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For those not familiar with ancient Greek mythology Scylla and Charybdis were mythical monsters said to inhabit the Strait of Messina, between Sicily and Italy. They are mainly known by their appearance in Homer’s Odyssey: Odysseus ordered his crew to avoid the one, thus coming closer to the other. The reason behind this was simple: Charybdis was some kind of underwater monstrosity, which sucked and regurgitated the sea, thus creating a deadly whirlpool. A wooden vessel was highly improbable to survive this ordeal and choosing Charybdis would most likely mean the end for him and all his men.

Scylla, on the other hand, was the “devil you know” or, at the very least, the devil which you can see. She was a multi-headed beast, usually described as some very unpleasant combination of woman and dog, among other things. By all accounts, she was the lesser evil.

This might sound somewhat familiar. In the coming elections, the citizens of the US are faced with a similar choice: Mrs. Hillary Clinton versus Mr. Donald Trump. By now, anyone who is mostly sane is doing their best to steer voters away from Mr. Trump and into the warm embrace of Mrs. Clinton. This includes celebrities, actors, comedians, even news outlets which have never before endorsed any candidate.

Rarely has an election attracted so much attention in the media worldwide. But the situation is far from ideal. In fact, somehow this election managed to match the two most unpopular presidential nominees in American history.

This is not something to be dismissed lightly as “a sign of the times”. If we are to understand “the times” we must try to understand how we came to this uncomfortable position. “Uncomfortable” is not even the proper word here. “Improbable” is far closer to the truth. To return to our mythological analogy, Odysseus was trying to get back home to Ithaca (western Greek island) from Troy (present day Turkey). What the hell was he doing in the Strait of Messina, anyway?

One would think that at a time when people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with politics in general and politicians in particular, both US parties would attempt to find the most likable candidates available and not the exact opposite.

This leaves us with three possible explanations:

a) either the people who are responsible for these decisions are absolutely incapable or

b) the selection of the candidates in question was a conscious, planned decision or

c) none of the two parties wishes to win the election

I will leave you to decide which of these three explanations makes any sense at all. But it is useful to consider the words of Franklin Roosevelt:

In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.

Somehow, we are faced with a choice between a) an obscene man who rarely, if ever, speaks the truth, who changes his position on key issues in a matter of hours, if not minutes, a misogynistic, racist, all-round obnoxious person, who is not even really successful as a businessman, and b) a politician whose most valued quality is actually not being Trump. Oh, wait, she is also a woman.

Needless to say that these two traits are shared by about 50% of the Earth’s population. Of course, this number drastically drops if you take into account that a candidate must also be a US citizen of legal age, leaving a pool of just about 101 million people. Minus Sarah Palin.

It could be argued that Mrs. Clinton has a long career in politics, but isn’t it this same career that caused her to become so unpopular in the first place? On the other hand, Mr. Trump has no prior experience whatsoever as a holder of a public office, and yet this did nothing to stop him from becoming a nominee.

The Bush family refuses to support him. Many prominent Republican senators actually endorse Mrs. Clinton for President. There is even an official Republicans for Clinton website/movement out there.

Let us turn the argument on its head. Suppose you were hell-bent to get Hillary Clinton elected in 2016. Could there be a more ideal opponent than Donald Trump? One that would allow her to showcase all her advantages, while making her flaws seem insignificant? Anyone worse than Trump would simply be unable to win the primaries.

Consider that for all his outrageous statements and a disastrous first presidential election debate, the polls are still more or less even. How could Mrs. Clinton possibly dream to compete with anyone better?

We should not lay the blame solely on the unpopularity of the former First Lady and Secretary of State. There are other factors at work here, which I will attempt to tackle in a separate post. But the fact remains.

Donald is literally Hillary’s trump card.

How did we get to this? Even more disheartening is the realization that this surreal political landscape is not limited to the US. The “lesser evil” scenario is playing out with alarming frequency in an increasing number of countries, including Greece, where every government seems a bit worse than the one which preceded it.

This is realpolitik, you might say. This is, more or less, how the world works. You might even quote Otto von Bismarck:

Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.

This is true. But mark the difference between “next best” and “lesser evil”. It is not a matter of perspective, half-full versus half-empty. It is a difference between something good, even if slightly good, and something evil, even if somewhat evil.

And the real question is, how not-so-evil might one be considered when compared to Mr. Trump? How low are we prepared to lower the bar when going against extremists, racists, religious bigots or fascists?

And when does it stop making any real difference?


Intermission #23


I will stop
I will stop at nothing
Say the right things
When electioneering
I trust I can rely on your vote

When I go forwards, you go backwards
And somewhere we will meet
When I go forwards, you go backwards
And somewhere we will meet
Ha, ha, ha

Riot shields
Voodoo economics
It’s life, it’s life
It’s just business
Cattle prods and the I.M.F.
I trust I can rely on your vote

When I go forwards, you go backwards
And somewhere we will meet
When I go forwards, you go backwards
And somewhere we will meet


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