Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mark 13 -- beware the flim flam man

Writing under the pen name of O. Henry, William Sidney Porter created a number of vivid short stories. Most of them deliver a surprise twist ending in the last few sentences. That was his trademark, and few have equaled him in this technique. The vocabulary in these stories is rich, extravagant, and often hilariously inappropriate. The collection The Gentle Grifter chronicles the antics of a pair of con artists. Time after time, the protagonist and deuteragonist[1] profit from the streak of larceny that is latent in so many respectable pillars of the community. See, for example, The Shearing of the Wolf.

A legal con game in the United States offers the mark[2] some kind of "free gift" in exchange for listening to a sales pitch, "a brief information session." Time shares[3] are often marketed this way. You go for the gift, resolved in your mind that you, for one, have no intention of buying an overpriced week or two per year at some tourist destination. No desire to start selling insurance or cosmetics. But it would be nice to have that "free" item. However, the larceny in your own heart, your own willingness to participate under false pretenses, is the leverage that the skilled presenter can use against you.

We have an incredible capacity for self-deception. As the slimy protagonist in the wretched little nihilistic movie House of Games explained to the "heroine," confidence men inspire confidence. During times of turmoil, fantasies, and those who pander to them, become dangerously seductive.

Let's examine a few warnings from Mark 13. The disciples have been told that their nation, their culture, their society, is doomed. The warning that is repeated several times is -- don't get fooled.
Mar 13:3,4 İsa, Zeytin Dağı'nda, tapınağın karşısında otururken Petrus, Yakup, Yuhanna ve Andreas özel olarak kendisine şunu sordular: "Söyle bize, bu dediklerin ne zaman olacak, bütün bunların gerçekleşmek üzere olduğunu gösteren belirti ne olacak?"
Mar 13:5 İsa onlara anlatmaya başladı: "Sakın kimse sizi saptırmasın" dedi.
Mar 13:6 "Birçokları, 'Ben O'yum' diyerek benim adımla gelip birçok kişiyi saptıracaklar.
Mar 13:7 Savaş gürültüleri, savaş haberleri duyunca korkmayın. Bunların olması gerek,ama bu daha son demek değildir.
Mar 13:8 Ulus ulusa, devlet devlete savaş açacak; yer yer depremler, kıtlıklar olacak. Bunlar, doğum sancılarının başlangıcıdır.
Mar 13:9 "Ama siz kendinize dikkat edin!
Mar 13:21 Eğer o zaman biri size, 'İşte Mesih burada', ya da, 'İşte şurada' derse, inanmayın.
Mar 13:22 Çünkü sahte mesihler, sahte peygamberler türeyecek; bunlar, belirtiler ve harikalar yapacaklar. Öyle ki, ellerinden gelse seçilmiş olanları saptıracaklar.
Mar 13:23 Ama siz dikkatli olun. İşte size her şeyi önceden söylüyorum."
Let's look at a few key phrases:
  • Sakın kimse sizi saptırmasın
  • Sakın -- beware
  • kimse -- anyone
  • sizi -- (t0) you
  • saptırmasın --
  • Ama siz kendinize dikkat edin!
  • Ama -- But
  • siz -- you
  • kendinize -- yourselves
  • dikkat -- caution
  • edin -- take
  • Ama siz dikkatli olun
  • dikkatli -- cautious
  • olun -- be
Bad times bring out the worst in some people. And predispose all of us to indulge in wishful thinking, in fantasies. Maybe this time, the laws of God, the natural order of the universe, will be suspended for me, since I'm such a special person! Dikkatli olun!


[1] the first and second speakers. Don't worry, very few people recognize, let alone use, the term deuteragonist, so it's a pretty useless word.

[2] the mark is the intended victim of the scam.

[3] A "Time share" is the overpriced purchase of a week or two at an apartment or cabin. If you really want a time share in coastal Florida, look into the secondary market. It's not unusual to find them for dimes on the dollar there. So many first purchasers just want to cut their losses and get rid of their time share!

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