The Old Man and the Sea – 2011

by Jim Quinn The Burning Platform

"The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists." ~ Ernest Hemingway

"Though the Federal Reserve policy harms the average American, it benefits those in a position to take advantage of the cycles in monetary policy. The main beneficiaries are those who receive access to artificially inflated money and/or credit before the inflationary effects of the policy impact the entire economy. Federal Reserve policies also benefit big spending politicians who use the inflated currency created by the Fed to hide the true costs of the welfare-warfare state." ~ Ron Paul

Ernest Hemingway and Ron Paul never met. Ron Paul was completing medical school in 1961 when Hemingway committed suicide at his home in Idaho. I think they would have hit it off. I stumbled across the quote from Hemingway above. Those words could have come directly out of the mouth of Ron Paul. Both men spent their whole lives seeking the truth and presenting their ideas in a blunt straightforward manner. Hemingway is one of the most renowned writers in American history, with classics such as A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Sun Also Rises to his credit. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. He constructed a new literary style characterized by lean, hard, sparse dialogue. He influenced literature and young authors for decades. As a teenager I was immediately drawn to his gritty realistic novels. There was no nonsense to his novels. They always involved man's struggle against death and hardship. Most of his best work was done in the 1920s and 1930s, but he produced one of his finest works in 1951 towards the end of his life. Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize for his story about an epic battle between an old man and a great marlin.

Ernest Hemingway was bigger than life. Hemingway's real life reads like a Stephen Spielberg Indiana Jones movie. He was an ambulance driver in World War I, where he was seriously wounded. He had four wives. He lived in Paris during the 1920s associating with other famous "Lost Generation" writers. He was a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War and World War II, while also joining in the fighting. He survived two plane crashes and multiple car accidents. He battled alcoholism and mental illness, eventually taking his own life, just as his father, brother and sister had done before him. His novels reflected the pain, struggle and inevitability of death that permeated his own life.

The Old Man and the Sea is a novel about Santiago, an old fisherman whose life is approaching its conclusion, and his final heroic struggle against a great marlin and the evil sharks that ultimately devour his prize. The mark of a great writer is the ability to tell a story that means many things to many people. Hemingway described his aim in writing this novel:

"No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in. … I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things."

His novels always had a gritty reality to them. This particular novel is rich with symbolism and life lessons that are timeless and relevant today. The plot of the story is quite basic, but the character analysis reveals much deeper insights. For eighty-four days, Santiago, an aged Cuban fisherman, has set out to sea and returned empty-handed. So strikingly unlucky is he that the parents of his young, devoted apprentice and friend, Manolin, have forced the boy to leave the old man in order to fish in a more prosperous boat. On the eighty-fifth day he decides to sail far into the Gulf Stream past where most fishermen would dare venture alone. A big fish, which he knows is a marlin, takes the bait that Santiago has placed one hundred fathoms deep in the waters. The old man expertly hooks the fish, but he cannot pull it in. Instead, the fish begins to pull the boat.

Unable to tie the line fast to the boat for fear the fish would snap a taut line, the old man bears the strain of the line with his shoulders, back, and hands, ready to give slack should the marlin make a run. The great fish pulls the boat for two straight days. The entire time, Santiago endures constant pain from the fishing line. Whenever the fish lunges, leaps, or makes a dash for freedom, the cord cuts Santiago badly. Although wounded and weary, the old man feels a deep empathy and admiration for the marlin, his brother in suffering, strength, and resolve. On the third day, the fish tires and Santiago is able to kill him with his harpoon. He lashes it to the side of the boat and begins the long journey home.

As Santiago navigates toward his destination, the marlin's blood leaves a trail in the water and attracts sharks. The first to attack is a great mako shark, which Santiago manages to slay with the harpoon. In the struggle, the old man loses the harpoon, which leaves him vulnerable to more shark attacks. The vicious predator sharks continuously attack Santiago's trophy and despite killing several of the sharks, his battle became ultimately hopeless. He fights a gallant fight, revealing man's finest qualities of bravery, confidence, courage, patience, optimism, and intelligence during the struggle.

