Is Europe’s soil changing beneath our feet?

Bruno Latour in Green:

I will begin with a text which will seem unusual: Jean Bollack’s translation from the beginning of Oedipus Rex when the priest is addressing Oedipus. This translation says:

“For our city, as you yourself can see,

is badly shaken—she cannot raise her head

above the depths of so much surging death .”

In re-reading this text I found that it resonated perhaps too well with the distressing situation we are witnessing, in this collection of wars we find ourselves dealing with, and which is reflected in Sophocles’ play by the dreadful figure of the plague. Here, the priest is in the position of beggar; but we know right away that very quickly the king, the master, the authority which the priest implores will soon become himself the beggar, chased from the city of Thebes — blind, exiled, and begging for his bread.

In Péguy’s outstanding text, “Les Suppliants parallèles”, this invocation is repeated by juxtaposing it with the complaint — the plea — the Russian people made to the Tzar after the horrible riots of 1905 2 . Péguy showed that the beggar is not in a position of weakness but, on the contrary, always the master of the one whom he pleads with and whose authority he undermines. It was true of the Tzar as well as Oedipus, who was carried away by the ordeal: “He had entered as a king. He left as a beggar”, Péguy wrote. The difficulty is that we have no clear authority or body to implore in order to “raise [our] head above the depths of so much surging death”. We must turn to each other, with neither king nor Tzar to plead with. This is what I understand in today’s theme, “Following the Invasion of Ukraine, Europe in the Interregnum”. There is no authority we can appeal to. We are waiting.

More here.