Achilles


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Achilles Essay, Research Paper

Achilles Anophtheis (Achilles revisited)

The director walked onto the stage, gingerly adjusting his radiation

mask in order to fit the microphone beneath it. His nervous cough boomed

through the hall. After shuffling the papers on the podium before him, he

began.

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen of the Pre-Apocalypse Archaeological

Society. We have called this session to impart to you a matter of the

utmost importance, a discovery of the highest order. As you are aware, our

teams have only recently been able to sift through the debris of the razed

cities of our belligerent predecessors, thanks to the efforts of our

colleagues at the Physical Research Society who, with the aid of Allah,

have made our task infinitely easier with the invention of a radiation suit

which allows our field workers to work even in areas of the highest

radiation concentration: the cities of what was formerly the United States

of America. The discoveries are literally pouring in, and we have our

hands full simply cataloguing the numerous finds. Our first find was a

small rectangular object, containing a spool of thin ribbon, which one of

our historians identified as what was known as a cassette. Simply put, it

was a device on which sounds could be recorded. From its small size, our

historian conjectured that it was of a type designed for recording the

human voice rather than music. Armed with this belief, we managed to

convince the Censor Society to allow us to reconstruct the primitive

machine to play back the message we hoped it would contain. They agreed;

on the condition that we did not do so until they had a chance to screen it

for the negative influences that caused the downfall of the last corrupt

civilization. They duly approved it and we are now ready for its first

public presentation.

“Before we begin, I would like to explain some of the terms used in the

recording, for those of you who lack the benefit of an historical training.

The tape is evidently the recording of a psychologist. You are all aware

that the sacrilege which led to the destruction of the Nuclear Age was

primarily caused by the decline in religious belief and values. A

psychologist was the person who supplanted the role of the confessor in

this blasphemous time. He labored under the delusion that the immortal

soul was accessible on a scientific, human level; and, like most of the

scientists of the day, impiously discounted Allah as an unnecessary

complication. We found an infamous saying which pervaded much of the Pre-

Apocalypse literature: `Religion is the opiate of the people’. Well,

psychology became the new `opiate of the people.’

The patient with whom the doctor is dealing with in the recording, has

been identified as a prominent businessman of the day. He is what was

called an arbitrageur. A man who specialized in dealings on their stock

market, a term I am sure all of you are familiar with. In any case, an

arbitrageur bought and sold companies for a profit. In the few pieces of

literature we have been able to recover, it seems that such men were

regarded as the heroes of their age. I refer of course to the numerous

copies we have of the autobiographies of Donald Trump, Robert Campeau and

the like. Evidently the culture considered these books to be of great

importance, for we found huge amounts of them in large buildings. This was

apparently for safekeeping since the storage facilities were located well

away from the centres of attack in the event of a nuclear war. The

periodicals of the day also reflect the reverence in which these men were

held, as they are frequently mentioned. It is another mark of the

degradation of the society that the primary estimate of a man’s worth

became the amount of money he earned. It is difficult in this holy age to

conceive of such blasphemy, but it is necessary that we do so in order to

avoid the same traps into which they fell. We have managed to reconstruct

the scenario as far as was possible, but we endeavored to retain all of the

original conversation in addition to our own narration. I don’t think that

there is anything further that you need to know about the recording, except

perhaps that it appears to be incomplete. I would ask that you remain as

silent as possible, because the tape is of very low quality and the accent

is very difficult to understand. If you are having trouble, I suggest that

you follow along in the transcripts with which we have provided you.” The

Director signaled for the tape to begin, and left the stage.

Dr. Zeis loaded the cassette into the machine and tested it. It

wouldn’t do to have it chew up the tape again, especially not for so

important a patient: the sort of patient who could make his career . . .

or break it. He knew he couldn’t afford to squander his good fortune. As

his mind wandered over the seemingly endless ramifications of success, the

static crackle of the intercom interrupted his reveries. It was his

secretary warning him that Mr. Reussi was on his way in. The doctor

rewound the tape and offered up a quick prayer that it would work. The

door swung open and one of the world’s richest, most powerful men strode

in.

