If only there was an Oedipus among us

IN ancient times, the fate of a nation and its people, determined by prophesies and forewarnings, was never questioned. When a nation goes into some ill-luck, it means the time has come for the ruler or power to take cognisance of the problem and get to the root of the issue to seek redress and salvation.

This reminds me of Sophocles' play Oedipus the King and this is one work that had too many abnormalities, which in the end leaves one with a feeling of melancholy gnawing inside you.

Born in 495BC, about a mile northwest of Athens, the play Oedipus the King was written by Sophocles, a renowned Greek playwright of the Golden Age. Of the over 100 plays he wrote, Oedipus the King is generally considered the greatest of his works.

When Thebes was reeling from a mysterious plague, King Oedipus sent a messenger to a psychic to find out the reason for this misfortune, which had befallen the city.

The messenger returns with the missive stating that the epidemic, which had been cast, will go away if the man who killed King Oedipus' predecessor, King Laius, is found, with punishment befitting the crime meted out. The side-bar to the message is that King Oedipus himself is the murderer. Oedipus goes into denial, which causes his downfall.

Famously quoted as Oedipus' Flaw, it is his pride and anger (not necessarily in that order) that caused his own tragedy.

Similarly, refusing to believe this oracle Oedipus' wife Queen Jocasta reasons there was a previous oracle who claimed that her husband, the former King Laius, would be killed by their own child and she takes refuge in her ignorance and claims that it did not happen.

Apparently, to save her husband from death by their own son Queen Jocasta had left their baby for dead soon after it was born. Of course the baby did not die.

The baby, grew up to be a fine young man, Oedipus, adopted by another king and he unwittingly kills a rich man, not knowing that it was King Laius, as they get accosted in a cruel twist of fate and a duel of anger and ego. Oedipus later becomes King of Thebes and by default marries the widowed Queen Jocasta.

Things start to make sense and Oedipus realises that he was the son who killed the father and married his own mother and sired four children.

The news breaks out tearing the Queen apart, leading to her killing herself while Oedipus inflicts injury upon himself leaving him blind – blind to all the misdeeds and sufferings he had caused unknowingly.

Oedipus becomes a victim of his own strength, and as a wise and caring ruler, whose desire is to see his subjects freed from the plague, he goes to the seer from whom the truth about his birth and parentage is revealed.

The tragic hero Oedipus goes through a series of revelations, taking us through a maze of suspense. When he is unable to make sense or justify the truth standing before him, he blinds himself, literally and symbolically to extricate himself from the pain and sorrow. It was a punishment he inflicted on himself and a redemption of sorts.

Oedipus is regarded as the noblest of tragic heroes, not allowing himself to succumb to the horror of the truth becoming apparent to him. We must remember that there were at least three suicides, including that of his mother/wife, and yet Oedipus stood steadfast in his mission to save the people of Thebes.

Oedipus the King is a play that mirrors the very society we live in, in some ways. There is a universal dimension to human behaviour in a way where we unwittingly create the very fate we abhor. Oedipus fell victim to the very situation he was trying to avoid.

Fast forward to where we are now, every man is for himself and even God is missing from the scene, with controversies being created in His name and religion. God's survival in this hostile world is becoming increasingly grim.

While we try so hard to avoid the trappings of religious extremism we are irrevocably getting drawn to the same, spelling doom for mankind every step of the way.

The writer believes that the Malaysian education system will reach greater heights with a strong antidote to revolutionise just about everything. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com