In more recent years, even those who admire Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” , realize the book challenges traditional values.For example, observers compare the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus. In the same manner the wily economic behavior of modern Greeks also seems to challenge the established canon of gods and titans both financial and mythical. Apollo is the “god of light and perfection”, and Dionysus is the “god of wine and frenzy”. Kerouac, like the Greek citizen attempts “to realize the Dionysian ideal” and the Beat Generation is an example of “the Dionysian spirit” . Those hipsters on the Mediterranean.
CLOUD-MAIDENS that float on forever,
Dew-sprinkled, fleet bodies, and fair,
Let us rise from our Sire’s loud river,
Great Ocean, and soar through the air
To the peaks of the pine-covered mountains where the pines hang as tressed of hair.
Let us seek the watch towers undaunted,
Where the well-watered cornfields abound,
And through murmurs of rivers nymph-haunted,
The songs of the sea-waves resound;
And the sun in the sky never wearies of spreading his radiance around.
Let us cast off the haze
Of the mists from our band,
Till with far-seeing gaze
We may look on the land… ( Song of the Clouds, Aristophanes. trans. Oscar Wilde )
Many in the financial community have asserted all sane individuals should be aware of Greeks bearing bonds. Wall Street listens: “Will Greece default?,” Dionysus, Aphrodite, Helen of Troy and Dante could not care less. Apparently, a mysterious Vatopaidi monastery brought down the last government, laying bare the country’s economic insanity. But beyond a $1.2 trillion debt ,roughly a quarter-million dollars for each working adult, there is apparently a more frightening deficit. After systematically looting their own treasury, in a breathtaking binge of tax evasion, bribery, and creative accounting spurred on by Goldman Sachs, Greeks are sure of one thing: they can’t trust their fellow Greeks. …
“The end of the Dionysian movement is always ecstasy, a going out of oneself, the loss of Ego to forces greater than it.Dionysus in his own realm of field and forest is nothing dangerous; he represents simply the flow of unconscious life in the whole psyche.But over against him stands Apollo, god of light and consciousness, the guardian of civilization and culture, education, commerce and civic virtue.To the civilizing Apollonian attitude, with its premium on rational consciousness and ego-integrity, nothing is more abhorrent, and hence more dangerously seductive, than the dark irrational urge” ( William Everson )
a The vast economy of self-employed workers—everyone from doctors to the guys who ran the kiosks that sold the International Herald Tribune—cheated (one big reason why Greece has the highest percentage of self-employed workers of any European country). “It’s become a cultural trait,” he said. “The Greek people never learned to pay their taxes. And they never did because no one is punished. No one has ever been punished. It’s a cavalier offense—like a gentleman not opening a door for a lady.”
“The scale of Greek tax cheating was at least as incredible as its scope: an estimated two-thirds of Greek doctors reported incomes under 12,000 euros a year—which meant, because incomes below that amount weren’t taxable, that even plastic surgeons making millions a year paid no tax at all….On he went, describing a system that was, in its way, a thing of beauty. It mimicked the tax-collecting systems of an advanced economy—and employed a huge number of tax collectors—while it wasact rigged to enable an entire society to cheat on their taxes.” ( Michael Lewis )
In the romantic era, the passion for Greece animated kings, princes , and governments in the wake of poets and artists. Swept up like Keats and Byron in pursuit of the classic ideal; the Aegina marbles were recovered in 1811 by Charles Robert Cockerell, John Foster and two Germans. All of them were architects, caught in the classical, yet romantic, flush of enthusiasm of the time for the Greeks. That evening their boat passed a British naval transport bearing the great Lord Byron, and as they passed under the stern of the transport they sang one of Byron,s favorite songs. The poet looked out of his window and invited them aboard; and as the sun set the architects and the poet and the naval officers drank port wine together.
They parted; and their boats took them in different ways. The divergence, the different directions were symbolic noyt only of the difference between the famous mid-fifth century marbles en route to London and the more ancient but rather less famous marbles which Cockerell and his friends were to find a day or two later, but of different attitudes both to Greece and to art itself.
One common passion had assembled Byron , and the twenty large cases of sculpture, and Cockerell and the German Von Hallerstein on that ship in the gilded green evening off the Piraeus. The poets wrote poems, the dilettanti collected marbles, the architects and sculptors measured and then alas, imitated what they had measured; because in Greece, after the long centuries, north Europeans now felt themselves in touch at last with human perfection, with the dream in reality. Instead of its familiar dilution in Roman or Graeco-Roman products, here were Greek marbles carved, they thought, by Phidias. And in greece itself they at last breathed the Attic air which had caressed the philosophers and poets.
