Cesar Chelala
A physician and writer

Midas’ Lost Brother

One of life’s mysteries is how two brothers, from the same mother and father, can be so different. One of the most notorious examples is that of King Midas. He is remembered in Greek mythology for turning everything he touched into gold. It is known as the Midas touch. His brother, whom we’ll call Personius, given the scant references about him, was totally different. Everything he touched was turned into filth.

A sailor, Personius took to the sea and after a long journey, ended up, of all places, in Aracataca, Colombia, the town where Gabriel García Márquez spent his childhood and where he based his stories for his opus magnum “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. Aracataca was a small town at the time of Personius when gold was discovered. It became an enormous city, then developed into a republic called the United States of Aracataca.

As García Márquez would declare in an interview with The Paris Review, he didn’t make up anything in his great novel but only reflected things that normally happened in that surrealistic town. “The real world in the Caribbean is just as fantastic as in the stories of One Hundred Years of Solitude,” he said.

From a young age, Personius manifested his talent for turning everything he touched into dirt. He cheated in college, and was a draft dodger with the flimsiest of excuses (he had an extremely painful bunion, he reportedly told the military examiners.) When he was older, he took advantage of an inheritance from his father to build a construction empire that made him a millionaire many times over.

Because of his playful nature he had many notorious love affairs, some with well-known sex workers. When they threatened to make his affairs public, he instructed one of his minions to pay tens of thousands of dollars to silence them.

Later on, he was the star of a TV program called “The Dreamers”. The central point of the program was that any of the participants who didn’t get honor marks in school was to be deported to the border between Colombia and Venezuela and barred forever from coming back to Aracataca. The program made him a national figure and propelled him to run for the presidency of Aracataca.

Against all predictions, and even his own expectations, he did become president of the United States of Aracataca. From the beginning, given his inner nature, everything he touched turned into filth. He prohibited the use of the words “common good” and promoted policies aimed at benefiting the richest citizens of Aracataca. He was helped by a group of legislators called “repugnicans” who supported his every wish, even those that went contrary to the interests of the republic. They are a group of people who have the unusual anatomical characteristic of lacking a backbone.

With their tacit approval, he ignored or minimized the interference by the Cossack Republic that culminated in his winning the presidency. Such interference had been clearly proven by his own intelligence services.  Even so, he went as far as to affirm categorically that he believed the statements from the Cossack Republic more than those coming from his own intelligence services, something without precedent in the history of Aracataca.

At the same time, he not only ignored the dire threat of climate change to the health of the planet, but also promoted a series of measures to neutralize all laws aimed at protecting the environment. With the same insouciance that he treated the menace of climate change, he ignored the advice of his own scientists and minimized to the point of irresponsibility the importance of a plague that threatened the lives of millions of citizens.

Two brothers, two destinies. Midas, who turned everything that he touched into gold; Personius, who turned everything he touched into filth. This is mythology. Any similarity to current events is just a coincidence.

César Chelala is a New York writer.

 

 

 

About the Author
César Chelala is a physician and writer born in Argentina and living in the U.S. He wrote for leading newspapers all over the world and for the main medical journals, among them The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Japan Times, The China Daily, The Moscow Times, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde Diplomatique, Harvard International Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, and The British Medical Journal. He is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.
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