I decided to finally check for myself, and reread the play in its entirety. What a difference thirty years makes (almost)! I absorbed most of it in one afternoon, and did so with a great deal of interest and a heightened sense of awareness, because of my intimate involvement in politics today. I was glad I did not use the Wikipedia to refresh my memory. There is nothing like nourishing one's mind or elevating one's spirit with literature (or art), or savoring the nuggets of wisdom and pure genius first hand, in the original language, when one is overwhelmed by the depths of the crass and vulgar actions that politics reduces individuals to.
Rhinoceros was written in 1961, by avant-garde playwright, Eugene Ionesco, of Romanian-French descent. Amazingly, its valuable lessons can be still be applied today; specifically, to the situation we find ourselves in, in our party. You can decide for yourself if it is true. My translated, summarized version of the author’s forward is followed by a summary of the plot and a brief analysis.
Rhinoceros is an anti-Nazi piece inspired by events in the late 1930’s; however, it is more importantly, against collective hysteria in general, in which epidemics hidden under the guise or “alibis” of ideologies are used for the de-reasoning of history itself. If one notes that the lies of propaganda are used to mask contradictions that exist between events and the ideologies that support them, and gave reality a true, lucid look, it would be enough to prevent us from succumbing to irrational reasoning, and to escape from its vertigos.
The hero of the play, Berenger, is allergic to the invasion of “delirium and strange magic” that attracts his friends, colleagues and neighbors, which turns them into rhinoceroses one by one. He is saved from the fate of becoming one himself because he fights so adamantly against, but must deal with the uneasiness that comes from standing alone in resisting the “collective” storms.
Ionesco selects as a protagonist an anti-intellectual, or simple man, to expose not only the absurdity of the systems that engulf, dumb down and eventually enslave others, but the so-called “intellectuals” whose pretenses include feeling like they know more than others because they have read a novel, newspaper article, or two. They are among the first in the play to be duped and swept away by the forces of the absurd system which they themselves cannot identify.
The Rhinoceroses appear gradually in the play: first in the public square, then at an office building, then in the neighbor's apartment building, and eventually in the fire department, police station and other official areas. At every instance, Berenger questions what it is that makes those around him change, and forces himself be intensely vigilant. He checks himself constantly for minor changes in the mirror, wears a bandage around his head to ensure he does let a horn grow on his forehead, and asks others to check him for any changes, too. He fights against becoming a rhinoceros with his whole being.
The most dramatic moment in the play is the transformation of his best friend, Jean, who lectures Berenger about being a more well-groomed, cultivated and informed in the beginning scenes of the play. Berenger, who is a careless drinker and a bit of a sloppy dresser, does not care much about this, but listens anyway and tries to become a better person just to please his friend. He is not proud or pretentious. When Jean’s views begin to evolve from a man of reason into a man of a new “reasoning” and mentality, Berenger is taken aback.
In this dramatic scene, Jean begins to identify with the point of view of an animal, the rhinoceros, reasoning that it is not as bad of an animal as people say, to which Berenger replies: As long as its mentality does not DESTROY our own! Jean cannot tell the difference between the beast's mentality, which is against man, and that of man's, which is superior to animals, because of its morals, principles and values. His inability to see the change in his own reasoning marks the point at which he starts to leave his humanity behind. He expresses a desire to follow the primitive order of things, citing all of the advantages of living by the laws of nature. As his thinking reflects that of a rhinoceros, he scans for a swamp to head toward. He is completely oblivious to the physical and mental transformation that he is undergoing. It is Berenger, in disbelief, who points it out.
Every transformation that takes place makes Berenger question. He questions the motives. He questions the thoughts and actions that take place prior to the change. To him, each person fails to do something which turns them from being human to a being a beast, and he tries to figure out what it is so it does not happen to him. Each person has an excuse. One leaves humanity because her husband does. She jumps out of a window, lands on his back and they ride off into the sunset. Others follow the herd out of political spite, or even a dispute with their employer. Most are caught off guard and do not see it coming. They are too busy minding their business, or too focused on details, missing the greater picture of what is happening.
