Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Oedipus and the Superrich”

“Oedipus and the Super rich”

Emanuel Pastreich

September 1, 2013

The story of King Oedipus is so important for us in this age because describes a man who is forced to confront a terrible truth that he had been entirely ignorant of. When he was confronted with indications of his own responsibility, he continued to ignore them. Like Oedipus, we want to imagine that out there lurk some terrible people in corporations, in government, in positions of power who are constantly launching conspiracies to do terrible things to us, to ordinary people, out of their own greed and cruelty. Although it is certainly true that there are any number of conspiracies in government and that there is a group of extremely self-interested wealthy people around the world, if we confront this problem honestly will learn eventually, and painfully, that the causes point back to ourselves. We must ask ourselves whether such a selfish class exists, or whether what we see is but part of a sick culture that we all occupy. The latter interpretation is much harder for us to accept, of course. It is much easier to imagine some bad people out there. But there is much we can learn from the tragedy of Oedipus: our own actions are part of the reason for what we see around us and if we want change, we should start with modifying our own behavior.

We are very much a part of this world and we play a far larger role in the evils that we see around us than we imagined possible. But like Oedipus, we were either unaware, or tried to ignore, the indications of our role in parasitic forms of capitalist exchange so common today. Even when confronted by the relationship between our actions and what we see around us, we fight against the truth just as Oedipus did.

You may object, as would Oedipus, that not all humans are equally responsible for the problems of the world. There are those 1% who live in luxury and waste, and then there is the rest of us. This point is of course entirely accurate, but it is not much of an excuse for the actions of most of us. There are some who are downtrodden and impoverished who have little to do with the problems that we witness, but I assume that my audience consists of those who have had the opportunity to attend high schools and universities. We do not have the same excuses. Read more of this post