Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Pharmakon

The ancient Greeks had ideas for what they thought would cure disease, famine, and drought. They picked one citizen, often at random, and paraded him through the streets in the misguided belief that through his sacrifice they would cure the ills of society. That unwilling victim came to be known as a "pharmakon" which, in Greek, means both poison and remedy, and is the origin of our modern day pharmacy.

As French historian, and social philosopher, Rene Girard has suggested, it was thought that by making an example of this one individual, it would rain again, there would be abundant food, and plagues would vanish. I'm reminded of the pharmakon when observing the rabid crusade against Imus who, in my opinion, deserves less attention, and has less credibility than your average garden variety slug, but instead finds himself in the spotlight and will, no doubt, profit handily from his bigotry thanks to all the notoriety.

While there is nothing random about the spectacle that is Imus and his disgraceful words, parading him around the public square, and sacrificing him at the altar of big advertising dollars won't alter the fact, not even for a minute, that someone with his outspoken, racist, and neanderthal mindset made it as far as MSNBC in the first place nor will it make us, as a society, any less corrupt or bigoted. The monster currently playing on the front page of a newspaper near you has an audience, and a large one at that. They will simply take their advertising, and consumer dollars to the bigot on the radio, or cable station next door, and we, as a civilization, will not have learned a single thing unless we face up to the fact that the cure is seldom to be found in the poison.

There was nothing arbitrary about Imus' racial slur, or those who have been victimized by it just as there is nothing random about those who buy products from those who sponsor stations that broadcast this smut. Imus deserves the condemnation he got, but his dismissal means only more bucks, and an inevitable move to satellite where he may join the likes of Howard Stern.

The Imus mea culpa will only count if it comes from each and every one who shares, or feeds his mindset. Social justice is a process, not a product, and one that has been derailed not only by racism, but by greed, and lust for fame