Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Julius Caesar

November 4, 2017

I went and saw Chesapeake Shakespeare Theater’s production of Julius Caesar last week and it got me thinking. Most stories that Shakespeare wrote had heroes and villains. Even the histories painted certain characters as good and certain characters as bad. That is the way humans tend to divide things. We split up actions and people as Right or Wrong. Of course, we often overlook that people are more shades of gray but that is very complicated to think about. Anyway, here are some thoughts based on what I was thinking about. It is clumsy and mostly unresearched but here it is.


Julius Caesar

We know that Julius Caesar was a charismatic leader of the Roman Republic based on lines from the play. A big bit of evidence is that he is highly beloved by the people of the Roman Empire. Being beloved by the people does not necessarily mean that a politician is a good person. In fact, that is some of what Cassius warns against during Act 1. There is a danger in putting any human on a pedestal because you will almost always be eventually disappointed. People are not perfect and should not be treated as such. Praising people like Ronald Reagan or John F Kennedy tends to push their glaring faults and their transgressions into the shadows. We know that Caesar was starting to buy into his own hype and was highly susceptible to flattery. He could have ended a democratic system of government and named himself a King, not recognizing that people are less fallible than a person. It was only a matter of time before he let himself rise to take the crown.


Cassius

Cassius is a schemer and a sweet talker. Somebody who is well-spoken is somebody you really have to listen to closely to catch not only the words they are saying but all the words they are not saying. When you listen to Cassius, his cause does not seem so righteous. Yes, he agrees Brutus that Caesar must be stopped from ending the Republic. However, he spends a lot of time talking about how he and Brutus are just as good as Caesar. He seems more interested in tearing Caesar down than protecting the public from a monarchy. You have to watch for people who seek to tear people down rather than build things up. Caesar is right to fear him because he is a smart guy with a ruthless agenda. It is Cassius’ idea to kill Caesar and he would have absolutely supported murdering Mark Anthony too if Brutus had not put an end to that talk. Later, he is the first of the conspirators to take his own life when things start to turn against him. I can never trust somebody who is hungry for power but quick to run when the hard work or the punishment comes. He is a weasel and is all fair talk and very little substance.


Brutus

We are told that everybody regards Brutus as an honorable man. His love for Rome is so great that he is willing to sacrifice the life of his friend to keep the democracy running. While I view the sacrifice of Caesar as necessary, killing him was never the answer. When politicians are assassinated, they immediately become saints in the eyes of the public. Violence should absolutely be the last resort when it comes to solving a problem. And yet, the conspirators seem to jump right to it. Brutus goes from agonizing over the plan to taking control of it and leading it. He allows himself to be talked into something that never should have happened. There had to be some more political way to dismantle Caesar’s popularity. Brutus’ heart is in the right place. If you have a friend who is going to ruin everything, you do what it takes to stop that friend but there is such a thing as excessive force. The Romans saw that and they were able to use it as a weakness to use to drum up armies against the noble house of Brutus and the other conspirators.


Mark Antony

Mark Antony pretty much started the whole mess. If you look at Act I, it is Antony who publicly offers Caesar a crown. Antony sees the love that the public bears for Caesar and seizes on the opportunity to win points by offering Caesar a crown. He knew that Caesar would probably turn the crown down (which he did) but he probably already knew that it would put more bad ideas into Caesar’s head. This scene is an inciting incident that makes the conspirators desperate to get rid of Caesar, leading to them making the bad choice of murder. When the deed is done, Antony is distraught over the death of his meal ticket/friend but makes a deal with the conspirators to help them smooth things over. He immediately reneges on that deal and incites the crowds against the conspirators through expert emotional manipulation. We have seen lately what damage a populist movement can do. He latches onto Octavius (the future first emperor of the Roman Empire) and drives Octavius to fight to the finish, only accepting surrender when the conspirators were dead. His actions, waging a war against a criminal group to bring them to justice and to unite the country, may seem just at first. Just remember that this was all in support of installing a tyrant.


The People

Finally, we have the people who are also not blameless. As a citizenry in a representative, democratic government they have a hand in their fate. They are the ones who cheered Caesar for a military victory and cheered even more when he was offered the crown. They are shooting themselves in the foot by giving away any power they had in the first place. They are complicit in the political tension which eventually gives birth to the death of Caesar (and indirectly the subjugation of the people under the Roman Empire). The people have few thoughts of their own. When Brutus speaks after the assassination, they almost instantly forgive him because of his eloquence, earnestness, and reputation. Yet, when Mark Antony speaks a minute later, they very quickly turn to cursing Brutus and the rest of the conspirators. Granted, this is directly after the murder of the head of state but it is troubling to watch them switch positions so fast. People today seem just as fickle, heavily influenced by social media, news outlets, propaganda, and politicians’ ‘heartfelt’ speeches.

