We all know Andy Rooney, the commentator who usually wraps up the CBS “60 Minutes” program with a satirical and sometimes cynical essay. But long before Andy there was a Greek philosopher who roamed the streets of ancient Athens teaching that …
We all know Andy Rooney, the commentator who usually wraps up the CBS “60 Minutes” program with a satirical and sometimes cynical essay. But long before Andy there was a Greek philosopher who roamed the streets of ancient Athens teaching that the simple life (no, not the Paris-Nicole kind) was the only virtuous one.
He lived in a tub and was said to have discarded his last utensil, a cup, when seeing a man drink from his hands. Rank and social position meant nothing to him. He was in that tub when Alexander the Great asked what he desired, and Diogenes said, “Only step out of my sunlight.” The apex of his cynicism was when he trudged in daylight holding aloft a lantern looking “for an honest man.”
Then there was Cassandra. She was the beautiful daughter of Queen Hecuba and King Priam of Troy. Apollo, the god of the Sun, fell in love with her and gave her the gift of prophecy to seduce her, but she rejected him afterward. Enraged, Apollo put a diabolical codicil to her power: Indeed she had the ability to know the future and tell the truth but (and here’s the twist), no one would ever believe her!
Imagine if the simplistic, yet complex, cynic Diogenes were to meet the truth-telling, frustrated, not-to-be believed prophetess Cassandra. I think I see them. There they are looking down on us mere mortals and discussing current events. Let’s eavesdrop over the clouds:
Diogenes: Darn fools think that building a high fence will keep people forever on one side when everyone knows that anything constructed will eventually get destructed.
Cassandra: I know that it will be built, but the fix will be temporary. Remember, I told Stalin and Gorbachev about the same thing in Berlin. But noooo, they wouldn’t believe me; they had to hear it from Reagan. That was just like the time I warned daddy not to let that big Greek wooden horse into our city.
D: Yeah, we did make the most of that “gift.” But I’m upset! Malicious computer software that looks harmless but actually contains a virus is called a “Trojan” rather than a “Grecian” after the people who devised that scheme.
C: I see that if you are in a major city you will be photographed many times going about your day-to-day activities. There are many surveillance cameras in operation now, and more are being installed as a deterrent to crime. I foresee neighborhood groups and gated communities following suit forming networks of their own and turning over criminal evidence to police.
D: That would sure provide a lot of screen-monitoring jobs for the local voyeurs, provide exhibitionists with a stage to strut on, cut down on potential hanky-panky and give a whole new meaning to “neighborhood watch.”
C: Another divination is that all citizens will have tiny radio-powered ID microchips implanted, which will contain vital medical and other personal information.
D: During my time they used to call that a “spouse,” and you had to feed them.
C: It’s clear to me that foul air pollutants do damage to the firmament.
D : Now Cass, I suppose you’re going to tell me global warming caused Icarus to fall into the sea when we all know that he flew to close to your spurned suitor Apollo without first applying sunblock.
C: Then how can you explain all the smoky gray-tinged beards on you guys up here that used to be snowy white?
D: Well it could be from our Grecian Formula 16.
C: And the world is becoming more egotistical. Everywhere you go there is iPod, iTunes, iTrip, iDock, iSpeak, iPhone and even iHop.
D: I have to agree with you on this one, and if things continue on this self-indulgence course, the birth rate will decrease, there will be fewer workers and service providers, eventually all systems will break down and our epitaph will be “iWas.”
C: Things won’t get that bleak. However I do envisage fewer working hours, higher pay, longer vacations, paying less tax and receiving more benefits.
D: Yes, but how about the folks who are not politicians?
C: Oh, Di, be serious. There is current conflict and bickering among nations and political parties which will not soon come to resolution.
D: There are some things in life that you can always count on.
And by the way, I have a few drachmas, I mean euros. Do you know the winner of Super Bowl XLII?
C: Of course. But if I told, who’d believe me?