Let go the superflux!

Just as in the Elizabethan age, or that of Sophocles, theater sheds oblique moonlight on the "form & pressure of the time".

So today we have the Tea Party & Occupy Wall Street, both in protest agains the status quo : the Tea Party, against a patronizing liberal consensus, which supposes every problem can be solved by throwing taxpayer money at it; the Occupy movement, against an amoral & greedy crony capitalism, piling up its own wealth without the slightest sense of mutual responsibility, compassion, or common welfare.

& also we have a new film, "Anonymous", the premise of which - that "Shakespeare" was a front man for an aristocratic ghost writer - has stirred up populist/elitist antagonism (within the little snow-globe of Shakespeare scholarship) for almost a century.
99% vs. 1%.

Moreover, the "Oxford" theory of Shakespearean authorship sends a tremor of unease through the settled layers of western literary culture. The idea shakes the historical foundations : this is one reason it is dismissed so vehemently & sarcastically. It's troubling to all sorts of grand traditions & accepted ways.

I don't have a firm opinion on the controversy one way or the other. But I will say : if the author of "King Lear" was an aristocrat & nobleman, he was an aristocrat with a pretty radical sense of the common humanity (cf. the character of the Fool) underlying all the pomp & circumstance of noble place & privilege.

So here we are in 21st century USA, split apart like old Byzantium between red & blue, right & left. Underlying both TP and OWS, however, is a protest against the status quo, on behalf of what is thought to be the ordinary people (silent majority or 99%). It's an ethical protest on behalf of the common good.

What the OWS movement has failed as yet to recognize, maybe, is that high-minded protest is not sufficient. If you are going to tear down capitalist privilege then you have to take responsibility for the consequences, you have to be prepared to govern. What the TP fails to understand, perhaps, is that neoliberalism - the true legacy of Reaganism - every (rich) man for himself - is a theory of political economy which fails the test of public ethics. It cannot provide the minimal basis of mutuality and shared responsibility which humane civilization requires in order to survive.

Maybe "Shakespeare" could assist us in finding that common ground... whoever he was.

"Poor naked wretches, whereso'ere you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O I have ta'en
Too little care of this. Take physic, Pomp;
Expose thy self to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayest shake the superflux to them,
And show the heav'ns more just."

- King Lear



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