From Damocles to Winograd

Two important morals to learn from this legend.

Danny Hershtal

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According to Greek legend, Damocles was an advisor to King Dionysus the Great. One day, Damocles flattered his king about his spectacular wealth and fortune. The king offered to switch positions with Damocles for a day and ordered his subjects to treat Damocles as the king until dawn the next morning. Damocles was given all the pleasures and honors due to a king, and that evening he was treated to royal feast. Damocles enjoyed his banquet, sitting in the king's throne, until he looked up and noticed a sword suspended by a single horse hair, just inches above his head.

Immediately, Damocles' face blanched. He lost his appetite and begged the king to return him to his usual role.

There are two important morals we can learn from this legend. The first is that leadership is not something trivial or easy. It requires bearing the weight of responsibility for all of
The people's "thread" may tear and bring the sword down upon the leader's head.
one's subjects, knowing that at any moment the people's "thread" may tear and bring the sword down upon the leader's head. This knowledge is what makes a leader cautious and responsible.

If we, the people, remove the Sword of Damocles from above our leaders, if we turn a blind eye to their failures without reproach, we will receive - and deserve - the kind of corrupt and incompetent leadership we have today. Without eternal vigilance of the people, keeping the sword dangling above our leaders' heads by a horse hair, we will quickly lose our influence over those in power and our democracy will slip into tyranny.

The second lesson we can learn is that we are all like Damocles, in some way. We often see the benefits, the sumptuous delicacies laid out in front of us, without realizing the immediate danger threatening us until it is too late. Too often, one hears that the economy is booming, the shekel is strong and there is no need to rush and replace the government when we are living in a golden age. However, we do not see the danger hanging precariously above us, of keeping a failed, and essentially powerless, government in place. This danger may come in the form, God forbid, of another war thrust upon us from an equal or more dangerous enemy.

If the people do not put pressure on the current government to resign, will it bother to make the changes that the Winograd Panel suggested? Will we ever know if they did or didn't do so?

However, the danger may be from a less obvious and dramatic viewpoint than an armed conflict. How will our society develop with a failed government, which no longer has the
We are all like Damocles, in some way.
political power or political will to perform? One can see a sneak preview in the current strikes affecting our future soldiers, the high school students, and our future business leaders, the university students. By neglecting to solve these issues, and properly educate the country's students, the government is essentially forsaking the future of our security and economy.

Like Damocles, we cannot simply partake of the feast while the sword swings just above our heads. In fact, we must even sacrifice of our work, of our time and of our effort to take to the streets and reclaim our fate.

If you believe that Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz must resign, but do not actively participate in protest against them, then you leave your fate, and all of our fates, hanging by a single thread.