Quixote – or Don Quixote, to be precise – is too classical to need an introduction or summary. Having read too many farfetched stories about chivalrous knights, a middle-aged and rather loony Alonso Quixano decides that he is a knight, Don Quixote de La Mancha. He gets himself a miserable steed and a squire, Sancho Panza, imagines a peasant woman as his beautiful lady Dulcinea, and embarks on a protracted adventure to save the world from all sorts of evils and monsters. He will finally be brought home by friends and neighbours as a broken and exhausted soul and will wake up from a deep slumber to the plain reality of his sombre mediocre existence – too tired to live it, however.
Quixote lives under a gargantuan delusion. He imagines himself as the saviour of the world. What he does, however, turns out to be either foolish or wicked. He can fight with windmills assuming that they are monsters or demand a landlord to free the slave-boy whom he is torturing. The windmills knock him off his horse and the landlord tortures the boy more after Quixote leaves them. No good happens anywhere because of Quixote’s chivalry.
Quixote is like a man with a bloated ego standing alone on top of a hill. Everybody down the hill looks small to him and he looks small to everybody. He is not even smart enough to understand that the littleness is an optical illusion, the littleness of others at least. The world down the hill goes on irrespective of what he thinks about it, but he is convinced that it is going on according to his orders. He believes that he is moving everything in that world.
We have a lot of such leaders today; we had them in the past too. Most of the leaders are not as foolish Quixote. Our leaders know how to impose the truths fabricated by them on the people even as Quixote imposes himself. They can make people believe things that were written thousands of years ago and were eventually proved utterly wrong by science. They can make people die for those truths. They make people kill for those truths. When people follow such rulers, we wonder whether they are the real Quixotes – deluded silhouettes.
When the whole life around you seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? This is one of the many questions that Don Quixote raises. Sanity can be madness – “and maddest of all,” as the novel says. Quixote saw life as it should be. As it should be, according to him. Not as life really is. Reality is subsumed under quixotic fancies and fantasies. Quixote’s world is full of nice slogans, empty rhetoric, and endless promises.
Nobody took Cervantes’s Quixote seriously. But today’s Quixotes are perceived as national(ist) heroes and religious messiahs.
A genuine messiah is not bothered by what people think of him. He doesn’t pause dramatically for applause from the gallery. He won’t ever advertise himself and his projects on the mass media and other places. The genuine messiah is motivated by only one thing: the welfare of the people. He envisions what is good for the people and he forges strategies for materialising his vision. People understand his greatness from what he does. Admiration will follow naturally without any need for advertisements and propaganda.
Today we have too many well-advertised, hyped-up messiahs who are the contemporary versions of Don Quixote. Cervantes would have stuff for a dozen novels were he living today.
PS. This is part of a series being written for the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge. The previous parts are:
3. The Castle
14. No Exit
16. The Plague