The Santa Clara
April 18, 2019
With his men eaten and death all but certain, Odysseus famously told his captor, “My name is Nobody.” His humility and wit saved both his life and the lives of remaining men and highlighted Odysseus’ prowess as a leader. Leaders in our era should look to Odysseus as a model for their support, rather than his ill-fated companion, Achilles.
Homer’s “Odyssey” follows protagonist Odysseus’ difficult journey home to his wife and child. Though he was given the opportunity to become a God during his journey, he rejects this glorious lifestyle.
After decades of travel, he finally returns to a house overrun with suiters, a son whose childhood he missed and nothing to show for his trouble. Odysseus’ life is filled with hardship and at the end, one may wonder if it was worth it. Choosing to live life as a God would have been a lot easier, right?
Becoming a deity may have been simple, but it wouldn’t have been fulfilling. Odysseus is juxtaposed with Achilles, the (almost) immortal warrior. At a surface-level Achilles seems to have it good. But, he lived a short and unfulfilling life. Full of passion, particularly anger, Achilles raced to the grave.
Unlike Achilles, Odysseus is a slow and thoughtful man. One may call him a role model for all men, now and of old. He rejects shortterm pleasure in the pursuit of long-term fulfillment. He is not remembered as the greatest warrior but he returns home to save his wife and child, and becomes a powerful warrior in his own right. Unlike the “live fast, die young” attitude shown through Achilles, Odysseus champions a steady and meaningful life.
Our society today is filled with personalities like Achilles. Politicians such as Republican President Donald Trump or Democratic House member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez highlight this lifestyle. Both leaders have shown that their interest in the spotlight may exceed their interest in the American people.
For Trump, understanding and taking steps to fix immigration is a hard and thankless job, but threatening to place undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities is intentionally controversial. Rather than using hard-working people as pawns to attack and demean political opponents, Trump would be prudent to look for long-term success rather than a quick victory. Compromise can be found, but like Odysseus, Trump must be willing to become a “Nobody.”
Ocasio-Cortez is no better, if not worse. As a member of the House of Representatives, her first focus should be faithfully representing the interests of her constituents. The work of Representatives is hard and mostly thankless, per the Founding Fathers design.
When AOC’s residency in her own district is of question, one may wonder if the national stage has distracted her from her true work. Ocasio-Cortez’s focus on failed policy objectives like the Green New Deal has galvanized climate activists but has done little to nothing for her constituents. Achilles too fought for an esoteric greater good, but in many times, hurt much more than he helped.
It is all too easy to follow the path of Achilles. It is fast, fun and idolized. On both sides of the political spectrum, we see leaders looking for short-term glory, forsaking long term prosperity in the process.
When we directly compare Achilles and Odysseus, it quickly becomes clear these men were similar but distinct in one important way. Odysseus knew it was critical to become “nobody” in order to save those he loved, whereas Achilles did not.
In the climactic ending of the “Odyssey,” Odysseus operates under the guise of a poor beggar as he plots to retake his home. Achilles, on the other hand, fails to become “nobody,” and pays with his life for this failure.
Rather than creating dystopian futures, or completely ignoring constituents, our leaders on the national stage should seek to reform their local community, and become “nobodies.”
As upcoming leaders at Santa Clara, we can learn from these mistakes and create a better future for our nation and our world. For thousands of years Odysseus has inspired the leaders of tomorrow. At Santa Clara, we should be no different. Hopefully, our leaders on the political stage do not inspire similar tactics in our community.
Jake Souleyrette is a sophomore finance major.