Friday, 1 July 2011


When it comes to myths it's hard to beat the Greeks. The Hellenic tradition of story, fable and heroic acts is among the greatest in the world. And the most famous of all their heroes is Heracles, son of Zeus and Alcemena, named for Hera, Zeus' wife. Rome (41 degrees North, 12 degrees East) and Disney (34 degrees North, 118 degrees West) call him Hercules. 

Heracles the Greek is superlatively brave, hardy, enduring, humorous, sensitive, generous and adventurous. He is also lustful, gluttonous and prone to fits of violent temper, especially against those he finds committing injustice. A hero and a Greek, no doubt. 

Heracles has long since completed the Twelve Labours originally set him by  King Eurystheus, following Heracles murder of his own family. (The Greeks never do anything by halves, especially not tragedy.) 

In an echo of one of his triumphs, when he faced and destroyed the many-headed Hydra of Lerna, he now faces the many-headed Hydra of Austerity. Her many heads include the prevaricating EU, the avaricious ECB, the bumbling states in the Euro-zone, the slavering German Tyrannosaurus Rex, the rapacious French Raptor, the IMF, the spiteful, venomous, venal international banking system and the police, who themselves, ironically, face cuts from the Hyrdra of Austerity.  

Tear gas fills the air in Syntagma Square in Athens (37 degrees North, 23 degrees East), as Heracles faces the Hydra. The plaza resembles a war zone. The detritus of battle lies everywhere, with burning barricades, smashed pavements, shattered masonry, looted shops and destroyed kiosks.

It is the setting for scenes from Euripides play, Heracles.
Ha! what is this? I see my children before the house in the garb of death, with chaplets on their heads, my wife amid a throng of men, and my father weeping o'er some mischance. Let me draw near to them and inquire; lady, what strange stroke of fate hath fallen on the house? 

The mischance and the strange stroke of fate the Greeks are enduring and are making Hecaclean efforts to overcome arise from the present state of modernity, from the myths that progress is delivered by continuing economic growth and that value is measured in money, that loose credit and over-consumption are economic drivers (indeed - drivers to ruin as in Ireland and Portugal) and that when private enterprise, in its most devastating form as casino capitalism, wreaks havoc, the public sector must bear the pain of the collapse and carnage. 

It is no wonder that Heracles is angered and fighting back, on a range of fronts.  
Cast from your heads these chaplets of death, look up to the light, for instead of the nether gloom your eyes behold the welcome sun. I, meantime, since here is work for my hand, will first go raze this upstart tyrant's halls, and when I have beheaded the miscreant, I will throw him to dogs to tear.

Euripides wrote the play between 421 and 416 B.C.E and yet the voice of Heracles resonates in Athens today. One of the problems facing the rioting Heracles is that he can be filmed and labelled as destructive. Unfortunately the destruction wrought by casino capitalists cannot be so easily filmed and labelled. It will take considerably more than rioting to slay this Hydra. 

Heracles the Greek will be called upon to face many labours in the time to come. 
....... here all mankind are equal; all love their children, both those of high estate and those who are naught; 'tis wealth that makes distinctions among them; some have, others want; but all the human race loves its offspring.

Check out this yacht for sale at Piraeus, Greece's third biggest city.
Some have, others want. It's not surprising Heracles the Greek is angry.

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