Saturday, November 17, 2012


Tragedy usually refers to the fall of a great man, or at least a situation that ends in a sad and perhaps undeserved end beyond the control of those involved, sometimes an undeserved fate not always predictable. But sometimes one meets his or her tragic end with courage and nobility, sometimes without either grace or nobility, perhaps even with little more than a dishonest, even pathetic resistance. As far as I know there are no terms to distinguish between these two different ways of meeting a tragic end. Thus I am suggesting a term like tragathic to designate a pathetic path to a tragic end. There are, I believe, some current examples of tragathic ends.

Take, for example, the case of Senator John McCain, once a war hero, respected and honored even to the point of once running for President of the United States. That attempt seems to have set the stage for his tragathic end. First there was his disastrous and opportunistic pick of the obviously unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate. So determined was he to become President he was willing to put this pathetically unprepared woman a heartbeat away from the Presidency, an act so irresponsible and self-serving as to be almost unbelievable. Then, as he lost the election to President Obama, he seems to have become little more than a cranky, vindictive old man determined to destroy the man who defeated him. There seems to be nothing Obama can do that McCain does not criticize and try to belittle him, the latest being his obviously politically motivated criticism of the Benghazi case. Where once he was honored and respected he is now tragically and pathetically trying to hang on to whatever relevance he has left, a classic example of the tragathic, and it is not going well for him.

Yet another example of the same phenomenon might well be seen in the case of Mitt Romney. An apparently successful businessman, handsome and Presidential in bearing, an upstanding family man, religious and clearly a member of the “upper crust .” He spent the greater part of six or seven years running for the Presidency, a position he wanted so badly he was willing to lie and cheat in any way he could to obtain it. In so doing he began his pathetic descent into his tragathic end, lying and making false excuses for the fact that he lost something he felt he was entitled to have. So pathetic was his ambition he refused from the very beginning to acknowledge that virtually no one wanted him to be the Republican candidate, and when he finally won the nomination against a field of equally pathetic contenders he apparently believed he was so chosen to become President he felt he could systematically insult the bulk of the electorate. When this led inevitably to his tragathic finish he cannot cope with the finality of his attempt.

Although it has not happened yet I strongly suspect there will eventually be a tragathic end to the state of Israel. Here was a large group of Jewish people who finally were given an opportunity to have what they wanted, a Jewish nation carved out of lands previously held by others (however wise or unwise this was) and supported by both Britain and the United States. Their territory was defined and within it they proceeded to build a nation to their liking, and a successful enterprise it was. But then, over time, their greed and racism led them to more and more encroach on land that was not designated for them, they slowly destroyed the homes and farms of Palestinians, illegally built settlements and displaced the rightful owners, and now find themselves despised and hated by many, and in a state of constant hostility with their neighbors who at the moment are attacking them with rockets launched from Gaza, a place recently described as the largest outdoor prison in the world. Their response to these attacks is, as always, military action. They always claim they have a right to defend themselves which, rather perversely they do. They always claim they want to live in peace but they staunchly refuse to take any serious steps that might lead to peace. If they truly wanted peace (instead of Palestinian land and water) they would observe the original designated boundaries, make a serious attempt to solve their problems with the Palestinians, stop their discrimination and prejudice, and observe international law. They will never live in peace as long as they continue to colonize Palestinian land, assassinate Palestinian leaders, kill innocent Palestinian children, destroy Palestinian orchards and farmlands, and continue making illegal settlements. Apparently their greed for more and more territory, coupled with their inherent racism, does not allow them to act otherwise. The power to make and have peace lies completely with the Israelis (and their U.S. lackies), not with the Palestinians. But as they continue their pathetic and outdated colonial exploitation with no end in sight they will, I suspect, eventually end up as all colonial powers have ended, with a defeat and a whimper, another example of the tragathetic. I wish it were not so, but so it will inevitably be.

People are the common denominator of progress. So... no improvement is possible with unimproved people, and advance is certain when people are liberated and educated. It would be wrong to dismiss the importance of roads, railroads, power plants, mills, and the other familiar furniture of economic development.... But we are coming to realize... that there is a certain sterility in economic monuments that stand alone in a sea of illiteracy. Conquest of illiteracy comes first.

John Kenneth Galbraith

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