19 December 2004

Lessons Of Earthsea

OGION:  In that case, I have a hard thing to say to you.

GED:      Say it.

OGION:  You must turn around.

GED:      Turn around?
an adaptation of ursula k. leguin's fantasy classic a wizard of earthsea was broadcast this last week on the scifi channel.   watching it and re-reading the book, i found a lesson for our current situation as democrats and progressives.

the story is about confronting evil.  but it's a far more nuanced view of evil than dark lords, demons and black magic.  there's a strong jungian integration-of-the-psyche aspect to the book that doesn't quite make it intact to the video screen, but they get some of the key points. in this story ged is a wizard who lets his ambition and youthful ambition eclipse his judgment, and he accidentally looses a great evil on the world.  the shadow that escapes into the world of the living now chases him, seeking to destroy or possess him.  

the TV version does retain a pivotal scene in the plot.  ged has faced the shadow twice when it caught up with him, and twice he's fled in terror.  the second time he escapes only by changing himself into a hawk and flying to the island of his birth and to his first teacher, the wise old wizard ogion, who recognizes him and is able to restore him to human form.  they discuss what he should do next.
     He fell to brooding again.  At last Ged said, "I came here for counsel, not for refuge, Master.  I will not bring this shadow upon you, and it will soon be here if I stay.  Once you drove it from this very room—"

   "No; that was but the foreboding of it, the shadow of a shadow.  I could not drive it forth, now.  Only you could do that."

  "But I am powerless before it.  Is there any place..." His voice died away before he had asked the question.

   "There is no safe place," Ogion said gently.  "Do not transform yourself again, Ged.  The shadow seeks to destroy your true being.  It nearly did so, driving you into hawk's being.  No, where you should go, I do not know.  Yet I have an idea of what you should do.  It is a hard thing to say to you."

   Ged's silence demanded truth, and Ogion said it at last, "You must turn around."

   "Turn around?"

   "If you go ahead, if you keep running, wherever you run you will meet danger and evil, for it drives you, it chooses the way you go.  You must choose.  You must seek what seeks you.  You must hunt the hunter."
this is the dilemma we face as democrats, it seems to me. the republican party has been consumed by a nameless evil that grows more powerful every day. so far we've tried to run away from who we are with strategies like "triangulation"; we've tried to be something we're not with spin and pandering.  in two presidential contests we've let fear guide our steps, and lost.  even when al gore won in 2000 we were too fearful to hold our ground.  and we've been running away ever since.

it's time for us to turn around.  it's time for us to become the hunter so we can confront the evil head on, on ground of our own choosing.  otherwise we assure our own defeat.  those taken by the shadow in leguin's story become hollowed out and shapeless, with no will of their own nor humanity left.  let's not let that happen to us.


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