Thursday, August 18, 2016

2016 The Year of Pis Aller

Think of the French term “pis aller.” Pronounced "peace-ah-lay," it means last choice.

You run into it in business from time to time.  Usually when you’ve done all your homework and you realize your faced with two bad choices.  You then have to pick the lesser of two evils, if only because it’s the least damaging to your organization.

That pretty much sums up the current presidential election.  The Roman mob has spoken and we’re faced with two unpalatable choices- A) A shameless self-promoting mountebank, with a bad orange comb-over or B) a shameless corrupt harridan, who looks like a mini-me version of Chairman Moa in a pantsuit.

Either way, it’s not pretty, and not necessarily what our country needs after eight-years with a peevish man-child and narrow ideologue in office. I think that some Trump supporters know this.  I don't think they see him as a solution, but rather a grenade they want to throw at a broken establishment. So with that thought, I offer you this poem which is apropos to the moment we’re in-

Waiting for the Barbarians

  By C. P. Cavafy (1898)

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

            The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

            Because the barbarians are coming today.
            What laws can the senators make now?
            Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
            He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
            replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

            Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
            And some who have just returned from the border say
            there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

 Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s famous 1931 mural of an Aztec jaguar knight killing a Spanish invader (at the gate of Tenochtitlan?) I first saw a print of it while in elementary school and thought it was cool art.

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