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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Zeus Is Kind of a Jerk

So, Book XIV of the Iliad is really just full of all kinds of terrible stuff from a feminist critique perspective. A major thrust of the passage is that Hera, Zeus's sister-wife, decides to sleep with him so that while he is "spent" the god Sleep will put Zeus out for a while to give the Achaeans a chance to come back in the their battle against Troy.

Now, sprinkled throughout the book is awfulness like Hera offering a women to Sleep as a prize to convince Sleep to go along with the project. Also, Hera tricks Aphrodite into giving her some potion type thing to make her more attractive to Zeus. So, women are things to be exchanged for favors, although powerful women can use trickery and sex to manipulate powerful men. Lovely.

Check out Zeus's response to Hera, did I mention she is his sister, getting him all hot & bothered.
Cloud-gatherer Zeus then answered:

you can go there later. But why don't we
lie down and make joyful love together?
I've never felt such sexual desire before
for any goddess, for any mortal woman.
It's flooding through me, overpowering the heart
here in my chest—not even when I lusted for
Ixion's wife, who bore me Peirithoƶs,
a man as wise as gods, or Danaƫ,
with her enchanting ankles, daughter
of Acrisius, who gave birth to Perseus,
most illustrious of men, nor the daughter
of famous Phoenix, who bore me Minos
and godlike Rhadamanthus, nor Alcmene,
who gave birth to Hercules in Thebes,
a mighty hearted son, nor Semele,
who bore that joy to mortals Dionysus,
nor fair-haired lady Demeter, nor Leto,
that glorious girl, not even for yourself—
I felt for none of these the love I feel
for you right now—such sweet desire grips me."
Nice. You're way hotter than all of the other ladies I've nailed before. Let me list them. I would think this was more bizarre if I did not have friend who had a similar experience. For her, it was with her first sexual partner. His post coitus reflections included wondering outloud how many women he had deflowered in this very bed. I'll have to check in with her and determine if this dude was a classics major.

Not that it is new information for anyone, but it appears the ancient Hebrews did not have a monopoly on misogyny. Although, I suppose the stories of Ruth and Esther are not entirely devoid of a heroine using her womanly charms on a man to get what she wants. At least they have the decency to use a euphemism or two.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Illiad and Independent Expenditures

So, Zeus was a fan of the Acheans, but especially Achilles. Since Achilles was mad at Agamemnon for taking from Achilles the woman he had captured as his slave, Zeus was helping the Trojans win battles against the Acheans, led by Agamemnon. Posiedon, on the other hand, couldn't stand to watch the Acheans get slaughter, but because Zeus had commanded that there be no interference, he could not coordinate with the Acheans openly. Put another way:
Then two mighty sons of Cronos, at cross purposes,
made painful trouble for those mortal warriors.
Zeus wanted victory for Hector and his Trojans,
to give swift Achilles glory—not that he wished
Achaea's army to be totally destroyed
in front of Troy, but he did want to honour Thetis,
and her great-hearted son, as well, Achilles.
But Poseidon moved around among the Argives,
urging action, coming out in secret from the sea,
angry that Trojans were destroying Achaeans,
and incensed at Zeus. Both gods had a common father—
the same family, too—but Zeus was older and more wise.
So Poseidon avoided giving any overt help.
He did his work in secret through the army,
in human form, rousing men to fight. So these two
looped the cords of powerful war and deadly strife
around both contending armies, then pulled them taut,
a knot no one could undo or slip away from,
a knot that broke the limbs of many fighting men.
The Illiad, Book XIII.

As a campaign finance lawyer, this strikes me as similar to our current system for funding campaigns. The "sons of Cronos" in the political arena would be well funded corporations, labor organizations, and ideological political organizations. By removing any regulations associated with independent expenditures, we've created a peculiar environment where the vast majority of money spent directly advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate will be spent by groups who by law cannot coordinate with the candidate himself or herself. These groups can obviously have as complex and seemingly contradictory motivations as Zeus did in wanting the Acheans to win, but only if with Achilles.

Of course, if one is interested in influencing the political landscape, I suppose working within one of these sons of Cronos would not be a bad idea.