We have observed that one of the themes of ancient literature is the concept of Fate or Fortune. We find it first expressed in the plays and heroic poems of the Greeks; the idea then seeped into the writing of history and biography.
Closely associated with this concept is the idea of divine retribution for offending the gods.
Those who showed contempt for the divine or human law would be humbled by the harsh blows of Fate: no man could expect to thumb his nose at the laws of the universe and get away with it.
So Sallust reminds us that Catiline and Jugurtha went down to ruin because their blind hubris caused them to scorn the laws of decency and human society.
Livy and Polybius practically endorse the idea that Rome rose from nothing to rule the world because the gods had fated that it should be so.
Tacitus and Suetonius chronicle every pernicious vice of the Julio-Claudian emperors to make the point that they deserved to go down in ignominious destruction.
Cicero’s philosophical writings are occasionally flavored by this idea as well.
The idea of Fortune or Fate as the arbiter of human destiny persisted for many centuries; we could even argue that the Catholic Church, through the writings of early Church fathers like Augustine, Jerome, Tertullian, simply substituted or imposed a new model on what had already existed before.
In the Renaissance, the humanists (especially Petrarch, Machiavelli, and Guicciardini) enthusiastically endorsed the idea of Fortune.
Yet for some reason modern man is uncomfortable with this idea. He likes to believe that he is in total control of his fate.
He wants to believe his destiny is in his hands. More importantly, he recoils from any attempt to impose limits on his arrogance, greed, and desires.
Anyone writing about the dangers of hubris today is not likely to find himself wildly popular. We live in an age of braggarts, big mouths, preening fools, and arrogant idiots; it is an age where ignorance is lauded and celebrated as wisdom, and the gutter is displayed to the public as something to be emulated. The price for all of this will inevitably be paid.
And this will be the cause of our undoing, if it has not already happened. One cannot just do whatever one wants in life. You do not make your own rules.
You are not an emperor unto yourself; you are not an island of your own, isolated from the mainland of humanity.
The Greeks of late antiquity had a goddess they called Nemesis, and her function was to deliver punishment to those who were guilty of hubris. She was the punisher of undeserved good fortune, and the chastiser of those who overreached themselves.
Her name in Latin was Adrastia. You have probably never heard of her, and this very fact goes a long way to proving my point about the narcissistic streak of our modern culture.
The best description of Adrastia is found in the late Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus. Writing in the fourth century A.D., he interrupts his narrative to remind us who really has the final say in human affairs:
These and many other similar examples are often the operation of Adrastia, the punisher of wicked deeds and the patron of good deeds (and let us hope it is always so!). We may call Her by her secondary name, Nemesis. She is the subtle law of an inexorable higher power; as some men believe, She is located above the orbit of the Moon. Others maintain that She is a kind of general guardian over the fates of individuals. The ancient theologians have pictured Her as the daughter of Justice; and from a far-off eternity She looks down all earthly affairs.
As the queen of causes [regina causarum] and the arbiter and decider of human affairs, She handles the urn [for choosing lots] with its probabilities and causes fortunes to change, sometimes producing for us results that were very different from what we had originally intended. Many acts She twists into something very different. Restraining the always-expanding mortal arrogance with the chains of fate, and tilting the scales of gain and loss (as she knows how to do), She undermines and lowers the haughty necks of the arrogant. She elevates good men from the lowest rung of society to a blessed station in life. Tradition has provided Her with wings so that She might be able to visit anyone with all deliberate speed; and it gave Her a helm to grasp and a wheel under Her, so that as She runs through the elements, no one will ever forget that She commands the fate of the universe. [Res Gestae XIV.11. Translation mine.]
These are powerful words. For Ammianus, there was no doubt about who was really in charge of events. It was not man, with his pathetic, puny schemes that existed to feed his own ego. It was Adrastia, or Nemesis, who would decide who was rewarded and who was punished. Unearned good fortune would be punished; arrogance would be punished; hubris would be punished. Adrastia was the great equalizer, the dispenser of divine justice to those who would prefer to forget the laws of nature.
It seems to me that we have forgotten this lesson, much to our society’s detriment.
One of the benefits of classical studies is their ability to provide moral instruction and guidance; we learn to humble our pride, to live according to rules, to respect the rights of others, and to discipline ourselves to put our passion and greed in check.
Yet much of this seems to be ignored today.
One wonders what Ammianus would have made of this quote, attributed to Karl Rove, the advisor to president George Bush, in which he gave his views of how the United States should its foreign policy:
That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
In Rove’s view, a president should be able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to do it, and the consequences be damned. He “creates his own reality” and then the world just has to deal with that reality. It is a disturbing picture of hubris and incredible arrogance that can only end in tragedy and ruin.
It goes without saying, of course, that people like Rove never have to deal with the direct consequences of their policies. Neither they nor their children serve in the military.
