An Alternative Easter

Abraham embraces his son Isaac after receiving...
"What the **** was that about, Lord?"

Eggs and rabbits, sex and death. Easter is weird. But then, the whole of Christianity has an odd feel to it. It’s the kind of eccentricity you only get when very different cultures meet and blend. A sort of… theological jazz. Greeks give the Jews the idea of the half-human demigod, Jews give the Greeks the idea of monotheism: Result, a god who is his own son. Which is pretty original, you must admit.

Another reason it’s strange is that it has such a satisfactory narrative. I mean, by mythological standards. It’s got structure, a beginning and an ending. A twist even. Like Judaism and Islam it really begins with Abraham, whom God told to sacrifice his son before relenting at the last moment. Weird in itself, but apparently just the stuff to start major religions rolling; keeps the audience off-balance I suppose.

But Christianity culminates with a dramatic reversal of this. Where before he’d demanded a son, now God sacrifices his to us. Yet instead of saying “Ha, had you going there!” at the very last opportunity, the humans just go right ahead and kill him. It’s the greatest of all surprise endings – the cavalry doesn’t make it. Humanity completely blows their one chance to return the favour God showed Abraham. It’s pretty shocking really. I’m imagining God the Father watching this unfold and shouting “Hey. Hey hold on there, I thought we had a deal.”

Wouldn’t that have been a better ending? A last-minute intervention by a stranger in the crowd. Christ is released. Everyone feels embarrassed and wanders away. The mysterious figure looks up into the sky and says, “OK, square now?” From then on, humanity and supernatural beings leave each other the hell alone.

I’m building the time machine as we speak.


Economics For Dummies

A Kouros, from the Archaic period. Archaeologi...
Beware Of Greeks Bearing Left

The Greeks played a game of brinkmanship and got a huge debt write-down from it. What did they learn from that? To do more brinkmanship.

So they’re getting a referendum on whether they’ll accept better terms, while we give it away without even a vote in parliament. €700 million to people who should, if they were treated like anyone else in a free market, have simply lost their money.

From this the banks learn that they can lend to people who can’t afford it and still make a profit, because those who did not the make the mistake of borrowing will be forced, by their government, to pay them back.

So what do we learn? That major international banks are our enemy, that the only way to fight them is to threaten the whole European economy, and our government is too supine to do that for us so the people will have to do it themselves.

Yes, some interesting lessons today.


Some Sort of an Introduction

So what is this thing called ‘Microcosmopolitan’? I’ll explain. Some years back I was challenged to describe Galway in one word. I cheated. I made the word up. It’s a hybrid of cosmopolitan and microcosm, because Galway is pretty damned interesting (Yes, this is your feel-good column), but at the same time small and self-contained. Almost a city-state, or as the Ancient Greeks called it, a polis. And at about fifty thousand in population it has now grown to the size which, if I remember correctly, Plato thought ideal: big enough for strength and diversity but still small enough to govern itself effectively.


Therefore the place would run like clockwork – if we had real self-government. The Greek idea was to do it by a sort of jury service, for the population to actually make decisions for themselves. The only decision we get to make is choosing councillors from the people political parties choose for us to choose from. Fix, or what? Not that the council has that much power anyway – I think they get to decide the colour of the parking wardens’ uniforms. Most decisions are made by the City Manager, appointed by Dublin.

Only one solution. Yep, our own flag and navy, why not? And some of those cruise missile things.


So before I get carried away, this is the idea: Just as some papers will have a reporter in Zaïre, say, who sends back idiosyncratic personal sketches meant to inform you about what’s going on there, we have a correspondent right here at home. Saves a fortune on phone bills. And even if it never tells you anything new about Galway, it’ll make you realise how little you really know about Zaïre.

And we want to get this old-fashioned Graham Greene overseas reporter feel just right; therefore, your correspondent has gone native, got himself mixed up in bizarre local rituals and practices, and appears from his dispatches to be rapidly losing his grip on civilised reality. No need to thank me, it’s all part of the service.


Okay, now back to getting carried away. Yeah, cruise missiles are great. Any weapon inspired by a Chuck Jones cartoon is okay by me. It’s true, don’t you remember? In Daffy Duck; those Acme rockets that screech to a halt behind the victim, tap him on the shoulder and wait for him to turn around before blowing him to hell? Some US general saw that one night while ‘studying the military applications of psychedelic drugs’ and went “Yeah! Let’s have some of those babies!”.

But weapons that hit what they’re supposed to have to be an advance on ones that annihilate a whole general area. When it’s improved to the point where war becomes a matter of picking off the other side’s Marshalls and Presidents personally, that should be about the end of it.


Of course, they sometimes go and put nuclear warheads on cruise missiles anyway, which makes about as much sense as sending a nuclear letter bomb. In fact when you consider that they cost a million dollars apiece, it’s more like sending one by Interflora, with a nice note. I think Galway can get by without a nuclear deterrent, though France has been kind enough to offer us theirs¹. No thanks, we’re trying to give them up.

Which reminds me, there’s one thing I’ve always wondered about the need to test new nuclear weapons: What was wrong with the old ones, did they not work? If anybody out there is thinking of invading France, now might be a good time.

  1. A French nuclear-armed warship had recently visited, and been met with protest.
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