The scavengers devour the marlin's precious meat, leaving only skeleton, head, and tail. Santiago chastises himself for going "out too far," and for sacrificing his great and worthy opponent. He arrives home before daybreak, stumbles back to his shack, and sleeps very deeply. The next morning, a crowd of amazed fishermen gathers around the skeletal carcass of the fish, which is still lashed to the boat. Manolin, who had been worried sick over the old man's absence, is moved to tears when he finds Santiago safe in his bed. The boy fetches the old man some coffee and the daily papers with the baseball scores, and watches him sleep. When the old man awakens, the two agree to fish as partners once more. The old man returns to sleep and dreams his usual dream of lions at play on the beaches of Africa.

Sadness, resignation and the inevitability of death permeate the pages of this brilliant novel. But it is grace under pressure in the face of overwhelming odds that is the true message Hemingway leaves with the reader. There is no avoiding death, but the critical test of mankind is how you live your life and how you endure the suffering and pain that are inflicted upon you.

The Honor in Struggle, Defeat & Death

"But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated." ~ Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." ~ Ernest Hemingway

Life is a journey. At the end of every worldly journey, death awaits. That is a certainty. The ending will be the same for everyone who walks this earth. What matters is the course chosen on the voyage through life. The vast sea represents life's journey, with its ebbs, flows, and storms that must be navigated. In Hemingway's portrait of the world, death is inevitable, but the finest men will nonetheless refuse to give in to its power. In both the sea and in life, there are a number of possibilities that lie hidden from the common eye; some are gifts to be treasured and some are problems to be defeated. Neither will be found unless man embarks upon the journey. If man is lucky enough to discover a treasure he must fight until death to retain it; if man is unlucky enough to discover an evil lurking underneath the surface of the sea, he must fight it bravely and nobly until the end. In either case, it is the struggle that is all- important, and a man obtains the status of hero if he battles the sea (life) with grace under pressure. The only way to obtain the status of hero is to set sail on the uncertain sea of life.

Ron Paul, trained as a doctor in the early 1960s, served his country as an Air Force flight surgeon from 1963 through 1968 during the Vietnam War. He's been married for 54 years and has raised five children. He has delivered 4,000 babies during his medical career, while routinely providing free care to poor patients and refusing to accept Medicare or Medicaid payments. He has also refused to accept a government pension, seeing it as immoral and hypocritical. He could have spent his life running his medical practice, playing by government mandated rules, and becoming a multi-millionaire. Instead he chose to embark on an uncertain journey into the sea of Washington politics.

He decided to begin his struggle against tyranny, big government and currency debasement by the Federal Reserve on August 15, 1971. While still a medical resident during the 1960s, Paul was influenced by Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, which led him to read many publications by Ludwig von Mises. He became acquainted with economists Hans Sennholz and Murray Rothbard, and credits them with his interest in the study of economics. He came to believe what the Austrian school economists wrote was confirmed when President Richard Nixon “closed the gold window” by implementing the U.S. dollar’s complete departure from the gold standard. On that day, the young physician decided to enter the rough treacherous seas of politics, saying later, “After that day, all money would be political money rather than money of real value."

Winning and losing are not what is important in life, as we all will lose out to death in the end. It is the honor gained during the struggle that matters. It's the legacy we leave for future generations. Did we fight the good fight, or did we sit idly by while life passed by? Did your life mean something to someone? You can stay safely on the shore or you can jump into your skiff and sail into the deep water and conquer your marlin. Both Santiago and the marlin display qualities of pride, honor, and courage, and both are subject to the same eternal law: they must kill or be killed. As Santiago reflects when he observes the weary warbler fly toward shore, where it will inescapably meet the hawk, the world is filled with marauders, and no living thing can escape the unavoidable struggle that will lead to its demise. Man and fish will struggle to the death, just as ravenous sharks will ravage an old man's prize catch.

