Welcome to Xanthippa’s Chamberpot

So, what is this all about?

Well, a while ago, there was this guy named Socrates. Very famous chap….ancient Greek city of Athens, the ‘father’ of the ‘Western moral philosophy’, died rather than compromise on his ideals…if you haven’t heard of him, curse your education system and Google him.

Socrates used to stroll about Athens, a clump of students/admirers/hangers-on following him like puppies, and he demonstrated his supreme cleverness by asking questions……well thought out questions, where everyone but his poor victim knew he was faking daftness in order to draw them into saying something that would prove to the audience the silliness and stupidity of the victim, and how clever and sophisticated Socrates really was. One
day, he began to question a pretty young girl….named Xanthippe.

Though never formally trained in this mega-smart field of philosophy, Xanthippe’s intelligence, ready wit and composure soon showed that she was neither silly, nor stupid… She is the only person ever known to have bested Socrates in a debate!

From here, the story takes a familiar turn: elderly respected man meets a hot, smart young woman….can’t dominate her intellectually, so he does the next best thing – he marries her! First, they are happy….but three kids later, he is still walking about Athens demonstrating how stupid everyone else is, while she starts asking him to actually do something to put food on the table. He may be wined and dined, but his kids were whiny and hungry. It is at this point that Socrates realizes that what he really can’t stand is an argumentative shrew of a wife!

So, theirs was not the most harmonious household. But, can you really blame Xanthippe (the name literally means ‘yellow horse’)? Her grandfather-of-a-husband was busy being admired by his groopies, making tons of ‘wild yellow horse’ jokes (some claim that Xanthippe was a natural blonde – and that Socrates was the originator of the ‘dumb blonde’ jokes, though I wouldn’t bet on it), and avoided all parental responsibilities…I’d be a tad miffed, too.

There is a story that one day, Socrates got up and prepared to abandon his family again, when Xanthippe had a few choice things to point out to him about the pragmatic considerations of physical existence….but could not engage her husband’s attention. To help him focus, she emptied the contents of a chamber pot over his head…. Rather an effective technique, I think (though some ‘cleaned up’ versions of the story report it was a ‘bucket of water’ rather than a ‘chamber pot’).

The moral of the story is that in ancient Greece, if you were intelligent, insightful, eloquent and male – you became a famous philosopher. If you were intelligent, insightful, eloquent and female – you became an archetype of the quarrelsome, unreasonable shrew of a wife!

Though I have endured more than my fair (pun intended) share of ‘blonde jokes’, I know I am no Xanthippe – so I have taken the liberty to alter the name slightly. Yet in homage to Xanthippe, I would like to use this space to help us all focus on some of the issues surrounding us: current events and the ripples they create against the background of the ancient principles from which they – ultimately – arose.

I take it all in, chew on it, digest it – and present the results for your examination in this here humble ‘chamber pot’!