Antigone and Creon
|I mentioned last evening the passage in Sophocles’ Antigone where Creon says of Antigone:
“I would have you know the most fanatic spirits fall most of all.”
I claimed that Creon himself is a fanatic, but I didn’t mention that Creon also justly claims that Antigone is a fanatic also. Everyone else in the play hovers somewhere between the 2 fanaticisms presented. Creon’s fanaticism is the fanaticism of a man, a ruler, who because he is the ruler, thinks that he has the power and the authority to set all the standards himself, to overrule what is traditional and sacred at his own whim. He is a pompous and dangerous hypocrite. Antigone’s fanaticism is to stubbornly resist Creon’s type of fanaticism. Antigone’s fanaticism is one of religious piety. Religious piety encompasses:
“a sense of ‘obligation,’ of ‘responsibility,’ of ‘loyalty,’ – since religious piety for the Greeks enforced all the obligations that bind an individual to others, and engage his personal responsibility to his family and friends, and his political loyalty to the state and its traditions.” (Quote from Introduction to my ancient copy of The Crito !)
Creon, since his loyalty was only to the state (himself!) and not to the traditions of the state, and had shunned personal responsibility to his family (his son and his son’s intended bride-to-be), and shunned the obligation to bind himself to the interests of the citizens he ruled, Creon is the person who brings about the ruin of Thebes. In the name of order, he creates chaos. (Remind you of patriarchal, barbaric jerks everywhere?)
In easy times, it is justifiable perhaps to somewhat ignore the sharp contrast between Antigone and Creon, and not to choose sides. But in critical times, like our own, one stays on the sidelines at one’s practical and moral peril.
“The shot heard around the world” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Concord Hymn) originally meant the shot proclaiming freedom for Americans, and since it was to be heard around the world, freedom for all humans living on this Earth. That is our tradition. Today, the shot heard around the world is the shot that denies freedom to others, that quashes freedom everywhere it raises its head.
When a government quashes the freedom of its own citizens, and stamps out the life and liberties of citizens of other nations, either through its own actions or by the actions of its paid henchmen in those nations, and now produces the heritage of 2000 tons (4 million pounds) of highly toxic, radioactive wastes per year that will be the heritage to be managed by our descendants unto the 40-thousandth generation, tortures persons at Guantanamo and at “black sites” without habeus corpus and without trial, and targets and then murders persons by unmanned drones, whose side are you on? Antigone’s side or Creon’s side? Or on the sidelines?