O, these men, these men!

In the fourth act of Othello, as Desdemona desperately seeks to understand why her world is unraveling, the ill-fated heroine utters this simple lament: O, these men, these men!

This from the woman who later, even on her deathbed, refuses the betray the husband who murdered her.

This is Desdemona at her most vexed.

O, these men, these men!

I like to take the phrase more generally. To move it apart from the specific gender, race, and historical roles under which it was penned and imagine it as a universal lament on behalf of humanity.

O, these men, these men!

These men who’ve built pyramids and landfills. Who’ve shot rockets to the moon and missiles at their brethren.

These men who have created works of beauty worthy of tears, and who have destroyed beauty in acts worthy of tears.

These men who have discovered deep secrets of existence, and who have burned books and kept knowledge silent.

These men who have perpetuated genocides, and given their lives trying to prevent them.

These frail, flawed gods. Seemingly all powerful in their capacity to create, imagine, shape, and change, yet myopically unable to do so with strategy, care, and true understanding.

This is the simple lament of love and loathing, of excitement and anxiety, of wonder at all we can do mixed with dread at all we can do.

We can create and destroy. We can shape tomorrow. We can define our world. There is so much power at our collective fingertips. Should we consider ourselves blessed or cursed?

O, these men, these men!


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