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Giuseppe Mazzotta, in his ninth lecture on the Divine Comedy  (http://oyc.yale.edu/italian-language-and-literature/ital-310) discusses Dante’s De vulgari eloquentia in connection with the disintegration of language that accompanies the pilgrim as he descends deeper into the pit of Hell. Dante’s “ethical map” in Canto XI includes a poetical  portrayal of fraud and treachery. As Professor Mazzotta points out, whereas fraud is found among the rhetorician and falsifier, the flatterer and the cheat, treachery involves the “deceptive violation of trust that others place in us.”

Human nature being what it is, you would expect to find fraud in large organizations, especially governmental bodies. What you would hope  is that the political class, the power elite, that so overwhelmingly control the direction that governments take  would be content with their fraudulent activities and not resort to treachery, as they have done with the  ”Sequestration.”  They know the severe suffering that cuts to social programs will cause on those who are least able to weather yet more economic stress and insecurity. They know this and yet they do it anyway – this  fits the definition of treachery. They have loosened the common bonds with their fellow man, they have betrayed the public trust and it’s time to call them out.

You can hear echoes of OWS and those who reject the need for austerity in Albert Einstein’s letter to Freud on the question of “Why War?”

            The craving for power which characterizes the governing class in every nation is hostile to any limitation…I have specifically in mind that small but determined group, active in every nation, composed of individuals who, indifferent to social considerations and restraints, regard warfare, the manufacture and sale of arms, simply as an occasion to advance their personal interest and enlarge their personal authority….How is it possible for this small clique to bend the will of the majority, who stand to lose and suffer…An obvious answer to this question would seem to be that the minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb. This enables it to organise and sway the emotions of the masses, and make its tool of them…”

You will not hear words like “treachery” spoken in the banal conversation between Brooks and E.J. Dionne on NPR’s weakly (sic) Friday political round up or on other mainstream media outlets. Such words will only be spoken when someone finds the courage to turn the weak watered down language broadcast over the public airwaves into a strong, loud, and deafening  denunciation; A language is needed that that has the capacity to remove the blinds that have us believing that some magical invisible hand of the market place is at the root of our economic woes and not the treachery of a reigning political elite. A Machiavellian realpolitik that practices treachery in the international arena is bad enough, but when it comes home it is ever so much the worse.

It’s time turn away from those who would seek to interpret and construct our world through sterile and false language that conceals the truth – as embodied in Einstein’s question to Freud -  and turn to poets like Dante to find a  language that treats Fraud and Treachery for what it is and not in terms that Gordon Gekko would applaud.

 

From Canto XI

And fraud, whereby all consciences are bitten, one may employ against a man who trusts him, and ‘gainst a man who storeth up no trust. This latter kind of fraud would see to kill only the bond of love which Nature makes; hence in the second circle make their nest hypocrisy, and flatteries, and workers of magic, coining, theft and simony, panders and grafters, and such filth as these.