Mr. Oswald Achilles Reussi had made his fortune by taking over

companies and turning them around. He was able to start at such a high

level because of the substantial inheritance he had received from his

father. He was rich enough to ensure that he received only the best sort

of publicity, and that was why he had been so irate when the media learned

that he was in therapy and had printed the story with a glee that only

those who made their living from sordid details were capable of acquiring.

Dr. Zeis had regretted his indiscretion, but that sort of publicity was

simply too tempting to resist. He had only been able to calm the fuming

man by convincing him that it was essential that he not be afraid of the

stigma of therapy in order for it to work for him. An old dodge, but it had

performed its function and placated the incensed patient.

Oswald crossed the room with a gruff greeting (Dr. Zeis had learned

early that this was not a man to waste time). He took his customary

position, sprawled on the couch. Dr. Zeis did not place any value in

Freud’s theories regarding the merits of the couch, but he didn’t have the

heart, or the nerve, to object.

“Well Mr. Reussi,” he began, glancing down at the few notes he had been

able to salvage from the previous session’s mangled tape, “last week, we

established with a fair degree of certainty, that you are suffering from an

unresolved Oedipus complex. This, in turn, has contributed to your

success, by engendering in you a sense of competition with your father.

The matter was not helped by the fact that you frequently suffered

comparison with him in your youth.

“This week I hope to confirm the conclusions we drew through a brief

examination of your present life. This examination will, hopefully, yield

manifestations of this dysfunction, and then we may direct our efforts to

its resolution. So, perhaps you could tell me about what is troubling you

most at present.” Oswald shifted uncomfortably and seemed to be searching

for a topic. He eventually settled, and began.

“You’ve probably heard about my attempted takeover of Trojan Inc., the

rubber company. I was not in it for the money, I suppose that all I really

wanted was to complete a deal of historic proportions. At any rate, I had

submitted a bid, and, because of the amount of money involved, didn’t

expect to encounter any serious competition. The board of directors was

not very happy with the offer, but I knew the shareholders would not allow

such an opportunity to pass them by. Just when I was hammering out the

final details and preparing to submit the offer to the Securities

Commission for final approval, a former friend of mine, Alexander Atreides,

came in and pulled a white knight, right under my nose.”

“I’m sorry,” the doctor interrupted, “but I’m afraid you’ll have to

explain technical terms to me; I’m not well versed in the language of

business. I don’t understand what you mean by a `white knight’.”

” Oh, that’s fairly straightforward. A white knight refers to a

strategy that companies use to prevent being taken over by a hostile party.

They find someone who they would like to take over the company, and then

they convince him to undertake the attempt by promising him the endorsement

of the board of directors. Although in this case, Alexander offered his

services to the directors, convincing them with guarantees of job security.

So the board naturally jumped at the chance, and he stole the company from

right under me.”

“How do you feel about his actions?”

“I was angry at first, but now he’s in serious financial trouble

because his attempt to pull off `the greatest takeover in history’ is being

stalled by the company’s Chief Executive Officer.” “I read something about

it in the paper. He’s attempting to take over Trojan, but the head of the

company, Hector Prince, won’t let him.”

“That’s right.” replied Oswald. “Trojan is the world’s largest

manufacturer of condoms, and with the present scare over social diseases,

it’s business is booming. They also own several tire companies; basically,

they own anything that involves the use of rubber.”

“Can you help Mr. Atreides?” asked the psychologist.

“Yes, but I’m not going to. I believe that this is some sort of divine

retribution. Fate is paying him back for cheating me out of my company.”

said Oswald complacently.

Did he do something illegal?”

“You mean in stealing Trojan from me?” The doctor nodded.

“Not really, but it’s not the sort of thing one does to one’s friends.