Conclusion:

There are no heroes here. This is truly a story of gray areas and I cannot decide who to root for. The conspirators mostly had the best intentions but their methods were over the top. Caesar’s pride went before his fall but that fall should have been political and not fatal. Anthony through oil on the fire when a cooler head would have prevailed. At best, Brutus might be considered a tragic hero because his heart was in the right place but his missteps caused his downfall and death.

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The King

April 12, 2017

When Arano showed up to the meeting place far below the city, Carana could only sigh and pinch the bridge of her nose. He was just so impossible. He was impeccably dressed like he always was in a bright white cotton shirt with a scarlet vest, the color of the holly berries adorning the doors in the city above. Here Carana was in her most uninteresting dress with her hair wrapped up in rags to hide its color. She had gone incognito to a secret meeting and here was this show off basically advertising the meeting. Arano just stood there waiting for Carana to speak as if he was not already in trouble.

“You idiot,” She said. “I should gut you right here.” She yanked the rags off of her head, revealing hair almost as red as Arano’s vest.

A knife appeared in his hand seemingly from nowhere. “Just try it,” he replied. “They will never hear your screams this far underground.”

“Impressive,” Carana smirked and shrugged. “Your reputation precedes you and does not lie. They said that you were fast. Deadly too.” The man’s reputation was fearsome but unprovable. Of course, just because nobody could prove anything, that did not mean that it was all a lie. It just meant he might be the perfect man for the job.

“You have to be in my line of work,” Arano said, his eyes narrowing a bit. His body projected a feeling of ease and a carefree attitude but Carana could tell that he was a tightly wound spring, ready for action.

“At ease, I called you here in peace,” Carana said. She showed her palms to the man and smiled gently to show that she meant no harm. Of course, she had plenty of weapons in easy reach. She had what looked like fancy knitting needles hidden on her person. They were coated with belladonna and could take down even the strongest enemy with a single scratch. She breathed easy knowing that as fast as this fox was, she would still survive if it came to it.

“But not for peaceful purposes,” Arano said with a smile. “You do not call an assassin lightly. You call with a purse and a target and then you step aside.”

” I have a purse and a target but I will not step aside.”

“No?” Arano asked. “Little sparrow, I do not need your help.”

“I am no sparrow and we’ll see if you need my help or not when the talking is done,” Carana said. Her eyes went hard as she stared at the man, unflinching and unafraid.

“So what are you then?” Arano asked. He leaned against the wall. He was a little more relaxed but no less dangerous.

Carana let out a long, slow breath. “The city above has become a dark place. The kingdom around us has grown colder and less and less kind until the people suffer unbearably. People are tired of fighting for justice when justice should come naturally. We cry out for relief and none ever comes. When I was a little girl I may have been a sparrow but those days are a distant memory. The world has made me a wolf. A wolf looking for blood.”

“A wolf. I see it now,” Arano said softly. “You know that blood never really washes off, right? You cannot return to your simple life once the deed is done.”

“I have weighed everything before I contacted you. Don’t start worrying about my soul.”

“Fair enough,” Arano said. “I suppose it is not really my concern. My concerns remain the two items I mentioned earlier.”

Carana pulled a large coin purse from the small of her back and tossed it to the professional assassin. “I would never ask you to work for free.”

Arano caught the purse and a puzzled look spread over his face. He opened the purse and found it full to the brim. “This is far too much. I find that suspicious.”

“We took up a collection,” Carana said. “We wouldn’t want you having an excuse to say no.”

“One last cry for justice, hmm?”

“Yes,” Carana said. “One last stab at getting a fair deal for the people. Literally.”

Arano frowned. “Which means I am not going to love the answer to my other question, am I? Your words and this amount of money mean difficult work.”

“Are you complaining already?” Carana asked. She shrugged and walked toward him with her hand held out casually. The gesture was clear and loudly proclaimed ‘nevermind’.

Arano pulled the purse away and shoved it in a satchel at his hip. “Complaining? I would never. I will kill anyone at anytime. If enough money could be raised, I would kill God.”

“How about the King?”

“The… King?” Arano asked. “The people cry out for the blood of the King, hmm? The poor and destitute would give their last coin to see the King dead at their feet. You could have asked anyone to do this but you asked me.”

“And your answer is?” Carana asked. If the answer was no, there was no way she could ensure his silence without his death. She did not want to kill this man even if he was a killer himself.

“My answer? I’m flattered,” Arano said with a fox smile. “Flattered and excited. In the end, when blood gushes from his wounds and his eyes begin to close. When the end is rushing up to meet him. The King will learn to fear the wolves.”


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