Ron Paul chose to join the struggle in 1976 when he was elected a Congressman from Texas for the first time. His years in Washington have been a never ending struggle against corruption, the military industrial complex, and the Federal Reserve currency manipulators. He has been a lone fisherman fighting for truth and liberty for over three decades. We are all pulled by our own individual marlins. Ron Paul has endured scorn and derision, much like Santiago endured from the other fishermen after going eighty four days without a catch. He has always stayed focused on the important issues that have led to the relentless decline of the American Empire: liberty versus security, freedom versus government control, and sound money versus persistent Federal Reserve created inflation. He has fought forces within his own party and in the opposition party. Despite fighting this battle alone for decades and being bloodied and battered, he has never given up the fight.

Hemingway's novel suggests that it is possible to transcend natural law. The very inescapability of destruction creates the terms that allow an admirable man to rise above it. It is specifically through the endeavor to combat the inevitable that a man can prove himself. Indeed, a man can prove this resolve over and over through the worthiness of the adversary he chooses to fight. Santiago, though devastated at the end of the novel, is never defeated. Instead, he emerges as a dignified conqueror. Santiago's struggle does not enable him to change man's position in the world. Rather, it enables him to meet his most noble destiny.

After toiling fruitlessly for decades in the corrupt halls of Congress, surrounded by sharks, scorned by the corporate mainstream media pundits, and ignored by a public that has chosen security and delusions of credit based wealth over freedom and personal responsibility, Ron Paul chose to take on his greatest challenge – seeking the Presidency of the United States. The odds were overwhelmingly against him in 2008 and they are again in 2012. He is 76 years old and has every right to be sitting on his porch in Lake Jackson, Texas enjoying the twilight years of his life. He is driven by his sense of duty to future generations of our once great country. Even though deep in his heart he knows this struggle will end in defeat, he endures. He will continue to spread his message of liberty, freedom, sound money and an optimism that has attracted millions of young people to his worldview. Like Santiago, Ron Paul is determined to show “what a man can do and what a man endures.”

Pride as the Source of Greatness & Determination

"His choice had been to stay in the deep dark water far out beyond all snares and traps and treacheries. My choice was to go there to find him beyond all people. Beyond all people in the world. Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either one of us." ~ Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

"The original American patriots were those individuals brave enough to resist with force the oppressive power of King George. I accept the definition of patriotism as that effort to resist oppressive state power. The true patriot is motivated by a sense of responsibility and out of self-interest for himself, his family, and the future of his country" ~ Ron Paul

The reason Santiago ventured into the deep waters of the Gulf, far past where a lesser fisherman would dare endeavor, was pride. It wasn't the false pride of vanity, but the pride described by St. Augustine as “the love of one’s own excellence”. It was a virtuous pride revealing his greatness of soul and faith in his own abilities. Santiago's pride ended up being his tragic flaw. He went out beyond the boundaries of a normal fisherman. In the end he was ruined, along with his prize, by the malevolent sharks. His run of bad luck was an affront to his pride and drove him to go beyond his limits.

Hemingway does not denounce Santiago for being full of pride. On the contrary, Santiago stands as testimony that pride inspires men to greatness. Because the old man concedes that he killed the mighty marlin largely out of pride, and because his capture of the marlin leads in turn to his heroic transcendence of defeat, pride becomes the source of Santiago's greatest strength. Without a fierce sense of pride, that battle would never have been fought, or would have been forsaken before the end.

Ron Paul has a clear vision of the America our forefathers imagined. It is a vision of a people free from government control of every aspect of their lives. It's a vision where the people keep what they earn and don't pay half to government to be redistributed based upon a politician's re-election aspirations. It's a vision where the people are free to make their own choices and free to succeed or fail based on their own merits. It's a vision where a truly free market exists and private bankers do not control and manipulate the currency. It's a vision that calls for a strong national defense, not being the policeman to the world. It's a vision where we follow the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. It's a vision where a limited government ensures the liberties and freedoms of the population. It's a vision that calls for balanced budgets, sound money, and citizens and corporations accepting the consequences of their actions. If Santiago was a fisherman in the U.S. today, he would be required to have a license to fish, a permit for his boat, pay taxes on his catch, and probably have to release the marlin because it was endangered. Some government thug would have met Santiago at the dock and written him a ticket for being at sea too long and illegal feeding of sharks.

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