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Manipulation and Intimidation: Tools for Ultimate Control

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Castro, Mugabe, Chavez– countless oppressive dictators rule countless submissive countries. In reality, the power of people is much greater than the power of a handful of corrupt bureaucrats, but the government officials have one effective tool: intimidation. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said. Humans, for all their advancements, have one major fear, the fear of pain and punishment. This fear consumes their lives. Kings and dictators manipulate fear, using the power of intimidation to get others to comply with the rulers’ wishes. In the epic The Odyssey, by Homer, the Mycenaeans are subdued by their fear of the gods and monsters. This fear plays a huge role in The Odyssey, as the Greeks’ fear of punishment ties into their moral behavior and hospitality. The gods provide a supernatural fear that essentially rules the Greeks. Every act is weighed on the moral scale and can eventually lead to eternal punishment. On the other hand, monsters supply a physical, and in some senses, a more rational fear. A physical threat is more immediate than an accumulation of ethical actions leading to a vague afterlife. The Mycenaeans’ awe of the gods and monsters in The Odyssey represents the intimidation that causes humans to respect, obey, and fear a higher power.

Primarily, the gods’ intimidation of the Greeks causes the Greeks to hold the gods in high, and fearful, esteem. When Telemachos visits Nestor’s palace, Nestor is performing a sacrifice to the powerful god Poseidon. Nestor had the easiest voyage to Greece after the Trojan War and lives a peaceful life. He is devoted to the [gods; therefore], his life is untouched by divine intervention. In contrast, Odysseus, [who did not perform a satisfactory sacrifice while leaving Troy], receives a particularly toilsome nostos, or homeward journey. The prideful Odysseus endures many tribulations on his long voyage home. Nestor’s devotion to the gods is governed by celestial intimidation. His respect for the gods exemplifies [that those who defer to a higher power lead a life without much fear]. Moreover, Alcinoös and Arêtê ask Odysseus if the people he met on his journey were “hospitable and godfearing.” (105). The Phaiacians, like many Mycenaeans, fear the gods. Those who do not fear the gods are considered savages or lawless. [After Odysseus departs for Ithaca on a Phaiacian ship], Poseidon is enraged and traps the seafaring people of Phaiacia in walls of stone. Thus, the Phaiacian people are punished for their disobedience to the almighty Poseidon. The Phaiacians’ disregard of Poseidon’s orders symbolizes the harsh punishment people face when defying supremacy. Rulers exploit this suffering, turning it into a tool of control by intimidation. Additionally, Eumaios’ fear of the gods motivates him to offer hospitality. When Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, promises Eumaios that he can throw Odysseus off a cliff if Odysseus does not arrive soon, Eumaios becomes indignant and tells Odysseus off for joking about something so serious. “First invite thee in and give thee food, then kill thee and bundle thee over the cliff! I should have to look sharp and make my peace with God!” (181). Eumaios cannot comprehend the stranger’s disregard for the gods. Eumaios becomes almost fearful, as if one wrong word could vex the gods and send both Eumaios and Odysseus to the depths of Hadês. The gods are a barely contained wildfire; one misstep could result in punishment for any number of people. In The Odyssey, heroes are often subject to the gods’ machinations. The heroes’ responses to those plots determines the level of interference they face from the gods. This clearly embodies the ability of intimidation to control humans. The Greeks are conclusively cowed by the gods.

Furthermore, the monsters used intimidation to strike fear into the hearts of the Greeks. The Cyclops ate two men alive, shocking Odysseus’ crew and frightening them into silence. The Cyclops performed many feats of strength, such as moving the rock blocking the cave entrance, to blatantly assert his power over Odysseus’ men. Physical prowess effectively frightens people, allowing the wielder of this strength to browbeat others into submission. In addition, the mighty Odysseus is rendered helpless while passing by Charybdis on his way to Ithaca. Charybdis’ pull overwhelms Odysseus, completely extirpating his pride. Even Circê, a goddess, baulks at the mention of Charybdis. Charybdis possesses the intimidation needed for Odysseus to heed Circê’s injunction. Alternatively, the Sirens use their bewitching voices, instead of physical might, to lure callow sailors to certain death. Odysseus, considered one of the few wise Greek heroes, falls under their spell as well. The Sirens tempt Odysseus with honeyed words. While the Sirens may not intimidate the men, they certainly hold a dangerous power. Monsters intimidate the Greeks by using power– brute force or mesmerizing tunes.

The gods and the monsters in The Odyssey intimidate the mortals, symbolizing the fear mankind has of those with power. Both the gods and the monsters exploit humanity’s fear of pain and punishment. The Greeks’ fear of the gods and monsters is the paragon of intimidation. Leaders around the world use these archaic methods to control people. Just as wolves are ruled by the strongest of the pack, many people are ruled by intimidating leaders. “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which,” George Orwell wrote in his famous book, Animal Farm. Humans, while animals in theory, are highly evolved beings. Humanity should not behave so disgustingly as to rule people by intimidation. By manipulating fear, leaders compromise basic morals and human rights. Capital punishment can be issued to any person for any reason. Unethical and immoral proceedings sweep through provinces like a contagious disease. Intimidation, while a tool for ultimate control, can only lead to the demise of mankind.



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