That the Greek financial crisis would be compared by the nattering classes to the ancient Greek legends of gods and monsters and heroes was a no-brainer. A recent Associated Press story suggested this wasn't appropriate.
"Turning to allegories infused with one-eyed giants and other fantastical creatures to explain the Greek crisis, which threatens to morph into a financial crisis worldwide, seems like an indulgence at a time when the state, and ordinary citizens, can't pay their bills," the piece opined. Then it did just that.
Well, if you substitute "Jefferson Public Radio" for "Greek" and "in Southern Oregon" for "worldwide," what do you get? The JPR crisis.
While the ancient Greeks were foggy on the debt-to-asset ratios of nonprofit foundations, they had a lot to say about war, love, betrayal, birth, death, cannibalism (what was their thing with that?), rewards, punishments, beauty, transformation, revenge, dismemberings — in other words, the inner workings of all bureaucracies.
Just pick a story and plug it in to the convenient Ancient Greek-o-Meter.
When JPR started at Southern Oregon University 40 years ago, it was like a baby Perseus adrift in the vast ocean of media. Like Gaia, the Earth, giving birth to Uranus, the sky, Ron Kramer and company brought into the world a little thing whose reach would become as broad as the heavens. It's now a Colossus straddling the mythical (sorry) state of Jefferson.
Kramer, then, is cast as Odysseus, who endured perils and outwitted foes (political and financial) in his long struggle to bring the ship (JPR) back home (continued viability).
Then one day SOU and the State Board of Higher Education looked upon JPR and, like Zeus, cast thunderbolts. Overreach, they said. Too much debt, they said, invoking the Greek themes of hubris and fate. Now Kramer was like Sisyphus, condemned to push a boulder up a mountain over and over and watch it roll back down.
Wasn't building the largest public radio empire in the nation like playing Icarus — the guy who flew too close to the sun and got his wax-and-feather wings melted and plunged to his doom?
Olympian declarations came down. Kramer shouldn't have two jobs (head of both JPR and its foundation). There was too much debt.
The state lawyered up, Kramer departed, the JPR Foundation's board threatened to resign, everybody wondered what would happen to Medford's Holly Theatre and other JPR projects, and JPR's listeners were left feeling as if they'd been zapped by Cydoemus, the spirit of uproar.
Meanwhile, SOU President Mary Cullinan, whose predecessors had been supporters of JPR, changed sides, firing Kramer as head of JPR. That gets her cast as Medea, acting against the offspring of the marriage between SOU and JPR. Or maybe Cressida, who epitomizes the faithless lover.
All this leaves JPR between Scylla and Charybdis, the sea monsters who dared the navigators of the Odyssey to pick one or the other. SOU is rocky Scylla, the chancellor's office the sucking Charybdis. Either way, you're sunk.
And what about the Graeae? Do they dwell somewhere in the chancellor's office? They were the three crones who shared one detachable eye and a tooth, which Perseus stole in his quest to kill Medusa. Maybe they turned their flinty eye on JPR and decided it was time to give the chancellor's strictures some teeth, er, tooth.
When Gov. John Kitzhaber jumped in with talk of a cooling-off period, he was playing Hephaestus, the lone peacemaker among all those warlike gods and goddesses.
And the media? When commentator Russell Sadler wrote recently that he'd warned people back in the '90s that government-slashing ballot measures 5 and 11 would gut public higher ed, trashing its power to aid the likes of JPR, he was acting as Cassandra, the prophetess nobody would believe.
The very words you're reading appear to have been written by a man playing Thersites, who was Ajax' and Achilles' scrofulous fool. He played the role of a smarty-pants chorus at the siege of Troy and got a beatdown from Odysseus for his trouble. Then he was killed by Achilles for dissing one of Achilles' victims, an Amazon queen. It was just Achilles' way of expressing his feelings about the media.
So it goes. The ancient Greeks speak to us because we recognize the spectacle of implacable forces in epic battle in an indifferent universe. The actors in this epic may want to note that while Achilles, Hector and the most implacable warriors at Troy perished, it was the more flexible Odysseus who survived.
Will JPR disintegrate like a mortal seeing the form of a god? Will it all sink into the abyss the Greeks called Chaos? Will Kitzhaber and company save JPR like Orpheus rescuing Eurydice from the underworld?
Stay tuned. Whatever happens, let's all avoid Menoetius, the god of anger and rash action, and seek instead the good advice of Metis, the spirit of wisdom and wise counsel.
Nobody knows how this ends except the Fates. They were not available for comment.
Bill Varble is a freelance writer living in Medford. If you have comments or suggested topics for the column, please send them to email@example.com.