the current tragedy, must rise to the occasion and take the Shield of Vigilance and Sword of Vigilance in our hands and march as a single, unified body against Terrorism of all sizes and shapes.  That means we must be willing to fight both the Beast of Terror that threatens us from the outside, and the Beast within each of us that seeks to strangle us with constant petty Fears, childish Intimidations and sanguine Complacencies that make us think we are mere grains of sand on a beach filled with giant rocks.

We are Leaders of Vigilance and can drive Terrorism from our lives

         We do not have to wait for anyone to authorize us to become Leaders of Vigilance.  We have always been, and always will be in charge of driving Terrorism from our lives.    The tragic play is not about tragedy.  It is about fallibility.   It is about our failings to rise above our selfish, self-seeking shells in which we tend to curl while we await others to build the castle walls and drive off the Dragons of Terror.
         Each one of us can battle Fear by mustering One Percent more Courage, and tackle Intimidation by flexing the muscles of Convictions by One Percent more, and, we can keep our focus clear so we don't become victims of Complacency by targeting our objective with Right Actions to protect the Children's Children's Children from the slings and arrows of Pandora's Box.
        We can each enlist ourselves in the War Against Terrorism by taking the Pledge of Vigilance and being willing to become Leaders of Vigilance not mere spectators.   We can create a nation of Parents and Citizens of Vigilance who will have far more power than any leader or any United Nations when it comes to protecting our children's future, and their Children's Children's future.

There is Hope the Parents of these children will sing the Song of Vigilance

        So as the curtain falls on yet another tragic story of human Complacency, of abdication of individual rights to those who allegedly rule us, let the chorus sing a new chant.   Let them sing the Pledge of Vigilance so loudly we will pass through the fog of the Seven Deadly Sins into the light of Vigilant Hope.
         You will know when you have passed through the fog.  It will be the day you take the Pledge of Vigilance and take charge of paving the way for your Children's Children's Children's future peace and prosperity.
         The only real tragedy would be if you did nothing.


Mar. 9--Conversation With God:  Will Saddam Escape Death?

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