…”The Greek state was not just corrupt but also corrupting. Once you saw how it worked you could understand a phenomenon which otherwise made no sense at all: the difficulty Greek people have saying a kind word about one another. Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying to myself, “What great people!” They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing. Lacking faith in one another, they fall back on themselves and their families.” ( Michael Lewis )…
In Gregory Corso, beat poem “Marriage” the implication created by these concepts is that marriage is rather like a pre-packaged commodity; like tickets to a film, comic books, a house in the suburbs or furniture it is an experience that one buys into and does not create. It is so much part of middle class society that it no longer exists as an expression of love or devotion. Thus, as an institution, the speaker is entirely disillusioned with marriage.
John Clellon Holmes admits that “it is certainly a generation of extremes”. He went on to say that with this disenchantment with society and the desire to reform it, the Beat Generation were challenged by the tension existing between finding comfort and security in conformity or in excess. In Corso’s work, according to Carolyn Gaiser, “one finds the recurring embodiment of the Dionysian force of emotion and spontaneity, as opposed to the Apollonian powers of order, clarity and moderation.
In a series of fantasies, Corso’s speaker takes a metaphor for middle class life and subverts it. A few simple acts of subversion highlight the narrow boundaries of the middle class life; the books, portrait and stamps represent not only that which lies beyond those boundaries, but they confront and also subvert these limits. Dionysus dares Apollo and is representative of Corso and the Beats in the same search for the classic ideal that animated Byron and Goethe:
In “Marriage” the middle classes are represented by “Mrs Kindhead collecting for the Community Chest”, “the mayor coming to get his vote” and “the milkman”. The Community Chest, mayor and milkman are all illustrative of traditional social structures: the Community Chest is a charity organisation who distributes money given by,mainly, middle class people to the poor, the mayor is symbolic of the political organisation of society and the milkman is a common aspect of suburban dwelling. In subverting these elements, the speaker descends into what would be considered “mad” behavior: his actions are not appropriate to the circumstances. Again Dionysus comes face to face with Apollo, but because this subversion is not done secretively, by sneaking into a neighbor’s house, they have more of a feeling of the “excess” so assiduously avoided by the bourgeois. The tension between conformity and excess continues, whether quietly or out in the open. This Beat Generation issue is brought into the poem; as a member of the Generation, the speaker is torn between either having the appearance of conforming and in a clandestine manner upsetting middle class life or blatantly and loudly challenging it.
…”Knowing nothing else about the Vatopaidi monastery except that, in a perfectly corrupt society, it had somehow been identified as the soul of corruption, I made my way up to the north of Greece, in search of a bunch of monks who had found new, improved ways to work the Greek economy….And on this island no women are allowed—no female animals of any kind, in fact, except for cats. The official history ascribes the ban to the desire of the church to honor the Virgin; the unofficial one to the problem of monks hitting on female visitors. The ban has stood for 1,000 years.”… ( Michael Lewis )
The western figures that Cockerell found on Aegina are late archaic, the eastern are severe- or transitional between archaic and classic; and in Greek sculpture, the best of the geometric, then of the archaic, then of the severe, exemplify those wonderful moments of a developing art when aboriginal energy begins to know without flagging, but not to know too much. To prefer is not to condemn; the Parthenon figures and reliefs have their passages of the exquisite and the cool. But those sculptures of the classic phase, so long a plague to Western art, do illustrate those less wonderful moments when knowing too much begins to drain energy away, and stone begins to turn into cheese.
As far as sculpture is concerned, the Greek dream of the pre-romantics and romantics had been nourished on Roman copies and on the debased Graeco-Roman work; upon softer stuff. The standard was set; and the Parthenon marbles, at last, shone with such wonder to the romantically conditioned academic eye simply because they were the best of softness. In 1820, 1830, 1840, the romantics still wanted the “Ideal” and they still wanted that nature or natural accuracy- more and more of it- which with better artists was to loosen with impressionism, or harden into realism.
Should I get married? Should I be good?
Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and faustus hood?
Don’t take her to movies but to cemeteries
tell all about werewolf bathtubs and forked clarinets
then desire her and kiss her and all the preliminaries
and she going just so far and I understanding why
not getting angry saying You must feel! It’s beautiful to feel!
Instead take her in my arms lean against an old crooked tombstone
and woo her the entire night the constellations in the sky-
When she introduces me to her parents
back straightened, hair finally combed, strangled by a tie,
should I sit with my knees together on their 3rd degree sofa
and not ask Where’s the bathroom?
How else to feel other than I am,
often thinking Flash Gordon soap-
O how terrible it must be for a young man
seated before a family and the family thinking
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou!
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living?
Should I tell them? Would they like me then?
Say All right get married, we’re losing a daughter
but we’re gaining a son-
And should I then ask Where’s the bathroom?
O God, and the wedding! All her family and her friends
and only a handful of mine all scroungy and bearded
just wait to get at the drinks and food-
And the priest! he looking at me as if I masturbated…. ( Gregory Corso, Marriage )