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King Midas And His Golden Touch On Contemporary Society Essay, Research Paper

King Midas and His Golden Touch on Contemporary Society.

Many believe that many pursuits of contemporary society, particularly our desire to accumulate wealth and the unintended consequences of these desires are modern day inventions. The Greek myth King Midas and the Golden Touch demonstrate that these desires along with their unintended consequences have existed for many centuries.

The myth King Midas and the Golden Touch reveals that in ancient Greek culture, the wealthy were preoccupied with becoming richer. King Midas and the Golden Touch is a good lesson for today. The story shows very powerfully what happens when people loose focus on what is truly important. King Midas lived in ancient Greek culture, yet he was a reflection on our modern day society.

The Greek myth King Midas and the Golden Touch tells the story of a man who goes to great lengths to become the wealthiest person in the world. He wishes that whatever he touches shall turn to gold. His wish comes true. At first, he loves the fact that his clothes, bed, and even his rose garden become golden. But, when he can’t eat his food or hug his daughter because they also turn to gold, he becomes extremely upset and wishes that he could take everything back (Hawthorne). Isn’t it most people’s ambition to be wealthy? Though not many people would admit to it, many people would stop at nothing to achieve such great wealth. That is until their ambition backfires and they loose what is really important to them. The myth King Midas and the Golden Touch reveals that in ancient Greek culture, many of the wealthy people were preoccupied with becoming richer and didn’t consider the consequences. Much like many people in our society, who become so blinded with greed their judgement becomes clouded, and they are unable to make sound choices.

King Midas and the Golden Touch is a myth from the ancient Greek culture. Ancient Greek culture has been considered one of the most influential cultures ever to exist. It’s beliefs, values, and ways of life have been passed on over many centuries and become part of many other cultures, including ours.* Greek culture supplied the United States with the democratic form of government. This is shown by the laws that we have and by the way our Constitution is set up. Ancient Greeks created the myth King Midas and the Golden Touch, to ensure power upon the Greek government, the Greek government used the myth much like we use commercials and public service announcements, to put an image into their citizens about the wrong of certain behaviors, in this case greed.

Ancient Greeks were mainly controlled by their culture. This meant that the government controlled them because the government created and changed the culture (Hamilton, 278). The myth King Midas and the Golden Touch gives some ideas into what many Greeks thought was important, besides their culture. Because the entire myth was about becoming rich, it is evident that many Greeks felt very strongly about money.

It is obvious that the United States government doesn’t control modern day culture because there are many different and diverse cultures that exist here.* But, by living in America, most people are succumbed to realize that by living the American Dream, they must have money to maintain it. But, many people can become carried away with the idea of becoming wealthy, much like King Midas, until the point where their ambition collapses on them, much like it does for many of these celebrities. They become so caught up in the wealth, fame, drugs, etc. that it ultimately destroys their career and even their lives ( VH 1, 1998 ).

Individuals in today’s society act similar to King Midas and often end up in prison for crimes regarding money, such as fraud or theft. It is only when one is punished, either by law or other enforcement, that he or she realizes that what they did was wrong. Then they plead to be free of any punishment on the understanding that they will never do wrong again. But, is that the truth?

King Midas’s situation was very serious for he had turned his daughter to gold. Midas loved his daughter more than he loved gold (Pilling, 62). Because it was so important to Midas to have his daughter return to her normal state, he pleaded with Dionysus, the god who gave him the golden touch, to reverse his wish ( Hamilton, 279 ). Only then did he learn what he did was wrong. King Midas was blind to the possibility that he could turn his own daughter into gold ( D’aulaires, 124 ). But, society today is also oblivious to such unlikely possibilities. It is evident that it isn’t in the nature of mankind to forecast what could result due to their actions. In the movie Jurassic Park (a movie about the ethics of recreating dinosaurs and the consequences of doing so), the character that actor Jeff Goldblum played stated that the scientists recreating the dinosaurs only focused on whether they could create them, not if they should (Jurassic Park, 1993). That is what King Midas should have considered. He never even considered the ethics of whether he should, only the fact that he could become rich.