Berenger loses sleep, he is so preoccupied figuring out how to avoid becoming a Rhino. He wants with every cell in his body to be immune from the epidemic that is seizing those around him. He is questionned for questioning what is going on. He is criticized, called obsessive and paranoid, and advised not to think too much or worry, that everything is fine. Nothing he can do or say will make a difference, they say. He just needs to "change with the times" and just "deal with things!" instead of trying to change them. Berenger is baffled by the conformity and chooses not to participate in it or make excuses for himself. He RESISTS!
Berenger laments that more were not involved as citizens, saying that their fate, and the town's, would have been spared by it. Theory is one thing. Instinct is another. When you are faced with a real-life situation you have to respond with passion and instinct. Berenger's last contact is with his love, Daisy. She sticks by him until almost the very end, but eventually she leaves him, too, to be with the others. Berenger does not leave with her despite his love for her.
No one sees what Berenger sees throughout the play. He is constantly urging others to see what he sees, and reminding them of what makes them human. They don't. They don't heed his warnings either. He becomes so miserable being alone at the end of the play that at one point, during his monologue, he wishes he could join the herd, but because it it too late, he has made himself to be so individualistic and immune to the epidemic, and he is incapable of it.
It does not take a lot to see that we, ourselves, are in a fight for our own survival. The main character of the play understood that if he joined the herd, the Rhinoceroses would eventually destroy him. He was not willing to do that. It went against every fiber of his being to allow that to happen. He stood alone in the end. It was not enjoyable, and he paid a price. He is a hero because he sacrificed. We must be like Berenger.
We must SEE what is going on, protect ourselves from it, to spread the warning to others so they can SEE, too.
We must defy them with our whole being and dispell myths, educate voters. We should get off Facebook (for one week), or incorporate politics into our conversations with those around us. Talk to the gardener, your hairdresser.. the T-Mobile lady while you wait to have an issue taken care of.. whoever you can chat with about how it is great to be American, and what it really means. Mention big government like a member in the family who doesn't go away. Urge them to see if our lives depend on it, why aren't we fighting more? Let's reach out to reasonable people. It takes time and practice, but we have to do it.
Let's be lucid, fierce and focused and continue watching for those slight digressions in language, and the inconsistencies I call them symptoms of rhinoceritis! If you're for the Tea Party, and you are against amnesty, but you support candidates who are pushing it, you could be a Rhino! Saying "It's not amnesty" is no excuse for supporting something you are against. Let's be honest with ourselves. Rand Paul has also said "The party has to evolve and adapt".. Evolve into what?
These are the signs that we must become immune to. Let's continue writing articles, speaking up for ourselves, speaking out against the Rhinos who see us as the threat. We know who they are. If we are afraid to pay the price it takes, or sacrifice, we will end up relinquishing power to those who seek to end us.
The left is full of Rhinos who don't reason, see or question, but our party is full of Rhinos who don't reason see or question either. Neither party wants you to see or question. To be a good Republican you must do as you are told. Talking with the establishment is like talking to a wall, or running into one. If they do not agree with you, they call you extreme, irrational or intolerant, all of which they happen to be. They marginilize and disrespect us for exposing their true intentions. Just today the Hispanic Leadership Network banned me from posting comments about Immigration Reform. . Just today the Hispanic Leadership Network banned me from posting comments about Immigration Reform.
Again, our GOP establishment in Washington has been defiant with us. We must be pernicious and push back. It's tiring, but it is the only way to ensure a win. We must remind the representatives we send to Washington to keep the principles that represent us, not to turn on us. They gradually start to see things not from our point of view anymore, but from those who are against us, just like Jean in the play. Our leaders leave behind their humanity bit by bit as they evolve and take on the mentality of political animals. We react by getting angry, justifiably so. Don't stop Resisting! There is no difference anmore between the parties. The Democrats and the Republican are both against us.
They are all Rhinos!
*****There is no window of opportunity to succeed without the input of reasonable, ordinary every day people who have no pretensions or airs, who see things that the so-called experts don't see, who are not like the "Rhinos" in our establishment who put up walls, and who don't reason. This is how we will be America again.
If our politicians stay close to the people, and hold on to the principles we believe in, they will spare themselves of being transformed into Rhinos. There is only one extraordinarily ordinary individual who is loved for being one of "us", the people, and she has been in the crosshairs of our party, like us. It's war. I am moved every time I see this comment from a member: “Our Future President just hanging out with the common folk. No pretense.. not fake.” (L. Luerssen)