By Daniel Chejfec
Let me indulge in a fantasy...Let us say that we live in a place call Korydallos, which lies right in the middle of a very busy highway, with lots of traffic back and for. Sound like a good place to put a business...Let us say we open a store that sells...beds.
What do we do when the clients come in to check the bed? we offer them to lie on it of course. So what if the bed is too short, or too long? You see, this is not just a fantasy, but it is the myth of Procrustes (also known as Prokoptas or Damastes). He was a son of Poseidon with a stronghold on Mount Korydallos, right between Athens and Eleusis. When his guests tried the bed he had for them, if the bed was too long he would stretch the person; if the bed was too short, he would amputate the feet to make the guests fit it.
In our society today, this myth is a warning. News are taylored to show us what they want us to hear, and while the right information is out there, it remains untapped because we need to "fit in". This compulsion to fit in, to abide by the consensus, it is a given in our American society today, but that was not always the case. There was a time when thinking outside the box was rewarded, when risk taking was admired. Neither is this "playing it safe" a consequence of the current economic situation. Challenging the status quo became traif before the current crisis. Sure, there are those who yell - loud indeed - against the government; there were some who yelled again Bush, and there are now some who yell against Obama, and that precisely makes my point.
It is not that expressing views against the government is wrong, it is not. In fact you could call it Democracy. What troubles me is that most of the time people react for or against, not based on the content of the objection but based on the color of the jersey. If I'm a Democrat I was suposed to be against Bush, and if a Republican, against Obama. reality is more often than not more complex than that. Policies are responses to economic and social conditions, but how many people can describe clearly those situations? Few...for most of us, it is beyond our reach, so we turn to the "experts", who interpret that reality for us, but behaving like Procrustes in the myth, chopping the legs or stretching the truth to make their point.
As a Jew and as a Zionist, I'm very familiar with that distortion of reality to fit the cause...Arabs claim that since Israel was the Western way to compensate the Jews for the Holocaust, they should be given a piece of Europe since the Palestinians had nothing to do with it. Left out is the fact that Jews built a society in British Palestine well before Hitler, and that the so-called "Father of Palestinian Nationalism", the Grand Mufti Al Husseini worked for Hitler in Berlin and helped recruit Gestapo troops (the Sanjar) among the Muslim population of the Balkans . Eichmann's secretary also said at the Nuremberg trials that the Mufti was one of the main advocates for a policy change toward the Jews, from the policy of exclusion and deportations to what became known as "The Final Solution".
Showing only one side of the issues or one side of history means behaving like Procrustes and chop the feet or strech the person so they can all conform to the bed (or the cause). It takes intellectual honesty to present even the facts which damage your case. The Greek hero Theseus killed Procrustes by forcing him to lie in his own bed. Do we dare to be the Theseus of our time?