Last month I was at the Fringe in Edinburgh. It was fun and a challenge to see as many shows as possible. Now I know you will stretch to see the relevance but I hope you will bear with me. My wife booked us in to Antigone, which is a 2,500-year-old tragedy written by Sophocles. I am afraid that I may have been less than a dutiful husband in the criticism of this plan but luckily not so critical as to miss it.
The play had amazing stars, was brilliantly staged and the story is classic but extremely relevant to our times. Oedipus has two sons, one of whom leaves Thebes. Polyneikes returns intending to raze Thebes to the ground and take the crown from his brother Etiokles. In the ensuing battle both are killed and their uncle Kreon is forced to take on the crown. He forbids the burial of Polyneikes and on this matter the whole plot rests.
Antigone wants to bury her brother as she believes that, once dead, histories should be forgotten. Kreon is desperate to restore harmony and peace to Thebes and does not want to upset Etiokles’s supporters. Both of their arguments have merit and both are unable to change their view or to listen to each other. The results are catastrophic for their lives and the lives of those around them.
Antigone is engaged to Kreon’s son Haimon.Antigone is entombed in a cave and realising that her unwillingness to change has put her in a position from which she cannot change, she hangs mistake, arrives. Haimon tries to kill Kreon and on failing kills himself.
The most terrible scene is as the now dead Antigone recites what happened in the cave, Kreon’s wife is killing herself behind from the loss of her son. Kreon loses everything and so does Antigone. No wonder this play resonates and has resonated for so long.
But why is this relevant to our industry now? Well, not listening and holding to a principle is a regular feature in the discourse between salmon farming and the wild salmonid lobby. I am not going to use this column to air my views, as I suspect that they are already well known. However, the wild salmonid people are facing that most wonderful of government devices, a review.The Wild Fisheries Review is close to the end of submissions and it will undoubtedly be the biggest shake up of this industry for some considerable time.The aquaculture industry knows this device only too well.
So here’s the thing I don’t understand. Both industries are rural, both are understood little by the government. Grenade lobbing has been frequent both at each other and at the government. Guys, what do you think is going to happen? Did you really think the government would keep on putting pressure on aquaculture and not look at both industries? The more trouble and noise governments face, the more they want to act.And here’s the rub; the more they want to act, the worse it will be for your industry.
Rural industries are hard to manage, hard to make means more control, more inspectors and more is right in this argument but surely we can do better than metaphorically hang ourselves on this.
As we were travelling back from Edinburgh and marvelling at the skills on display in the play, I realised why it has lasted so long. It teaches that two arguments can be right but still have appalling consequences if you hold to them, irrespective of anything else. If Kreon had allowed Antigone to bury her brother outside the city bounds, all of it would have gone away. instead of ignoring any entreaty then she would have lived and so would all the others.
If we are going to go on co-existing in the same environment, one industry farming, the other dependent on wild capture, we are going the government or each other as this can only end in tragedy.