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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Reversal of Fortune

Eliot Spitzer's sudden downfall (one almost unparallelled in modern American history) raises issues no thinking person should avoid. On the one hand, he appears the classic Tartuffe - hypocritically representing exactly that which he secretly despises, even undermines - bourgeois law and morality - on the other, perhaps a deeply, sadly flawed human being, struggling with desires most humans are familiar with. It is both symbolically perfect, and exceptionally sensational that the lawman who broke high-class sex rings used them himself - but it is hardly, on reflection, either peculiar, or even extraordinarily wicked.

Eyewear feels Spitzer was right to resign because of his lack of judgement (surely such vices are not compatible with his occupation) - but not because of any moral lapse. That is for him, his family, and his faith to work out, out of the public eye. In the meantime, is Western society placing too much pressure on the lawman, the public official, indeed, each of the public masks worn to meet and great the long day?

We snicker when a Britney snaps, we sigh when a Ledger sleeps - yet are we not all able to? All too often, the braying media calls for the blood of those in high office who stoop to low deeds (Clinton, Bill). What we are not able to sound out is the mettle of the men and women who finally, tested to full strain, break and release. Perhaps Spitzer, for instance, held himself, and values of law and order, to such standards he could not but crack. Is that pitiable? Maybe. Is that laughable? No. Freud noted, long ago but it could be yesterday, how the energy expended in our work contains, or suppresses, the more animal drives that rustle within each breast.

As a society that consumes constant images of excess and carnality in all media, we should wonder more at what it means to try to stem such floods, and what price such flimsy barricades pay, when the levee finally breaks. Was Lear right to say let copulation thrive, or was his heath blasted, or both?
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