Did Shakespeare predict US politics?

Although intended for live performances, the archaic writings of Shakespeare are immortalized through universal themes of the human experience. Shakespeare’s King Lear is one of such plays. In King Lear, there is a constant struggle between those who possess and desire power, which  results in the suffering of people on both sides, even the innocent. Currently, this theme plays out in US politics. The dueling powerhouses are the Republican and Democratic parties. The means which they use to overpower one another creates victims out of those around them. They prioritize their supporters and slander those who identify with their opposition.

Prioritizing supporters over non-supporters’ livelihoods:

The reason Lear’s daughters, Goneril and Regan, take away Lear’s knights and servants, is because it disarms him of his power, with which he mattered. After unarming Lear, the daughters banish and leave him with nothing and no one. This is advantageous for the sisters since there is now no threat to their reign, and because they no longer have to deal with Lear, who they did not care about. Similarly, parties decisively target populations to ensure votes. Both parties put so much effort into campaigning in swing states, where votes aren’t guaranteed. The parties’ vessels, politicians, woo their audience with an image of empathy and care. On the other hand, unless prompted – untrendy, voiceless, and uncared for groups are constantly overlooked, especially when they support the parties opponent. A party wouldn’t want to give people resources who they deemed undeserving or simply don’t care about. Also, sometimes politicians neglect groups because they don’t see any advantage in helping them.

Slandering opposition: 

The mistreatment of ‘opposition’ in the USA’s social community is asserted by standardized slandering of the ‘other’. Rhetoric is extremely influential, as such it is often used to possess power. Considering both parties’ ambitions, it is unavoidable for them to not weaponize rhetoric. They insult each other by portraying one another as stupid and evil which negatively shapes their followers image of the targeted group. It generates hate and fear, which can and has been used against one another. It was easy for Lear’s own daughters to dispose of him when they found him old and crazy. Edmund deceived Edgar and Gloucester which turned them against each other, even when both had done nothing bad to one another in person. Similarly, the toxic fumes and gossips that sides spawn, creates an image of a threat, which one has never met.

People make sacrifices to maintain power. The means which they utilize way too often harm those around them. But as long as these people have their servants and knights, they will not stop.

Nadia and Saeed’s Flight

In Exit West, Nadia and Saeed’s home country is quickly plunging into the chaos of war between the government and extremist militants. It is a fight for control over land, resources, but most importantly ideology. The circumstances that follow trigger a refugee crisis, and Nadia and Saeed’s subsequent departure. 

Extremist militants have just taken over Nadia and Saeed’s neighborhoods; bombs and gunshots still characterize the landscape. Meanwhile, their presence is controlling and ruthless. Considering insights from the author of Exit West,  Mohsin Hamid,  these extremists are very likely based off of ISIS, an extremist organization. Members of this entity sincerely blow themselves up, kill people with torturous and down right evil methods, have engaged in slave trade, torture, etc. The narrator  notes, “public and private executions that now took place almost continuously . . . once a neighborhood had been purged it could then expect a measure of respite,  until someone committed an infraction of some kind, because infractions . . . were invariably punished without mercy (pg. 86).”  What’s worse, these are religious extremists, the soldiers of the ‘the greater good’, people who think that every action they take – mistake or plain evil, is justified by God, so they are rather self-imposed. These sorts are impossible to reason with because they think difference, even help or advice, is a weapon of the devil, tempting and testing their faith. Nadia and Saeed are at the mercy of these people. A simple accusation of a crime, even false in nature, might spell the end of their lives. On top of that, there is a lack of food, medicine, and resources. Being bombed from both sides, Nadia and Saeed have no choice but to run away.

Even after escaping the country, they fear that they have been abandoned by the world. One must feel helpless in a refugee camp, where they may live for another few years, possibly the rest of their lives. If they’re lucky, they will understandably escape to a country which they perceive to be at peace. As Nadia and Saeed experienced, when they come to Europe, they are not welcome because a large proportion of the native population fears that the refugees bring extremism and poverty with them. Living under such duress affects one’s character, similar to what soldiers experience during war. After all, these people were in a war, they were bombed from one side or the other. So, even if by magic all their material needs were satisfied, they still carry the mental scars of war. There is a profound sense of loss because they lost their family, their friends, their town, culture, habits, home. Some of the people they knew may have died over the period of their escape. They maybe even joined the militants and became the people they so had to fear. 

Irony of the Myth of Sisyphus

The myth of Sisyphus describes what is supposedly the harshest of all punishments: the Gods condemn him to a lifetime of futile servitude for the crime of disdain for the Gods and disdain the procession of death. Sisyphus’s punishment is to roll a boulder up a hill which immediately falls down once reaching the top. Sisyphus will do this for eternity; the supposed torture in this act being the meaninglessness of it all. 

Although an eternal torment, Camus’s genius is to highlight the ironic fact that Sisyphus’s tasks are no different than those carried out in modern everyday life. We (as humans, not mythical creatures) perform repetitive tasks, some undertaken with imaginary purpose, all of which in turn appear in and of themselves as devoid of meaning. Any value taken away from a human task is merely what we imagine it to be. The wafer taken during communion is meaningless to most; for those believers, it is imparted with a great deal of imagined significance. Or social popularity which truly manifests solely as idols in an individual mind. 

            Sisyphus keeps pushing the boulder; every step up the hill serving as an inspiration for the next. There is no change in this routine, the same results are produced, and the same hardships are endured. Like Sisyphus, Man creates a purpose for these repetitive tasks no matter how meaningless the task, such as pushing a boulder up a hill. 

          It is the pursuit for purpose in one’s life which in itself gives meaning to mans’ lives. “This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”