One of the reasons this myth exerts a pull over me is that I cannot help but feel there are contemporary resonances not only of the myth itself, but also of the rhetoric that, since Plato, has surrounded it, a rhetoric that all too often translates naked brutality into the high-minded language of moral justification. I cannot help finding echoes of Plato’s ‘not at all strange’ when I hear government ministers announcing the latest cuts to services that are there to help those who need it most; and I cannot avoid seeing the same rhetoric at play as the gods of international monetary system sharpen their knives for austerity measures that strip away the livelihoods and hopes of ordinary people.
And it is the rhetoric that chills me most. It is one thing for Apollo to run rampant with his flaying-knife: but it is quite another to drown this out with the sweet, reasonable music of the god’s lyre, to cover over the brutality and the horror that comes from assigning others to ‘truth’ with soothing justifications. Sometimes when I listen to the news, it occurs to me that in those calm and reasonable debates, everybody is playing Apollo’s tune, whilst meanwhile—somewhere out of earshot—Marsyas is screaming in terrible agony.