The prodigal son

by Maria on April 27, 2004

The things you think of when you can’t sleep; my younger sister Nelly spent a good part of the wee hours this morning thinking about the relative merits and weight-bearing facilities of stiletto versus wedge heels.

The other night, I actually woke myself up with the conviction that the jealous threesome of Bush, Blair and Sharon is mirrored by the parable of the prodigal son. Apart from the fact that Bush makes a singularly uncompelling father figure, it fits.

Sharon is the wayward but adored son. It doesn’t matter how much of his father’s wealth/political capital he squanders, how many irresponsible gestures he makes, how much self-harm he inflicts. A light tap on the wrist and the fattened calf (flame-roasted Texan style) will be the paternal response. (The main difference, of course, being that the original prodigal son apologised for his folly before Dad threw the steaks on the barbie.)

Blair, on the other hand, is the ‘good son’ who has spent years toiling away within the system, doing as he’s told, taking all his father’s guff while being refused even a goat to feast on with his friends (or the occasional UN resolution/Guantanamo inmate).

Nothing new here of course. For all of Thatcher’s famous closeness to Reagan, she barely got a head’s up when the US invaded Britain’s former colony, Grenada.

The good son’s lot seems rather harsh and thankless, though it’s implied he will ultimately inherit the remaining property. But for our purposes, I don’t think the parable’s application can be stretched that far. And anyway, they do say virtue is its own reward.



Danny Yee 04.27.04 at 10:17 am

But inquiring minds want to know: what was the conclusion about the relative merits of stiletto and wedge heels?


Maria 04.27.04 at 11:06 am

Nothing new – wedge for comfort, stiletto for sassiness!


Maria 04.27.04 at 11:14 am

On second thoughts, if TB really believes his own spin, maybe Stockholm Syndrome is a better concept to explain his relationship with GWB.


bryan 04.27.04 at 2:13 pm

Stockholm syndrome for blair maybe, what about all the other european countries that have been doing what the U.S wants? I’m thinking beaten wives.


laura 04.27.04 at 8:37 pm

There is a third way, heelwise. Cursed with terminal ankle instability and therefore unable to wear a stiletto, I look for heels that are narrow front to back but extend more or less the whole width of the foot. This gives me stability with at least a certain amount of sass. (Although at the moment I am on the losing side of both propositions, being in a fabulous toe-to-mid-calf splint accessorized with some charming gray crutches.)


Dan Simon 04.27.04 at 9:16 pm

I’d like to propose my own prodigal-son parable to apply to the trio of leaders you mentioned. The father and the prodigal son share a common fundamental worldview and approach to international affairs, while the “good” son’s approach is somewhat different. All three of them happen to share a common set of interests and goals in one particular far-off land, but for various reasons, only the good son is in a position to help the father by contributing significantly to the effort to achieve those goals. Meanwhile, in other respects, the good son’s projects (of which one of the most prominent is encouraging the prodigal son to allow his enemies to beat him into submission) go nowhere, because they are fundamentally at odds with the shared worldview of the father and the prodigal son. As a result, the good son’s domestic political position is somewhat undermined, despite–perhaps even because of–the enormous assistance he gave his father–while the less “useful” prodigal son’s is enhanced.

I admit that it’s not a very elegant parable, but it does have the advantage of attempting to say something relevant and intelligent about international politics.


yoni 04.27.04 at 9:19 pm

i’d switch sharon and bush, and you hve a winner.


msg 04.27.04 at 10:09 pm

The fatted calf in spike-heeled black leather boots, licking the hand of a man in an executioner’s hood, while three dark-suited politicians with erect postures look on attentively.
You can’t hear the scream from the street, and vice versa.
The recursive nature of even enlightened self-interest means it only goes so far, like a rubber band, or a parable.
Whereas virtue that seeks only the one-way, the selfless transitive, targets the infinite.

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