Ancient Greeks believed in many gods. Gods were significant in one’s life, for they, according to the Greeks, created and controlled mankind and everything associated with it. That is why King Midas, a Greek, showed hospitality and kindness to the god that granted him his wish, Dionysus. Midas found Dionysus in his garden and, without knowing he was a god, let him into his home. For being so kind, Midas was granted one wish by Dionysus: the golden touch. (Pinsent, 63)

There are many religions in modern day culture, and most of them believe in at least one god. The Greeks further resemble present day culture because of their belief in gods. Almost all religions involve some type of prayer. These prayers may be to heal a family member, find true love, or to have a healthy birth. But, one must admit that these are not the only reasons to pray. Often, one will pray to find a good job or even win the lottery. These both have to do with money. Greeks also prayed and made sacrifices to their gods so in return, the gods would do something for them, thus making evident the Greeks need for greed.

The basic theme of ancient Greek culture was power, much like American polotics,* which is evident by the way King Midas and other well-known Greek heroes acted. Wealth, land, and people were all ways that individuals or groups possessed power. King Midas and the Golden Touch shows just how far one will go to have everything that they want. King Midas only focused on one consequence: being the richest man in the world. He didn’t consider that he wouldn’t be able to eat or hug his daughter. His greed and lust for power overcame his common sense.

Though King Midas appears so different than today’s society, it is true that if King Midas were placed in today’s society, he wouldn’t stand out at all (except maybe for the fact the he wears a helmet to cover his donkey ears). His actions and personality may appear somewhat snobbish, but truthfully, that is how many people act in today’s society. One can hear about scandals, such as Whitewater, that are all focused on money. Though the people involved try to cover up the scandals, the public will always have a way to discover them, usually the media. Turn the news on and what does one find? Numerous stories involving money. May it be a scandal, bank robbery, or the stock market is rising, all people care about is money. The morning news on WVIT Channel 30 has a special Bloomberg Business Report that only deals with money, usually stocks (Bloomberg, 1998).

People are after money all of the time. Sometimes so much that they are not able to understand the possible consequences of their greed. About fifty years ago, Frederik Pohl wrote a science fiction novel entitled describes The Midas Plague. Anthony Sampson describes it.

It visualized future America in which most of the population were forced to maintain high consumption through ration books that condemned them to live in huge houses, drive big cars, and eat elaborate meals. (Sampson, 150)

The story describes life how it will be in the future. Though the story was science fiction, isn’t this what is really happening? Only a few of the world’s population have great wealth, meaning that the lower class is forced to lead the lives of servants, doing the work for the rich. King Midas was one of the people who possessed such great wealth. He wanted everything at that moment without working hard to get it.

A story Working Woman published in February of 1991 entitled Where Have All the Yuppies Gone?, the topic of “wealthy snobs” was discussed. It reads:

They were the people you loved to hate, even if they sometimes seemed uncomfortably familiar. Your brother-in-law with the pricey condo? He was a yuppie. So was your friend, the takeover lawyer with the personal trainer. You? You were nothing like them. You bought just the things you absolutely needed-like free-range chicken and cashmere sweaters. (Pomper, 1991)

Most people will be the first ones to ridicule others on how they flaunt their money and how they buy expensive things only to brag about them. Modern day society always thinks that they are the ones who may say if someone else is doing something wrong. If those people are working hard to achieve their money, then they deserve to spend it any way they want to. But, if they just cashed in on their trust fund and are living off the interest, then they do deserve to be ridiculed. It is these people who aren’t going to know what to do if they lose all of their money if the stock market crashes or their business goes bankrupt. They don’t seem to realize the possible negative consequences that may result. Yet, the people who do the complaining about what other rich people would do the same thing if they had the money. When looking at the big picture, it is realized that no matter if a person is wealthy or not, they are going to aim to become richer and not think twice about how to do it.

Ancient Greek culture and modern day culture are extremely similar. Both cultures will do whatever they can to fulfill their dream of becoming rich. Only positive consequences are seen through the rose-colored glasses that everyone wears. Take off those custom designed shades and look at the real world and one will wonder how their dream became their worst nightmare. King Midas learned the hardest way possible when his greed for gold covered his true treasure, the love of his daughter.


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