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.
Dave Bonta (bio) often suffers from imposter syndrome, but not in a bad way — more like some kind of flower-breathing dragon, pot-bellied and igneous. Be that as it may, all of his writing here is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).