They do not visit the places they destroy, or the communities they decimate. It’s simply a matter of being able to do whatever one wants, without fear of repercussions or consequences.
There are many national leaders today who have forgotten the ever-present reality of Adrastia (if they ever knew it in the first place, which is more likely). These leaders strut around on the world stage, beating their chests and talking loudly, creating havoc and consternation among their fellow-men.
Coddled and nurtured from birth as spoiled children, they care nothing for their duties of office, or for their responsibilities as citizens. But in a larger sense they are the leaders we deserve, for they reflect the state of the culture. A great humbling is unavoidable. The universe has a way of leveling things out, of imposing limits on greed, arrogance, and hubris. Either you fix the problem yourself, or Adrastia will fix it for you.
Adrastia, would that thou comest, and that right soon.
Source: Quintus Curtius
Nphet proposes cap on households mixing over Christmas period
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended that no more than four households should mix over the Christmas period.
Nphet met on Thursday to consider advice for the Government on the latest pandemic situation, at a time when Covid-19 case numbers have stabilised at a high level and further information on the Omicron variant is being awaited.
It last night sent a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly which recommends a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and limits on households mixing.
The contents of the letter are expected to be discussed by Ministers and senior officials at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on Friday.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Government would move “as quickly as it can” to examine the latest recommendations from Nphet and to decide if further restrictions will be introduced. She said the Cabinet would need to be given time to “look at this advice and take it on board”.
During an interview on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said the Government had to ensure it was clear about about what it would do in terms of restrictions and why before anything was announced.
“Of course if there are impacts on businesses at any stage of this…I hope people would agree that we haven’t left people wanting,” she said. “We have always responded where business has needed additional income. Where individuals have lost their jobs. We have always provided that support. This won’t be any different.”
Tests for travellers
Separately, the Government has notified airlines that the introduction of a system of PCR and antigen testing for passengers arriving into Ireland has been delayed by 48 hours.
|Confirmed cases in hospital||Confirmed cases in ICU|
The measure was due to come into force on Friday, but Aer Lingus said airlines had been informed on Thursday night that the regulations would now begin on Sunday. All arrivals into the State – whether vaccinated or not – will need a negative Covid-19 test result from then onwards.
Those travelling with an antigen test result will need to have obtained it within 48 hours of arrival into Ireland, and it will have to be a professionally administered test.
No self-administered tests will be accepted under rules approved by Cabinet. Those with a PCR test result will have a longer pre-travel window of 72 hours before arrival. Persons arriving into the State from overseas who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 will be required also to have a certified negative test.
Hospitality sector meeting
Meanwhile, Government members are due to meet representatives of the hospitality industry on Friday. Ministers have said there will be supports for the sector if new pandemic measures will impact on their ability to trade.
Ms McEntee said she was particularly conscious that people had been asked to pull back and to reduce their social contacts.
“I am talking to businesses particularly in the hospitality sector and I know the impact that is having on them. This should be their busiest time and it’s not. We are taking this on board. We are going to support all of these businesses as we have always done during the pandemic,” she said.
The Minister dismissed suggestions that the Government was flip flopping or that there was confusion behind the scenes, saying the State is in a “fluid situation” because of the nature of Covid-19.
“What we have seen with the antigen test is that the market has corrected itself. That wasn’t a matter of flip flops or changing. We simply saw the market adjust itself. It is not about Government changing direction. We have to change direction sometimes because of the nature of this pandemic. Everybody is doing their best here,” she said.
‘Random and arbitrary’
Earlier, Maynooth University professor of immunology Paul Moynagh said the latest restrictions reportedly proposed by Nphet could lead to some benefits but seem ed “random and arbitrary”.
He told Newstalk Breakfast that “big mistakes” have been made with regard to messaging to the public.
“Back in September contact tracing was stood down the reason being that children were missing too much school. But we had the option of keeping contact tracing and using antigen testing. And there has been a resistance over the last year from Nphet in terms of using antigen testing,” he said.
“We saw over the last number of days the reluctance of Nphet again to impress advice from experts in the area of ventilation and air filtration. There seems to be this reluctance to accept scientific advice from outside.”
Prof Moynagh said there was a need to look at this reluctance and “learn from our mistakes”.
“Whereas at the moment it seems that mistakes are made and that narrative is defended. And again we end up now with new restrictions that I am not convinced are going to be very impactful,” he said.
“We know they are going to be highly impactful in terms of the sectors for example. I am not convinced by the strategy that is being used at the moment.”
Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says
Senior figures in United States politics have made it clear that the government of Boris Johnson in the UK will face negative consequences internationally if it attempts to rupture or dispense with the Northern Ireland protocol, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.
In a presentation at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Thursday she said the protocol was “necessary, operable and going nowhere, despite what Boris Johnson might wish to believe”.
