Interview with Odysseus (Ulysses)
Odysseus vs. Ajax: Live Debate
Pre-Debate Commentary by psychopomps, Hermes and Thanatos.
Debate moderated by Hermes.
Hermes: Well folks, as you all know, the race for Mayor of Elysium has been particularly contentious this year. Now that Jason and Theseus have dropped out of the race, Odysseus and Ajax have emerged as the final two contenders. If what the talking heads say is true, this is the debate that will finally make up the minds of the citizens. Anything to say on our final two candidates, Thanatos?
Thanatos: As you know, Hermes, these two have an extremely complicated past. When I guided Ajax's soul down here to the city of the blessed dead, he was still furious over the fact that Odysseus was awarded the armor of fallen Achilles instead of him.
Hermes: Yes, if I remember correctly, Ajax wouldn't even speak to Odysseus when Odysseus visited the Underworld while still alive.
Thanatos: Yes, that's right.
Hermes: And when I guided Odysseus's soul down here, he did mention being nervous about seeing Ajax again.
Thanatos: Well, they can't avoid each other tonight, Hermes.
Hermes: No doubt about that. Ah, here they are now. If you'll excuse me, Thanatos, it's time for me to moderate.
[Ajax strides toward a podium. He wears a baggy black suit and a grim look on his face. Odysseus enters, wearing a neatly tailored blue Italian suit. He flashes a bright smile toward the audience and takes to his podium.]
Hermes: Hello gentlemen, and welcome. If you don't mind, we'll jump right into it.
Ajax: Let's do it.
Odysseus: My pleasure.
Hermes: Ajax, in your mind, what makes a great leader?
Ajax: A great leader is a brave leader. He faces his challenges head on. He doesn't evade the obstacles before him. He charges forward with fire in his heart and a war cry in his mouth.
Hermes: Well, then. Odysseus, I ask you the same question. What, in your mind, makes a great leader?
Odysseus: Thank you, great grandfather, for a truly wonderful question. Before I answer, however, I would first like to thank the fine city of Elysium for staging this debate. It truly says something that this lovely place provides an opportunity for sincere public discourse. I know that no matter which one of us the citizens of this city choose as their leader, they will have weighed their options carefully and intelligently. I take my hat off to each and every one of you. You are beautiful souls, and you truly belong in the city of the blessed dead.
Ajax: Just answer his question.
Odysseus: Certainly, certainly. But first, I would also like to commend you, my noble opponent, for agreeing to this debate. As everyone here knows, our last debate didn't go your way. It was a terrible blow when I was voted greatest Greek warrior over you. Let me just say that when you went insane, killed all those cattle thinking they were Agamemnon and myself, and then killed yourself... it was a great loss for Greek army.
Ajax: I knew you'd bring that up. Hermes, would you make him just answer the question?
Hermes: Yes, yes, Odysseus if you don't mind. What makes a great leader?
Odysseus: A great leader is a man of intelligence, a man capable of making rational decisions in the face of great adversity. A man who doesn't let stress and strain of life—or death—get the better of him. For example, when I devised the strategy that saved me and my men from being eaten by Polyphemus, the Cyclops—
Ajax: Your strategy was to get him drunk and poke out his eye with a stick! Then you tied yourself to the bottom of a sheep and snuck away. You're a coward and you always have been. You even turned the whole Greek army into cowards when you convinced them to hide in that big wooden horse.
Odysseus: That strategy ended ten years of brutal warfare. It allowed our troops to finally go home to their loved ones, and I won't apologize for it. I may not have been able to join my wife and son for some time after, but I'm very glad that—
Ajax: You weren't able to go home because you cowardly assaulted Polyphemus, and Poseidon punished you for it.
Odysseus: I do regret offending Lord Poseidon, but I can't apologize for defending myself and my men from a cannibalistic giant.
Ajax: Yeah, you did a great job of that. Not one of them made it back to Ithaca alive. Not one. I ask you, Elysium, what kind of a leader is that?
Hermes: Now Ajax, please, you must—
Ajax: No! No, I'm sick of it. Why do more people remember him than me? Sure, we both get a mention in the Iliad. But he gets a whole epic poem all to himself. All I get is some stupid detergent! This is crap! He was a terrible leader. His men got hooked on drugs with the Lotus Eaters. They got eaten by that sea monster, the Scylla. They got turned into pigs by that witch Circe, who he also had an affair with. Yeah, why doesn't anybody ever talk about that? He cheated on his faithful wife Penelope with a witch. Not to mention the fact that he also had an affair with that nympho Calypso. His men had just died in a shipwreck, and what does he do? He has a seven year affair with a beautiful nymph. Is this a man that you want to be your mayor, Elysium?
Hermes: Your rebuttal, Odysseus.
Ajax: Yeah, talk your way out of that!
Odysseus: I saved the bulk of my men on the occasions you speak of. When the rest of them died in that horrible shipwreck, as you so crassly mention, it was because they had offended Apollo by eating his cattle. They died by their own hand, not mine. Still, I regret that I could not do more to save them. With both Circe and Calypso I was bewitched. Still, I regret that I wasn't wily enough to escape their magical snares sooner.
Ajax: You're a failure, Odysseus. Just admit it.
Odysseus: There have been times that I've failed, but that doesn't make me a failure. A great leader is one who isn't afraid to admit his mistakes. For if a man is unable to admit where he has gone wrong, he cannot learn from his past.
Ajax: Yeah, you made plenty of mistakes.
Odysseus: And yet I pushed on. A great leader is one who endures, who bravely faces failures of the world—and himself—without fear and without rage. Can you claim to have done that, Ajax?
Hermes: And that's all we have time for today, folks. What's your vote?