A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Timon of Athens and the UN


Timon of Athens is introduced in Act One as the archetype of a generous friend. When friends of Timon ask for loans, Timon doesn’t hesitate, and the question of repayment, between friends, is one that Timon himself considers beneath the level of their friendship.

Tim: “Noble Ventidius!
Well I am not one of that feather to shake off
My friend when he must need me. I do know him
A gentleman that well deserves a help.
Which he shall have. I’ll pay the debt and free him.”

I will select the United Nations to stand in for Timon. It is worth recalling that the UN was changed utterly by the decision of President Truman to allow one vote per nation, regardless of whether that nation’s UN representative was A) truly representative, that is, chosen by a government that was chosen by the people, or B) the friend of a group of thugs with guns who held control over that nation. By permitting both A-type representatives and B-type ones to share the same dignity on the floor of the UN, its fate, in Bardseye’s view, was sealed. Here is the generous and good-hearted UN, the one that would have been created if Truman had insisted, for example, that democracies have votes – just as their peoples do – and that autocracies may attend and speak, but not vote, extending its generosity to third-world supplicants in need of aid:

Tim: “Why, I have often wished myself poorer,
that I might come nearer to you. We are born
to do benefits and what better or properer can
we call our own than the riches of our friends?
O, what a precious comfort ‘tis to have so many,
like brothers, commanding one another’s fortunes!”

Well, that all changed when the regimes became equal within the UN to truly representative governments. The Timon that emerges now, portrayed in one decade by Boutros-Boutros Gali and in the next decade be Kofi Annan, has a far less noble attitude toward the world. The world to this Timon is a place of rapacity and greed only, where no government has legitimacy, and thievery itself is the purpose of existence. This Timon, like the UN, has gold, but he sees it not as a source of assistance to those in need, but as a pirate’s treasure owed only to whoever has the strength to steal it. Timon, like Annan and today’s corrupt UN in general, finds comradeship only upon encountering two thieves intent on robbing Timon himself. Here at least are beings he can relate to. Is the UN’s con game of tricking money out of the wealth-creating democracies to hand over to corrupt, kleptocratic regimes that control and oppress their peoples any different? Timon extends his fatherly advise to the two bandits (con means offer; composture means manure):

Timon: Yet thanks I must you con
That you are thieves profess'd, that you work not
In holier shapes: for there is boundless theft
In limited professions. Rascal thieves,
Here's gold. Go, suck the subtle blood o' the grape,
Till the high fever seethe your blood to froth,
And so 'scape hanging: trust not the physician;
His antidotes are poison, and he slays
Moe than you rob: take wealth and lives together;
Do villany, do, since you protest to do't,
Like workmen. I'll example you with thievery.
The sun's a thief, and with his great attraction
Robs the vast sea: the moon's an arrant thief,
And her pale fire she snatches from the sun:
The sea's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves
The moon into salt tears: the earth's a thief,
That feeds and breeds by a composture stolen
From general excrement: each thing's a thief:
The laws, your curb and whip, in their rough power
Have uncheque'd theft. Love not yourselves: away,
Rob one another. There's more gold. Cut throats:
All that you meet are thieves: to Athens go,
Break open shops; nothing can you steal,
But thieves do lose it: steal no less for this
I give you; and gold confound you howsoe'er! Amen.

This assumption of moral ugliness, of the universality of such moral ugliness, lies at the heart of what the non-representative UN represents. A self-confident community of representative nations, of governments who know they represent and speak for their peoples and who hold properly in contempt regimes who do not, would close this institution's doors and start over.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Look to the Eastern Sky...


Just kidding, but my and my wife's first child, our son, Isaiah Yuuki Abrams, was born three weeks ago, on August 25, explaining my recent silence. If the birth was not Shakespearean, it was of Shakespearean scope for me, and I cannot resist sharing the contents of my full heart.