She said she had met with “people of considerable influence” in the US Congress and in the Biden administration on her visit to the US this week and they all stood four square behind the Belfast Agreement and the protocol.
“I heard yesterday on the Hill the clearest possible articulation across the board that any notion of walking away from the protocol would not be acceptable to the United States.”
Asked about a report in the Financial Timed that Washington had delayed lifting tariffs on UK steel and aluminium products amid concerns about threats by the UK to invoke article 16 of the protocol, Ms McDonald said this was a matter for the Biden administration.
However, she said: “There is no doubt where the US stands. If Johnson believes he can walk away from the protocol, he is wrong and there will be consequences for Britain if he chooses that course of action.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who was also in Washington DC on Thursday, said if the lifting of tariffs was being delayed due to concerns about the protocol, he would argue at a meeting with the US state department that it had “got it wrong” in its view on what article 16 was about.
“If people say we have to adhere to the protocol and article 16 is part of the protocol then it becomes a legitimate thing you can use.”
“It is not about whether you should or should not use it. It is about how you should use it.
“You should use it in a narrow sense of a particular issue that is causing economic or societal harm in Northern Ireland, for example, medicines .”
“If the medicine issue has not been fixed and is starting to affect the people of Northern Ireland, it would be right to instigate article 16 to focus minds on that issue.”
Ms McDonald also told the press club event that she expected the United States would “be on the right side” on the controversy over British plans for an amnesty in relation to killings during the Troubles.
She said the British government was going to the ultimate point to keep the truth from the people about its war in Ireland.
She said the Johnson government’s plans would mean “in effect no possibility of criminal action, civil actions or even inquests into killings in the past”.
Ms McDonald also forecast that a point was coming over the coming five or 10 years where referenda would be held on the reunification of Ireland. She urged the Irish government to establish a citizen’s assembly to consider preparation for unity.
She also said “there will be need for international support and international intervention to support Ireland as we move to transition from partition to reunification”.
Separately, asked about a recent Sinn Féin golf fundraising event that was held in New York, Ms McDonald said the money that was raised would be spent on campaigning and lobbying in the US.
She described it as a patriotic expression by people in the US who had a deep interest in Ireland and the peace process.
Drop in cancer diagnoses as high as 14 per cent during pandemic, early data shows
The drop in the number of cancers detected during the Covid-19 pandemic could be as high as 14 per cent, preliminary data has suggested.
A report from the National Cancer Registry said it was still too early to provide “definitive answers” on whether pandemic hospital restrictions last year led to a reduction in the number of cancers diagnosed.
The registry’s annual report said an estimated decrease of 14 per cent in detections pointed to the “potential scale” of Covid-19’s impact on other healthcare.
A separate analysis of data on microscopically verified cancers diagnosed last year showed a reduction of between 10 and 13 per cent, the report said.
The drop in confirmed cancer cases, when compared with previous years, could be partly accounted for by “incomplete registration of cases already diagnosed”, it said.
Prof Deirdre Murray, director of the National Cancer Registry, said there were “clear signals that, as expected in Ireland, the number of cancer diagnoses in 2020 will be lower than in previous years”.
The shortfall in cancers being diagnosed would present a “major challenge” in the coming years, with lengthy waiting lists and disruptions to screening services “all too commonplace” already, she said.
Ms Power said it was frightening to think of the people who were living with cancer but did not know it yet. She added that existing cancer patients were “terrified” of having treatments delayed due to the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.
The registry’s report said there were about 44,000 tumours identified each year between 2017 and 2019.
Not counting non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancer diagnoses were for breast and prostate cancer, which made up almost a third of invasive cancers found in women and men respectively.
For men this was followed by bowel and lung cancer, and melanoma of the skin. Lung cancer was the second most common cancer for women, followed by colorectal cancer and melanoma of skin.
Nearly a third of deaths in 2018 were attributed to cancer, with lung cancer the leading cause of death from cancer, the report said.
The second, third and fourth most common cancers to die from in men were bowel, prostate and oesophagus cancer. For women breast, bowel and ovarian cancers were the most common fatal cancers.
The report said there were almost 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland at the end of 2019, with breast cancer patients making up more than a fifth of the total.
The research found cancer rates among men had dropped between 2010 and 2019, with mortality rates decreasing or remaining the same across nearly every type of cancer. Rates of cancer detected among women had increased between 2008 and 2019, with mortality rates for most cancers decreasing.
The report said the five-year survival rate from cancer had increased to 65 per cent for the period 2014 to 2018, compared with 42 per cent two decades previous.
There had been “major improvement” in survival rates for most major cancers, however, the research noted the chances of survival varied significantly depending on the type of cancer.
Prostate, melanoma of the skin and testis cancer had survival rates of more than 90 per cent, followed closely by breast and thyroid cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma. Pancreas, liver, oesophagus and lung cancers had much lower five-year survival rates on average, the report said.
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