I mean he knew that I wanted the takeover, and that this company was the

target I had chosen over five years ago. I had just been biding my time

until an opportunity presented itself; and when it did, he was right there

to take advantage of things I had told him as a friend . . . confidential

things.” “Mr. Reussi, I have heard nearly enough,” the doctor said, putting

down his notebook, “but there is one more thing that I need to know. If

Mr. Atreides had not done what he did in the Trojan takeover, would you

help him to defeat Hector?” “I would jump at the chance of making that dog

Hector squirm. He’s one of the most despicable men I know. He never fails

to point out that my father married into money, while his family is one of

those that trace their ancestry to the Mayflower.”

“Then, if I may, I suggest that you go to Mr. Atreides’ aid.” the

doctor knew that this would not be received warmly and was prepared to

defend it. “Why should I help Alexander? He’s as much of a bastard as

Hector!” The doctor cleared his throat.

“Firstly, it would be to both of your advantages to see Mr. Prince out.

You’ve already stated that you would like to see him squirm, well here’s

your chance. And to top it all, you would have a chance to be part of the

largest takeover in history. You stated yourself that this was your main

motive in the matter.” “It’s true that I would like to see Hector squirm,

but I hate to have to save Alexander in the process.” said Oswald

doubtfully.

“Secondly, we have already established that you have an unresolved

Oedipus complex and-” “I’m not absolutely certain that I understand what it

is to have an `unresolved Oedipus complex’,” Oswald interrupted.

“I apologize for not clarifying my psychological terms for you. An

Oedipus complex, as you are probably aware, is a normal childhood

phenomena. Because of the child’s natural love for his mother, he views

his father as being in competition with him for that love, and, as a

result, develops a hatred of him. The complex is usually resolved by the

child’s development of a `castration complex.’ Two primary reasons

contribute to this: first the child is frequently scolded for touching his

genital area, and, secondly he may see a naked girl and believe that she

has been punished for the same crime, by having the offending organ

amputated. In his irrational fear of castration, the boy tries to

compensate by ridding himself of all thoughts of hatred by repression, and

attempts to love his father. Naturally, this is a drastically simplified

explanation of a complicated process. Do you understand now?” asked Dr.

Zeis. “Yes. You believe that I did not suffer from this . . . uhh . . . ”

“Castration complex?” offered the doctor. “That’s it,” said Oswald,

“and therefore I never overcame the sense of competition with my father.”

“Yes,” confirmed the psychologist, “that’s it in a nutshell. You see,

you were never really around your parents when you were a child, and

because they spent so little time with you, they were loathe to scold you.

Also you said yourself that you frequently suffered comparison with your

father when you were a child, and this served to enhance the sense of

competition. So now I am attempting to suggest a therapy that will aid you

in overcoming your dysfunction.” “But how will helping Alexander accomplish

anything?” asked Oswald dubiously.

“The only way to triumph over the problem is to consciously avoid

behaviour that it causes. And the scenario you have just presented to me

involving your friend, Mr. Atreides, is just such behaviour.” explained the

doctor. “You mean to say that I am merely acting under a compulsion when I

refuse to aid Alexander?” asked Oswald dubiously. The doctor nodded. “But

wouldn’t you do the same thing if a friend of yours stabbed you in the back

like he has done to me? and stolen my dream?” asked Oswald.

“I anticipated this objection.” said the doctor complacently.

“That is why I have a third reason. Ask yourself, if you were in

his position would you have acted similarly?”

“Well . . . ” hesitated Oswald.

“You see that such behaviour is common in the business world,

and you would probably have done the same had the roles been

reversed.” said the doctor triumphantly. “What you must realize

is that all these years of competition have made you unable to

accept defeat. The only way you can accept losing to Mr. Atreides

without causing yourself considerable mental anguish, is by being

a factor in his destruction, taking your revenge.”

“I still don’t know,” said Oswald doubtfully, “I can’t-” The sound of a

telephone ringing broke into the conversation. A look of anger passed

across the doctor’s face as he stood up to answer it.

