We see evidence of the Plague all around us. A recent book called Ruins of Detroit by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre illustrates evidence of the Plague quite well. Far from being a voice alone in the wilderness, though, I find prophets of Doom all around me. There was a band out a few years back called Rage against the Machine
“I’ll give ya a dose
But it’ll never come close
To the rage built up inside of me
Fist in the air, in the land of hypocrisy”
They seem to have a sense of the Plague but who are they kidding? Self indulgent revolutionaries with their endless stream of progressive In-Your-Face-Ism is just another particle in the cultural pollution that is killing us. Corporate America gave RATM it’s solid financial support which may have confused the boys in the band and their minions but no one with their eyes open should act surprised.
Decades before RATM, Camus gives us his version of the Plague with Man facing an absurd existence. Although Camus claimed to be against nihilism and meaninglessness he indulged in the intellectual pastime of eschewing labels, always confused by the “Existentialist” label that dogged him. Words have meaning, Mr. Camus.
What causes this perennial attack on “The System” or Western Civilization (WC) or “society” by many intelligent and creative folks who ultimately just don’t get it? They make their contribution to the liberal Kultursmog while claiming to be against it. Why do these progressives keep performing the Sysiphian task of rolling that same rock up the hill thinking “THIS TIME it won’t roll back down?”
Sophocles gives us Oedipus the King. Here is a man who killed his father and married his mother and despite the works of S. Freud, is quite poignant to us today, although I think the meaning has been lost on many of us.
“The plague spreads everywhere, a stain seeping through our streets, our fields, our houses.”
The plague is upon Thebes and cunning Oedipus cannot figure out why. He outthought the Sphinx but cannot see what brought the plague down upon his fair city. So he turns to the prophet Tiresias to help him. Oedipus being a man of intellect has his doubts about the prophet. Truth, if it can be found, would never be found in revelation of a Divine Nature.
And Tiresias is reluctant to tell the king the truth, knowing that the die is cast and the truth will only destroy Oedipus.
“Wisdom is a curse when wisdom does nothing for the man who has it.”
Oedipus taunts Tiresias with contemptuous insults about the prophet’s blindness. Tiresias asks Oedipus, “What do you know about yourself?”
Oedipus responds by accusing Tiresias of conspiring with Kreon to take the throne and that he was involved with the murder of the former king, Laios. Oedipus curses the man who killed Laios. If only he knew the truth, he could save Thebes from the plague. The king continues to harangue the prophet until Tiresias has had enough; he turns to Oedipus and says:
“You, it’s you. What plagues the city is you. The plague is you.”
This pushes Oedipus right over the edge, he has had it with this oracle and threatens him. Tiresias tries to tell Oedipus what he doesn’t want to know.
“…hear me speak, Oedipus. You have eyes to see with, but you do not see yourself, you do not see the horror shadowing every step of your life, the blind shame in which you live…Tell me Oedipus, who are your parents? Do you know?”
Oedipus eventually finds out the whole truth, that he murdered his own father and married his own mother. Seeing the absurdity of the situation often blinds us to its meaning: Oedipus comitted these things unawares because he did not know who he was.
There is an old anecdote where the British paper The Times invited several eminent authors to write essays on the theme “What’s Wrong with the World?” G.K.Chesterton’s contribution took the form of a letter:
Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G. K. Chesterton
Chesterton here combined wit with a serious point – that of fallen human nature and humility.
Chesterton’s Christianity recognises the universality of a fallen human nature, it is the Pharisees and Puritans who only see the failings in others.
If we would change the world for the better, we must begin with ourselves. And if we are to enoble ourselves we ought to recognise our need for redemption and a Redeemer. A little humility and a little faith would make a Good Beginning.