“… this news, which is called true, is so like an old tale, that the verity of it is in strong suspicion”
(Winter’s Tale, act 8, sc. 2)
More than news, the following is an anecdote, of which history is full. The word ‘anecdote’ (from the Greek, meaning literally “not given out”, that is “unpublished”) was coined by Procopius of Caesarea, biographer of Emperor Justinian I. Procopius wrote a book entitled Ἀνέκδοτα (Anekdota, also translated as Unpublished Memoirs or Secret History.) It is a collection of short incidents from Justinian’s private life of at the court of Byzantium. In time, the term anecdote was associated with any event or report that may illustrate the nature of a character or the actual state of affairs, more vividly than a formal narrative.
For example, during a party after the battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington was reminded of his Irish origins by a guest. Whereupon the Duke replied, “Yes, but a man is not a horse, just because he was born in a stable.”
And during a debate between the two most prominent British prime ministers of the XIX century, Gladstone said to Disraeli, “You will die on the gallows, or of venereal disease.” Whereupon Disraeli replied, “That, I should think, will depend entirely on whether I will embrace your principles or your mistress.” But I digress…
Some viewers may have already seen the picture of the pickup truck, formerly belonging to Mark Oberholtzer, a plumber from Texas. The truck, via Turkey, ended up in the hands of ISIS and on it they promptly installed an anti-aircraft gun. An option that, if available in Texas, would, no doubt, send sales skyrocketing.
In itself, the sale is but one more clue about Turkey’s practical support of the so-called Caliphate and of the US’ ambivalent position towards ISIS.
In Shakespeare, humor is never missing, including tragedies. Here with the truck, the burlesque is both practical and symbolic. For, notwithstanding the long journey from Texas to the Syrian desert, no one did even care to remove the Texan plumber’s decal, showing name, address, telephone number and nature of the services provided, as per picture.
The symbolic inference then, is that one or more people behave with shameless confidence in historic immunity. Meaning that they can control the information at the source and, through the intermediaries, at destination – secure in their belief that the event and its image will have no influence on public opinion.
It seems strange that no one even cared to cover-up the writing, among the buyers and re-sellers in Turkey and among the ISIS militants, who should be interested in not disclosing so openly the game played by their direct and indirect allies.
Even Macbeth, who could be an inspiration for the blood-thirsty ISIS militants, felt the need to hide his plans,
“… Stars, hide your fires!
Let not light see my black and deep desires.”(1)
On the other hand, the connection between Texas plumbing and ISIS combatants is pretty strong recognition of the chaos and destruction wrought on the Middle East in the name of exceptionalism. As if the militants were implying, “Don’t you see where the pick-up comes from? We are good friends, are we not?” As if to say,
“…thieves and robbers range abroad unseen
In murders and in outrage bloody.” (2)
For, notwithstanding over one year of bombardments and mayhem in Syria and Iraq, by the US and its “Coalition of the Killing”, ISIS, until Russia’s intervention, was stronger than ever. In this sense, the spiritual presence of a Texan plumber among the Wahabi militants is but a radiation of understanding. Unsaid but obvious, in the realm of so-called “real-politik”, more realistically and lexically renamed “shit-politik,” ISIS is the updated version of Orwell’s eternal enemy, which, by so being, is also the eternal friend.
Therefore, what to an average thinking man seem inconsistencies aimed at confounding the world in a chaos of folly, are, rather, remarkable instances of political genius. Even though states, like men, are often betrayed by a mistaken opinion of their own powers, and by a negligent inspection of their own character. Which, these days, shows up in the tortured, confused and frankly farcical effort by sundry white house and state department spokepersons, to explain away their contradictions.
However, to extricate the citizens from any perplexity, the current rulers have granted them exemption from astonishment.
Still, the combined ISIS-American destruction of everything, mobile or immobile (as in the case of the Palmyra temple), has, no doubt, also affected sanitation facilities – causing the “……the rankest compound of villanous smell, that ever offended nostril.” (3) In which case the Texan plumber’s services would indeed prove providential. Therefore, in the instance and however virtual, some kind of olfactory justice was served.
But this is the beginning of the year, a time when there is no temper so generally indulged in as hope. Other passions operate impulsively on particular occasions, but hope begins with the first power of comparing our actual with our possible state. And it always attends on us, ever urging us forward to new goals, and holding out some distant blessing to our view, promising us either relief of pain, or increase of happiness.
Hope is necessary in any condition. The miseries of this world would, without this comfort, be insupportable. For life, even when the gifts of nature and fortune are accumulated upon it, would still be somewhat wretched, were it not elevated and delighted by the expectation of some new acquisition, of some enjoyment yet behind – by which the wish shall be at last satisfied, and the heart filled up to its utmost extent.
On the other hand, hope is, indeed fallacious, and promises what it seldom gives, but its promises are more valuable than the gifts of fortune, and it seldom frustrates us without assuring us of recompensing the delay by a greater bounty. Which is why, the soon-to-be first Tudor king, Henry VII, said before the battle of Bosworth Field,
“True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings:
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.” (4)
Happy New Year to my twenty-five readers.
(2) Richard II
(3) Merry Wives of Windsor
(4) Richard III
In the Play (opening quote). Leontes, king of Sicilia, has discovered that Perdita (once believed dead), is actually his own daughter. He is very happy, of course, and an anonymous gentleman comments on the event.