“I apologize Mr. Reussi,” he said. “I thought I told my receptionist

to hold all my calls.” “No need to apologize,” said Oswald, pulling a

handsized, rectangular object from his pocket. “I believe it’s my phone.”

He unfolded the phone and extended a concealed antenna. “Yes?” he said

tersely, and listened for a few seconds, his face growing taut. “Are you

sure?” he asked. After listening for a few more seconds, he folded the

phone back up and folded the antenna.

“That was a friend of mine,” he explained, “Robert Patrolo, telling me

that his company was just taken over by Trojan. Hector’s first move upon

gaining control was to have him removed from the chairmanship. Hector knew

that would get me.” He remained seated for a few seconds and then stood

up, pulling on his jacket.

“I believe you are right doctor.” he said. “I am going to help Mr.

Atreides; and when we succeed I’m going to throw Hector out like a dog.”

and so saying, he left the room. The doctor sat down again. He wondered

over the man’s motives, and came to the conclusion that he had not

accomplished very much. All Reussi was doing was transferring his wrath

from Mr. Atreides to Hector.

“Ah well,” he thought, “I shall have to try a different approach next

week.” He pressed the stop button on his tape recorder.

The Director returned to the stage and signaled for the tape to be

stopped. “I believe, gentlemen, that you are all aware of the profane

theories of Sigmund Freud?” he glance around the auditorium observing their

nods.

“Well, for the first time, we are able to see those fanciful theories

in actual application, rather than in text. The members of the Censor

Society have graciously permitted us to listen to this recording in order

to allow us to see the depths to which rationality can plunge. We must

remember, as we attempt to rebuild our society, that the only way is God’s

way, as specifically set out in our sacred Books. I hope that you have

gleaned the dire lesson that this recording has to offer. We must, at all

costs, avoid the unplumbable depths of depravity to which the Nuclear Age

descended, and construct our Society in accordance with the decrees of God.

Praise God!”

The audience rose and emphatically returned his farewell, well aware

that they were being closely observed, and that any failure could result in

the severest consequences.

Epilogue

The first order of business seems to be to acknowledge my debt, both in

order to avoid accusations of plagiarism and subsequent litigation. The

difficulty is that my debt extends to every book I have read since the age

of five. I can, however, endeavor to mention the more obvious ones. The

idea of couching the main story in a larger context of a later civilization

is borrowed from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and the main story

is an attempt (an enormously presumptuous one at that) to compress and

modernize Homer’s Iliad. I also owe a great deal to Sigmund Freud’s

writings, although I am certain that he would not admit to being the source

of this perversion of his theories, were he alive to object. All that now

remains is to offer a brief explanation of the story itself, perhaps

something along the lines of Dante’s letter to Can Grande Della Scala. The

story is basically a modernization of the themes of the Iliad. In order to

retain the father-son theme, I used an unresolved Oedipus complex.

Achilles’ wrath is again shifted from Agamemmnon to Hector, although, as

they say, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. I was at a

loss to include an invocation to the Muse, but I eventually came up with

the idea that a tape recorder might be a solution to the problem. What

else is a tape recorder if not an aid to memory? “In fulfillment of the

will of Zeus” is another theme of the Iliad. In order to include it, I

interpreted the gods as psychological phenomena, and, therefore, the

compulsions of the unresolved complex which affects Achilles behaviour is

the re-internalization of Homer’s externalization of internal psychic

activities. (I think drawing a diagram may help you decipher that last

sentence.) The last theme, of corpses being left as carrion for the dogs,

was relegated to a minor position: a few gratuitous remarks of Achilles to

the way he was going to treat Hector. The task is now complete. I hope you

enjoyed the story as much as I hated writing it. Before you mark it, allow

me to interject a quick quote from Shakespeare: “The quality of mercy is

not strain’d”. Thanks for an illuminating, enchanting course. See you in

January.

Yours in Homer,

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Related works:
Achilles Anophtheis Achilles Revisited
Achilles 2
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