(Letter attributed to ancient Greek writer/philosopher, Heracles, to a friend)
My dear Pericles,
Today I have returned from the city of Butrint, where I saw the great new amphitheatre. It is truly a modern marvel, seating nearly 5,000 people. Think of it: nearly 5,000 people hearing and seeing the same play at the same time. There will never be a greater means of communication than what I witnessed yesterday.
But if we set aside the technologica of this great new theatre, we see something else which is not so good. It is called the “Greek Reality Plays.” A pox on all who have created this monstrous idea and who have imposed it upon an unsuspecting public. These reality plays do not dignify the gods nor do they honor our heroes. Instead they rely on stealth and lies. Think of it: a reality play that elevates lying as a standard of conduct. I say a pox on all who have done this.
It is even worse, Pericles: these reality plays have thrown many good actors and writers out of work! I fear the art of writing and acting may soon disappear. Just last week I heard Euripides complain there was no place to perform his new play, Medea.
Oh, how I long for the great tragedies of Zenocles and Aristophanes. That was during the glorious Golden Age of the theatre. And now? We have heroes who lie to their women, and husbands who are enticed to leave their wives. What are we teaching our youth?
As if this weren’t enough, even the tradesmen and shopkeepers now hawk their wares between the acts of the great plays. I promise you, this can only get worse as more and more tradesmen are allowed to sell their services. Some shopkeepers have even bribed the writers to make mention of their shops during the play. And no one, it seems, is able to control them. A pox on all of them I say!
And so, we are here at a great crossroads between the technologica that promises great rewards to our citizens and, the trusted and revered ideals that have served our society for so long. There are other questions, too:
Should we encourage a consolidation of the great city-states like Athens and Sparta because, from it, will emerge a greater good for society – or should we instead be wary of a monolith that will be all-powerful and will not heed the will of the people?
And, while I respect the accomplishment of those who have created great new machines, I ask: do we want to be remembered in history for our machines or for the ideals that we promulgate for the good of all men?
I admonish you, Pericles, do not shirk from these questions, for our very fate may depend upon our answers. Remember well these words: “Those who cannot not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”
(From the pen of Larry Clamage, Sarasota, Florida.)