There are deeper parts to why this professor bugged the shit out of me, as we used to say. His final invocation of Hamlet was icing on the cake of my outrage, the pyramidion completing my pyramid of dissatisfaction. It was perfect, and I haven’t really spelled out the perfection.
I want to connect his use approving invocation of Barry Goldwater to his little employment of Hamlet as a summary image, to show the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. I happen to agree with him in this rather obvious mythical identification. By employing Hamlet as he did, Professor Snyder wandered into my field of special study and practice: the use of Hamlet as a mirror of the country we live in.
In this lecture, he pretends to the role of My Father’s Ghost. Not the band, but that archetypal national role we might name: The Gadfly of The State (or Stage). It’s the role Noam Chomsky identifies with the prophetic tradition in Judaism. Not simply a dissident, who might bitch from the sidelines and dropout, but a prophet declaring that we must Repent Or Be Doomed.
And the simple fact is, Snyder isn’t an apt candidate to play the part, either by aptitude or, it seems to me, training. Sure, making a studio of the emergence of totalitarianism in Germany and Eastern Europe does seem to set up a person pretty well for playing the Ghost of Socrates. You’d think. Except it doesn’t. Because the Gadfly is not a role you can be educated into. It must be lived, and it can’t be lived by someone fitting perfectly into the institutions that house him.
Gadfly education is a particular initiation, and Snyder doesn’t strike me as someone who has had any real touch of it. Think about how you never see Bernie Sanders making awkwardly self-conscious jokes about popular culture, or invoking Barry Goldwater, or telling people people to riot. Yet, he has ten times the sort of passion capable of leading to give money they don’t have. That’s because Bernie has lived the Gadfly Life. He has Cred because he is Cred.
Or, at least, he had Cred, till he decided that he was more afraid of Trump than he was serious about the need to overthrow the Corporate Dems.
The Master Said:
A truly good man is not aware of his goodness,
And is therefore good.
A foolish man tries to be good,
And is therefore not good.
A truly good man does nothing,
Yet nothing is left undone.
A foolish man is always doing,
Yet much remains to be done
When a truly kind man does something, he leaves nothing undone.
When a just man does something, he leaves a great deal to be done.
When a disciplinarian does something and no one responds,
He rolls up his sleeves in an attempt to enforce order
Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there is ritual.
Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.
Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of the Tao.
It is the beginning of folly.
Therefore the truly great man dwells on what is real
and not what is on the surface,
On the fruit and not the flower,
Therefore accept the one and reject the other.