I assume that for the hospital staff, the delivery was unremarkable. A busy morning, with literally no room at the Inn (a portent!), every delivery room full, and a surgical delivery room eventually made available for us; a very welcome epidural, some additional tweaking to the epidural when my wife's sensitive spinal column required more drugs to be subjugated, two and a half hours of pushing that was exhausting even if relatively painless, and then a slight amount of assistance, a minute or less, from the friendly suction machine attached to Isaiah's head to help him slide home, or leave home.

Isaiah truly is a uniquely beautiful child. When we first visited the pediatrician's office the other parents were visibly dejected by the contrast. Some went as far as to pretend the children they were accompanying were not theirs - that they were "just bringing him in for a friend." Others, shamefully, approached me quietly in the hallways and offered to trade.

But separate from his beauty was his initial launching. My wife and I stayed at the hospital for two nights, with various well-meaning specialists arriving whenever we might otherwise have slept. The experience of pregnancy, even at second-hand, made me feel that Mrs. B. and I had left the planet, and then returned, with something. With, that is, this gift from beyond the curtain of eternity.

And quite accordingly, Isaiah himself seemed at first reluctant to descend to this mortal coil. He was a little dehydrated and too weak to nurse properly. The first two days at home were thus like combat. We supplemented with formula. And while newborns are supposed to lose 7-10% of their body weight before beginning to gain, the pediatrician's verdict - 10%, the far margin - indicated that we must redouble our efforts.

A lactation specialist visited our home. Contraptions were employed - a plastic nipple shield, under which a tube, feeding additional milk pumped by the mother when not nursing, was used to, again, supplement. The pediatrician smiled - a two-ounce gain! Izzy started feeding less at night and more during the day, with there remained a certain inefficiency in his sucking, leaving us with 90-minutes feeding sessions and precious little time between them.

I had lobbied for the name Isaiah having in mind the second Isaiah, who comforted the people of Israel while in exiled captivity in Babylonia, and who persuaded them that there was a purpose to their suffering, which was to soften the hearts of their oppressors. It was not intended that any such suffering attend my Isaiah, but rather that he comfort and look with a softened heart upon those (others! others!) whom I had appointed to do the suffering.

At last a pediatrician offered the opinion that Izzy was working too hard for his nourishment, burning calories in the very effort to imbibe them. It was suggested that my wife express her breast milk and then delivery it by bottle, This adjustment accomplished, the results were dramatic - an eleven-ounce gain in six days! Mrs. Bardseye began singing Japanese children's songs to Isaiah at the pediatrician's office. Tan Tan Tanuki no Kinktama wa / Kaze mo nai noni bura bura! (roughly translated - the testicles of the wild racoon dog flap in the wind whether or not the wind is blowing. Honest.)

Moreover, the 1-2 hours a night of sleep for us both over the first two weeks was replaced by a luxurious 4-5, allowing me to return to my work. And today, not only can I again prepare 1000 words of publishable text per day for various legal publishers, Japanese companies' English websites, and other outlets, but can spare a few minutes for blogging. But no TV, limited web surfing, no restaurants, no outings.

My son has Mrs. Bardseye's wide lips, a split-the-difference nose, very Buddha-esque earlobes, and almond-shaped eyes. He likes to be awake. He is crafty in avoiding the replacement of his diaper. He has a pianist's hands, and specifically those of a specialist in Rachmaninoff. And I say that even though I favor Mozart and Brahms. Further characteristics must await further development. There is a certain spooky Bardseyeness and Mrs. Bardseyeness to him at times, unprovable and possibly imagined. He pouts and rolls his eyes when sleepy liker her, he stays awake too much like me.

I know other men have done this, but it feels unique.

Oh, wait. Come to think of it, Shakespeare does speak to this, as to all things:

"What a piece of work is Isaiah Abrams! How noble in reason; how infinite in faculties. In form and moving how express and admirable. In action how like an angel. In apprehension how like a god. The beauty of the world...."

The beauty of the world.
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