I have found a deep intertwined relation between our failures (tragic flaw) and the delusion of utopia. Before anyone start to raise their eyebrows in skepticism let’s begin the talk. We are all victims of tragic flaw. I never quite agreed with Shakespeare’s theory of tragic flaw being one of the primary factors that brought about his characters’/protagonists’ downfall and ultimately their death. All my literature classes consumed by the plays left me conflicting with his idea that seemed a bit invalid to me. Today a couple of years from then I have come to realize how true he had been. We indeed are vulnerable to our own tragic flaw. Aristotle the great scholar of all times described this tragic flaw as hamartia. It is the mistake in the personality, an accident and even a sin committed that leads to the ultimate downfall. How often does it happen with us that we find ourselves defeated and betrayed? It seems life has been extremely unfair to us alone. The complexities of life maim our souls and through no apparent fault of ours we fall into a deep pit of bleakness. But it is always so easy to blame others for the mistakes that we unconsciously make. Isn’t it? It is like throwing all the burden of guilt on life’s unpredictable ways and the evils of the world that robs us of our virtues. Some things in life become so clichéd that it amazes us at times. When we want to close the whole debate and the inner ongoing conflict it’s always our favourite line “ah the irony of life” or the oft recited phrase “our fate” and there you go. It was easy wasn’t it? We just over look the mistake we might have made. Forget about the contradiction of philosophies and thoughts that we carry with ourselves. But there are things one just cannot sweep under the carpet and forget about them. Sometime or the other it does resurface and remind you of your crime, your weakness, your tragic flaw. But like Brutus never realizes his tragic flaw and dies in the process so do we. We are the Macbeths’- noble yet overshadowed by the power of our hidden hamartia. Overcome by the lustful temptation to kill his king, his master and to fulfill the greed of a throne Macbeth commits the crime of his life. He murders to satisfy his desire but falls prey to his own failings. Irony! The question is can we overcome our tragic flaws in the midst of the perfectly enigmatic and tempting world we are thrown into? Can we ever reach the Utopian world that we long for? Perhaps like Hamlet we can…but in doing so it brought about his self destruction…
The scar of hamartia, though hidden, slowly eats us up and is still actively doing so; we are forever forsaken to achieve the unachievable- Utopia. The illusion set by ‘hamartia’ is the thought that there is something such as utopia. Stoic Brutus was guided by hamartia that perhaps Caesar was at fault, that perchance his death will free the Romans from dystopia. The reality, however, was different. We are only able to see the mirage as was Brutus, when in reality it is nothing but our imperfection cleverly disguised as our strength.
In the words of Tennessee Williams “man is by instinct a hunter, a lover, a fighter”. If man is born with such instincts of survival there can be no place for a world such as ‘utopia’. Our inborn tragic flaw is bound to ruin the ideal state we all dream of. Perfection is not made for human beings. And utopia is a perfect place…
Power, lust of supremacy, desire to rein over the world, all smashes the ideal life, the perfection and utopia right away. The strife, the hunger, the battle to win power by hook or by crook would never let man live a utopian life. Survival of the fittest instinct shells out and there is no place for those who can’t and don’t. My obsession and fascination with ‘survival of the fittest’ furthers my point. The wild, uncouth side of man unleashes itself for the survival of his own existence. The mortality of humans become even more signified and highlighted. Like animals in jungle we follow no rule, we attack our prey, rip apart their skin and feed on them callously. It’s like the bigger fish eats the smaller. Nonetheless as human beings we should have been better; at least we could and should have tried to live up to the title bestowed on us as ‘Ashraf ul Makhluqat’.
The tragic flaw is somewhat different in nature to what I initially began with. Shakespeare’s hamartia or for that matter Aristotle’s was where a man with a noble and magnanimous character trips over his own veiled flaw that twists his fate into a carefully weaved tragedy. The beauty of this hamartia made people awed, empathize and cry with the tragedy befallen on the magnificent person. The hamartia of today has turned out to be a bit ugly; like the face and soul of man has been distorted so has this flaw. Today, the mistakes, the flaws of a person tagged with a high status though falls like an avalanche similar to that portrayed by the playwrights and philosophers; they, however, do not have the dignity and the aura that even the villain of plays had. Unlike the flawed yet magnanimous character that is bound to die in the end creating a mammoth of ripples; today it fails to die but doesn’t fall short of killing. So in a way the ripple effect is there but on the cost of others. We are no more awed and spell bound by this tragedy. And there is no room for any catharsis either. Perhaps we are immune to it now.
In Bible, conversely, Hamartia is strictly referred to as sin and on various levels interpreted as a moral error. Which might take us back to our ancestors and the first murder on earth, it too was the result of a tragic flaw, a moral error? Some have deduced hamartia not as a sin, but actually avoiding a sinful action and as a result facing terrible consequences. Whatever and however we infer the meaning of hamartia within us; the battle, and the conflict would always continue. We shall always be making mistakes.
And how aptly a friend of mine quoted ‘…And you gods will give us faults to make us men’ from one of Shakespeare’s plays. It won’t be wrong to claim that whether we are born with a golden spoon or on a roadside without shelter and food we bring our faults as something universally hereditary. As long as these stay with us, utopia is out of reach, a delusion we should stop thriving for. Our forefathers Cane and Able even they couldn’t prevent themselves from the surmounting flaws embedded in their natures. How Cane’s own flaw, his jealousy for Able brought about a treacherous act resulted in a first ever brutal murder on earth. Wasn’t this an indication of man’s flaw and an allusion to our lives today? Certainly it was. Murder today is not a sin it seems. Theft is a way to survive. Lying is our second name and hypocrisy our identity. Personally I don’t think that a place where staying alive makes one do things are morally and ethically wrong especially doing them intentionally (let’s just keep tragic flaw out of the way) would one day turn out to be utopia. No abracadabra would work, and no we don’t live in a magic land though we do live in a mafia land. A place so far away from what utopia could be. I read a term a few days back ‘classless utopia’. There have been classes and will be class differences in the time to come no matter how far we take our geniuses and discoveries. Hierarchies would always be there both in the first world and the third world. Karl Marx talked of communism, the rights of the labour, the proletariat and the ruthless capitalism. Today we are living in a world of capitalism. History talks of our ancestors who fought against colonialism. And the phenomenon wasn’t only prevalent in the subcontinent but other places as well. Slaves were imported and sent to work for plantations. It was simply colonialism. Today it is shrouded in a term we have coined ‘neo colonialism’: manifestation of imperialism. A path set by powerful nations, placed high above on the hierarchy.
The above is a flaw, a major one running through our bloods, poisoning every bit of us. All of this has its roots in a syndrome which has been self imposed or perhaps otherwise. On an emotional front we, the vicious mortals, are hopeless. Better not indulge myself into this because then I would have to dive into an entirely different realm of hamartia (though the emotional aspect has gone side by side throughout this post, somewhere in the background, distant but always there in all our dealings and reactions and downfalls)
To conclude my credence what’s better than to quote the following:
As Clayton Cramer, a historian once said “Abandon all hopes of utopia – there are people involved”. No doubt he was so true.